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By Yeprem P. Davoodian, M.A. | Agent in Encino, CA
  • Glendale Arts and The Alex Theater

    Posted Under: General Area in Glendale, Agent2Agent in Glendale, In My Neighborhood in Glendale  |  April 27, 2013 8:30 PM  |  564 views  |  1 comment


    Please Join TGHS in Supporting Glendale Arts and The Alex Theater


    The Glendale Historical Society was instrumental in saving the landmark Alex Theatre in the 1990s. Glendale Arts, which operates the Alex Theatre, is conducting its annual "I Heart Glendale Arts" fundraising campaign through May.

    TGHS has set up a fundraising team, and we encourage you to make a donation to Glendale Arts, in any amount, to help ensure that the Alex continues to thrive as a community theatre.
    You can contribute online by clicking here.
    If you prefer U.S. Mail, please send contributions to Glendale Arts, 116 West California, Glendale, CA 91203, noting that you are participating as a member of TGHS.


    Donors of $50 or more will receive a Glendale Arts card, which provides benefits and discounts from a variety of participating businesses and organizations (including TGHS home tour tickets).

    Please consider contributing today.
    Thank you!
    The Glendale Historical Society
    P.O. Box 4173
    Glendale, California 91202
  • Lenders in settlement to make payouts to foreclosed borrowers

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Agent2Agent, Foreclosure  |  April 21, 2013 1:43 PM  |  465 views  |  1 comment

    Lenders in settlement to make payouts to foreclosed borrowers

    The settlement replaces a failed process in which bank regulators required large mortgage servicers to hire consultants to audit foreclosures for wrongdoing.

    An Arizona home in foreclosure. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

    By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

    April 9, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

    As part of a settlement with federal regulators, 13 lenders this week are starting to pay out $3.6 billion to more than 4 million troubled borrowers whose homes were in foreclosure proceedings in 2009 and 2010.

    A chart released Tuesday by the regulators showed that most of the borrowers would receive $300, the minimum allowed under the settlement terms. The maximum of $125,000 would go to 1,135 borrowers whose homes were seized while they were serving in the military or who were current on their payments.

    The settlement replaces a failed process in which bank regulators required large mortgage servicers to hire consultants to audit foreclosures for wrongdoing. The process proved so costly and time-consuming that it was called off, and the independent auditors were replaced by the general settlement — a debacle that has drawn criticism from advocacy groups and others.

    "The independent auditors should be asked to return some or half of the $2 billion that they charged to audit for nothing," said Faith Bautista, president of the National Asian American Coalition.

    Bautista, who lost her own home to foreclosure in 2009, called the settlement payments "grossly inadequate."

    The first wave of checks, totaling $1.2 billion, is to be sent Friday, with 90% of the payments to be made by the end of April, according to the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Treasury Department agency that regulates national banks.

    Another wave of payments, to be made after borrowers provide additional information, will go out in mid-July, the Fed and OCC said. The check recipients will total about 4.2 million.

    The agreement is separate from a $26-billion settlement that the five biggest mortgage servicers reached to put an end to foreclosure-abuse investigations by state attorneys general, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Payments from 11 of the 13 mortgage servicers are to be sent by the end of July. The payment schedule for the other two servicers — Wall Street giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — weren't yet available, the regulators said.

    The banks also agreed to provide $5.7 billion in foreclosure-prevention aid as part of the settlement, bringing the total relief to $9.3 billion.

    "We're focused on giving consumers relief as soon as possible," said OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard.

    But critics continued to hammer the agency as the checks went out. Regulators, banks and consultants "botched the whole process," said Sasha Werblin, director of the economic equity program at the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley advocacy group for lower-income people and neighborhoods.

    Regulators ordered banks to send letters to eligible borrowers at the end of 2011, informing them that they could apply for independent reviews if they were in the foreclosure process in 2009 and 2010. Legal shortcuts, lost paperwork and improper fees were common at that time as banks struggled to handle the enormous wave of delinquencies.

    But response from borrowers was weak, and critics said the letters resembled foreclosure-avoidance scams. The regulators extended the deadline for borrowers to apply for the reviews three times, then started an outreach program last November, using radio public-service announcements and recruiting housing counselors and advocacy groups to spread the word.

    As the response deadline ran out at the end of last year, the banks and regulators hashed out the agreement to make wide-ranging payments, with borrowers who had applied for reviews receiving more than those who had not.

