Real Estate in California: City of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Oakland, Piedmont, San Leandro, San Lorenzo & other local communities
Alameda, an island in the San FranciscoBay, is a truly unique city. Not only is Alameda stunningly beautiful with picturesque tree lined streets, bay views and fabulous architecture, its small town spirit creates a true sense of community for all who make it their home.A family friendly and diverse community, Alameda is a hidden jewel for people looking for a place to live that is close to the Bay Areas commercial and cultural centers. Because of this and many more reasons, Money Magazine voted Alameda as one of the best places to live in 2006. To learn more...
The Wall Street Journal
How to lower your property taxes Despite home prices in major urban centers decreasing 31 percent between 2005 and 2009, property taxes across the U.S. increased by nearly 20 percent. There is good news, however; homeowners can fight back.
Making sense of the story
Homeowners should keep in mind that property taxes do not always correspond with home values, because local governments typically don?t measure values every year and some have limits on annual property-tax increases.
As a result, current property taxes might reflect the home?s value when the market was healthier. According to the Congressional Budget Office, property-tax adjustments lag behind changes in home prices by an average of three years.
Although homeowners cannot change their property-tax rate, which is set by the local government, homeowners can get their assessment lowered if they appeal to their local assessor.
One key to a successful appeal is fact checking the assessor?s work. About half of all successful appeals come from homeowners pointing out an error in the assessor?s description of the home, according to one property tax expert.
During the appeal process, which is similar to a less-formal court hearing, homeowners may present their case to several local officials or representatives. The simplest way to convince officials that a property has been incorrectly valued is to provide evidence of the sales price of homes that are comparable to the property being discussed. This should include square footage, amenities, and neighborhood characteristics. Sale documents and photos of the property in question, as well as the comparable properties also should be brought in.
Homeowners who have made improvements or substantial changes to the property should be cautious about appealing an assessment though, as it could have negative effects and actually increase the property?s value and, in turn, the property taxes.
Short sales, long waits: Buyers and sellers find process frustrating Short sales are among the most arduous real estate transactions, often taking six months or more to close ? if they get done at all.
The price of a no-cost loan Some home buyers who may be concerned about paying high closing costs might be tempted by a zero-cost or no-cost loan option, which requires no cash outlay, but typically adds a half percentage point to the rate. However, some financial consultants say these loans tend to be most beneficial to buyers planning to have the loan for less than five years.
MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY FOR CONSUMERS
One of the primary differences between a no-cost loan and similar loans is that no-cost loans do not tack on closing costs to the balance, but instead increase the rate.
With no-cost loans, third-party fees including the appraisal, credit report, title insurance, recording, and the use of a mortgage broker are paid by the lender. The fees, including the amount the broker is being paid, are disclosed on the closing statement.
Home buyers who bypass a broker and work directly with a lender may encounter less transparency, as loan officers are not required to disclose the amount the bank is making on the loan.
Borrowers weighing their loan options are advised to use a mortgage amortization calculator to compare the costs for a conventional loan compared with a no-cost loan. The Federal Reserve provides an amortization calculator on its Web site at www.federalreserve.gov.
The FHAs Short Refinance program: Frequently Asked Questions The Obama administration recently announced a new program to help underwater homeowners who are current on their mortgage payment refinance into a new FHA-insured loan.
Fannie Mae increases penalties for strategic defaulters
Fannie Mae recently announced policy changes designed to encourage borrowers to work with their loan servicers and pursue alternatives to foreclosure. Under the new policies, borrowers who strategically default on their home loan despite having the capacity to pay and those who do not complete a workout alternative in good faith will be ineligible for a new Fannie Mae-backed mortgage loan for a period of seven years from the date of foreclosure. Borrowers who have extenuating circumstances may be eligible for new loan in a shorter timeframe.
Fannie Mae also will take legal action to recoup the outstanding mortgage debt from borrowers who strategically default on their loans in jurisdictions that allow for deficiency judgments. In an announcement next month, Fannie Mae will instruct its servicers to monitor delinquent loans facing foreclosure and put forth recommendations for cases that warrant the pursuit of deficiency judgments.
Troubled borrowers who work with their servicers, and provide information to help the servicer assess their situation, can be considered for foreclosure alternatives, such as a loan modification, a short sale, or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. A borrower with extenuating circumstances who works out one of these options with their servicer could be eligible for a new mortgage loan in three years or in as little as two years depending on the circumstances.
After foreclosure: How long until you can buy again?
Financing a home after foreclosure is possible for most homeowners.Those who default on their mortgages due to economic hardships, such as job loss, may receive approval for another mortgage in as little as two years, while it may take more than seven years for strategic defaulters to be approved.
Starting 4/22/2010, renovations that disturb lead-based paint in older residential dwellings and child-occupied facilities must generally comply with the Lead-Based Paint Renovation Rule of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Under the newly implemented rule, renovators of target housing built before 1978 must now be trained and EPA-certified to perform safe work practices to prevent lead contamination. Additionally, renovators must deliver EPA's lead renovation pamphlet to an occupant within 60 days before a project begins (and, if mailed, at least seven days before a project begins). Renovators must also obtain the occupant's signed acknowledgment of receipt or substitute documentation as specified.
The EPA issued this rule in 2008, but delayed implementation until now. The rule generally applies to building contractors, handymen, residential landlords, property managers, and anyone else who is paid to perform renovations or to direct workers to perform renovations as specified. The lead renovation rule does not apply to homeowners renovating the homes they live in. However, sellers of target housing must, among other things, disclose to their buyers any known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards
Renovation work covered by the lead renovation rule is defined as a modification of an existing structure that disturbs a painted surface, such as surface restoration or surface preparation activity. Excluded are minor repair and maintenance activities that disrupt up to 6 square feet of interior painted surface or 20 square feet of exterior painted surface. Demolitions and window replacements are not considered minor repairs.
Strategic defaults on homes on the rise The number of people choosing to cut their losses on their homes continues to rise.Studies estimate about one-quarter of all defaults are voluntary walkaways, also known as strategic defaults and jingle mail (for the sound the abandoned keys make in the mailbox).
Investors plunking down cash for homes Investors paying cash for houses accounted for one in four home sales during the past year in Sacramento County and West Sacramento, becoming dominating players in a distressed market and squeezing out scores of first-time buyers, 2009 statistics now show.
Chih Wu, REALTOR, represents home buyers or sellers in the following Northern California cities and neighborhoods: Adams Point, Alameda, Albany Hill, Bay Farm, Bayo Vista, Berkeley Hill, Broadmore, Bronze Coast, Claremont, Claremont Hills, China Hill, Chinatown, Central, Craigmont, Crocker Highlands, Dolores/Parish, Dimond, East End, Edison, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Elmwood, Estudillo Estate, Fernside, Floresta Garden, Fremont, Fruitvale, Glenview, Gold Coast, Haddon Hill, Harbor Bay, Hayward, Heron Bay, Hiller Highlands, Jack London, Kensington, Laurel, North Berkeley, North Oakland, Marina, Manor, Maxwell Park, Millsmont, Montclair, Oakmore, Oaknoll, Oceanview, Otis, Piedmont, Piedmont Avenue, Piedmont Pines, Pond, Redwood Heights, Richmond, Ridgemont, Rockridge, San Antonio, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Skyline, Southshore, Temescal, Thousand Oaks, Trestle Glen, Union City, Upper Rockridge, Washington Manor, West End.