Giving Back-Santa Clarita Senior Center

Several years ago, when I was working with a nationally known real estate company, we were challenged to go out into the community every Spring and donate our time to those who needed it. My good friend Deanna and I decided that we would like to spend time with the Senior Community at our local Senior Center.

 
After we started our own company, one of the cornerstones of our philosophy was to re-invest in the community with our time. Because we had such a good experience with our Senior community, we decided to keep it going. Years ago we found out that simply an ice cream desert was something the folks there looked forward to.

I somehow have been able to bypass the actual work of scooping and assembling the bowls-with ice cream, chocolate syrup, cream topping & sprinkles. I, instead, love to deliver the bowls to the Seniors and relish seeing their smiles when a simply made dish is served to them.
 
On my first visit years ago, I was introduced to Tommie-an elegant and enthusiastic lady who formerly lived in Albany, GA. We connected over our Southern roots, and I look just as forward to seeing her each year as she sees us. It is a highlight of my day to spend time with this remarkable lady.
 
The director, Robin, has been so gracious and accommodating to us while we are there. I wish we could spend a few days each week there and capture that feeling of helping someone else out that is so rewarding.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

What rising rates mean to homebuyers and how to prepare yourself

interestrate

After what seems like years of teasing us with the possibility of rising rates, the Federal Reserve finally made their move with a quarter-point jump last week. Economic conditions, led by a strong job market, triggered for the first rate rise since June 2006. The move is a sign of confidence in the economy (that’s a good thing!), albeit one that is feared to slow down economic growth (not so good!) and potentially scare off buyers who were just starting to feel OK about getting into the L.A. real estate market (bad, very bad!).

So what does that mean for homebuyers and owners? And what can you do to prepare yourself for rising rates? A lot, actually.

Accelerate your home search

Were you planning on waiting until spring to buy a new home in The Valley? You’ll have company. It’s not called the spring buying season for nothing.

But predictions that rates will continue to rise in quarter-point increments throughout the next year may make you want to change those plans. Buying a home in L.A. now at a lower rate can flat out save you money—consider that a rate that’s one point higher translates to about a 10 percent rise in your monthly payment. Not to mention the other advantages of buying a home in winter: namely, less competition and the possibility of getting a better price.

“If you’ve been on the fence about refinancing or buying a home, vacation home or rental property, now is the time to act,” said Huffington Post. Once interest rates start trending up, the borrowing costs for your real estate investment will rise.”

Huffington Post used a $200,000 loan example to illustrate the difference in payments between today’s rates and a rate that’s one point higher (A difference of $115 per month doesn’t seem like a lot. But if you wait to borrow, in one year you’ll pay an additional $1,380. Multiply that $1,380 by the 30-year term, and the delay in snaring a mortgage costs you more than $40,000.”), but let’s extrapolate that:

  • On a $400,000 loan, that’s $230 more per month, $2,760 more in one year, and more than $82,000 over 30 years.
  • On a $600,00, loan, it’ll cost you $345 additional per month, $4,140 in one year, and more than $124,000 after 30 years.

Get locked in now

If you’re playing with the idea of buying a new home, get on the phone with your lender and lock in your interest rate.

That will protect your rate for a period of time—usually 30 days, but could be up to 60—so you won’t be impacted by further rate increases that take place while you’re in escrow.

Refinance

The ability to lock in a lower interest rate than you currently have is the No. 1 reason to refinance before rates tick further upward.

“Examine the terms of your existing mortgage and calculate the damage if the rates rose two or three percent,” said Consumer Reports. “If you plan to stay in your home longer than three or four years and haven’t already refinanced into a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, do it now.”

But there are a few other refi scenarios worth considering, according to mortgage resource HSH.com:

  • You want to get rid of your adjustable rate.
  • You want a shorter term—“If you’ve been paying down a $300,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5 percent for 10 years, your balance is now $236,736. Refinancing that balance into a 15-year loan at 3.5 percent will raise your monthly payments by just $82 and shorten your loan term by five years,” they said.
  • You want to wrap a first mortgage and a home equity line into one loan.
  • You want to get rid of Private Mortgage Interest (PMI)—If you have at least 20 percent equity, you can qualify.