    "Even if you were in foreclosure because you messed up, you still get some money," said Werblin, who blamed the regulators' inside-the-Beltway mentality for contributing to the failed review program.

    "Because of their inability to connect with real people," she said, "we now have this settlement that gives money to people who don't deserve it, and therefore less money for those that do."

    Payments will be handled by an outside firm, Rust Consulting. Borrowers can call Rust at (888) 952-9105 to update their contact information or to verify that they are covered by the agreement.

    Information provided to Rust will be used only for purposes related to the agreement, the regulators said. They warned borrowers to beware of scams and anyone asking them to call a different number or to pay a fee to receive payment under the agreement.

    Accepting a payment will not prevent borrowers from pursuing additional legal action against banks. The servicers are not permitted to ask borrowers to sign a waiver of any legal claims.


  • California Home Prices Hit Highest Level in Five Years

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling, Agent2Agent  |  April 21, 2013 1:34 PM  |  474 views  |  No comments

    California Home Prices Hit Highest Level in Five Years

    By Francys Vallecillo | April 16, 2013 11:40 AM ET

    Driven by strong sales in high-end coastal areas and shrinking inventory, California's median home price hit its highest level in March since May 2008, according to the California Association of Realtors.  

    The median price for a single-family home increased 13.7 percent to $378,960 in March from $333,380 in a February, after a shift from a previous two-month decline. The month-to-month increase was the highest recorded by C.A.R.  

    Thumbnail image for leslie-appleton-young.jpg

    Leslie Appleton-Young

    The median price in March was 28.2 percent above the $295,630 median price in March 2012 and the 13th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases. 

    Higher sales in the coastal areas of Marin, Orange, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo helped push up the median price, C.A.R. vice president and chief economist Leslie Appleton-Young said in a release.

    "Sales of homes priced $500,000 and higher are up more than 34 percent from last year, and have been on a rising trend since early 2012," Mr. Appleton-Young added.

    Palos-Verdes-Los-Angeles-California.jpgCalifornia continues to deal with low home sales caused by a low supply of available homes, an issue that is impacting markets across the U.S.

    Statewide inventory dropped 36 percent from last March and was below three months for the second time in the past few months, CAR reports. "Supply conditions are particularly tight in the lower-priced segment of the market, as inventory for homes priced below $300,000 plunged more than 50 percent from the previous year," C.A.R. president Don Faught said in a release.

    Homes continued to sell faster in March. A house typically stayed on the market 29.4 days in March before selling, down from 34.2 days in February and below the revised 52.2 days for the same period a year ago.
  • Keep Killer Bugs Out of Altadena

    Posted Under: General Area in Pasadena, Agent2Agent in Pasadena, In My Neighborhood in Pasadena  |  April 21, 2013 1:29 PM  |  532 views  |  No comments
  • Selling your home? The cards are in your favor

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Home Selling, Agent2Agent  |  April 13, 2013 4:08 PM  |  291 views  |  1 comment

    Selling your home? The cards are in your favor

    By Beth Braverman @Money April 8, 2013: 4:33 PM ET

    Catch buyers' attention, and get multiple offers, by pricing your home in line with comparable sales.

    NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

    Six years after prices collapsed, housing has begun to climb out of its hole. So what are the best moves to make now? In a three-part series, we offer smart strategies for buyers , sellers, and owners in today's market.

    Selling your home? In most parts of the country, you have finally regained the upper hand.

    To get your best price, though, you need to finesse your timing, list competitively and match your marketing strategy to local conditions.

    Lower your sights to make more money.

    Rising prices breed rising hopes: In a recent poll, brokers complained that 75% of homeowners think their agent's recommended listing price is too low. Pricing your property above recent sales to cash in on the momentum may slow down deals, and sitting on the market too long can stigmatize a house.

    Catch buyers' attention -- and get multiple offers -- by pricing your home in line with comparable sales, says Rick Turley, president of Coldwell Banker San Francisco: "Then let the market take it higher."

    Trading up? Move fast. Downsizing? Go slow.

    It's tempting to postpone selling to hold out for a better price. But if you want to move to a larger place, act sooner rather than later. True, higher-end homes aren't rising as quickly, but the gap is small. So while you'll be able to sell your home for more if you wait, the appreciation on the trade-up home will be greater.

    Related: 5 best markets to sell a home

    When you're downsizing, the math works the other way, so it pays to wait.

