Team Castle has Moved to Century 21 M & M and Associates

After a very successful 12 years with American Dream Realty, I have changed offices to Century 21 M & M and Associates is located at 1500 41st Avenue, Suite 100, Capitola, CA 95010. This new office is located just a few blocks up the street from the old office and on the other side of 41st Avenue. I did not like the direction American Dream Realty was headed in and a much better opportunity was presented to me.
I have worked very successfully in collaboration with Century 21 years ago. Since Century 21 M & M and Associates is a large company, it has countless advantages over smaller, family-run operations.

Century 21 M & M and Associates has a very successful track record and has many new offices opening in the Central Coast and Bay Area, including a brand new office in Santa Cruz, one in Capitola, and more on the way. I’m proud to say that Century 21 M & M and Associates are the number one Century 21 office in California and world-wide. My team and I look forward to developing this new alliance with this office and furthering our commitment to providing the best service possible to our clientele.

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All’s well that appraises well

An appraisal is an important yet tricky-to-navigate part of the real estate process- ensure you’re getting a fair quote with these expert tips

An appraisal is an important part of any real estate transaction.  It helps the seller determine an asking price and helps the buyer’s lender determine a maximum loan amount.

Yet, given its important, how does a buyer or seller know they can trust that number?

Recently, mortgage giant Fannie Mae introduced a service called Appraiser Quality Monitoring, a list that serves as a guide to banks and lenders about doing business with a number of appraisers, based on appraisal data collected, monitored and evaluated.

While the list is available only to Fannie Mae-approved lenders, it already has put several appraisers on a so-called “blacklist” for inflating appraised value of homes, errors in reporting the characteristics of a home and not using comparable sales of similar homes.

“They very closely review the quality of underwriting and appraisal work, and if they see repetitious inaccuracies in appraisals or appraisal companies, they may end up on that list,” says Don Maxon, an independent certified financial adviser in San Rafael, Calif.

Here, real estate experts offer suggestions to help ensure you receive a fair appraisal:

Keep it local 

Lenders cannot choose a specific appraiser to assess a property.  But by speaking with your mortgage adviser about which company they work, you can help ensure that the appraisal company is local and experienced, says Sean Murphy, a mortgage consultant at RPM Mortgage in San Francisco.

Appraisers that have knowledge of the local market, its housing trends and the local community are vital, as these aspects can affect a home’s valuation.   “Particularly in an area where there might be more uniqueness to the properties, getting a local appraiser can be important,” Maxon says.

The appraiser will try to find comparable sales that are good fits for your property, says Mark Bird, an independent appraiser with Bird & Associates in Oak Hill, Va.  Features such as proximity to a city, size of the home and the property and waterfront or scenic views are all qualities that affect a home’s valuation.  If the appraisers are not local, you may want to consider another lender, Maxon adds.

Bring your real estate agent

Stricter regulations that prohibit undue influence on an appraiser’s valuation have been imposed since the global financial crisis.

“Appraisers have become much more resistant to any kind of influence of the valuations,” says Maxon.

However, the presence of a real estate agent can help facilitate the process by offering helpful information to the appraiser, says Murphy, who recommends presenting a list of any updates, changes or upgrades made to the property.

It’s important to remember that the general marketplace may not interpret the unique features of your home as valuably as you see them.

“Homeowners generally tend to think that their exclusive taste and their interior improvements have a lot of value,” Maxon says.

Further, when it comes to appraisals, you may get what you pay for.

“You can’t do a thorough job for a real discounted fee,” says Bird, who has worked in real estate industry for more than 25 years.

Large mortgage lenders may be willing to accept low bids from appraisers, which can mean using the services of appraisers who are less experienced or less thorough, says Bird.

To be sure, talk to your lender to find out what type of fees thee appraiser will be collecting for the service.

By- Alex Gallucci- CTW Features- Bay Area News Group- March 23, 2014

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Gift ends long coastal battle

Environmental group donates 5,800-acre expanse to public, protecting it from development

Cementing protection for one of the largest privately owned pieces of land on California’s 1,100-mile coastline, a San Francisco environmental group on Monday donated to the public the Coast Dairies property- a pastoral expanse of rolling meadows, redwood forests and panoramic ocean views north of Santa Cruz.

“We are enormously pleased that generations from now it is going to look the way it does today,” said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land, which transferred the property to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The 5,843-acre ranch 8 miles north of Santa Cruz was the subject of years of battles, even among environmental groups.