Pay back your home equity line of credit

Your home equity line of credit (HELOC) is perhaps most impacted by rate changes and could rise dramatically if rates continue upward—especially relevant if you consider that this first rise isn’t a standalone and could signal a pattern of rising rates. “You could be looking at a 50 to 100 percent increase in your payment,” warns Consumer Reports.

Reconsider any real estate investment trusts (REITs)

These real estate focused, high-yield mutual funds may not look so good with higher rates. It might be time to reevaluate your investments.

“There’s an inverse relationship between REIT prices and interest rates: When interest rates go up, the value of REIT funds tends to drop,” said Huffington Post.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Winning tips for writing a winning offer

money

You would think in this real estate climate that the easiest part of buying a home in Los Angeles would be submitting an offer. After all, finding a home that is the right size in the right place at the right price that somewhat matches your style (or at least doesn’t completely offend you) is usually the biggest challenge in the always-tight L.A. real estate market, right?

Not necessarily. One of the most frustrating trends I’m seeing right now: Deals getting derailed over something stupid like lack of preparation or lack of effort.

Recently, I was working with a seller on a home in the Santa Clarita Valley, and when it came time to show proof of funds—which has become typical during a home sale—the seller’s agent was…well, less than cooperative. Instead of getting us the required financial information to review, we received a screen shot of an account showing random balances and credits—no account holder information or even the name of the bank.

Whether it was game-playing or laziness, I can’t really say. But this agent definitely knew better. And the behavior created an inconvenience and a delay for the seller—one that quite nearly left the buyer out of luck.

Remember that when a Realtor writes an offer, they are painting a picture to the seller of how ready, willing, and able their client is to buy a house. That means you, as a buyer, are probably going to have to share some financial information.

It’s not enough today to just throw a number out there. You’re up against other numbers. Some may be stronger than yours, some may not, but the one that has verified financial information behind it is the one that tends to stick. Buyers will want to see that you can afford the house, that you don’t just have the money to buy the house, but that you’re financially stable overall, and that you can close on time.

MonopolyGuyHere are a few more things you can do to make sure your offer is the one chosen:

  • Be as transparent as possible—Financial abnormalities, job history issues, and credit score questions are all going to come up during the approval process. It’s best to be upfront about anything that could become problematic later on and/or take the time to improve your financial situation before starting the homebuying process.
  • Get your credit in order—If you’re not completely ready to buy, get there before you waste anyone’s time. A 3.5% down payment combined with a low credit score may get you approved, but it might not get you the place you want if you’re in a competitive market.
  • Don’t lowball—An offer that’s way too low might turn off the seller, causing them to reject it altogether instead of negotiating.
  • Be first—Coming in with a strong offer before others have had a chance to see a property can be a winning strategy.
  • Give yourself extra help—I’ve personally helped a buyer secure a home thanks to a good offer and the extra incentive of a personal letter she wrote to the seller expressing her family’s sincere desire to buy the home and make memories there. Don’t expect a letter like this to make up for a crappy offer, but it could help your good offer catapult over other good offers. Never underestimate the power of an honest emotional connection.
  • Know what to do in a multiple offer situation—When you’re up against other offers and want to make sure you come out on top, talk with your Realtor about things you can do to distinguish yourself: shorten contingency time periods, waive the home warranty, or increase your earnest money deposit.
  • Work with a respected agent—Someone who has the respect of his or her peers is far more likely to be able to get you the house you want at a fair price.

As a home seller, you’re not expected to know all the details involved in selling your home. That’s what your Realtor is for, and it underscores the importance of working with a good one.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Too many seller restrictions: The home sale killer

Kid

You’ve got a newborn. A couple of big, loud-barking dogs, and a two-year-old that doesn’t yet grasp the idea of “one toy at a time.” Yet you’ve listed your house, you want to get it sold quickly, and you’re going to listen to your Realtor so you can make that happen.

Well aren’t you a good little seller.