    The case for these strategies should strengthen as gains slow for cheaper homes. "Investors are driving the lower end of the market, and there is a point when the investor opportunity becomes less attractive," says Richard Green, director of the University of Southern California's Lusk Center for Real Estate.

    Smooth out your home's rough patches.

    Repair that leaky roof and address other obvious structural problems, or you'll have to subtract the cost of doing so from your price. "In today's economy, many buyers don't have as much savings left over after their down payment for improvements," says Teri Herrera, a broker in Bellevue, Wash.

    Smaller fixes that pay off the most, according to a HomeGain poll of real estate professionals and consumers: cleaning and decluttering, brightening (adding lamps and clearing window obstructions), and solving electrical and plumbing problems.

    Get ready for your home's close-up.

    Sellers who stage their homes -- rearranging or replacing furniture to bolster appearance -- usually do so just before an open house. The better time to glamorize: right before you post your listing online, where 90% of buyers look first. Says Realtor.com president Errol Samuelson: "Web appeal is the new curb appeal."

    Related: 5 best markets to buy a home

    Use a professional photographer and get tight shots of fixtures and other details. The cost: $200 to $500 for a gallery of 30 to 40 photos. Homes between $300,000 and $400,000, shot professionally, sold for about $3,000 more than those with amateur images, Redfin found recently.

    Guard against low appraisals.

    While rapidly rising prices may attract more buyers, the upswing can make it harder to close a deal. One-third of realtors polled in December reported setbacks from low appraisals, including delays in closing, lowered prices, and cancellations.

    Related: Guidelines for selling a house

    The problem: Appraisals can come in low because they're based on transactions as old as six months -- out of date, perhaps, in today's market.

    Solution: Have your agent personally oversee the process, accompanying the appraiser to point out improvements and supplying data about the latest comparable sales.

    Help investors find what they're looking for.

    Investors amounted to one-fifth of all homebuyers in January, but are a much larger share of some markets; 38% of deals in Sacramento and 45% in Orlando, for example, involved absentee buyers. Signs of an investor market: a steady stream of resales of foreclosed homes (you can find that info at zillow.com/local-info) and the conversion of many homes in your neighborhood into rentals.

    If your area fits the bill, choose an agent experienced in investor sales; she should create a flier that highlights how easy it is to attract tenants, the rents that nearby homes command, and other pertinent bottom-line info. Says Atlanta real estate agent Charlotte Sears: "All investors want to know is what their margins look like."

    Housing is back! More smart strategies:

    For home buyers

    For homeowners staying put To top of page

    First Published: April 8, 2013: 4:25 PM ET
  • Scant Relief in Foreclosure Payouts

    Posted Under: Financing, Agent2Agent, Foreclosure  |  April 13, 2013 4:07 PM  |  338 views  |  No comments

    Scant Relief in Foreclosure Payouts

    Most Borrowers to Get $1,000 or Less as Part of a $9.3 Billion Settlement Between U.S. and Banks


    WASHINGTON—The vast majority of borrowers being compensated for mortgage-related abuses will get $1,000 or less apiece, a sobering coda to a protracted attempt to help those who may have been placed into foreclosure as a result of banks' mistakes.

    About 4 million borrowers will share $3.6 billion in cash as part of a settlement between federal regulators and banks accused of foreclosure-processing mistakes. U.S. regulators said Tuesday that banks wrongfully took away homes from 1,082 borrowers who were members of the U.S. military. Another 53 borrowers were found to have lost their homes despite not actually defaulting on their loans. Those 1,135 individuals will receive checks of $125,000.

    Most borrowers, however, will see far less, with about 80% receiving checks ranging from $300 to $1,000, according to data released by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve.

    Because the foreclosure review was shut down by regulators, it isn't clear in many cases how badly the borrowers were wronged, if at all.

    To Check Whether You Qualify

    Rust Consulting Inc., is charged with distributing the settlement funds. Call Rust at 1-888-952-9105 to check if you're qualified for a payment and to ensure your contact information is up to date.

    And even though banks compensated borrowers, they didn't acknowledge wrongdoing.

    Bank regulators ordered an independent review of banks' foreclosure files in April 2011 to determine how many borrowers should be compensated for foreclosure mistakes. Earlier this year, the regulators and banks halted the review and reached a $9.3 billion settlement, saying the probe threatened to drag out indefinitely, with too much spent on consultants and not enough mistakes uncovered. The $9.3 billion settlement included $5.7 billion in noncash assistance and $3.6 billion in cash payments.

