Have we hit bottom yet?

Have we hit bottom in Santa Cruz…or will the 90 day state moratorium bring on a new onslaught of properties in default?

Well, according to the stats from March – the median sales price for a single family home in Santa Cruz County edged up a bit to $420K, in April from $399K, but remains far below the median of 661K just one year ago.  Overall sales rose and inventory dropped compared to a year ago.
(Reference – median means the midpoint of sales for the month.)

Sales in Watsonville, hit harder by foreclosures than the rest of the county, comprised 26 percent of overall sales, down from 33 percent in February. In addition, Watsonville has 104 pending sales, leaving only 41 listings when there had been over 200.

That could warn of a market that is perking after being in the doldrums last year.

Having said that – some analyst feel were not a the bottom yet:

Mark Hanson of the Field Check Group in Menlo Park sees a “false bottom” in the housing market.

“If the market was truly on the mend, sales would be much higher,” he said.

He attributes falling prices to the elimination of exotic loans such as adjustable-rate mortgages with low teaser rates and interest-only payment plans, combined with government and bank moratoria on foreclosures advertisement for the past nine months that artificially depress the availability of homes.

He sees prices stabilizing and edging higher as more expensive properties are foreclosed and sold.

“You have a shortage of bank-owned homes,” said Schahrzad Berkland of CaliforniaHousingForecast.com, after seeing the Santa Cruz County statistics. “In California, they make up about 30 percent to 50 percent of sales, but in your area, they are only 10 percent of the listings.”

Bank-owned properties are attracting buyers in Santa Cruz, with 71 bank-owned listings and 59 of them in pending sales.

“My guess is pendings would be much higher if there was more inventory of affordable homes,” Berkland added. “My guess is there is a huge surplus of high-end homes.”

In Santa Cruz County, lenders have issued 883 default notices to borrowers, up from 867 a year ago, while the pace has slowed in neighboring Monterey and San Benito counties, according to the Santa Cruz Record.


Good News- Bad News on New Credit Card Laws!!

Which news is usually easier?

Good or bad first – ok I’ll start with the good;

Good: The Federal Reserve Board and two other organizations recently issued new rules changing some of the less consumer-friendly practices.

Bad: The rules don’t go into effect until July 2010.

Here is a rundown of what is changing:

Interest Rates:

Now:  Banks can increase your rate on the entire balance at any time, for any reason with 15 day’s written notice.
As of July 2010, Cannot increase rate on existing balance of you pay on time.
Must give 45 day’s written notice to increase rate.

Late Payments:
Now:  Can hit you with a fee if you’re even 5 minutes late or got the statement yesterday.
As of July 2010: Cannot assess a late fee unless you’ve had at least 21 days to make a payment.

Allocating Payments:
Now:  Typically payments are applied to your balance with the lowest interest, even if you pay more.
As of July 2010:  If you pay more than required, it must be applied to the balance with the highest interest rate, or spread proportionally.

Two-Cycle Billing:

Now:  Use paid-off balances from prior months to determine your current finance charge.
As of July 2010:  Practice banned!

Sub prime Credit Cards:
Now:  Security and opening fees for people with low credit scores can be as much as the credit limit on the account.
As of July 2010:  Security and opening fees for people with low credit scores cannot exceed half of the initial credit limit.

To find competing offers for your cards with lower rates go to CreditCards.com or CardRatings.com or Bankrate.com

Deb Whitney

Its the Law!

Effective July 1, 2009 Real Estate license advertising requires a real estate licensee to disclose his or her Department of Real Estate license number on all “solicitation materials intended to be the first point of contact with consumers”.  These materials include business cards, stationary, advertising flyer’s etc.  Excluded is advertisement print and electronic media and ‘for-sale” signs.

So don’t get caught up in the rush last minute to get your materials update – be ahead of the curve!  Good luck!

Deb Whitney

Have you received you Stimulus Check?

I recently received a $1200 check form the IRS…..I filed and extenstion on my taxes and certainly was not expecting any monies back… I actually scratched my head wondering what this was for – after some research – figured out is was my households Stimulus check.

Have you not received your 2007 Stimulus Break?

An estimated 4 million individuals are still eligible to received the payment by filing a 2008 income tax t return.  For a single filer, the minimum payment is $300 and the maximum is $600.  For couples the payments range from $600 to $1200. You must file a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service.

Who is eligible??

Those that have received at least $3000 in Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits, certain railroad retirement benefits or earned income in 2007.

If you normally do not file a tax return, complete Form 1040A, available at www.irs.gov.

Good luck!

Goodbye Telemarketers?

Dread that annoying phone call right at dinner time? New rules you should be aware of in 2009!

Today more that 172 million phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry.

News blast!  Your phone may ring less often next year.  Responding to thousands of comments, the Federal Trade Commission recently set new limitations on prerecorded telemarketing sales, barring almost all of them unless a consumer agrees –in writing- to accept them.