Unfortunately, not everyone is like you these days. In fact, unreasonable seller restrictions are a growing problem, and one that only seems to be getting worse. If you want to know what “unreasonable” means in the lexicon of seller restrictions, it pretty much translates to anything that makes your Realtor: sigh, cry, place his hands over his eyes and shake his head, go silent for an abnormally long period of time and then abruptly tell you he needs to call you back, or outright quit as your agent.

No See Means No Sale

In other words, making it so difficult for buyers to see your home that it’s at risk of never selling.

“The chances your home will sell when buyers can’t get in to physically inspect the property are minuscule. Sellers need to understand that listing a home for sale is going to lead to some inconveniences in your normal routine,” said ActiveRain as part of their look into the biggest seller mistakes. “Many serious buyers may want to physically inspect a property during times which may not be convenient for the seller. Knowing this, motivated sellers need to understand that flexibility in when you allow the home to be sold could have a direct impact on the sale of your home.

In scouting and touring homes for buyers recently, I have personally experienced:

  • An agent telling me how easy a home was to show, when, in reality, the seller needed 24-hour notice.
  • Being told I couldn’t tour a home during a child’s naptime
  • A seller who was demanding a 90-day rent back

Increasingly, I’m also seeing buyers who demand you confirm and reconfirm appointments and/or give you a 30-minute window for showings. If your home is one of many a buyer is touring in an afternoon, that’s just too small a window. In fact, it’s not even a crack.

“It’s not uncommon for sellers to see 8, 10, even 20 homes during a showing tour with their agent. If your house isn’t on that list because you only do showings on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, you will miss out on ready, willing and able buyers,” continued ActiveRain. “As a seller, realize that the more people that can see the home in person, the more chance you have to find the buyer that wants your home.”

Here, Kitty Kitty

Animals are another story. Big dogs that might startle a potential buyer, cats that can’t be let out…these are issues that should be dealt with by sellers prior to showing, but increasingly they are not. A potential buyer who is accosted by a dog or stressed out that the cat is going to escape—or unable to view one of the bedrooms because that’s where the animal is being housed during the showing—will usually move on to the next house at the first crotch sniff.

Dog

What it comes down to is this: Do you, or do you not, actually want to sell your home? When the answer is “Yes,” the strategy is simple.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Do you need to like your Realtor? No, but it helps.

Everybodylovestrippjones2

Your real estate agent is a complete ass. He’s the Donald Trump of the real estate world. Without the weird hair and the $10 billion bank account. But still.

He’s mean. Rude. Cunning. Ruthless even. Seemingly incapable of kindness or empathy or even fair play.He’s also insanely successful and working with him has always paid off for you. Literally.The morality play has concerned you before, but it’s getting more and more difficult to work with someone whom you don’t like or respect. Time to let go of the relationship and work with someone new? Or should you just get over it?

The real question is: Does your real estate agent have to be likable? Inc. thinks so.

“The fact is that the more likable you are, the better you will get along with your co-workers and others in your life. And the better you get along with others, the more successful you will be,” they said. “People want to work (and spend their lives) with people they like, and they want to avoid (sometimes at any cost) those they don’t like.”

I’ve personally found that to be true.

But I’ve also seen a whole lot of a-holery. Trump makes no apologies for opinions and actions that make others cringe. And he’s hardly alone.

When it comes to real estate, the concept of the “asshole agent” is one that is not just tolerated, but celebrated on TV (check out any episode of Million Dollar Agent in any city for proof). It’s also one that’s propagated by actual asshole agents who seem to be following a very specific route to success.

“Real-estate agents, take note: It’s better to be feared than loved,” said the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “A Few Home-Selling Tips From Machiavelli.” Research for the article found that “brokers who score high in Machiavellian personality tests sell more real estate than their kinder, gentler colleagues…meaning Machiavellian behavior and performance were found to be highly correlated.”

Wow.

But the article also makes an important point about long-term success: “In general, anyone in real estate is likely to be dependent on repeat business. If you take a Machiavellian approach, then that would hurt your long-run prospects.”

Exactly.