    As The Wall Street Journal reported last month, some of the country's biggest banks were on pace to find a higher rate of past foreclosure errors than regulators disclosed when they stopped the reviews. Last week, a federal watchdog faulted the bank regulators for a flawed review of those foreclosure documents.

    Associated Press

    Associated Press

    About eight in 10 home-loan borrowers who qualified for a federal review of their foreclosure cases are set to get $1,000 or less in the coming weeks. The Phoenix area was particularly hard-hit by the housing crash.

    Disparities in the process can be seen in the payouts awarded to borrowers. The bank regulators allowed consumers to ask for a review of their foreclosure files. About 439,000 of those getting payments under the settlement did so. Because they came forward, in most cases those borrowers will be paid twice as much as those who didn't seek a review.

    Those who qualified for the smallest payments include many who lost their homes but weren't offered help by banks or were placed into foreclosure despite asking for assistance. There is no legal requirement for banks to provide loan assistance but many publicly pledged to do so as the foreclosure crisis intensified.

    Critics say consumers who lost their homes deserve a larger share of the payouts, and argue the settlement is weak punishment for banks who were widely faulted for doing too little to help consumers at the height of the foreclosure crisis.

    "This is cold comfort for many folks who were harmed, especially those who qualified for modifications but didn't get them, and then lost their homes," said Alys Cohen, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney in Washington.

    Those receiving payments don't relinquish their right to pursue individual lawsuits.

    The settlement will do little to repair the long-standing effects on consumers of being placed into foreclosure, such as damaged credit. Banks must notify credit bureaus independently about any changes to a borrower's credit history and aren't required to do so as part of the settlement with regulators.

    Those affected by foreclosure mistakes questioned the fairness of the payouts. Eric Krasner, 52 years old, of Duluth, Ga., filed for bankruptcy before losing his Frederick, Md. house to foreclosure in 2010, a mistake that should mean a payment of $62,500 according to the regulators' compensation schedule. Mr. Krasner, who had a mortgage of $365,000, filed for bankruptcy after a gift shop he owned sunk under the weight of the recession and wound up losing his home.

    If the "bulk of people get $500 or $800 after losing their houses, is that making good on things?" he said.

    Others are more sanguine about the outcome. Stephanie Massengale, 50, of Chapel Hill, N.C. who said a bank began a foreclosure on her home despite her previously being in bankruptcy, was told Tuesday by the consulting firm administering the payouts that she qualified for a payout. Under the guidelines she likely will receive $7,500, which is enough for her to install a new air conditioning unit and turn the house into a rental property. "That's better than nothing," she said.

    Beginning Friday, Rust Consulting Inc. will start sending payments to borrowers who were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010, and consumers are expected to receive the final payments by mid-July.

    The OCC said in a statement that it would "continue to monitor" the banks as they work to fix their mortgage servicing and foreclosure practices.

    The compensation system applies to Bank of America Corp., BAC -0.81% Wells Fargo WFC -0.80% & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.61% & Co., and Citigroup Inc., C -0.20% along with several others.

    A Bank of America spokesman said "we are pleased payments to borrowers are being initiated so quickly under this new approach." A Citigroup spokesman said the bank is "pleased to support the OCC and its efforts of assistance to consumers who qualify for benefits from the agreement." A spokesman for J.P. Morgan and a Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to comment.

    Corrections & Amplifications
    An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the vast majority of borrowers being compensated for mortgage-related abuses will get $1,000 or less apiece. They will get $1,000 or less.

    Write to Alan Zibel at alan.zibel@dowjones.com and Dan Fitzpatrick at dan.fitzpatrick@wsj.com

  • "Dear seller" letters back in homebuying

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling, Agent2Agent  |  April 13, 2013 4:02 PM  |  327 views  |  No comments

    "Dear seller" letters back in homebuying

    By Lily Leung6 a.m.April 5, 2013
    Newlyweds Adam and Molly Sarasins, tired of being beat by cash investors for homes, submitted a cover letter to a home seller in Poway to set them apart from the competition. The strategy worked. Newlyweds Adam and Molly Sarasins, tired of being beat by cash investors for homes, submitted a cover letter to a home seller in Poway to set them apart from the competition. The strategy worked. — Bill Wechter / U-T San Diego

    Buying a house these days is like applying for a job.

    Opportunities can be scarce and you have a small window of time to make a shining impression.

