Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rates on Bigger Mortgages Finally Should Come Down

Home loans from $625,500 to $729,750 in high-cost regions, including most of the Bay Area, should get cheaper in the next few weeks.

To make bigger mortgages cheaper, the economic stimulus act passed in February increased the conforming loan limit in high-cost regions to a maximum of $729,750 from $625,500 for single-family homes through the end of this year. The conforming-loan limit is the biggest mortgage that can be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Anything over the limit is called a jumbo loan, and they cost considerably more than conforming loans because Fannie and Freddie can't buy or guarantee them.

Raising the limit should bring down the price of loans between $625,500 and $729,750. But more than two months after the stimulus bill was signed, loans in that zone are still being priced like jumbo loans.


Lenders say they couldn't lower their rates until Fannie and Freddie issued underwriting criteria. Fannie issued its criteria March 30 and Freddie on April 16. Both will start buying loans of up to $729,750 from lenders on May 4.

That opens the door for lenders to begin making them.

Wells Fargo says it will start making conforming loans of up to $729,750 on Monday.

Bank of America will begin making them "by mid-May," says Vijay Lala, a product executive with the bank.

As they and other lenders start making these loans, the price should come down. By how much remains to be seen.

Source: Kathleen Pender
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Should You Work with Me???

You should work with me because I’m smart, creative, hard-working and enthusiastic. I have twenty three years of experience handling multi-million dollar transactions. I understand investments, contracts, people and finance. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, which gives me an eye for beauty, proportion and elegance with a comprehension of building styles and techniques. This can be an enormous advantage to you when considering a home for remodel or redesign. I have an extensive arsenal of Trade Resources to tap into when you need assistance with home repair, inspection, appraisal, finance, design, building or landscaping.

What do I know about the San Francisco Peninsula?

Menlo Park and Atherton have been my home since 1953. I know the schools, churches, Country Clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, hiking trails, parks and neighborhoods. I have an appreciation for the subtle differences between the various communities, cities and towns. The advantages of living near Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley are crystal clear to me. I can advise you as to the best climates and commutes. I “get it”.

What you can expect of me?

You can expect my total commitment and fiduciary responsibility to you as my client. I offer my honesty, integrity, scrupulous attention to detail and the determination to produce your desired outcome. I spare no expense to provide my clients with the best technology and market research.

What is my business philosophy?

Most importantly, I am your advocate. I will provide impeccable service, communicate clearly, and achieve results for you. I am sincere, trustworthy and will negotiate tirelessly on your behalf.

The Seller's Story...

As your story unfolds, sometimes things change, even the place you call Home --

Change means to adjust, modify or transform. The genesis of change can be a myriad of reasons, unique and different for each one of us. Maybe you’re weary of the yard work and maintenance that your place requires. Perhaps you need more space to accommodate a growing family. It’s possible that career obligations have required an immediate change of locale. You may even find yourself on your own again after decades of family life --

For whatever the reason you need to Sell, I promise that your home will be presented at its finest -- highlighting the charms, amenities and even the quirks that you fell in love with in the first place. Buyers will be inspired to imagine living there, with their traditions, surrounded by the people and stuff that they love.

We will collaborate to determine a price that provokes the attention of Agents and Buyers alike, to ensure that you will be generously compensated for your property. Your home will be marketed using state-of-the-art technology to guarantee the widest possible exposure via MLS, print media and the Internet.

If change is on your horizon, I would be honored to assist you in Selling the place that you call Home…

Optimism About Economy Grows - CNN Poll

CNN/Opinion Research survey shows fewer people see current conditions as poor.

By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Deputy Political Director
April 29, 2009: 11:04 AM ET

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans are becoming slightly more optimistic about the nation's economy, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey showed Wednesday, but the glow surrounding President Obama is wearing off for some as the president marks his first 100 days in office.

Some 37% of the people questioned in the poll say the current economic conditions in the country are very poor -- a figure that's down from 48% last month and 66% in December. Another 17% now say economic conditions are good, up six points from last month. Fifty-five percent say the economy is the most important issue facing the country today, down eight points from March.

