Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So You're Thinking of Buying a House

Posted on the Alameda Patch, March 13, 2012
Buying your first home is not for the faint of heart. From the moment you decide to begin the steps to home ownership until you have the keys in your hands you will likely experience every emotion on the human scale. Couples purchasing will find even the best relationship at odds and individuals will wonder what they were thinking.
So what do you do once you’ve decided this is the right time for you to become a homeowner? There are many things buyers can do to ensure they have a successful home purchase experience and many pitfalls that can make the experience far from satisfying or, worse yet, very costly.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a series of recommendations for homebuyers to consider when stepping into the real estate market. If there’s anything in particular you’d like covered just leave a comment at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to include it in the upcoming series. In the meantime, I thought I’d provide the following as food for thought.
Is now the right time?

This will always be something dependent upon your specific life situation, however many economists are stating 2012 is the time for buyers to come back into the market including CBS News which reported in January “Seven Reasons Why Now’s a Good Time to Buy a Home."

Is it worth it?

Leslie Appleton-Young, the California Association of Realtors’ (CAR) Chief Economist, spoke last week at an Alameda Association of Realtors’ working lunch and noted eight out of ten Americans still agree purchasing a home is the best long term investment a person can make. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Home Underwater? Help May Be on the Way

Posted on the Alameda Patch February 13, 2012
Last week President Obama announced a landmark $25 billion settlement between the federal government and five of the major mortgage servicers – Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi Mortgage, JP Morgan Chase andAlly/GMAC. We are still waiting for details, but the agreement includes assistance for:
  • Homeowners who are underwater (home value is less than what’s owed) but have remained current in their payments
  • Homeowners in need of a loan modification due to financial hardship
  • Homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure
This is particularly good news for those who purchased between 2004 and 2009 as they have been hit the hardest by decreased home values.
Before you grab the phone to see if you qualify there are a couple of things you should know.
  • Loans owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae are not included under the agreement – not sure if that’s you, check here for FannieMae and here for FreddieMac.
  • Be prepared to be patient. It’s going to take a few months for the third party administrators to be selected, systems to be set up and qualifying borrowers to be identified.
  • Qualifying borrowers will be identified and contacted via mail in the next three to nine months however, you can contact the servicer directly.
  • Not all loans qualify
For more information visit the National Mortgage Settlement website for additional details including phone numbers for the five major mortgage servicers included on the settlement.
Stay tuned for more information as it unfolds!

Monday, January 30, 2012

If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again

Posted on The Alameda Patch January 30, 2012 at 5:00 am Email Print 1 Comment

The plan was simple; my friend was considering a career in the wine and spirit industry so I invited her to dinner as my husband has over 30 years of experience to share. I confirmed the dinner Wednesday morning and decided to keep it simple with burgers and a big green salad. That afternoon I left a message with my husband informing him he’d be manning the barbeque and headed off to Encinal Market for some great ground beef from Scalise’s and nice fresh veggies for the salad.

My friend arrived at 6:30 as planned but Dan was running a bit late. No problem. We had plenty to chat about and I could prep the salad while we waited. When my husband arrived home around 6:45 my plan started to go a bit awry. Looks like I hadn’t thought about whether or not we had propane in the tank and of course, we didn’t. No problem. I remembered we had that great big giant silver box in the corner of my kitchen, I think they call it a stove? I’ll just broil the burgers, grilled are definitely better, but this way I could manage the cooking giving my guest and husband more time to talk. Perfect!

All right, back on track, now where’s that broiling pan? Oh yes, it’s over here, no, over here, what was I thinking its right …. dang….. frying! I’ve never fried burgers, but it’s got to be kind of like the way they do it at diners and everybody loves those. A quick peak over the shoulder, they’re still in deep conversation, so I fire up the burner, pull out the fry pan and away we go!

Ten minutes or so later I have three beautifully cooked burgers sizzling away, finally! I pull out a baking sheet to toast up the buns and melt some cheese on my pièce de résistance open up the oven door and voilà, buns go flying, burgers flip through the air and dogs fly in from every direction! Risking bodily harm I grab the burgers off the floor—don’t panic, they’re future treats for the dogs—and turn to my husband. He calmly looks up from the conversation and announces “ looks like it's all you can eat pizza at Linguini’s tonight.”

About 8 p.m. we sat at our table, pizza slices in front of us and I decide to claim the night a success. After all, the plan was fait accompli with the bonus of knowing we’ll have happiest dogs in Alameda snacking on burgers for days to come!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Breaking Out of the Holiday Mode and Heading Straight Into 2012!

Posted on the Alameda Patch on Jan 20, 2012

All right, that’s it. I’ve milked them for all they’re worth. I’m finding it necessary to publicly announce — the holidays are officially over!!

After 18 months of intense volunteer work, a (thankfully) strong business year and adapting to having my youngest off at college, I decided to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Initially I was simply going to say no to open houses in December and enjoy shopping, baking and, well, eating with the family. By the end of the month this relaxation thing was taking hold. Hmmm, how could I rationalize extending this a little longer? So I set my mind to work and figured why not take advantage of the quiet. My current deals are under control, I should take the first week of January to visit my parents in Ashland; after all, it really was for them. Done! Upon return I was in the zone, without a flinch I realized it was my maternal responsibility to make Anna’s last week at home all about her. There was shopping to do, games to play and movies to watch. I mean, really, what choice did I have?!?

Well, yesterday was it, enough with the kick back attitude, 2012 awaits!! I don’t know about you, but from the get go it’s been clear to me that this is going to be an amazing year. The Alameda real estate market started coming back strong in the latter half of 2011, helped along by low interest rates, stabilizing prices and the return of buyers’ confidence. All signs show this trend should continue and, though we’ll not see the madness of the early 2000s, I believe we’ll see a firming up of our market with great opportunities, especially for first time home buyers.

At the risk of receiving a lengthy dear “John” letter, exciting work is going on in Alameda schools. Yes, funding is still a struggle; yes, negotiations are looming, but creative, collaborative work between parents, teachers and administration are creating opportunities for progressive learning environments and choices for Alameda families. And on on the home front, my husband is happy as lark with this extended cycling season, my daughter is doing well in college, my son is gainfully employed in a job he loves with amazing opportunities and the doggies are spoiled rotten and endlessly entertaining!

Now you know not only what I’m looking forward to in 2012 but some of the topics I’ll be writing about here on the Alameda Patch. I hope you’ll find future posts both informative and entertaining. Until then I’ll leave you with my new favorite saying stolen from the trailer of 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' “All things work out in the end, if they’re not working out, you’re just not at the end yet!”