Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

Because of strife in Greece, Spain and North Korea, conforming mortgage rates are back to all-time lows. They’re at levels not seen in 50 years.  For homeowners that missed the Refi Boom of November 2009, it’s a second chance.

In this well-presented, 3-minute video from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll get tips on getting low rates and choosing the best time to lock in.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • Why were the experts wrong about rates moving higher this summer?
  • How much money can you save with a 1 point drop in your interest rate?
  • Should you buy a bigger home now that rates have fallen?

The advice in the piece is matter-of-fact and centered.  There is no cheerleading and the message is honest. Mortgage rates are low and they likely won’t stay that way.  If you’ve been thinking about a refinance, talk to your loan officer as soon as possible.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Video : The Right Way To Water A Garden

From one pot to a lush garden, we all have plants for which to care in our lives. But are they getting the right amount of water?  Too little water and the plant dies. Too much water and root rot sets in.

In general, plants want 1 inch of water per week but Mother Nature doesn’t always provide. It’s up to us to make up the difference.

In this short video from ExpertVillage, Doug Smiddy shows us how to make sure our plants get the right amount of water they need to survive. He answers questions including:

  • How do you know if your plants need water right now?
  • What is the best time of day to water outdoor plants?
  • What is the proper way to water a plant?

The video runs a little bit over 2 minutes and is stocked with helpful tips. If you care for any plants in your life, it’s a must-watch video.

The right way to water a garden
Terraced garden in Kentfield, CA

White glove service - www.YourPieceofMarin.com by Sylvie ZolezziAbout the Author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County!

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Mortgage Refinance Opportunities at Yearly Lows

I have great respect for three highly professional and reliable mortgage brokers.  Their names are Alan Garber (All California Mortgage), Andrew Grossman (Princeton Capital) and Paul Schectman (Viva Financial).  I feel equally comfortable recommending either one to my clients.  Please feel free to call me for their contact information. 

My husband and I have worked personally with Paul for many years, and have been very satisfied with his services.  He just sent me this email update yesterday and I thought I would pass it along: 

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Dear Clients: 

 I have received calls from past clients this week asking me if this is a good time to refinance.  The short answer is an absolute yes.  The European debt crisis is giving us an opportunity to lock in rates that we have not seen since the middle of 2009.  Please see the chart below.  When the graph moves to higher levels in price, this equates to lower mortgage rates.  There is an inverse relationship between the price of the bond and the yield or rate.  The long answer is it depends upon your ability to qualify. 

 

 One compelling reason to refinance for some of my clients with equity build up in their homes, is to restructure from a 30 year Fixed into a 20 or 15 year fixed.  This might be a logical move if you are nearing retirement years and want to pay off your mortgage prior to retirement.  For other clients the reduction in monthly payment is sufficient motivation to refinance now.  

Jumbo Loans

 

We have access to very competitive rates in both Conforming and Super Conforming loan programs.  In addition we have access to Jumbo Financing.  One of my lenders is currently offering Jumbo 30 Year Fixed at 5.875% with a point cost of .30%.  This lender will loan up to 80% Loan to Value up to $1.5M.  Or a 5/1 ARM at 4.875% at .40% point cost.  Of course these rates and pricing change daily. 

Please call me today to review your current scenario and see if refinancing is a viable option for you now.  As you are aware lenders require two years of W-2 Documentation and current pay stubs, and or two years 1040 Tax Returns, plus documented Asset accounts.  Credit scores are another key part of the pricing and qualification process.  Appraisal valuation and home equity is the remaining key factor. 

 If you know of any work associates, friends, or family members that can benefit from new mortgage financing I would appreciate the referral as always. 

The FN 4.5 hit a price high of 102-22+ this morning, by my records the FN 4.5’s highest print on record is 102-29. This is crazy. A longer timeline is needed to provide proper perspective… 

 

 Paul Schectman  

Senior Loan Consultant 

Viva Investments and Loans 

pauls@vivafinancial.com |  www.RealLoan.com 

office: 415-383-5121 |  cell: 415-259-9337 |  fax: 650-758-3698


Marin County Real Estate Market Trend – April 2010

 Why low ball offers significantly below asking are sooo last year!    

 How is the market?  Gazing into the economic crystal ball, I would venture to say that the recent improvement in consumer confidence bodes well for the housing market.      

