Todd & Lisa Sheppard
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Archive for January 2012

What Does Warren Buffet Think About Buying A Home?

January 30th, 2012   by lisasheppard

Warren Buffet is seen by many as the greatest investor of our time. When he speaks, people listen. Like anyone else in his position of influence, he is criticized by some for using his bullhorn to promote his own business agendas at times. That makes it very interesting when we occasionally learn of how he privately advises those closest to him.

 Such a situation occurred this week. Debbie Bosanek, Warren Buffet’s secretary of 37 years, recently purchased a second home in Surprise, Arizona.

 In an article in the Omaha World Herald, Mrs. Bosanek discussed her reasons for purchasing a second home and the personal advice she received from Mr. Buffet.

 “I just thought it was time to buy a home. Warren tells me that it will be the best opportunity in my lifetime. Mortgage rates are low and prices have dropped dramatically…I share Warren’s view about the future of America, and we believe that our country will do just fine. I’m happy to make this investment.”

The greatest investor of the last century privately has told the people closest to him that buying a home right now will be the best opportunity in [their] lifetime”.

That’s good enough for us. How about you?

Why Deals Die

January 26th, 2012   by lisasheppard

I have seen estimates stating that 29% of deals that go to contract and require a mortgage, don’t close. That number boggles my mind. It means that even after a buyer and seller come to terms on a sale (not an easy feat these days), 3 out of 10 transactions fall apart. What are some of the more common reasons?

  • § Appraisal issues – In many markets, we are still seeing declining values. Appraisers are in a difficult position, and with so many transactions (including seller’s concessions to assist buyers with closing costs) values aren’t always coming in at sales prices.
  • § Short Sales not being approved by the current lender – With so many sellers owing more than their home is worth, buyers’ proposals need to be sanctioned by the lender (who will be receiving less than they are owed). Some of the offers are too low, but often, the lender isn’t local and they really don’t know what the property is worth today.
  • § Bad pre-approvals from the loan officer – Today, loan officers who are not reviewing tax returns, analyzing bank statements, and asking for detailed explanations and documentation on credit blemishes, are truly hurting the customers. Issuing pre-approvals based on the representations of the customer is reckless and a cause for dismay later.
  • § A lack of transparency – Whether it’s a seller or agent not disclosing property issues, or a buyer trying to sneak things by an underwriter, too many people think they can cut corners. That is not the world we live in anymore. Everything is uncovered. Being honest in the beginning, gives you the best chance to overcome obstacles.

It is clear by the numbers that closing loans can be more difficult today. However, with proper planning and integrity, many of the challenges can be dealt with early and successfully. Agents documenting values of the homes, loan officers doing complete reviews of the loan profile up-front, and everyone telling the truth helps get deals to a successful conclusion and avoids horror stories.

Another Bear Turns Bullish In Real Estate

January 25th, 2012   by lisasheppard


Two weeks ago, we posted When the Prophet Says Buy – BUY! In that post, we explained that a major bear on housing, John R. Talbott, is now bullish on the real estate market. Last week, another bear turned bull.

Chris Thornberg, a former UCLA economist and a founding principal of Beacon Economics, was very skeptical of the housing market in 2007. However, in an article by the Orange County Register on January 13th, he is quoted as saying that now is:

“…a great time to buy a home…If you’ve been thinking about buying a condo in Vegas or buying a condo in Miami, buy now.”

We started off 2012 with two of the biggest bears on housing converting to bulls and telling us to BUY NOW! It might just be time to buy!!

Real Estate 2012-Many Positive Outlooks

January 24th, 2012   by lisasheppard

There is a growing belief among many experts that 2012 will be the year housing turns the corner and starts heading in a more positive direction. Whenever we write a post like this, we unleash the hordes of critics who say we are again wearing rose colored glasses or are puppets being controlled by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other industry groups. It is for that reason we will not be covering the projections of those groups. Instead, we want to share the beliefs of other organizations. Washington Post: “Housing Market and Economy Showing Encouraging Signs.” The Wall Street Journal: “From Bottom Up, Signs of Housing Recovery” USA Today: “Housing Outlook is More Upbeat” CoreLogic: “CoreLogic’s chief economist Mark Fleming says housing statistics and the duration of the downturn to date indicate 2012 may be the year the housing market begins to turn the corner.” Freddie Mac: “With the New Year comes a sense of cautious optimism. There are some positive signs in the job market and consumer confidence; housing is starting to raise hopes for continued gradual economic recovery.” Fannie Mae: “The housing sector will likely take incremental steps forward in 2012 …according to economists at Fannie Mae.”