"When the economy is bad, it is the top issue on the public's mind," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "So when the number who say the economy is the number-one problem facing the country goes down, it may be a leading indicator that things are looking up a bit."

The survey also suggests that nearly two in three Americans think Obama has the right priorities and has paid enough attention to the country's most important problems. The 63% who feel that way is 17 points higher than those who felt that way about George W. Bush's performance 100 days into his presidency in 2001 and 26 points higher than the numbers for Bill Clinton in 1993.

About 68% also say Obama is doing a good job keeping important promises he made during his campaign for the White House, with three in 10 saying he's doing a poor job. Only one in three thought Clinton did a good job keeping his promises.

"On almost every measure, Obama is having a much better first hundred days than Bill Clinton, the last Democrat in the White House. Clinton was seen as unfocused and unable to keep his promises. Obama isn't getting criticized on either of those measures," added Holland.

The poll suggests that 19% of those questioned are personally thrilled that Obama is president. That's down nine points from January, when Obama was inaugurated. Forty-two percent are happy with Obama as president, 20% unhappy, 7% depressed and 11% don't care.
"For about one in ten Americans, the thrill is gone," said Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, with 2,019 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009 Conforming Loan Limits Jump

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed into law last Tuesday, increased the maximum conforming loan limit for mortgages originated in 2009, said the Federal Housing Finance Agency Monday. The increase affects 250 counties across the United States. For these areas (see list here), Fannie Mae (FNM: 0.74 -6.33%) and Freddie Mac (FRE: 0.77 -1.28%) loan limits will return to their late-2008 levels, which were up to $729,750 for one-unit properties in the United States. Loan limits in other areas will not be changed by the legislation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Buyer's story...

HOME is the place where your story unfolds --

What makes a house a HOME? A home is a dwelling, a shelter, but shelter can be just protection or one’s private and personal sanctuary. Home is a million little things, unique and different for each one of us…

For some home means is a cozy fire in the winter, walking barefoot through the cool green grass, the fragrance of a spring breeze wafting through an open window…your cherished books are stacked just so, there is a cashmere throw to cuddle under on the sofa, crisp sheets welcoming you to bed at the end of a long day and the aroma of coffee brewing at first light…

Your home might be an escape from the rigors of the day -- a refuge from life’s difficulties, deals and demands. Or is this the place where your creative juices are allowed to flow -- a perfectly mitered joint, a flawlessly executed piano concerto or tantalizing concoctions simmering on the stove?

A home is memories, music, laughter -- gatherings of friends and family, celebrations and sharing. A home is to nurture your young, rest your bodies, comfort your ills, cultivate the soil and hold your treasures. Most of us do not primarily consider our home as an investment, but it is that as well.

Whatever it may mean to you, allow me the privilege of assisting you in the quest for the place you call HOME…

Buydowns and the Bottom

Buydowns and the Bottom
Eric Trailer, Absolute Mortgage Banking

If you were in the market to buy a $2,000,000 home home in the Bay Area, would it make a differnce to you if the monthly investment was less than $5,000 with a 30% down payment? And I’m not just talking about the mortgage payment, I am talking about complete, tax adjusted cash flow including a 4.25% 30-year mortgage fixed for 10 years, property taxes and homeowners insurance. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. And yes it beats market rental rates by thousands.

Interest-rate buydowns are one of the most effective methods for both buyers and seller to obtain what they want, which of course is value. For the sellers, buying down an interest rate can have up to 8X the power over a price reduction, depending on the cost to buy the rate down. For buyers, a lower rate means higher qualification and bragging rights of having the lowest mortgage rate on the planet.

In the example above:
If the buyer was qualified up to $1.8mm at 5.5%, they are now qualified at $2mm at 4.25%
The seller only needs to invest four points or $56,000 to move the buyer $200,000; thus a $56,000 investment saves the seller about $144,000, which is therefore about FOUR TIMES more effective than reducing price

I use the example above since I have been receiving a tremendous amount of inquiries about what’s happening at the higher end, which are those homes selling at $1.5mm+, and whether creative financing has been more common than not. What we’re seeing is that creative financing, like interest rate buydowns and seller financing, are definitely more common at all price points. But what’s been rather fascinating to watch is that many sellers are becoming less inclined to reduce price, despite the fact that prices are off by between 7% to 17%, depending on which city the property is located. Yet, sellers have been very open to concessions that help them keep their price, despite the net proceeds being reduced. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is the fact that buying activity has skyrocketed on the last few weeks, which is obviously encoraging to sellers.