Economic Crystal Ball

 

In his  Report dated May 2, 2010, Coldwell Banker’s San Francisco Bay Area President Rick Turley wrote: “The health of the housing market has long been tied to other key economic indicators – everything from consumer confidence to the stock market to unemployment rates and hiring trends… The chart below shows the strong link between Consumer Confidence and Home Sales in the US.  Last week, the Conference Board announced that its consumer confidence index rose in April to the highest level in more than a year and a half.  The rise in the index was considerably higher than economists had expected.”    

    

 In Marin, the real estate market statistics for the month of April are confirming that consumers are indeed feeling increasingly confident about loosening their purse strings.  Last year’s cautious wait and see attitudes have given way to activity–albeit cautious– on both the buy and sell sides. Let’s first look at the numbers and then analyze their meaning:     

Click here for SINGLE FAMILY HOMES  and CONDOMINIUMS  sales in Marin County for April 2009 and April 2010.  

* A six-month supply inventory is generally considered as a balance market.    

The market has improved a great deal  but let’s not forget that last April we were still very much experiencing the consequences of the fall 2008 crash of the financial markets.  Most noteworthy signs of strength in the market are:    

–       The increase in both median and average price of sold listings and the increase in the number of sold listings:  No jumping to conclusions however.  A closer look shows that most of the increase is due to a greater percentage of higher priced homes being sold rather than an actual increase in values (price per square foot has remained about flat).  Here is a quick snapshot of sold listings per price range: 

SINGLE FAMILY HOMES – SOLD LISTINGS  
  Apr-09 Apr-10 % INCR.
0-$999,000 71 96 35%
$1,000,000 TO $1,999,000 27 45 67%
$2,000,000 AND OVER 9 19 111%
  107 160   50%

The fact that our recovery is concentrated in the higher price range and recent activity in our market is returning to its former pattern with a good chunk of sales in the higher price ranges  is the most positive development for the Marin Market.     

As Doug Baker, an American economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research is questioning the sustainability of the housing recovery (read the full article and watch the  video interview for the full story)  it is paramount to look at the fundamentals of our market in Marin.  Baker justifies his bearish outlook with the following reasons:     

  • Programs that lifted the market, including the tax credit for first-time buyers, have expired.  He expects a big fall off in purchases for the balance of 2010 and 2011. In Marin, the increase in activity in the higher price range should mitigate the disappearance of this Federal Government incentive.  Furthermore, the California Home Buyer Tax Credit should stimulate activity in the lower range until it is exhausted.  Coldwell Banker has launched its own Buyer Incentive Program.

  •  The Federal Reserve is exiting the mortgage market, which will likely push rates to 5.5% to 6% by the end of the year. In Marin, we are still seeing a lot of cash offers, even in the $2,000,000 and up range.  However, I believe the increase in interest rates will come as a rude awakening for many buyers who have become accustomed to historically low rates and have been taking them for granted. 
  • There’s still an inventory glut and rental rates are falling in many markets, notes Baker.  He says the rental market doesn’t lie.  In Marin, while rental rates have come down as in the rest of the nation, we have a shortage of inventory in certain price ranges and areas, while in others we have a balanced market  with inventory coming on meeting buyer demand.

 What does it all mean for you as a homeowner, buyer or seller? 
–        Our market should fare much better than most but we still have the wild card of foreclosures due to unemployment for the most part.  The Federal Loan Modification Program is turning out to be a total fiasco, so no hope to fix the problem there. 
–       Current market data indicates we may have reached bottom as price per square foot has remained more or less flat for all of Marin County in the past year.  More specifically, it has hovered around $460 for single family homes and trending slightly up for condos from $285 in April 09 to $316 in April 10.     

  – The market supply and demand are more balanced than they have been in a long time, after swinging from a very strong seller’s market  in 2005-2006  to a very strong  buyer’s market in 4Q 2008 and 1stQ 2009.     

   

IF YOU ARE A SELLER:     

  •  Pricing your property realistically and in line with recent comparable sales will ensure a faster sale for a higher percentage of your asking price.  As I pointed out earlier, do not let an increase in overall median prices trick you in believing prices are up.  Ask your realtor to provide you with very accurate, relevant comparable data  for your price range and location; buyers have access to it and use it!    