10 Surprising Reasons You Can’t Get A Home

January 23rd, 2012   by lisasheppard

Getting a home signifies financial security and an investment for the future. Owning a home is part of the American Dream. There are some surprising reasons why you can’t get a home.

  1. Down Payment – You may have the required 10%-25% on the asking price of the home you are interested in but how you acquired it and how long you’ve had it could keep you from getting the home. Many times relatives offer young couples the down payment. Lending institutions take this into consideration when looking at the ability of a homeowner to keep up with mortgage payments. Saving the down payment over time lends to the credibility of money management.
  2. Credit– Credit history is an ongoing process. Student loans are one of the first obligations a person may have as an adult. Late payments may have a bearing on your ability to acquire a home later in life. Credit scores are also affected by utility payments. Any recurring bill that is paid late may come back to haunt you even though your financial situation is now more sound. Your debt to income ratio ideally needs to be under 45%. Less than a 3 month asset reserve in a bank account will generally keep you from getting a home. Check your credit score with all 3 agencies and make sure there is nothing being reported incorrectly. You need to aim for a score of 660 or better.
  3. Job Security – Your job history may be why you can’t get a home. Lenders look for stability. If you jump from job to job, regardless of monetary or career improvement, lenders see you as a financial risk. When the economy takes a downward turn, employers tend to retain employees with seniority. Also taken into consideration is the risk of the job.
  4. Parent History – If your parents have a questionable credit history, you may be dealing under their shadow. If parents foreclosed, you may be affected. If they were late with mortgage or credit card payments, you may be looked upon as having the same traits. If you are asked information on parent particulars, you may need to look elsewhere for home financing.
  5. Location – The location of a home may affect whether or not a lender is willing to risk mortgaging it. LNG routes, Super Site areas, fault lines, destructive weather patterns all have bearings on mortgage risks lenders are willing to take on.
  6. Inspection – More and more, home inspections are being required to seal the closing deal. Hopes have been dashed to learn major expenses must be incurred to pass inspection for the approval of the sale.
  7. Condition – Fixer-uppers may offer pricing that appears affordable. If you have no background of construction or home improvement projects completed, lenders are leery to finance such undertakings. They may require a lump sum amount be in an account to cover the improvements necessary to ensure the property does not result in a loss to the lender.
  8. Liens – If you owned property before and were subject to liens for unacceptable reasons such as credit card debt or unpaid taxes, you may not get the home you desire. A current homeowner may also have substantial liens that need to be satisfied at closing either from the sale itself or as additional costs to the buyer.
  9. History – The history of the home may be the deciding factor that keeps a lender from financing in your behalf. A murder, haunting, nearby sinkhole, or other less favorable activity, bear upon the lender’s willingness to finance such a home.
  10. The Bank – Economic conditions and bank lending history may be the reason you can’t get a home. Banks may be leaning toward only very secure clients to up their lending credibility. If a bank turns you down, look to other options before you decide to settle on thinking you can’t get a home. FHA, VHA, or a first time buyer program offer other alternatives for which you may qualify.

If you can’t get a home loan with one lender, chances are good that another institution will also turn you down. You should take some time and work at increasing the good points that will work in your favor. Try again when your situation has improved.

California Homes Sales Rise in Dec 2011

January 20th, 2012   by lisasheppard

For release:
January 17, 2012

California home sales rise in December, posting 11-month sales high, C.A.R. reports

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 17) – California home sales rose for the third consecutive month in December, marking the highest level since January 2011, according to data from the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.).  Sales also were up from a year ago, marking the sixth consecutive annual increase.

“With the economy slowly improving, home buyers – investors and first-time buyers alike – took advantage of affordable  interest rates and made a push to close escrow by the end of year,” said C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold.  “Robust sales over the past few months signal the housing market is treading above water on its own in the first full year without the government stimulus that has helped housing in the last couple of years.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 520,940 in December, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations and MLSs statewide.  December’s sales were up 3.3 percent from November’s revised pace of 504,420 and were up 0.1 percent from the revised 520,330 sales pace recorded in December 2010.  The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2011 if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year.  It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home posted its second consecutive monthly gain, increasing 1.8 percent to $285,920 in December, up from a revised $280,960 in November.  However, the median price was down 6.2 percent from the revised $304,770 median price recorded in December 2010.

“Fourth quarter sales were stronger than we expected, thanks to recent improving consumer confidence and an economy that’s slowly showing signs of growth.  As a result, sales came in slightly above our fall projection,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.  “For 2011 as a whole, sales reached a preliminary 497,860 homes sold statewide, up 1.1 percent from the 492,290 homes sold in 2010.  However, the statewide median price declined 6.3 percent for the year, to reach a preliminary $285,950, down from the revised $305,010 recorded in 2010.

