Friday, January 29, 2010

California Gets $2.25B in Stimulus for High Speed Rail

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — High-speed rail projects in California, Florida and Illinois are among the big winners of $8 billion in grants announced Thursday by the White House – the start of what some Democrats tout as a national rail-building program that could rival the interstate highways begun in the Eisenhower era.

President Barack Obama announced the awards during a town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla. – a follow-up to Wednesday's State of the Union address that focused on getting Americans back to work. Thirteen passenger rail corridors in 31 states will receive grants, which are funded by the economic recovery act enacted last year.

Obama said focusing on building 21st century infrastructure projects is an important element of the country's economic recovery.

"It creates jobs immediately and it lays the foundation for a vibrant economy in the future," Obama said.

Though the administration bills the program as "high-speed rail," most U.S. projects won't reach the speeds seen in Europe and Asia. California's trains would be by far the fastest, exceeding the 200 mph achieved by some trains overseas.

Source: Exerpted from the Associated Press via Huffington Post

Case-Shiller Data Show Strong California Growth, Weakness Elsewhere

Case-Shiller Data Show Strong California Growth, Weakness Elsewhere

The Case-Shiller report was mixed, with weakness in the Northeast and Midwest, but strong growth in California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area.

Overall, the 20-city composite index showed a November 2009 gain of 0.2% over October.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

House of the Week

This morning on Tour a lovely West Menlo Park traditional one story home was introduced. This home is situated on a 13,800 Square Foot lot and is in a fabulous location close to schools and stores with good access to Stanford, Silicon Valley, commute routes and both major Airports.

Charming French Doors, light-filled rooms and inviting garden with swimming pool round out the amenities.
Please call me at (650) 543-1215 or (650) 888-6628 to see this home or others that will suit your specific needs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Daily Mortgage Commentary

Monday’s bond market has opened down slightly despite a much weaker than expected housing report. The stock markets are posting minor gains with the Dow up 25 points and the Nasdaq up 5 points. The bond market is currently down 2/32, but we will still likely see an increase in this morning’s mortgage rates of approximately .125 - .250 of a discount point due to weakness late Friday.

The National Association of Realtors reported late this morning that home resales fell a whopping 16.7% last month. Analysts were expecting to see a sizable decline in sales, but this was much larger than thought. The surprising drop indicates that the housing sector still is not stable, which is good news for the bond market and mortgage rates. Some of the loss is being attributed to the initial expiration of the home buyer tax credit, but I don’t believe many analysts are blaming the entire loss on that factor. This raises further concerns about the housing sector and makes a broader economic recovery less likely to be in the near future.

The rest of the week is extremely busy in terms of economic data scheduled for release and will likely be an active week for mortgage rates. There are six more relevant economic releases scheduled for the week in addition to a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.

January’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) will be released late tomorrow morning. This report is considered to be of high-importance to the bond market and therefore can move mortgage rates. It is an indicator of consumer sentiment, which is important because a decline would be construed as a sign that consumers may be less willing to make large purchases in the near future. Since consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy, market participants are very attentive to related data. A reading smaller than the expected 53.5 would be ideal for the bond market and mortgage rates.

And if we didn’t have enough to watch already, there are two relatively important Treasury auctions for the markets to digest. The Fed will auction 5-year and 7-year Treasury Notes Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. If they are met with a strong demand from investors, the broader bond market may rally during afternoon hours those days. However, a lackluster interest in the sales could lead to bond selling and higher mortgage rates.

Source: Ken Mason, Mortgage California

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Future of the "Wine Room"

When we Agents go on Tour, we visit multi-million dollar homes with amenities galore! One room that stands out in the newer homes is the "Wine Room". Traditionally this room is outfitted with custom shelves for bottles and cases of wine, is temperature controlled and is usually located in the lower level of the home.

I have often wondered whether anyone actually drinks wine in the wine room. Personally, I would probably elect to take it upstairs to enjoy it, where the chairs are more comfortable and the cooking is close by.

