Author: Pam Buda

Auction Action at a Trustee's sale

Good blog buddy, Dave Blockhus, of Coldwell Banker in Los Altos, recently shot this video overview of a home sale on the courthouse steps in San Jose. It is about 4 minutes long and provides a example of auction action occurring all over the US, including Sonoma County. There were so many home auctions in Sonoma County during the past year that Sonoma county is asking auctioneers to move their business elsewhere as they are clogging up the hallways of the county buildings. Cash investors with certified funds are the only ones welcome at these sales and they are out in force. Fully 18% of homes sold under $500,000 in Sonoma County were cash sales. I am guessing most of those went to investors. Many of the new listings since Christmas have been bought at auction (and some off the multiple listings) and are being remodelled and flipped by investors. I am seeing homes purchased for $250,000 to $350,000 (cash and as is) for example, which are brought back on the market in 60 to 90 days. In a typical scenario one of these homes closed in November or December. A construction crew moves in to put in new flooring, baths and kitchens, paint inside and out, lay some sod and voila-the house is back on the market in 60-90 days, staged and price from $400,000 and up. Some investors are doing a really nice job with quality work, employing crews that might otherwise be working on new home construction. Others are doing the bare minimum beyond minimal cosmetics. There are restrictions on the sales of these homes to FHA buyers, who comprise the bulk of the first time buyer market here in the county. These restrictions were just loosened January 15, 2010, effective February 1, so that a 90 day sale moratorium has been suspended for a year. Previously, an FHA buyer was not eligible to purchase a distressed property less than 90 days after it was previously sold. More restrictive appraisal and valuation methods will continue to apply for FHA buyers interested in these homes. If the home is priced more than 20% over the previous sales price, the FHA lender will require either a secondary appraisal or an itemized list of improvements to justify the new higher price. One property I saw recently in Sebastopol on a half acre was purchased at auction for $350,000....

Farewell to 2009, Welcome to 2010 and a New Decade

With 2009 moving into the rear view mirror, there has been much speculation among agents, clients and the press about 2010 and what portends in the housing market. Inman News recently published a sobering assessment of the events that will impact real estate markets in 2010, from increasing mortgage rates, tightening FHA credit standards, high unemployment and the expiration April 30th of the buyer tax credits. Real estate agents and brokers typically look forward to spring as the season where homebuyers come out in force and sales pick up. In 2010, the uncertainty created by the financial crisis makes it harder to bank on a seasonal uptick in sales -- particularly in markets hit hard by unemployment. Further complicating matters down the road are three potentially destabilizing events that are expected to occur in a tight timeframe during the spring buying season: * At the end of March, the Federal Reserve is expected to wind up a $1.25 trillion program that's kept mortgage rates low. * The Federal Housing Administration's announcement that it plans to tighten underwriting standards could take effect as soon as April. * Congress is expected to allow the newly expanded homebuyer tax credit to expire, closing the door on buyers not under contract by April 30 and closing by June 30. Economists must rely on a certain amount of guesswork in predicting what impact these changes will have when drawing up their forecasts for 2010. Many expect unemployment won't peak until next year, and it's almost certain mortgage rates can only go up from record lows. But housing was hammered so badly, and for so long, that most forecasters expect housing prices to stabilize and sales to pick up in 2010, even if economic growth doesn't spring back as fiercely as it usually does in a recovery. "We are definitely in a recovery now, but this has been such a severe recession -- we think the financial crisis and the credit retrenchment that's occurred means this is going to be a fairly anemic recovery," said Michael Fratantoni, the Mortgage Bankers Association's vice president of research. America has moved from a manufacturing to service-based economy, meaning "there's not as much potential for a snapback" from a recession like the Reagan-era boom of the 1980s, Fratantoni said. These events certainly will impact markets nationwide, but each area will respond differently. Many of us...

Tropical Dreaming-a new design project in Hawaii by Wright-Simpkins, Inc.

