Monday, December 15, 2008

We've Moved

Hey there, thank you for stopping by.

I've moved my site and can now be found at

Please come and check me out!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rate Watch from Gwen & Rhoda

Here is the latest and greatest from a pair of super cool mortgage brokers, Gwen Hoople & Rhoda Paul of Holmgren Mortgage in Oakland.

"Mortgage rates increased last week despite news that the economy will be in an extended recession and a jobs report that was weaker than expected. Stocks surged Monday in a positive response to progress on a potential rescue of the Big Three auto makers, as well as news of President-elect Obama’s stimulus plans. Rates normally rise when the stock market rises, but are relatively unchanged since last week. We are receiving many calls from consumers asking about the Treasury plan to reduce mortgage rates to 4.5%, but so far no information has emerged about what this means, who it will apply to, and other critical details."

30 Year Fixed Conforming: 5.625%/5.662%APR
30 Year Fixed Agency-Jumbo: 6.000%/6.024%APR
5 Year Fixed Conforming (1 Point): 5.375%/5.435%APR
5 Year Fixed Int. Only Conforming (1 Point): 5.500%/5.456%APR
5 Year Fixed Int. Only Jumbo (1 Point): 5.750%/5.477%APR

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 10 Best Suburbs to Sell A Home. Berkeley is #1!

Berkeley, Calif., known sometimes as a hippie haven, is becoming a hotbed for home sales.

Prices in the Bay Area suburb are up 9% this year, with homes selling for a median price of $790,986. Properties are sitting on the market for 73 days on average, the lowest of any area with positive price trends within the confines of the country's 75 largest Census-defined metro areas. Only 37% of sellers have been forced to reduce their prices, one of the lowest rates in the country.

It may not be a boom, but given regional problems it's a good market to be in. Berkeley joins Venice, Calif.; Bedford, Texas; Kennesaw, Ga.; and Montclair, N.J., on our list of suburbs with the best conditions for sellers.

In fact, the only housing-market problem Berkeley seems to have involved four protesters who illegally occupied a tree from the beginning of the year through September. Authorities finally cut off the hippies' food and water supply, forcing them from their oak home.
"If you have to sell a house, sell in these places," says Michael Simonsen, chief executive of Altos Research. "But it's a measure of how rough is it out there for sellers. These are the best markets, and we're looking at three to four months of time to sell in the country's best markets."

Our data comes from Altos Research, a Mountain View, Calif., research firm. We looked at the suburbs in the country's 75 largest Census-defined metro areas based on the last 90 days of sales activity. Since a metro area can contain hundreds of suburbs, we narrowed it to those cities with an inventory of at least 75 homes on the market.

Since stagnation is the death of prices and sales, we further eliminated suburbs where it currently takes more than 125 days to sell the average home. Price also matters. Nationwide, cities like Sacramento, Calif., and Los Angeles are among the easiest to sell a home, based on sales data from Radar Logic, a New York real estate research firm, but homes are mainly selling at massive discounts. To eliminate these places from our list, we excised any suburb where year-over-year price declines were steeper than 10% and where more than 50% of sellers had to reduce their asking price to sell their home.

What was left wasn't a set of awe-inspiring hidden gems where sellers are awash in bidding wars. Nationwide, low-interest rates and low prices caused existing home sales to rise 5.5% in September, but in many areas of the country, sellers are finding relatively few buyers.

Indeed, areas like Encinitas, Calif., and Matthews, N.C., where homes are staying on the market 100 and 127 days respectively, make our list even though such long waiting times are traditionally hallmarks of buyers' market.
Sellers in Waltham, Mass., a middle-class suburb west of Boston, don't have that problem. They've seen 1% price appreciation over the last year, and only 53% of them have to reduce their price in order to make a sale. It's not exactly a bull market, but homes only take 79 days to find buyers, the second-quickest turnaround of any suburb on our list.

Further south, 27% of sellers in Montclair, N.J., have dropped their prices in the last 90 days. The median home price there is $671,954, and properties stay on the market 115 days.
While this is good news for local homeowners, these are hardly sellers markets.
"In some markets you can drop the price to zero and not sell a brand new property," says Doug Duncan, the chief economist of Fannie Mae.

Why? "There's no one there to buy it."

Monday, December 08, 2008

El Cerrito High School renovation near completion

This winter the much acclaimed and highly anticipated El Cerrito High School is scheduled to re-open. The school, which was demolished in 2005, has undergone an intense renovation process. Many are calling it the "Taj Mahal" of high schools. The 200,000 square foot, state-of-the-art campus located on Ashbury Avenue will include a 650-seat performing arts center, a solar-paneled roof that will generate 40% of the schools power, and an expansive courtyard.

The $116 million dollar price tag is a part of the West Contra Costa School Districts $1 billion bond reconstruction program which was designed to renovate a few dozen schools within the district.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Berkeley's Fourth Street is primed for the holidays

I went down to Fourth Street in Berkeley last week to do my part to stimulate the economy (ha!). I arrived just as the sun had set, and as I turned the corner from Hearst onto 4th, I was suddenly overcome with joy. Surrounding me was a spectacular parade of lights. Beads of blue and white lights speckled the sky; vibrant bulbs of reds and greens and blues dotted the trees.

It is at times like these that we forget that unemployment is at its highest in 26 years, we forget that there is a horrific war still happening on the other side of the world, and we forget that the economy is falling apart.

Here on Fourth Street, the world is at peace.