My friend, Buff Giurlani, and a couple of other local business men have now opened a facility for storing both one's wine and fine automobiles -- Autovino. Visit their site at

Perhaps this will mark an end to the necessity or obligation for the builder/developer to build a wine room at all.

Here is a bit about Autovino from their website --

If you are a collector of wines for long term appreciation or for your own enjoyment and your personal cellar is close to capacity Autovino provides the optimum environment for storing and aging your collection in our state of the art wine storage department.

Temperature and humidity control.

Our wine storage section features its own dedicated temperature and humidity control system to assure your wine is kept in optimum cellar conditions.

Secure access.

AutoVino provides 24-hour-a-day access to the wine storage area through an advanced key-pad security system.

Professional Security.

Trained security personnel monitor the building inside and out around the clock.

Intrusion Detection.

We employ the most advanced motion detection and laser technology throughout the facility to instantly identify any intrusions. In the event of any security breach, the system emits a piercing alarm and automatically notifies security, AutoVino management, and the police via a separate cell phone system in case phone lines are severed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

House of the Week

New Construction in Menlo Park

In my opinion "Spec" homes often miss the mark. Today on Tour we viewed a home that has great light and nice usage of space. It was built by BK Development Corporation.

Please call me at (650) 543-1215 or (650) 888-6628 to see this, and other desirable homes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Crisis in Haiti in the Aftermath of Earthquake

We CAN all help!!!

Just text "Haiti" to 90999 to send $10.00 to the Red Cross. It will be automatically debited from your phone bill...Easy. Let's do this. See exceprt from ABC New report below.

Tensions are becoming dangerously high on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as increasingly desperate Haitians search for food and water while tons of supplies remain stuck at the country's airport.

"What's going on? We can't even breathe! Who is helping us?" a man cried out today to an ABC News camera crew. Wearing a yellow bandana over his face and surrounded by other young and angry men, he said, "It takes one night to get the U.S. troops here, you know. It takes just a second for the military to get here."

"We're waiting, we're waiting for three or four days. Just cannot do nothing," another Haitian man said. "The president is staying at the airport while he does nothing for us."

"People have been almost fighting for water," aid worker Fevil Dubien said as he distributed water from a truck in a northern Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

ABC News has witnessed looting of damaged buildings in the capital with people walking off with boxes of T-shirts, a cabinet and kitchen appliance along with food and water.

Source: ABC News

West Menlo Park

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Location in San Mateo County and the State of California

Coordinates: 37°26′1″N 122°12′11″W / 37.43361°N 122.20306°W / 37.43361; -122.20306

West Menlo Park is a census-designated place and an unincorporated area in San Mateo County, California, located between the City of Menlo Park, the Town of Atherton, Sharon Heights neighborhood and Stanford University. As of the 2000 census, the community had a population of 3,629. It consists of suburban housing and a small business district along the Alameda de las Pulgas (spanish for road of the fleas) and Sharon Road. It has the highly rated Las Lomitas School District and Menlo Park Fire District. More recently, West Menlo Park has gained a reputation as one of the most desirable places to live in North America. A notable newspaper recently ranked West Menlo Park #4 on its "top residential areas in California" article.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Menlo Park Real Estate Update -- Seven Day Snapshot

The last seven days in Menlo Park the Real Estate market picked up considerably

17 New Listings
High $3,595,000.
Low $ 275,000.

3 Pending Sales
High $1,695,000.
Low $1,029,000.

7 Closed Sales
High $ 935,000.
Low $ 225,225.

4 Cancelled Listings

1 Expired Listing

There has not been much inventory since mid-December so it is a joy to see some quality properties coming to the market!

Please call me at (650) 543-1215 to schedule a property tour or for more information.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mortgage and Interest Rate Update


The bond market has improved from early gains following a fairly strong 30-year Bond auction. The stock markets have not moved too much from this morning’s levels with the Dow currently up 30 points and the Nasdaq up 8 points. The bond market has improved from this morning, currently up 19/32. This will likely improve this afternoon’s mortgage rates slightly, even after this morning’s improvement. But, many lenders may opt to wait until tomorrow’s pricing to reflect this improvement.