“Home prices are stabilizing for the distressed market, where we see robust demand, but we continue to see downward pressure on home prices in some higher end markets,” said Appleton-Young.

Other key facts of C.A.R.’s December 2011 resale housing report include:

  • Housing inventory remains tight throughout California, with the Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes declining to 4.2 months in December, down from 5.0 months in November and down from a 5.0-month supply in December 2010.  The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.
  • Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 3.96 percent during December 2011, down from 4.71 percent in December 2010, according to Freddie Mac.  Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 2.79 percent in December 2011, compared with 3.31 percent in December 2010.
  • The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home edged up to 58.7 days in December 2011, compared with a revised 58.0 days for the same period a year ago.
  • View Unsold Inventory by price range.

Note:  The County MLS median price and sales data in the tables are generated from a survey of more than 90 associations of REALTORS® throughout the state, and represent statistics of existing single-family detached homes only.  County sales data are not adjusted to account for seasonal factors that can influence home sales.  Movements in sales prices should not be interpreted as changes in the cost of a standard home.  Median prices can be influenced by changes in cost, as well as changes in the characteristics and the size of homes sold.  Due to the low sales volume in some areas, median price changes in December may exhibit unusual fluctuation.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® ( is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with more than 155,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Where Are House Prices Headed in 2012?

January 18th, 2012   by lisasheppard

There is no shortage of opinions as to where home prices are headed in 2012. From Clear Capital’s expectation that prices will show a ‘slight uptick’ this year to Fitch’s projection that prices ‘will fall another 13 percent’, there seems to be no consensus as to where real estate values are headed. How can there be such a disparity of opinion among industry experts? Prices are determined by the relationship between supply and demand and there are many unanswered questions regarding both of these components.

Questions about Demand

Will this be the year that the 5.9 million adults between the ages of 25 and 34 that are still living with their parents decide to purchase a home of their own?

With mortgage payments lower than rent payments in the majority of the country, will first time buyers finally decide it makes more financial sense to buy rather than rent?

Will the baby boomers take advantage of the great deals available and start purchasing vacation and retirement homes?

Will investors continue to purchase large quantities of distressed properties?

Will hedge funds negotiate a deal with the banks for bulk purchases of foreclosures?

Questions about Supply

Will 2012 be the year that builders again increase inventories of newly constructed homes?

Will baby boomers put their primary residences up for sale and relocate to their retirement destinations?

Will 2012 be the year that the shadow inventory of foreclosures finally makes its way to market?

If prices depreciate, it will force more homes into a negative equity situation. Will this create another surge in short sales and foreclosures?

Will the government put together a plan to convert large numbers of foreclosures into rental properties?

Bottom Line

With so many unanswered questions regarding both the demand for housing and supply of properties, it is very difficult to determine where prices will be at the end of the year. We suggest you contact a local real estate professional to help you determine where values are headed in your area.

The Power of Assumability

January 12th, 2012   by lisasheppard


One of the rarely touted advantages of people taking FHA mortgages today is the fact that they are assumable. What that means is, when the FHA homebuyer of today is looking to sell his home, a qualified purchaser can “take over” their loan.

Most people believe that interest rates will return to a “normal” range (between 6.5% and 7%) in a couple of years. When you assume a mortgage, the terms remain the same. This means that a buyer five years from now can enjoy a 4 – 4.5% mortgage by assumption rather than the 6.5% – 7% mortgage they would get without it. Since most people buy homes based on how the monthly payment fits into their personal monthly budget, this is extremely impactful.

As an example, a $300,000 loan at 4% today carries with it a $1,432.25 principal and interest payment on a 30 year fixed mortgage. If offered for sale in five years, the purchaser could assume the $271,858.56 balance with the same $1,432.25 payment and remaining term of 25 years. The total payments over the 25 years would be $429,675.

Compare that to a new $272,000 loan at 6.5% for 25 years, which would carry a monthly payment of $1,836.56 (over $400 more a month than the assumption and more than $120,000 more over the 25 year term).

At 6.5% for 25 years, to wind up with the same payment as the assumed mortgage, our borrowers would only be getting $212,000…$60,000 LESS!

The point here is that, when rates go up, homes with assumable mortgages will have more value and will sell at higher prices because they are more affordable. As an additional bonus, the closing costs on assumable mortgages are significantly less (especially here in New York where NYS Mortgage Tax is such a large component of closing costs).

The borrowers must be credit-worthy of course (have good credit, qualifying income, and necessary assets to close), but they would have to be credit-worthy to get a new mortgage too!