  • Today’s buyers are very attentive students of the market and avail themselves to the ever increasing data available to them on the internet: they look up property history, price per square foot, “walkability” indexes, etc.  and log into their email alert accounts several times daily to keep abreast of the inventory.   
  • And while they are more confident as demonstrated by the increase in sales, they only step up when they identify value on the basis of their market knowledge.  Remember value is a three-part equation: location, condition and price.  While you cannot control the location, you can control the condition and price.  When priced to correctly reflect the condition (maintenance, upgrades and remodels, curb appeal, how the property shows) and location (zip code, location of lot, school district, freeway and amenities access,  sun exposure, etc.), your property will sell.  Be patient, while certain properties sell quickly with multiple offers, it is not the norm. 
  • In the higher price range, properties which languished on the market for up to a year even after repeated price reductions are coming back on at prices in alignment with recent comps and selling with multiple offers.  For example, a gorgeous Tiburon home with breathtaking views which was on the market for 251 days in 2009 for $2,595,000 just came back on at $2,395,000 on May 4 and went into contract with multiple cash offers within a week! 
  • No one has a crystal ball and can tell you with certainty when prices will go back up to the 2008 peak prices (sold median of $1,113,000), but most agree it will take many years.  We are experiencing a very fragile economic recovery as proven by the demise of the stock market on May 6.  If you need to sell, now is a good time as interest rates are still at historic lows.  

IF YOU ARE A BUYER:     

  • Inventory is still low in certain areas of Marin, but more properties are coming on the market every week, and if you have been frustrated with the low inventory, don’t lose heart.  

  •  You need to turn the page and come to grips with the realities of the new marketplace:  making low ball offers significantly lower than asking is so last year!  The market is no longer trending downward!  There are plenty of qualified buyers competing for a limited number of properties.  Study recent comparables carefully with the help of your Realtor.  While sometimes being patient and waiting until the seller lowers the price can pay off, it can also mean you may lose the property to another buyer.  When you find the home of your dreams, if it is priced in line with recent comps and the value is there, do not lose it by making an unrealistically low offer or waiting.   Step up with your best foot forward, if you don’t, another buyer will see the value and snap it up!

What’s selling right now?    

  • Every time I have an open house, the majority of the people coming through are San Francisco renters looking to buy their first home in a good school district.  As could be expected from this trend, most of the sales are good family homes in good locations in the best school districts.       

   

Click here for  a Marin_Market_City_by_City_Analysis_as of May 1, 2010     

If you would like to receive more detailed information about your particular neighborhood, feel free to contact me at 415-505-4789.  I would love to help you!    

Information sourced from BAREIS MLS.


The Right Way To Take A Cash Gift For Downpayment

How to accept a cash gift on a mortgageAs lenders tighten mortgage guidelines for home buyers, minimum downpayment requirements are increasing.  Several years ago, you could finance a home with nothing down. Today, most conventional mortgages require at least 10 percent.

Anecdotally, guideline changes have led to an increase in the number of home buyers accepting cash gifts from family.

Gifts are allowed in most cases but the problem is, if you don’t accept the gift in a “lender-friendly” way, the mortgage underwriter could reject it, and negate it.

You can’t just deposit a cash gift into your bank account. You have to follow a series of steps and keep records.

  1. Provide an acceptable gift letter signed by all parties
  2. Provide documentation of the gifter’s withdrawal of funds via teller receipts
  3. Provide documentation of the giftee’s deposit of funds via teller receipts

Lenders require these 3 steps for two basic reasons.  First, they want to make sure that the cash gift is “clean” (i.e. not laundered).  Second, they want to make sure the gift is really a gift and not a loan-in-disguise.

It’s why lenders typically require that the loan application be accompanied by a signed, dated letter.

For example:

I am the [relationship to recipient] of [name of recipient] and this letter serves as evidence that I am gifting [name of recipient] [amount of gift] to be used for the purchase of the home at [complete address of property].

This is a gift — not a loan — and there is no expectation of repayment.

Signed,
[Signature of gifter]

As an additional step, home buyers receiving cash gifts should make sure that gifted funds are not commingled at the time of deposit. If the cash gift is for $10,000, therefore, the bank’s deposit slip should indicate that a $10,000 deposit was made — nothing more, nothing less. Don’t add a random $100 deposit to the transaction, in other words. The $100 deposit should be a separate transaction.