The Commerce Department reported this morning that retail level sales fell 0.3% last month, falling well short of expectations. Analysts were expecting to see a 0.5% increase in sales, meaning consumers spent less last month than many had thought. This is good news for bonds and mortgage rates because drops in consumer spending eases inflation and economic recovery concerns. That creates a favorable environment for the bond market and mortgage rates. However, minimizing this news was a sizable upward revision to November’s sales, indicating that consumers spent more in November than was previously thought.

There are three economic reports scheduled for release tomorrow morning. The first is December’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is also one of the most important monthly reports that we see since it measures inflationary pressures at the consumer level of the economy. The overall index is expected to rise 0.2% while the core data is expected to increase 0.1%. Weaker than expected readings should lead to bond improvements and lower mortgage rates tomorrow morning.

December’s Industrial Production report is the second report. It will be released at 9:15 AM ET and measures output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities. This gives us a good indication of manufacturing sector strength or weakness. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in production of 0.6% from November’s level. A smaller than expected increase would be considered good news for bonds and should lead to lower mortgage rates as long as the CPI doesn’t reveal any negative surprises.

The final report of the week is January’s preliminary reading to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. This index measures consumer willingness to spend and can usually have enough of an impact on the financial markets to change mortgage rates. Good news would be if it shows a reading weaker than the 73.8 that is expected. However, it is not one of the week’s more important releases and probably will have little impact on tomorrow’s mortgage rates due to the importance of the CPI and production reports.

If I were considering financing/refinancing a home, I would.... Lock if my closing was taking place within 7 days... Lock if my closing was taking place between 8 and 20 days... Float if my closing was taking place between 21 and 60 days... Float if my closing was taking place over 60 days from now...

Source: Ken Mason, Mortgage California

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mortgage and Interest Rate Update

Wednesday’s bond market has opened in negative territory as investors prepare for today’s auction. The stock markets are in positive ground with the Dow up 28 points and the Nasdaq up 6 points. The bond market is currently down 8/32, but we likely will see little change in this morning’s mortgage rates due to strength late yesterday.

Today’s only relevant economic news will come from the Federal Reserve this afternoon when they post their Beige Book report. This report, which is named simply after the color of its cover, details economic conditions throughout the U.S. by region. Since the Fed relies heavily on it during their FOMC meetings, its results can have a fairly big impact on the financial markets and mortgage rates if it reveals any surprises. It will be released at 2:00 PM ET, so any reaction to its results will come later today.

Also on tap today is the 10-year Treasury Note auction. If there is a strong demand for them during the sale, we should see the bond market move higher during afternoon trading. But a lackluster interest from buyers, particularly international investors, would indicate a waning appetite for longer-term U.S. securities and lead to broader bond selling. The selling in bonds would result in upward revisions to mortgage rates. We will repeat this scenario tomorrow for the 30-year Bond auction.

Tomorrow morning brings us the release of December’s Retail Sales data. This is one of the more important reports we see each month it measures consumer spending by tracking sales at retail establishments in the U.S. Since consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the U.S. economy, any related data is watched closely. Current forecasts are calling for an increase in sales of approximately 0.5%. A smaller than expected increase would be good news for bonds and mortgage rates tomorrow.

The Labor Department will post last week’s unemployment figures tomorrow morning also. They are expected to show that 436,000 new claims for benefits were filed last week, but I doubt this data will cause much movement in mortgage rates. It tracks only a week’s worth of new claims, so its impact on the markets is usually minimal.

Source: Ken Mason, Mortgage California

Thursday, January 7, 2010

inMenlo -- a Hyper Local Blog

My dear friends, Linda Hubbard and Chris Gulker have been Blogging in a new "Hyper-local" Blog about life here in Menlo Park.