So what’s drivng the buying activity? Well, for starters, it seems like many buyers properly sensed that we’ve hit the proverbial “bottom” of the real estate market, which was recently confirmed ed by the exisitng home sales figures that came out last week. That’s right, not only are sales of both exisiting and new homes up significantly (4.7% and 5.1% respectively), the US median price and average price were both up in February over January. Add this data to the fact that interest rates have set a new low record, plus further validation from one of most respected economic forecasting sources avalable, the UCLA forecast, that 2010 will be a year of recovery, and it becomes clearer and clearer that there couldn’t be a greater opprtunity to buy real estate.

Source: Eric Trailer, Absolute Mortgage Banking
March 31, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rates on 30-year Mortgages Dip

Source: SF Gate

Rates on 30-year mortgages dipped last week after rising a week earlier, and remain just above record lows.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.82 percent last week from 4.87 percent the previous week. Rates have been below 5 percent for five consecutive weeks.

The all-time low of 4.78 percent was recorded the week of April 2. Freddie Mac's survey dates back to 1971.

Low rates have sparked a surge in refinancing activity, with nearly 80 percent of new home loan applications coming from borrowers seeking to refinance. Freddie Mac's sibling company, Fannie Mae, refinanced $77 billion in loans last month, nearly double February's level and the best month for such activity since 2003.

Mortgage rates fell dramatically over the winter. They fell further after the Federal Reserve said last month it would buy $1.2 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion in long-term government debt, which traditionally influences rates on 30-year home loans.

"The housing industry is starting to exhibit some positive signs," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, said in a statement but noted they were "scarce and too early to tell how permanent."

Home builders are feeling a lot more optimistic that the worst housing downturn in decades may be finally starting to turn around. An index of builders' confidence released Wednesday posted its biggest one-month jump in five years in April as many home buyers seized on lower prices and incentives, and took advantage of lower interest rates and tax credits.

Qualifying for a loan, however, is still tough. Lenders have tightened their standards dramatically over the past year, so the best rates are available only to those with solid credit.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.48 percent last week from 4.54 percent the previous week, according to Freddie Mac. Rates on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.88 percent from 4.93 percent and rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 4.91 percent from 4.83 percent.

The rates do not include points. The nationwide fee averaged 0.6 of a point last week for all mortgages in Freddie Mac's survey except for one-year adjustable mortgages, which had an average fee of 0.7 of a point.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Do You Assess the Market Price of a Home in This Area?

This is just my opinion --

I think the analysts do lean towards commoditizing homes. You simply cannot do that around here! It is practically impossible to explain to someone from out of the area why Menlo Park and Palo Alto are *worth* more than other communities, but historical data backs this up. It's a combination of the schools, the amenities, the demographics, the location and a hundred imperceptible, subtle things that define "quality".

Monday, April 13, 2009

Editorial: High-speed Rail Still Makes Sense

Mercury News Editorial

The idea of high-speed rail whisking passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours was irresistible to California voters in November. In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, approval of the $9.95 billion bond measure ran over 60 percent. But opposition since has grown on the Peninsula, where the image of swift, clean travel is giving way to that of fast trains zooming past backyards. It's as if folks are saying: Wait. You mean it's coming here?

Yes, it is. And that is a very good thing for travelers, for the Silicon Valley economy and for the environment. Communities need to be focusing on how to build it the best way possible, not how to stop it.

The route to San Francisco through Pacheco Pass and San Jose was chosen over East Bay alternatives last year after a lengthy, contentious and very public process. Public officials who claim not to have known this are either disingenuous or were asleep at the switch. San Jose and some other communities lobbied hard to be on the route: High-speed rail will be another incentive for companies to locate and grow here instead of fleeing to cheaper, less-congested places.

