My first trip to Sacramento

I joined our local board of Realtors in January of this year as a Director and as a member of the MLS & Technology committee.  It’s been a great learning experience to serve on these committees for a couple reasons:  it’s been interesting working with my colleagues in a committee setting where we take votes and discuss issues on a group level.  It has made me focus on articulating my points as well as figuring out when to dig my heels in and when to shut up and compromise (Compromises aren’t always my first choice…) It’s also been interesting to see how local policies are made.  My position as director has put me in front of the association budget and all decisions that each committee makes must be finalized by the board. Pretty cool; it’s been a much more fun endeavor than I anticipated it would be. They asked me to come on board last fall to offer some of my technical experience and I think (more than anything) pump some more young blood into the organization. We all know the desert needs as much of that as possible!  🙂

Anyway, as part of serving on the board of directors, I just traveled up to Sacramento to take part in CAR’s (California Association of Realtors) Legislation Day. Realtors’ associations are organized at 3 levels: local, state and national levels. This was a state level meeting and focused on educating our legislators on current issues that are effecting consumers in buying, selling and/or maintaining their homes.  There were 3 key issues we discussed:

1. Appraisals:

Appraisals are a nightmare right now.  Here is a bit of background on the issue:

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) is the result of a settlement between the New York Attorney General and the GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprises – Fannie and Freddie) that he had threatened with liability for allowing inadequately underwritten loans to be made and resold. The HVCC has no force of law and was not enacted by Congress, but because the GSEs are so dominant in the marketplace, their internal rule has effectively pre-empted practice across the country. A New York lawsuit has thus changed the way that California lenders (and the appraisers they hire) do business.

The stated purpose of the HVCC is to create a separation between a loan officer, loan broker and the appraiser retained to provide the appraisal. Teh need for separation has fueled an explosive growth in Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) whchi act as the intermediary that receives the assignment from the lender and then hires the appraiser to complete it. With limited exceptions, the HVCC calls for no contact between the lender and the appraiser. Compliance with the HVCC became mandatory June 2009.  This is a problem for the following reasons:

  • Appraisals cost the comumer on average of $75.00 more (typically $200 more in the La Quinta area).
  • Time to complete an appraisal doubled.
  • 61% of all appraisals are completed by out-of-the-area appraisers (sometimes even out of state.)
  • 63% of all appraisals came in below the purchase price

The last 2 bullet points are really crucial. When reading the last point, you might think “Well, we’re in a declining market, so I can appreciate appraisals coming in lower.”  That’s not the true picture though.  Because there are so many out of the area appraisers (who have to cover a bigger geographical area to make the same living they used to because the AMC’s now take a cut from the appraisers pocket too), they don’t know our area and often do not provide accurate appraisals because of this. If an appraisal comes in lower than the offer price and the buyer is getting a loan, the bank won’t provide the loan and the house won’t sell which further drags down prices. The point isn’t that the prices are low or getting lower (or higher or whatever), the point is that they are often incorrect and do not provide fair comparables for the rest of the marketplace.  This creates tons more problems for everybody that’s involved — including for the buyer that WANTS the property at his offer price, but now can’t buy it because he can’t get a sufficient loan.  These problems happen all the time.

2. Anti-Deficiency Protections:

Current law says that if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage used to purchase his or her home, the homeowner’s liability on the mortgage is limited to the property itself. This law has been around forever (originally created in the 1930s.)  However, if you refinance the original debt (the same debt used to purchase the home and nothing more), the borrower becomes personally liable for this amount. There is a bill on the table called SB 1178 that C.A.R is sponsoring to change this policy. This bill removes the liability for the original debt that has been refinanced to take advantage of a lower interest rate or something of this nature.  It does not deal with liability on any money-out refinances or home equity loans.

3. Proposals to Address State Budget Gap

The state is trying to bridge the budget gap by trying to force “overwithholding on independent contractors”, “Tax on Services” and change the  “Mortgage Interest Deduction” for primary and second homes.  These are all bad things for independent contractors, home owners and consumers.  By withholding money from independent contractors, the Government would not be solving a problem — they’d just be holding onto contractors money until they filed their taxes at year end.  Provided contractors didn’t owe any additional money, the Gov’t would give it back. Also any tax on services would raise expenses for everyone involved in that service– most importantly the consumers paying for those services. Lastly the Mortgage Interest Deduction is a HUGE tax relief benefit to all home owners. By removing this, it would significantly increase the cost for primary and secondary home owners to own their homes.