Many of my friends and clients are entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community. From time to time in 2010 I plan to showcase them so that you can learn about some unique and vital services to Sonoma County and beyond. Christian Wright and Gerald Simpkins were friends and fellow Vizsla owners long before they became clients in 2003 when we found them an astonishing 1915 farmhouse on acreage in Sebastopol, since lovingly restored. We sold their charming cabin in Guerneville near the Russian River so that they and their dogs would have more room to roam, and also to be closer to their full-time home in San Francisco, where they ran a successful interior design business, Wright-Simpkins, Inc., serving clients all over the United States. Gerald and Christian have progressed along a path somewhat typical of second home owners in Sonoma County. At first they left San Francisco on Friday evenings and returned home Sunday afternoon. Eventually Friday reverted to Thursday and Sunday became Monday, stretching the weekend to nearly four days. Holidays meant two week stays whenever possible and they became increasingly involved in the community of Sebastopol and Sonoma County. The house had already had some extensive restoration by the previous owners and Gerald and Christian took it and the grounds to the next levels, so much so that the house and gardens have twice been featured on the West County Garden tour sponsored every year by Food for Thought in Forestville. In 2008, Gerald and Christian decided to move to Sonoma County full time, and sold their home in San Francisco. The recently opened a small studio and shop in Sebastopol at 2833 Old Gravenstein Highway on the way to downtown Sebastopol. If you care to stop by and visit, you might call first, to 707 829-9177 to make sure they are in. Oh, and in their spare time in 2009, they neared completion of a project in Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you, like I, are thinking of tropical weather these winter days, take a look! ...

Last Minute Christmas Shopping at Nightingale Bakery

Downtown Forestville in Sonoma County is hopping as last minute shoppers crowd tiny Nightingale Bakery, one of many artisan purveyors of local foods. In addition to wonderful baguette, foccaccia and sourdough, you can find local goat cheeses, butter and locally produced salumi. I have never seen this new litlle shop so busy! Happy Holidays! # end Sent from my iPhone Posted via email from pambuda's posterous ...

Electronic Document Signing Makes Life Easier for Home Buyers (and Realtors)

Many many home buyers in Sonoma County live out of the area--they buy second homes here, they are relocating for work, or want to experience life in the wine country first hand. Many home buyers, even if they are local, conduct much or their search on line. Why not have as much of the purchase transaction paperwork be conducted on line too? This struck home this afternoon as I prepared an offer for out of town clients to sign. Their scanner was older and it was not easy to assemble the pages to fax back to me--believe me I had the same problem before I got a new scanner. What a tedious process for them! Or I have had illegible faxes come through as a result of too many generations of faxing and scanning of counter offers and counters to counters, ad infinitum. Every one involved tears their hair out and runs around wasting time on mechanics of the paperwork, when it is the content of the documents that is most important! Pretty silly. Enter the paperless transaction, beginning with the electronic signing of contract documents. It is easier than it might sound! What is an electronic signature? An electronic signature is any legally recognised electronic means that indicates that a person adopts the contents of an electronic message. There is a better way. Our new paperless transaction system at Prudential California Realty will be rolled out company wide in the first quarter. Hallelujah!!!!!! So many trees will be saved and countless hours chasing paperwork with also be saved by realtors and their clients. My client asked me about electronic signing--what does it mean? What does it look like? What are the basic facts? You can click on the link above for a Wikipedia article about the concept of electronic signatures. For more specifics, here is a link to the system we will be using, Docusign by Ziplogix. Here is a brief (2 minute) and not too fancy overview of how you, as a buyer or seller, would use Docusign to sign documents electronically. I'll have more posts about the whole process of greening the real estate transactions and preventing grey hairs for all the parties involved! ...

Lingering leaves in the vineyard

A cold storm is blowing down from Canada tonight and may bring snow to the upper elevations of Napa and Lake Counties, which are visible from here in Sonoma County. In a couple of days all the leaves will be gone from the vineyard but there are stragglers hanging on. It seems that only a couple of weeks ago it was the peak of fall color. Soon it will be time to think of pruning, which has already begun in the Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg. Next week the daffodil shoots will poke up their heads in the garden. Two months to go till the mustard is up and early spring gets underway. Posted via email from pambuda's posterous ...

Sonoma Saturday-take a look at surprising Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa is more than the largest city in Sonoma County, more than the largest city between San Francisco and the Oregon border to the north. It sprawls across over 40 square miles and is home to 160,000 people--half of it to the West of Highway 101 stretching towards Sebastopol, home of not only to vintage Railroad Square and newer subdivisions but farmlands, vineyards and equestrian properties in the Willowside and Olivet areas and over to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. To the east of 101 is downtown Santa Rosa, flanked by numerous charming communities of vintage homes, from Fountain Grove to Bennett and Rincon Valleys and Riebli Valley wine country. Many out of town buyers are not aware of the geographic diversity and gorgeous countryside in Santa Rosa. Here is a lovely video vignette produced by Sonoma Uncorked.com You can search the most up to date listings of Santa Rosa homes and country properties for sale with my compliments by going to the search page of this website. Santa Rosa CA Video...

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