•  The ban takes effect on Sept.1, 2009, however…. interim relief is available.  Started December 1, 2008, telemarketers now must allow you to opt out at the beginning of a call by pressing a designated telephone key or talking to a voice-activated system.

•  The rules are aimed at companies trying to sell something such as credit cards or extended warranties.  They will not affect automated informational messages such as reminders about doctor’s appointments.

•Pre-recorded charitable fundraising calls are allow allowed. Although at the time of the call, charities must offer the opportunity to opt out of future calls.

The rules do not apply to businesses regulated by other federal agencies such as banks, or pre-recorded political messages.

So – just say no to your machine if not interested!

Housing Market In Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County, while far from immune to the sluggish economy, likely will fare better than many parts of California, and the nation, during the current down-turn.

The report’s economic assessment, as expected, shows Santa Cruz County taking hits from both the nation’s housing crisis and weakening job market.

The number of default notices sent to county residents, a sign of impending home foreclosure, has increased 243 percent between this summer and last, according to the report. And median family income has slipped from $81,300 last year to $79,000 this year.

Still, incomes here remain 15 percent above the state average and 23 percent above he national average, and job growth continued to climb through 2007, the last year measured, according to the report.

It is a great time to purchse a second property for personal use,  or even a rental property in Santa Cruz County.  There is always an abundant quantity of students from UCSC looking for rental properties.  Good luck!


Thanksgiving History – Is it about the Turkey?

Thanksgiving History
The First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Native American groups throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
More Meat, Less Vegetables
Our modern Thanksgiving repast is centered around the turkey, but that certainly wasn’t the case at the pilgrims’s feasts. Their meals included many different meats. Vegetable dishes, one of the main components of our modern celebration, didn’t really play a large part in the feast mentality of the seventeenth century. Depending on the time of year, many vegetables weren’t available to the colonists.
The pilgrims probably didn’t have pies or anything sweet at the harvest feast. They had brought some sugar with them on the Mayflower but by the time of the feast, the supply had dwindled. Also, they didn’t have an oven so pies and cakes and breads were not possible at all. The food that was eaten at the harvest feast would have seemed fatty by 1990’s standards, but it was probably more healthy for the pilgrims than it would be for people today. The colonists were more active and needed more protein. Heart attack was the least of their worries. They were more concerned about the plague and pox.
Seventeenth Century Table Manners
The pilgrims didn’t use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers. They wiped their hands on large cloth napkins which they also used to pick up hot morsels of food. Salt would have been on the table at the harvest feast, and people would have sprinkled it on their food. Pepper, however, was something that they used for cooking but wasn’t available on the table.
In the seventeenth century, a person’s social standing determined what he or she ate. The best food was placed next to the most important people. People didn’t tend to sample everything that was on the table (as we do today), they just ate what was closest to them.
Serving in the seventeenth century was very different from serving today. People weren’t served their meals individually. Foods were served onto the table and then people took the food from the table and ate it. All the servers had to do was move the food from the place where it was cooked onto the table.
Pilgrims didn’t eat in courses as we do today. All of the different types of foods were placed on the table at the same time and people ate in any order they chose. Sometimes there were two courses, but each of them would contain both meat dishes, puddings, and sweets.
Hope you enjoyed the story!

Green Gift Idea for the Holidays-Eco-Friendly

Try Organic Bath Salts as a gift!
Apparently, Americans spends $300 million annually on conventional women’s bath gift sets.  Even Martha Stewart proposes giving the gift of bath salts which you can proffer in a recycled jar. Even a pickle jar would work.! This gift is green of course because it will introduce your friends and family to the virtues of organic bath products with recycled packaging. No need to spook up the bath with additives and coloring when simply salt and a drop or two of essential oil will do the trick.  Here how it comes together;

Start with about 4 cups of sea salt or kosher salt. Mix in several drops of an oil such as peppermint or tea tree, available at your local natural food’s store or dried fragrant plants, such as lavender or eucalyptus. Voila: Bath salts.

I’ve personally made these as gifts and have received rave reviews – Another tip – make up a personal label and add some pretty ribbon.  You’ll be a rock star!

Best of luck!


Penny for your Thoughts?

As I think about our currently – what is a penny worth?  Here is a bit of history:

“Aug. 2, 2009, marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln penny, the longest-running U.S. coin still in circulation. The U.S. Mint had been producing one-cent coins since its founding in 1792, but the 1909 penny (which replaced the Indian-head coin) was the first coin on which a President’s likeness appeared. Teddy Roosevelt commissioned the coin to celebrate the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. While most people applauded the new design, former Confederate soldiers were upset at the prospect of carrying the image of Lincoln in their pockets. Today, on the occasion of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the U.S. Mint has produced four special-edition pennies with reverse-side designs that depict different periods in the famous President’s life. Three of the pennies have already been released; the final design will debut on Aug. 13.”