Marked with rows of artichokes and Brussels sprouts along its edges on Highway 1, the property was owned for more than a century by two Swiss families who acquired it in the 1860’s and joined holdings in 1902.  It had been coveted for development since the 1970’s, when PG&E acquired an option on it with plans to build a nuclear power plant near Davenport, and more recently, in the 1990’s when former Nevada developer Brian Sweeney attempted to carve it into 139 lots for luxury homes.

The property was preserved in its bucolic state in 1998, when the Save the Redwoods League acquired it for $44.5 million, most of which came from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Los Altos.

‘Spectacular area’

By the end of this year, two trails should be open to the public for hiking, said Rick Cooper, field manager with the BLM office in Hollister.  One, known as Liddell Creek Trail, is off Bonny Doon Road.  The other, the Molina Pasture Trail, is off Swanton Road.

“This property has redwood forests and creeks.  It’s a spectacular area for the public to get a true recreational experience, hiking up the terraces,” Cooper said.  “And looking back over the ocean, it’s a great view.”

Some environmentalists would like the property to become a national monument. For that, there is recent precedent.

Last month, President Barack Obama designated an area on the rugged Mendocino County coast, the 1,656- acre Point Arena-Stornetta parcel, as part of the California Coastal Monument, a preserve established by President Bill Clinton and overseen by the BLM.

Similarly in 2012, Obama designated 14,000 acres of Fort Ord, the former military base north of Monterey, as a national monument run by the BLM.  In both monuments, oil and gas drilling is banned.

Language in the deed transferred Monday bans any commercial logging on the property.  The Trust for Public Land also retained the mineral rights, blocking mining or fracking.

Cooper said that the BLM will develop, with public involvement, a long term plan over the next two years.  Uses probably will include hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, he said.  Until the first two trails open, the lands remain closed to the public, he said, and BLM rangers will patrol it.

Like many major land-use issues around Monterey Bay, the preservation of Coast Dairies came with controversy.  After Save the Redwoods League acquired the property, it transferred control to the Trust for Public Land, a larger national organization.  The trust expected at first to donate the property to a public agency within two or three years after surveying its plants and animals and completing a use plan.

But when it opened up the planning process to community groups, the trust faced a barrage of competing interests from surfers to off-road motorcyclists to local residents concerned about everything from traffic to increased fire risk.

By 2004, the plan was finished.  The trust donated 407 oceanfront acres to the California state parks department in 2006.  But the land, a stunning mix of beaches and rugged cliffs, was all the state parks could take given tight budgets.

Battle for protections

The BLM, which agreed  to take most of the inland acres, didn’t want to manage the row crops and farmers along the coast.  So the trust planned to divide 740 acres and keep ownership, leasing it to farmers.  But then local environmental groups fought to require the trust to get coastal commission permission for that.  The groups wanted more protections locked into the deal, and the commission eventually granted a permit in 2012.

“Obama won’t be president forever.  The BLM changes based on administrations,” said Bill Parkin, a Santa Cruz attorney who represented several of the local groups.  “Making sure that the land has the appropriate protections on it was important.”

The local groups, the Rural Bonny Doon Association and former Santa Cruz Mayor Celia Scott among them, also sued, alleging that the trust violated state law regulating how properties are subdivided.  A county judge ruled against the groups in October.

“The community wanted to make sure there weren’t going to be dune buggies and logging and oil wells out there,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Neal Coonerty.

“Today is fantastic.  It’s been a long, long battle,” he added.  “The north coast was under threat for a long time, and through the efforts of a lot of people, it is going to be preserved and protected for our children and grand children.”


1860s: The property was owned for more than a century by two Swiss families who acquired it in the 1860’s and joined holdings in 1902.

1970s: It was marked for development and PG&E acquired an option on it with plans to build a nuclear power plant.

1990s: A developer sought to build 139 lots for luxury homes.

1998: The Save the Redwoods League acquired it for $44.5 million, then transferred control to the Trust for Public Land, a larger national organization.

Monday:  The trust transferred the property to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

What now? The land is closed to the public, but two trails should be open for hiking by the end of the year.




By:  Paul Rogers, Bay Area News Group, Tuesday, April 15, 2014


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To Purchase or not to purchase earthquake insurance, that is the question

While friends and relatives post their images of frozen, snowbound misery from the Midwest and East Coast, the Bay Area continues to enjoy the advantages of a mild winter with the occasional, though not enough, rain shower.  The test of California’s weather courage has always been a running punch line.   It is hard to complain about February days in the 70s, only breaking out the sweaters and jackets in evening when the mercury dips into the high 40s and low 50s and it’s why people flock to the area in search of tract homes in the half-million dollar range and higher.