It’s also worth noting that gifting funds between family members can create both legal and tax liabilities.  If you’re unsure about how donating or receiving a gift may impact you, call or email me, I will refer you to a professional that can advise you.

Kentfield home

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Your Mortgage Approval Isn’t Final Until It’s Funded

Approval not final until fundedA mortgage approval is never final until it’s funded.

A host of things can “go wrong” while your home loan is underway. Some are in your control, many more are not.  And just being aware of some potential pitfalls could help save your loan down the road, and your peace of mind today.

MSN Money ran a summary piece on the topic titled “10 Things That Can Kill A Home Loan“.

It’s an excellent article because, unlike most “get approved” articles that advise against things like buying a car before closing, or opening a bunch of new credit cards, the MSN Money piece addresses more uncommon factors that can lead to a similar loan turndown.

For example, a home may be unfundable if it’s unsuitable for human habitation — a condition you may not discover until after a thorough home inspection’s been made. Broken windows, lack of plumbing, and/or major foundation damage are all deal-breakers with a lender. 

Either fix the home prior to closing, or don’t close at all.

Homes in “declining markets” have danger spots, too. Especially for conforming mortgage applicants with less than 20% equity.

Because of how private mortgage insurers operate, some homes carry tougher, ZIP code-based PMI eligibility requirements. As a mortgage applicant, it’s important to understand this because you may be PMI-eligible in one neighborhood, but not in another.

There’s others ways in which a mortgage approval can go bad, too:

  • You’re self-employed and your income was lower last year versus the year prior
  • Your tax return shows large amounts of unreimbursed employee expenses
  • You failed to return required paperwork to the lender within a reasonable time frame

Mortgage approvals are delicate and, despite an improving economy, lenders still operate with caution. Talk with your real estate agent and your loan officer and put together a game plan.

The best way to beat the mortgage system is to know the rules before you start to play.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Foreclosure Activity Slows For The First Time In Several Years

Foreclosure concentration, by state (April 2010)The national foreclosure rate is finally falling.

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.com, the number of foreclosure notices dropped 2 percent between April 2009 and April 2010.

2 percent may not seem like much, but it’s the first time in the history of the RealtyTrac report that the annual foreclosure rate has dropped.

To be sure, foreclosure rates remain elevated — more than 300,000 were reported last month, but default notices appear to be approaching a plateau.

The RealtyTrac report shows some other interesting statistics, too:

  • 6 states accounted for more than half of April’s bank repossessions nationwide
  • For the 40th month in a row, Nevada topped the nation’s foreclosure rate
  • Foreclosure rates dropped in both California and Arizona, 2 foreclosure hot-spots through 2009

The good news for housing doesn’t stop there.  9 of the top 10 leading metropolitan areas for foreclosure-related activity showed a drop in annual activity.  Only Reno, Nevada showed an increase.

Buying distressed homes is big business, according to the National Association of Realtors®, accounting for 35 percent of all home resales with a typical discount ranging near 15 percent on value.

But with the discount comes some caution. You need to know how buying a foreclosed can be different from buying a non-foreclosed home.

For example, distressed properties are often sold as-is and may have defects that render them “un-lendable”.  Secondly, “quick closings” aren’t usually possible with bank-owned homes — you’re often at the bank’s schedule and mercy.

And, lastly, not all foreclosed homes are searchable online. You’ll usually find more stock if you work with a real estate agent versus searching online.

The RealtyTrac foreclosure report is thorough and can help you gauge what’s happening on a state-by-state level, and in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.  Once you’ve done your research, talk to your real estate agent about what to do next.

There’s still good deals in the foreclosure market — you just have to know where to find them.

Stafford Lake Watershed, Novato, CA

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Top 10 Hiking Trails in Marin County

Lake Stafford

With summer right around the corner, it is time to put your hiking shoes on and hit the trails.  

Marin County is a hikers paradise with 3 national parks, 6 state parks, 24 county open space lands and 7 other parks and open space areas providing over 500 miles of magnificent trails. Forty-two percent of the land is open to the public.  Here is an article with detailed information and maps on the top ten hiking trails in Marin County.  Hope to meet you there!

Top 10 Hiking Trails in Marin County � Nautilus of Marin’s Word Stew.