That said, nobody expected the details to be easy to work out. The trains won't go above 125 miles per hour in this corridor — a crawl compared with 220 in the Central Valley — but running them along the Caltrain right of way presents challenges, especially as they pass through neighborhoods.

A number of communities have concerns. But cities such as San Jose and Sunnyvale are taking a positive approach to solving them, while Menlo Park, Atherton and now Palo Alto have turned to litigation.

The trains could run at ground level, in a tunnel, elevated on a concrete platform, or a combination of the above. These ideas and many more contributed by the public in recent months will be studied for the Environmental Impact Report. This will be a massive document, although the High Speed Rail Authority has agreed to report back periodically instead of delivering it all at once with a thud. The big decisions are years away.

Each choice has trade-offs. Tunneling up the whole Peninsula sounds dandy, for instance, but a tunnel that long and deep is likely to disrupt the underground flow of water. It also could mean Caltrain remains forever diesel, spewing tons of pollutants into Peninsula air. Stimulus money to electrify the corridor is a possibility, but only if it's part of an above ground high-speed rail plan.

The United States is behind its competitors in developing high-speed rail, which is extremely safe and popular. Other states are planning lines, including one through Austin, a major economic competitor to Silicon Valley.

As to Peninsula cities and residents hoping to make the Bay Area line go away, we have one word to say: BART.

Five decades ago, San Mateo County rejected bringing BART south and destroyed forever the opportunity for high-speed commuter rail to ring the bay. Is anyone proud of that today?

Voters were right in November. High-speed rail is the right thing to do for future generations. We can make it work.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rosewood Hotel Complex Opens for Business

Source: Almanac News

Officials from Menlo Park, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and the Stanford Management Co. gathered to celebrate the opening of the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel, spa and restaurant on Thursday, April 2.

About 150 people were on hand to watch as Michael Casey, managing director of Rosewood Sand Hill, and Menlo Park Mayor Heyward Robinson cut ribbons and delivered speeches.

Mr. Robinson praised city staff, as well as current and former council members, for shepherding plans for the facilities through the city's planning process. The City Council approved those plans in June 2006, with Councilman Andy Cohen casting the lone dissenting vote.

Mr. Robinson said the hotel would provide much-needed jobs for local residents, would offer a space for large events, and would be a boon to the city's tax revenue. The hotel has a 2,800-square-foot ballroom that can hold between 150 and 250 guests, according to hotel officials.

Though the country is mired in a recession, Rosewood CEO John Scott said he sees a silver lining for the "ultra-luxury" hotel. It will have less competition, because he doesn't envision many new hotels opening soon, he said in an interview.

He said he believes the Peninsula's economy is still on relatively solid ground, and that business people will still elect to stay there on trips. And with people tightening their budgets, nearby residents might eschew a trip to a far-away resort in favor of a weekend stay in Menlo Park, he said.

The hotel, spa and restaurant actually opened for business Wednesday, April 1.

Following is the Press Release from the Rosewood Hotel Group

Help Us Celebrate Hotel's Grand Opening
Jan. 19, 2009

Rosewood Sand Hill, the Newest Property in Rosewood Collection Offers Special Opening Rates with Help Us Celebrate Package MENLO PARK, CA - Michael Casey, Managing Director of the new Rosewood Sand Hill which is scheduled to open on April 2, 2009, has announced a special offering for the hotel's first guests. Those who book the Help Us Celebrate package will receive one night of luxury accommodations for two and a celebratory glass of sparkling wine upon check in. In addition, Rosewood Sand Hill will donate five percent of the room rate to Canopy and Trees for Menlo, two environmentally-friendly organizations dedicated to the planting of trees in the local area.

"We have a lot to celebrate when we open in April as the newest property in Rosewood Hotels & Resorts' distinctive collection," explained Casey. "In addition to providing extraordinary accommodations for guests who visit the Peninsula, Rosewood Sand Hill will offer highly refined, yet personalized service and resort-like amenities that include Sense, A Rosewood Spa™ and Madera, our signature restaurant. We are also pleased to celebrate bringing hundreds of new jobs to the area.