But California isn’t without its faults.  Literally.  While residents of the Golden State continue to pray for even more rain, it isn’t dangerous weather on the minds of homeowners and building managers.   It’s earthquakes.  Recent natural catastrophes in the east like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, flooding in the Midwest and ice storms in the east remind of the need for vigilance as Mother Nature doles our her wares.  But one cannot prepare for earthquakes, though the California Earthquake Authority is trying.

Homeowners and building owners can purchase earthquake insurance.   But like all things in the insurance industry, the question isn’t one of the total protection, it’s about the cost benefit analysis.

“It would have to be an enormously destructive earthquake to be of benefit to the homeowner,” Insurance Agency LLC in Scotts Valley.  “We sell a lot of earthquake insurance here through our agency and every story is different.”  Cassidy said he does not carry earthquake insurance for his own property.

“When my wife and I decided to spend some money allaying our earthquake paranoia, we decided to spend some money having a contractor put in cripple walls and additional bolting of things,” he said.  Cripple walls are small wall structures built between the first floor and the foundation of a structure, allowing them to bear the seismic weight of the load of the structure.

“It really does depend on what the cost benefit analysis is,” said Cassidy.  “With a 10 or 15 percent deductible, which is what most policies offer, if you have a million dollar home,  then your deductible is $100,000.”  That’s a lot of money to lay out in the event of an earthquake powerful enough to do that much damage to your home.

“When you’re dealing with high rise rise condominiums, multi-level home or if you’re in an area where there is geographic liquefaction or serious catastrophic risk, then I would highly recommend earthquake insurance,” said Melinda Gedryn (cq) of Coldwell Banker San Jose. “Replacing your structure is not cheap with severe damage and so in that sense, it may well be worth having, again depending on your situation.”

But insurance and real estate professionals also think that after a natural disaster so destructive, the question arises as to what the Federal Emergency Management Agency would do.  After Katrina, for example, FEMA worked with homeowners to help them get back on their feet.  Would they do the same after a destructive earthquake?

And it’s not as if buying earthquake insurance is a simple matter of buying a policy.   The annual cost can be equal to or greater than what homeowners pay for their regular homeowners insurance, doubling their annual premiums.

“Private carriers and the Earthquake Authority run some pretty sophisticated mapping models based on address of a house.  They know what type of soil it’s sitting on, what the last earthquake did in damage and what the probabilities are,” said Cassidy.  “So the deductible will be the same, but the pricing will be based on the actual exposure.”  Thus, a house sitting along the Loma Prieta fault line is going to be more expensive to insure than a house located in a more stable area.

“Nuances affect the price,” Cassidy continued.  “What kind of construction is it?  Is it on a slab or not?  So, the quote that a company offers will have a 10, a 20 or a 25 percent deductible, or they may make the decision to offer only one deductible based on their risk analysis.”

But earthquakes aren’t really predictable in any way.  On the California Earthquake Authority’s webpage, the organization points out that the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Southern California, which registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, occurred along a previously unknown fault line.  Even the science can only reach so far.  California is also home to two-thirds of the earthquakes in the U.S. registering more than 100 every day along more than 2,000 known fault lines.

“Each person is going to have different preferences,” said Demi Chizgi (cq) of Keller-Williams in Cupertino.  “We should all have earthquake kits and prepare for emergencies and be ready.  But reality sets in.  An earthquake feels so far away and if someone is in the middle of buying a house and doing all of those details, it just seems like something that’s not important.”  Chizgi said that every homeowner needs to do their own personal risk tolerance, just like they would when they’re investing money.

“Spending $1,000 a year on a policy you’re not sure you’re ever going to use is not something people warm too very well.  Fires, floods- they happen all the time and we see that,” said Chizgi.  “But earthquakes that do such extreme danger don’t feel like something real that they need to prepare for.”

Chizgi said the one thing that would make earthquake insurance a more appealing commodity is a lower price.  “If people hear they’re going to pay another $900 annually on a homeowner policy, they’re not as likely to buy it.   If it were offered for another $200 per year, it might be easier to make that purchase,” she said.

Cassidy said he can imagine being in a phase of life where spending $1,000 to $2,000 a year on earthquake insurance might be worth it.  “But personally, I can’t imagine it right now unless I had 100 percent equity and it was my primary asset.  Then I could see doing that.”