    "The buyer is engaged to be married and they plan to live in the home after their marriage," writes a San Diego real estate agent Dave Dennis on behalf of his client. "Buyer will cover his own closing costs. ... Buyer will credit seller $5,000 towards seller’s closing costs!"

    "(The buyer) is well qualified to successfully close escrow on your home," reads another letter written by Dennis for a separate client. "With strong income and sufficient assets, we expect the loan portion of the transaction to be streamlined."

    Such pitches from prospective homebuyers — also known as love letters — are re-emerging in hot real estate markets like San Diego and other parts of Southern California. They often include family photos and strive to stir the emotions of the seller to give the homebuyer an edge — especially when many bidders are competing for the same property.

    The goal is to dazzle sellers and win the deals.

    “Whatever we can do to make us stand out and make our buyer stand out, whether it works out (or not,) we just want to make our buyer have a little leg up on their competition,” said Patrick Hale, a San Diego real estate broker who encourages his agents to try different things to help their clients stand out and close the sale.

    These love letters, which are included with offers, are not new to the industry but their resurgence is more proof that the housing market is on the rebound after a five-year slump.

    San Diego home values ended 2012 at $366,000, the highest median price since June 2008. Meanwhile, the housing inventory in San Diego County is so tight that buyers can get in the middle of bidding wars.

    There were roughly 4,100 active San Diego County listings in January, the lowest number in at least 3½ years, show numbers from the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors that start in summer of 2009. While inventory numbers have ticked up slightly in the past two months, which is normal for spring, the listing total is still lower than normal.

    Limited inventory and increasing home values have pushed potential homebuyer to do anything extra to help them stand out, something that’s becoming more common — and possibly more necessary — within the past six months, real estate agents say.

    Newlyweds Adam and Molly Sarasin saw the odds stacked against them when they started searching for their first home last spring. Four months in, they realized cash buyers were routinely knocking them out of the running.

    “It was exhausting,” said Adam, 26. “We definitely found that inventory was too low. ... Competition was way too high.”

    Instead of giving in, they tugged at heartstrings. The couple submitted a cover letter, penned by their real estate agent, Hale.

    “I hope this gives you a good overview of why Adam and Molly will be the perfect choice for your new home,” says the letter, which ends with a photo of the smiling couple.

    The letter helped. The Sarasins beat out at least two other offers for the Poway home. It also helped that they could make a 20 percent down payment, Hale said.

    “The seller’s agent, I guess, liked that Molly and I grew up in Poway and went to high school here and had family in town — all of that,” Adam said.

    Effective cover letters share similar characteristics. They tend to describe the buyers, from their professions to why they like the homes. Good cover letters also outline clearly what buyers are willing to bring to the table. They typically state the offer prices and perks for the sellers, such as cover closing costs, says Dave Dennis, another local real estate agent who uses cover letters.

    “You need to be brief but strong,” Dennis said. “You need to stand out amongst a sea of offers.”

    Rancho Bernardo-based real estate agent Mike Safiedine has received more cover letters from buyers and their agents in recent months, an emerging trend he likes. The cover letters condense the important information into digestible pieces and saves him and his client’s time, he said.

    Depending on how they’re presented, the letters can help differentiate potentially problematic buyers from more organized buyers who show they’re on time and ready to close.

    “It gets me to look twice and talk to the sellers (my clients)” if the potential buyer is professional, said Safiedine, who has been in the business for 16 years.

    The personal nature of the letters also works, especially on sellers who have “a lot of attachment” to their properties, Safiedine added.

    At least one real estate brokerage in San Diego is trying out a more visual strategy to grab sellers’ attentions: videos. Al Karim Shivji, an agent at California Real Estate and Mortgage in San Diego, has self-produced a couple of videos of himself summarizing his buyers’ offers for sellers including some details about himself.

    “Nobody wants to read an essay,” Shivji said.

    Shivji tries to get the potential buyers to star in the videos themselves but many are camera-shy.

    The two videos made so far have been well-received but they’ve yet to help him close any deals, Shivji said.

    Even though the videos are all less than five minutes, they take almost four hours to make. Shivji is still deciding if that’s the best use of his time and if there’s a way for him to produce a template to expedite the production process.

    Until he figures that out, Shivji is sticking mainly to the cover letter strategy and making sure he follows up with sellers for his clients.

    Ultimately, it’s about finding a connection between buyers and sellers and “make the process little more human,” Shivji said.

    Email me: lily.leung@utsandiego.com | Tweet me: @LilyShumLeung. | Facebook me. | Subscribe to this blog.

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