After all, this business is not easy. But it is incredibly rewarding. If you don’t like helping people make a dream come true or get out of a bad financial situation or simply change their scenery, maybe you just belong in a different business.

You jerk.

Everybodylovestrippjones

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Dealing with the drought: 27 ways to make it easier

drought

The drought California is facing is no picnic. Especially because there are few lush green lawns left to spread out on. The most recent gut punch is a round of mandatory cutbacks that went into effect on June 1, requiring “statewide savings to average 25 percent.” Even more harsh are the possible fines involved: “Local water agencies in Southern California can fine property owners up to $500 a day if they don’t abide by the new restrictions,” said ABC7.

Ouch.

The state has ordered restrictions (L.A. DWP customers can’t wash their car without a hose that can self close and shut off or water their lawn when it’s raining). But there are lots of other actions we can take to make the cuts less painful and also become waterwise—and they don’t include illegally tapping hydrants and trucking in water.

  1. Get rid of the grass. A “low-maintenance ground cover will “require less water and little to no maintenance, but they can thrive in poor soil and keep out unwanted weeds,” said Bob Vila. Check out groundcover options here. Unfortunately, rebates that were being offered through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s $350 million augmented funds are no longer available as of last week. “All the money, they said, was spoken for,” according to the L.A Times.
  2. Turf it. Artificial turf can provide the look of grass without the maintenance and some areas offer rebates and incentives. But before you go ripping out your lawn, check with your HOA, or you could end up like this guy.
  3. Don’t want to replace the lawn? Paint it green!
  4. Fix plumbing leaks. Look for excessive water in the gutters or mud puddles in your yard. If it’s an older irrigation system, you can be losing up to 75 percent of the water to leaks.
  5. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. It can save more than 200 gallons a month. The EPA has more ideas you can teach your kids about water savings.
  6. Do the same when lathering your hands with soap.
  7. Shaving in the sink? Fill it up instead of running the water and save hundreds of gallons a month.
  8. Get a pool cover and save up to 720 gallons of water a month that are no longer being lost to evaporation.
  9. Take your dog outside! Giving him a bath in the yard that needs to be watered anyway does double duty.
  10. Replace your washing machine—the second-largest water usage in the home. Look for Energy Star™ models, which can use 35 to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy per load,” said h2ouse.
  11. Install an instant water heater on the kitchen sink. It’s a convenience that also saves water and energy.
  12. Run your dishwasher only when full.
  13. Even better, get a new dishwasher, which can save up to eight gallons of water per load.
  14. Get a new dryer while you’re at it. Potential water savings: 16 gallons per load!
  15. Thaw food in the fridge instead of under running water.
  16. Compost instead of running your garbage disposal.
  17. Check your showerhead. “If your shower can fill a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model,” said Loudon Water.
  18. Get a new toilet. “A newer high-efficiency model can save 38 gallons a day per toilet” if yours is pre-1990, said the San Jose Mercury News.
  19. Recycle the water you use in your fish tank as fertilizer for your plants.
  20. Pull those weeds. They’re stealing water from the plants you do want.
  21. Water when it’s cool out. Many cities have already enforced watering time restrictions. Watering on days that aren’t hot and sunny can help save further.
  22. Don’t hose off your driveway; use a broom instead. Watering may not be allowed anyway, and the bonus is a great arm workout.
  23. Mulch it! You can save up to 250 gallons per month by using it around trees and other landscaping.
  24. Look for drought-tolerant plants. They hold up in the heat, save around 100 gallons of water per week, and succulents are on trend.
  25. Do your pool repairs underwater.
  26. Shorten that shower. Cutting your 10-minute shower in half can save a whopping 25 gallons.
  27. Install a drip system. It will cost a few bucks upfront but save you 120 gallons a month when watering twice a week.

Be sure to check for rebates in your area on the EPA’s WaterSense Rebate Finder page, and the Find Your Local Water Agency page. Some new appliances and water-saving items can save you money, for example, the Los Angeles County Waterworks District offers a $100 rebate on high efficiency clothes washers and weather-based sprinkler controllers.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292