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Redwoods walk gives visitors chance to learn

Park employees tell tales about history, loop animal life

BIG BASIN- The ancient giants of Big Basin Redwood State Park have many secrets to share, if the right person is there to tell their stories. 

Susan Blake is an interpreter at the park.  The seven-year veteran said as much with her arms and hands as she does with her voice.  “I speak redwood, banana slug, oak, raccoon,” Blake said before starting the Redwood Loop Walk.  The half-mile walk takes about 60 to 90 minutes because there is so much history and science to learn.  But with Blake, there isn’t a single dull moment. 

At the start of the tour, she explained that Big Basin is the oldest state park in California.  Established in 1902, it originally spanned about 3,500 acres.  The park now extends to across 18,000 acres and boasts the “largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco,” according to the park’s website.

Ancient coast redwoods are the tallest species of redwoods, achieving heights of more than 200 feet. 

As the path from the parking lot winds into the trees, one oak can be seen with a small lamp jutting out of its side.  Blake said the fixture is all that remains of a picnic ground from when the park was a resort in the first half of the 20th century. 

The park was originally founded by photographer Andrew P. Hill.   Hill had come to the Santa Cruz redwoods to photograph a fire that had been doused with wine from a local winery.  The property owner found him and said he would either have to pay to take photos or get off his land.  Blake said the incident so incensed Hill that he decided to start a group to save the redwoods.  After an intense letter writing campaign, California Gov. Henry Gage established the park. 

The desire to preserve nature was unusual at the turn of the century.  “At the time, nature was really seen as something to conquer, to use, that the resources would be unlimited,” Blake said.

Tenacious Trees

The first stop on the loop walk-which is usually led by volunteer- demonstrated the tenacity of the redwoods.  Blake hopped the fence and placed her feet in the middle of a wide circular opening within the trees.  She directed her attention to skinny, needled, red and green twigs sticking out of the ground just next to one of the larger trees on the edge of the ring.   “Those are the babies,” she said, “and this is the teenager.”  She pointed to a taller tree that is about a foot wide. 

The “babies” and “teenagers” are new trees growing out of the roots of the older, more established trees.  Blake explained that older trees damaged by fire sometimes send out a hormone, or a chemical signal, to start sprouting new trees from its roots.  “This is one of the many adaptations of the redwoods,” Blake said.

And when the original parent tree dies and falls down, it allows the smaller baby trees to get enough sunlight to grow tall and wide, leading to the circular pattern known as the fairy ring. 

Deeper into the forest, the fresh, chilly air feels slightly damp.  It carried a scent like a mixture of a hardware store and pine only not so pungent.  In the distance an acorn woodpecker knocked softly.  Just next to the path is a downed redwood, its height somehow more imposing now that it’s parallel to the ground.  Blake explained the reason there’s no moss on this tree, or any of the redwoods, is because their bark is full of tannins, the same acids that give Cabernet Sauvignon its lingering bite.

The tannins repel moss and the “FBI,” a term that Blake used for a host of fungi, bacteria and invertebrates.  But as the bark slowly breaks down, the tree begins to release its nutrients onto the forest floor, which are processed by the microscopic critters in the soil.  The nutrients, in turn, make the soil fertile for future redwoods to grow. 

Blake explained that a downed tree is critically important to the health of the ecosystem of the forest.  As the tree decomposes – which can take 1,000 years or more – it functions as a home for host of animals large and small.  “I like to think of a decomposing tree as a time-release vitamin,” Blake said.

Eventually the path winds around to a tree that has a gash twisting up its side.  The tree can fit at least three adults within its embrace.  At the top there is a perfectly circular opening toward the sky.  It’s like standing inside a giant spyglass. 

This tree, aptly named the Chimney tree, is “vibrantly alive,” Blake said.  The tree, although hollow, still has its layer of living tissue, called the cambium layer intact.  Blake also noted that in time, the bark will grow around the tree to close up the hole in its side.  But the heartwood, the dead core of wood inside the tree that fives it its strength, will never regrow.  Blake stands within the tree and says “in 1,000 years, I would be standing inside a hollow tree.” 

-By Cynthia McKelvey- Santa Cruz Sentinel- Bay Area News Group- Wednesday, February 12, 2014



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How to Buy a HUD Home video

Mike talks about how to buy a HUD home including what is a HUD home, who can buy and what to expect in during the process. For more information contact Mike Castle at (831) 588-1988.