"Help Us Celebrate will be available to guests during the opening month of April as a way to introduce Peninsula visitors and locals to the legendary Rosewood luxury and service. The cost of the package is $295 on weekdays and $225 on weekends through April 30, 2009.

Rosewood Sand Hill is conveniently located minutes from high-end boutiques, galleries and restaurants, and just 35 miles south of San Francisco and 14 miles north of San Jose. Reservations are available by calling 888.ROSEWOOD or by visiting Rosewood Sand Hill at

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts manages properties worldwide including Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas, The Carlyle in New York, The Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta, CordeValle in San Martin, California, Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, Las Ventanas al Paraíso and Rosewood Mayakobá in Mexico, Hotel Seiyo Ginza in Tokyo, Japan, and a triumvirate of world-class Caribbean properties - Rosewood Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda, Caneel Bay on St. John and Jumby Bay on Antigua.

For more information on Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, please call 888.ROSEWOOD or visit

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

C.A.R. Launches Mortgage Protection Program


The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) today launched the C.A.R. Housing Affordability Fund Mortgage Protection Program (C.A.R.H.A.F. MPP) for first-time home buyers.

Through the Housing Affordability Fund Mortgage Protection Program, first-time home buyers who lose their jobs due to layoffs may be eligible to receive up to $1,500 per month, for six months, to help make their mortgage payments. A qualified cobuyer also can participate in the program, and receive a monthly benefit of $750 per month for up to six months. Program benefits also include coverage for accidental disability and a $10,000 death benefit. C.A.R.Hs Housing Affordability Fund is dedicating $1 million toward its Mortgage Protection Program, and estimates that as many as 3,000 families will benefit from the program this year.

The Mortgage Protection Program was developed to help ease the anxiety of consumers who are concerned about potential job loss and its impact on their ability to pay their mortgage should they purchase a home, said C.A.R. President James Liptak. It also provides peace of mind to those buyers who are actively searching for a home.

• To qualify for the Mortgage Protection Program, applicants must: Be a first-time home buyer, someone who has not owned a home in three or more years

• Open escrow April 2, 2009, or later, and close on or before Dec. 31, 2009

• Use a California REALTOR® in the transaction

• Purchase the property in California

• Be a W-2 employee (cannot be self-employed)

To apply for the program, home buyers must request an application for the H.A.F. Mortgage Protection Program from their REALTOR®.

Monday, April 6, 2009

California High-speed Rail Project Timeline

Joshua Melvin
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/02/2009

1982 — The California state Assembly passes a bill authorizing the sale of $1.12 billion in bonds for the construction of a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Diego.

1984 — Due to lack of funding as well as opposition from environmental groups and local governments, the bullet train project is abandoned.

1993 — The Intercity High Speed Rail Commission is created to look into building a high-speed rail line between Northern and Southern California.

1996 — The California High Speed Rail Authority is created and put in charge of planning, constructing and operating a high-speed train system.

2007 — Two possible train routes through the Bay Area are considered. The rail authority's board of directors votes to send the train down the Peninsula rather than through the East Bay.

Nov. 4, 2008 — Fifty-two percent of California voters approve the issuing of $9.96 billion in bonds to build a portion of the 800-mile high-speed rail line.

April 6, 2009 — The deadline for public comment on what should be included in the project's environmental impact study.

2011 — Construction on the high-speed rail line is slated to begin.

2020 — Train service is projected to begin.

SOURCES: Reuters, California High Speed Rail Authority Web site

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Open House Today 1:30 to 4:30 -- 605 Olive Street, Menlo Park

I am hosting an Open House today from 1:30 to 4:30 at 605 Olive Street, Menlo Park. Please come by and see this extraordinary 3 year old Craftsman style home loaded with amenities. It is located in best West Menlo Park and boasts 5 Bedrooms and 4+ Bathrooms.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

MA Rocks!

Menlo Atherton High School is my Alma Mater.

It is a very good public high school and has turned out more than it's share of Rock Stars!

Lindsay Buckingham -- Fleetwood Mac and Solo Artist

Stevie Nicks -- Fleetwood Mac and Solo Artist

Bob Weir -- Grateful Dead, Kingfish, Ratdog