Besides the multiple other reasons to obtain an FHA mortgage (low down payment requirements, extended income ratios, lower credit scores, and easier sourcing of funds), there is another perk. In the future, there is a good chance that you may be able to sell your home for more money because of the FHA loan’s assumability.

People Are Buying Homes AND GETTING MORTGAGES!

January 11th, 2012   by lisasheppard


Many believe that very few houses are selling and that almost no one can get a mortgage. We want to let everyone know that neither of these assumptions is true. Recently, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Homes Sales Report. According to the report there are, on average, 12,109 homes selling in the United States EACH and EVERY DAY! That means that approximately 12,000 houses sold yesterday, approximately 12,000 will sell today and approximately 12,000 will sell tomorrow. So the thinking that homes aren’t selling just isn’t true.

Another interesting fact in the report was that 72% of these transactions were accompanied by a mortgage. That means that approximately 8,719 people qualify for a mortgage on a daily basis in this country.

There are over 12,000 homes sold and over 8,000 mortgages granted every day. The real estate market is doing better than many believe.

In Real Estate, Keeping Current Matters!

January 10th, 2012   by lisasheppard

There is too much misinformation being spread about today’s real estate market. Studies are being misinterpreted. Prominent names are being used to foster a point even if their quote is from years ago.

As an example, we want to look at a story published last week by The Fiscal Times titled The New American Dream: Rent, Don’t Buy. In the article, they claim:

“Call it the Big Selloff—America is headed toward a future in which fewer people own the spaces they call home… Those trends are just the beginning.”

We are not arguing that the homeownership rate is under downward pressure in this country. We are disputing some of the ‘evidence’ used in the article. Here are three points we want to refute:

The Homeownership Rate IS NOT in a Freefall

The article quotes a Morgan Stanley study from July 2011 which did make the argument that the homeownership rate was trending downward. Many others made the same point at that time.  What the article failed to mention is that the homeownership rate unexpectedly increased in the third quarter of 2011! As DSNews reported in early November:

“After falling to a 13-year low during the second quarter, the homeownership rate posted a highly unexpected rise in the third quarter, according to a Census Bureau report.”

The jury is still out as to whether the homeownership rate will continue to fall or whether it has already bottomed out.

The Founders of Case-Shiller ARE NOT Saying Renting is Better

In the article mentioned above, they claim that the team that founded the prestigious Case-Shiller Pricing Index believes that buying makes little sense. The article explains that back in 2006 Robert Shiller presented a study based on data collected prior to 2005 showing that, over time, it made more sense to rent than buy. They use this information to conclude:

 “Another skeptic is Yale economist Robert Shiller, co-creator of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index.”

They claim Shiller is a skeptic today based on what he said six years ago!

The major challenge we have with this is that Karl Case, the other founder of the Case Shiller Index, came out ten days ago saying that now is the time to buy. The New York Times in a story published on 12/30/2011 quotes Professor Case as saying:

“If you’re buying a house or apartment to live in and pay for over time, and can afford the payments, then it’s a terrific time to buy.”

Beracha and Johnson DID NOT Conclude That You Shouldn’t Buy

The Fiscal Times article went on to say:

“And in a paper this June in the journal Real Estate Economics, two researchers calculated that over the past 30 years, most often it would have been better to rent than buy.”

They were referring to the great study done by Beracha and Johnson titled Lessons from Over 30 Years of Buy versus Rent Decisions: Is the American Dream Always Wise? We are very familiar with this study as we posted on it back in May of last year. The paper does explain that over the last thirty years the financial benefits of buying vs. renting could be debated.

However, the conclusion of the paper left no room for argument. According to professors Beracha and Johnson, NOW IS THE TIME TO BUY!

“(F)undamental drivers now appear to be in place that favor homeownership over renting in the near term future…

“[This] might seem unwise to many given the recent crash in the real estate markets around the country. However, rent-to-price ratios now seem to be in place along with other fundamental drivers that favor ownership over renting.”

They conclude their research paper with this sentence:

“Conditions (historically low mortgage rates and relatively low rent-to-price ratios) now seem in place to favor future purchases.”

Dr. Johnson, Ph.D. — Florida International University (FIU) and Editor of the Journal of Housing Research, is now a guest blogger on this site and in November shared with us his current presentation on this issue. To download the presentation, go to

Bottom Line

We attempt to keep our readers current on this very rapidly evolving housing market with this blog, our tweets, our facebook posts and our subscription service. The letters K-C-M preface each offering. They actually stand for ‘keeping current matters’. We believe that helping our followers stay on top of the latest information available will help correct the housing market.