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Affordable Boulder Creek Home

Affordable Boulder Creek Home

Why rent when you can buy? Remodeled kitchen, nice view of the forest. Just 3 minutes and 1.3 miles to downtown Boulder Creek. Close to BC Country Club, golf, tennis, swimming, and dining. Short drive to Big Basin State Park.

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Housing gets tough for buyers, renters (Part 2)

For rent:  Shortage of units keeps apartment prices high

Rents in large Bay Area apartment complexes flattened out in the last quarter of 2013, according to a report Wednesday from RealFacts, continuing a slowing trend from the previous quarter.

The average rent for a Bay Area apartment in complexes with 50 or more units was $2,084 a month, up 10 percent from a year ago but almost unchanged from $2,080 in July-September quarter.  Average Bay Area rent ranged from $1,728 for a studio apartment to $2,766 for a three-bedroom unit.

In Oakland the average rent was $2,133; in Concord $1,357; in San Jose $2,022; and in San Francisco $3,056.

The Bay Area’s burgeoning workforce has put pressure on both housing and rents, creating shortages and pushing prices beyond the reach of many people with good jobs but not high-paying tech jobs.

Renters complain of sharp rent increases and a shortage of vacancies that’s caused for long lines of would-be renters to form in front of studio apartments.

Sara Kidder, 38, of Oakland, said she and her roommate wanted to move to a newer place and began looking last year.  They found 80 people waiting to view one studio apartment, their credit histories in hand.

“And a lot of the places were awful,” said Kidder, who runs an event coordinating business.  They decided to stay in their current apartment, which, while small and costing $2,250 a month, is in a trendy area near Lake Merritt.

“Supply certainly is not going to outstrip the demand,” anytime soon, said Nick Grotjahn of RealFacts.   “San Francisco is hiring like gangbusters, and that’s really the driving force here.”

Also, few new complexes have opened since the downturn, he said.   The backlog is beginning to be addressed by developers “but it will take a couple of years before we see anything that’s going to slow rents down.”

People looking for apartments in the South Bay should “keep their running shoes and their checkbook by the door,” said Ron Stern of, which helps people find rental housing.

“The competition is pretty fierce,” he said.   “If you’re number five in line you’re too late.”

Veronica Ramos, who directs a migrant worker project for the Santa Clara County School District, was shocked at the rents when she relocated to the South Bay from Stockton.  She moved in with her parents in Campbell.   This week, she finally landed a studio apartment in Campbell for $1,800 a month, with a hefty deposit.  “How do you afford a studio apartment and save money for a house?’ she asked.

While Ramos looked for a place to rent, she saw “entire families looking for a one-bedroom apartment.”

Elisa Fischer-Somit, a legal secretary, and her husband, Jacob, of Lafayete, were hit with sticker shock when they started looking for a bigger place recently.  Not only had prices jumped 30-40 percent in the 18 months they’d lived in their one-bedroom, but there weren’t that many available.

“Now we’re looking at a different option, maybe buying a condo instead.  We’re thinking that maybe a mortgage may not be that much more than paying rent.  Buy again, we’ve noticed it seems like not a whole lot of people are selling,” she said.

Buying may mean moving farther east in Contra Costa County, lengthening her commute to Oakland.

“It’s been very stressful for us.  My husband grew up in Concord.  We both want to stay and not have to move way far away to get the size house we want,”  she said.

Some renters are thinking about leaving the Bay Area for some place more affordable.

Stephanie King, 33, and her two children, have been living with her parents in Pleasanton while shopping for an apartment there.  She’s gradually coming to the realization that she may not be able to afford one in that pricey community.

“Modesto and Stockton are looking better and better,” she said.  “I went to an open house this past Saturday.  It was a 700-square-foot, two bedroom for $1,100 a month.  It was super tiny.  There had to be at least 50 people there at the time I was there, and they were still coming when I left.  Central Valley, here I come.

By:  Pete Carey  Bay Area News Group  Thursday, January 16, 2014

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Housing gets tough for buyers, renters (part 1)

For sale: Tight supply pushes sales to lowest in six years

     The ongoing tight Bay Area housing market pushed December home sales down to their lowest level in six years, driving the median sales price for single-family homes up 21.3 percent – to $570,000.  

     Across the nine-county Bay Area, December saw only 4,584 single-family homes sold, the lowest number for any December since 2007 according to data released Wednesday by DataQuick.