They are featured in the January 6th edition of the Almanac.

Here is a link to the Blog --

Here is their story --

News - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Menlo Park blog captures local life, people, vignettes

by Sean Howell

It's a cool winter's day here in Menlo Park, California, latitude 37 degrees, 44 minutes; longitude 122 degrees, 11 minutes. The sky is beginning to show some sneaks of light in the east there, over the Stanford foothills.

The shops on Santa Cruz Avenue are opening up, getting ready for business. They're already open at Peet's at the corner of Santa Cruz and University, serving steaming coffee to the early risers on their way to work, or on their way home from an early morning walk.

Dan Dowler over at Cook's Seafood is preparing crabs; he's optimistic about this year's catch after talking with some of the fishermen in Half-Moon Bay and seeing the first haul. Dr. Bill, a chiropractor and a familiar face around town from his days coaching Little League and chairing the Chamber of Commerce, is greeting patients in his practice in the Sharon Heights Shopping Center.

A custom '53 Corvette is sitting in one of the public lots; a lone protester is standing on Sand Hill, holding a "Condi lied" sign; some road work's going on at one end of Sharon Park.

And in a Sharon Heights home, Linda Hubbard Gulker, Chris Gulker and Scott Loftesness are blogging about it, all of it — that is, assuming they're not out on the street already, talking to their favorite local people, poking around in unfamiliar territory.

They are the founders of a "hyper local" community blog called InMenlo (, and they're striving to convey some sense of what it's like to live here. While the news divisions of traditional print newspapers, including this one, tend to focus on what's changing — warning residents of land development proposals or pending school expansion, for instance — InMenlo sketches the community, and the people in it.

"We love unearthing characters, scouting out stories," said Mr. Gulker, who handles most of the photography for the site (with rare exceptions, each story comes with a photo).

They catalog local people, hang-out spots, community events, trends, and weather reports. They give shopping tips. They look into complaints of increased ticketing by police — but not too deeply.

"We aren't a news site," said Ms. Gulker, who does most of the writing. "We want to focus on people."

There's not much "negative" news, the blog's founders admit, though they did post a blurb about a community meeting on preventing teen suicide. Though they say they would welcome contributors, they're wary of the blog getting hijacked by political activists.

The stories tend to focus on Sharon Heights and the downtown area, where the founders spend most of their time, though there have been a few posts from east of Middlefield Road. At the moment they are seeking topical rather than geographic diversity, though they say they will look to expand their scope as the number of contributors grow.

For now this is just a hobby; Mr. Loftesness pays the fees to maintain the site out of pocket. Visitors fluctuate wildly day-to-day, a sign that the site hasn't yet gained a toehold, according to Mr. Gulker.

Still, for a project that started on a whim, the bloggers have been remarkably persistent, posting at least one short story per day. The goal is to establish a "daily cadence" that readers can get used to, Mr. Loftesness said.

Ms. Gulker's favorite stories are the ones about places that people tend to overlook. She particularly enjoyed writing about the cemetery on Santa Cruz Avenue, where the street kinks.

"For most people, it's just noise, it's part of the landscape," she said. If her story gets people to pause for a moment the next time they pass the cemetery, she's done her job.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Forward to a New Decade

Happy New Year!

2010 -- Bring it on...Who else is weary of the greedy bastards, the business debacles, the good people getting screwed by the system they trusted and abided by?

Are you tired of paying taxes when others don't? Paying your Mortgage on time when the one's who couldn't afford their home in the first place let it slide? Credit card fees levied after years of a perfect record. What the hell happened to responsibility? Where is Mighty Mouse when we need him?

The GOOD NEWS is that we have a NEW year, a NEW Decade, a fresh start. This is going to be a fabulous year!

There are some wonderful opportunities out there to buy a first home, invest in property or finally move into the home of your dreams. WOW.

Let's all make this a fantastic 2010 -- Happy New Year!