These are the contemporary issues that are affecting all of us in today’s real estate marketplace.  It was productive to meet with the law makers in Sacramento and discuss these issues.  They understood where we were coming from and will hopefully move forward in a direction that will benefit the majority of the people.  If you’ve made it this far; I can’t believe it.  Thanks for reading!

79605 Mandarina in the Citrus

We have an exceptional single family attached home in the Citrus priced to sell quickly at only $615,000. This 2,439 sqft home with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths has a private front courtyard with fountain and a great south facing rear patio overlooking the 9th fairway, the practice range and the 1st fairway before the beautiful Santa Rosa mountains. The interior is beautifully decorated with a southwestern flair.  This home has been beautifully upgraded and won’t be on the market long. The owners are purchasing another home in the Citrus and are motivated!  Please call us for a private showing!  Click here to see the listing and pictures.

78840 Lima in the Citrus, La Quinta, CA.

We have a listing in the custom home section of the Citrus that is 3,909 square feet, was built in 1997 and originally offered at $1,199,000 in February, 2009.  The original listing price was $307 per square foot which is a competitive price for a custom home especially on that street.

We have reduced the price $350,000 and the home is currently offered at $849,000 or $217 per square foot! The average price per square foot of all 21 homes that have sold in the Citrus (including foreclosures and short sales) this year is $251 per square foot, all active listings average $294 per square foot. A custom home offered at $217/sqft is clearly a spectacular deal.

This home has 4 bedrooms. 2 in the main house and 2 in the detached Casita. The home is located on the north side of the street but has a front (south facing) loaded pool and spa so that the pool and front patio have sun all year as well as a nice view of the southern mountains. This home is extremely well built and has great “bones”!

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May 2010 Price Report

Here are the latest sales numbers for all homes sold within the City of La Quinta as well as all Golf Course homes in La Quinta through May 2010.

The blue lines represent 2008 data, the orange lines represent 2009 data and the magenta lines represent 2010 data.

The chart above shows monthly sales of homes within the city of La Quinta*.

The sales for La Quinta in May were one shy of April which were the strongest since May, 2006. We continue to notice an improvement in consumer confidence and an increase in buying activity in homes over $700,000, which has been slow over the past 18 months. Personally, our team continues to put non-distressed, “regular” home sales together this year, which has been a welcomed change. Prices have not started to rise, but they seem to be stabilizing as there has not been a significant change since March as buyers are starting to seize the well-priced homes on the market. The general attitude of the people we talk to at open houses is that the market has hit the bottom and that is backed up by current prices versus historical appreciation.

The sales-volume numbers in the higher-end market (which contains many of the golf properties in the chart above) retreated slightly in May but the average price per square foot continued to improve. Sales in May were 3 units lower than April but were still stronger than any previous month since May, 2008. We are hoping this continues through the summer sellling season.

Overall, we are seeing some positive signs in the market place. Although prices have not yet stabilized in the higher end (over $1 million), there are signs of stabilization beginning in the lower market segments. The mortgage industry is still a stumbling block in the higher end market as it seems that unless you can prove that you don’tneed a Jumbo Loan (over $500,000), you can’t get one! The bottom line is that at the beginning of the downturn in 2006, there were over 10,000 homes available for sale in the Coachella Valley – a real glut, currently, that number is down to under 5,800. As the supply dwindles, the market begins to stabilize and people feel more comfortable to get back into the marketplace.

If buying property is something on your list (especially golf property), why not take advantage of the incredible prices and seller incentives now, when sellers will work with you, instead of in the future, when the demand starts to catch up with the supply? Especially if you’re buying and planning to hold for 5+ years.

Here are some yearly sales figures (units) for the City of La Quinta from 2002:

Year All LQ Golf Course
2002 1,354 259
2003 1,565 652
2004 1,931 813
2005 1,553 657
2006 1,098 491
2007 935 447
2008 1,063 416
2009 1,155 418

2010 YTD 570  253 (May)

* When looking at “sold” data, you have to remember that the numbers are generated on the date that the sale is recorded with the county but that the decision to buy was made about 45 – 60 days earlier.