     The dip was helped by a sharp drop in foreclosure resales and short sales, which fell to less than half of what they were a year ago, the real estate information service said.  The continuing decline in foreclosures is good news for the region’s housing market, which is likely to see  a spring rebound as thousands of homeowners finally above water on their mortgages may be in position to sell for the first time since the downturn.   A larger number of homes for sale should also dampen, but not stall, further price increases. 

     “Our next opportunity to get a good read on where the market’s heading will be spring- March at the earliest- because that’s when a lot of traditional buyers and sellers get back into the housing market,” said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.  “You still have people, particularly in the inland areas, who owe more than their homes are worth and can’t practically sell yet or are going to wait until spring.   Then there are those who are holding out because they’re not content yet with what their home will fetch.” 

     Like the rest of the Bay Area, Contra Costa County had its lowest December single- family home sales in seven years.  Alameda County’s December sales were at a six-year low and Santa Clara County saw a five- year low. 

     San Mateo County, which had a higher median sale price, had a 10.8 percent increase in sales from the year before.   “High-end areas tend to be more stable because prices tended to not go up as much in the boom times or go down as much during the mortgage crises,” LePage said.

     Along with reluctant sellers, the Bay Area and much of California continue to see sluggish new home construction, further stifling sales. 

     “Inventory has been incredibly low, and that continues to be our biggest challenge and our biggest problem,” said Myron Von Raesfeld, a Santa Clara County- based broker at ClickHome Realty and president of the Santa Clara Association of Realtors.  “Last week, the entire city of Santa Clara had 28 townhomes, condos and homes on the market.  I have never seen anything like that before.” 

     The number of all types of homes that sold for less than $500,000 in December was down 28.9 percent from last year, according to DataQuick.  Homes that sold for more than $500,000 were up 12.3 percent. 

     The lack of inventory drove December’s median Bay Area price for all types of homes 23.9 percent higher than the year before and represented the 21st consecutive month of price increases, Data Quick reported.  The Bay Area’s median price has risen more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis for 14 consecutive months. 

     The result was that “buyers took a break for a couple of weeks,” said Laura Wucher of Better Homes and Gardens Mason- McDuffie Real Estate, who works with buyers and sellers in Contra Costa County.  “They’re just a little more skittish.”   

   The median sale price of an existing single- family home was up 30.2 percent in San Mateo County to $846,500; up 24.7 percent in Alameda County, to $560,000; up 24.2 percent in Contra Costa County, to $410,000; and up 13.7 percent in Santa Clara County, to $685,000.  

     First- time home buyers Himanshu and Neeti Sharma were living in Emeryville and looking to buy somewhere along the BART line to get to their jobs in San Francisco.  But they were repeatedly beat out by buyers offering all cash.

    When the market slowed in December, the Sharmas paid list price for a three-bedroom home in Pleasant Hill.  

    “We got lucky,” the Sharmas said.  “December was a great time to buy.”

     If the trend of year- over- year price appreciations of 20 percent continues, a typical home would sell for $50,000 to $60,000 more by spring, DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement.

     “If prices go up,” LePage added in an interview, “a lot more people will have equity, or at least can break even on a sale.  That’s the theory.  The problem remains on the supply side.  It’s the Bay Area, after all, and there is not a lot of new construction going on.”

                    By Dan Nakaso and Pete Carey-  Bay Area New Group- January 16, 2014


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Report: 3 banks short on relief tests

     Washington (AP)-  Three of the biggest U.S. lenders failed this year to meet some requirements for giving relief to struggling homeowners in a $25 billion settlement over foreclosure abuses, according to an official. 

    The monitor overseeing the settlement said in a report issued Wednesday that Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup together failed to meet seven of the 29 requirements tested in the first half of the year. 

    The failures include requirements to notify borrowers of any missing documents in mortgage modification applications within five days of receipt and to give borrowers accurate information before foreclosure is started.  Monitor Joseph Smith said the banks had taken steps to correct the errors. 

     “We proactively addressed the monitor’s findings and are pleased that he determined our corrective action plan is complete,”  JP Morgan spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus said.

      Citigroup said that it “remains committed to fulfilling the terms of the national mortgage settlement for the best interests of its clients.”  The bank said it became aware of some problems in May and began taking corrective action. 

     A Bank of America spokesman didn’t immediately return a call seeing comment.    

     The three banks, Wells Fargo and ResCap parties (formerly Ally Financial and GMAC) agreed in the settlement with the federal government and 49 states to provide relief to borrowers such as reducing interest rates and monthly payments. 

                                                               -Bay Area New Group, Thursday, December 5, 2013



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