Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Home Buyers - Forget Wall Street and Main Street, How About Opportunity Street?

This week has made me feel a bit like this hamster. Running, running, running…but still in basically the same place. Trying to re-boot this mentality, I thought I’d do some market research for this gorgeous area I live and work in, Southern Oregon.

Just out of curiosity, I thought I would go explore how many homes are on the market in the Rogue Valley that might suit the entry-level buyer. Imagine my surprise when I had to cut the criteria back over and over again after finding 700+ homes for sale under $200,000! Narrowing in to categories, I found:

75 homes on the market priced from $ 90,000-135,000
73 homes on the market priced from $135,000-155,000
118 homes on the market priced from $155.000-170,000
302 homes on the market priced from $170,000-200,000

When was the last time Southern Oregon buyers have had the opportunity to find homes - this many homes! - available in these price ranges? My criteria stipulated 2+ bedrooms and residential, so this includes houses, townhomes/condominiums, and manufactured homes on land. It also includes a home for $154,900 in Ashland Oregon! And 8 homes built in 2003 or later in Medford Oregon priced from $170,000-200,000!

I saw so many potential buyers miss the boat in Southern California after the market picked up again after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994 and again after the 2001-2002 market slow down. I sure hope home buyers looking to purchase in our many fine Southern Oregon Cities – Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Medford, Central Point, White City, Eagle Point, Shady Cove, Gold Hill, Rogue River, Grants Pass, Merlin, Cave Junction, and Applegate/Ruch – don’t miss the boat this time around, while sidelined by the often times inaccurate portrayals they are reading/hearing/seeing in the news!

Tools are available, like Oregon Bond Loan and USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan. Financing IS available.

See you at the closing table!

Karen Cooper – OR/CA Mortgage Consultant –

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is It Time For Your Senior Parents/Grandparents to Simplify Their Home Life?

Do you have a parent or grandparent who is one of the 65,000+ Jackson County Oregon residents aged 50+? Population Growth for the Rogue Valley has averaged over 1.5% per year. One segment is the 50+ age group, a group which represents roughly 33% of the residents of Jackson County’s estimated 199,295 residents in 2007.

Age Characteristics (from City of Medford Comprehensive Plan)
"In 2000, the majority of cities in Jackson County had a greater percentage of residents under age 18 than over age 65, including Medford. However, Jackson County had a lower percentage of residents under age 39 (51%) than Oregon (56%), but a higher percentage of residents over age 50 (33%) than Oregon (29%). This suggests that Jackson County, including Medford, is attracting people who have retired or are soon to retire. Baby boomers (aged 45 to 64) were the fastest growing age group in all of the cities in Jackson County in the 1990s, except for Medford, Talent, and White City. Medford, Talent, and Central Point had the greatest increase in younger residents - under age 44. Medford experienced the highest growth in the County in the 5 to 17 age group, which grew by 3,627 - a 44% increase."
Information Source: 2000 Federal Census via Jackson County Comprehensive Plan, 2007Population Element

With the phenomenal Quality of Life we have here in Southern Oregon, our net migration numbers are some of the highest in the State of Oregon. Many of the 50+ group migrating to the Rogue Valley are active residents still part of the workforce drawn here for the many options available to them to fulfill outdoor interests while having their economic and health care needs met. Some of these folks are focused on the future, knowing when they reach the stage of their lives where they no longer will be living independently there are a multitude of options available to them in Southern Oregon.

There are a large variety of facilities available for those looking to move from their current home in to a home where they will receive the care they may need – from regularly housekeeping to meals to full medical care. Tools are available to help you research the quality of care in these facilities, such as Medicare’s facility inspection results and additional reports/information you may obtain by contacting the DHS or Area Agency on Aging local office and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program at (800) 522-2602.

If part of the process associated with moving your loved one out of their home includes exploring financing options or the sale of the home, it is critical you look for professionals familiar with these transactions. For the sale of the home, you should work with a real estate broker with the Senior Real Estate Specialist designation who not only has made the effort to obtain the specific training and information for these special types of transactions, but comes highly recommended by other families they have worked with on these types of transactions.

As with all real estate transactions, surrounding yourself with the right team will make what can be a complex process a smooth one.

See you out there!

Karen Cooper – OR/CA Mortgage Consultant –

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Can Ashland Oregon Buyers Still Get 100% Financing in October 2008?

Can a home buyer looking to purchase a home in Ashland Oregon still find 100% financing? You bet! The variety of program options we have had available to us in the past are not as prevalent, but there are options available, such as the Federal VA home loan program and the USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing program.

Let's take a look at how a buyer looking to purchase a home in Ashland Oregon who meets the current income criteria shown below may successfully become a homeowner using the USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing program, using this 30 year fixed rate loan that does not require mortgage insurance.

STATE: OREGON ------------------- A D J U S T E D I N C O M E L I M I T S --------------------
MOD.INC-GUAR.LOAN 49550 56600 63700 70750 76400 82050 87750 93400

Say, this buyer is a family of 4 persons and is looking at an Ashland home that is selling for $280,000. This home cannot be a condominium, townhome or existing manufactured home (even if it is on land) - it needs to be a detached, single-family residence. If today's 30 year fixed interest rate on the USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing program is at 6.50%, the monthly payment would be roughly $2,070 including principal and interest and estimated homeowners insurance and property tax payments.

Not too many homes available that meet this criteria in Ashland Oregon who is struggling with a lack of affordable housing options for its citizens, but there are several available right now, like an Oak Knoll home built in 1996 near the Oak Knoll Golf course!

Since this program works outside of Medford and Central Point (doesn't work in these city limits since they are not rural), there are many more options available for the serious buyer willing to expand the area they wish to buy in.

Are you a serious buyer? Do you want to take advantage of the $7,500 tax credit you may be eligible for before it expires in July 2009? Do you want to take advantage of historically low interest rates before we all end up having to pay for the costs associated with the bailouts that I believe will eventually carry over to us all and raise interest rates? What are you waiting for!? Shut off the TV and Radio, get preapproved today, and go get your home!

See you at the closing table!

Karen Cooper - OR/CA Mortgage Consultant -

Friday, October 17, 2008

Documentary Transfer Tax To Help Fund Affordable Housing – Aye or Nay?

It appears that in our area, our citizens may shortly be finding it necessary to address yet another attempt at getting a Documentary Transfer Tax through to help fund affordable housing. This is not the first attempt for us, and if it isn’t passed, will likely not be the last attempt. Housing prices exceed sustainable levels based on area incomes in many areas, with market forces driving out the lower income range families - and often times the working families. Having experienced both sides of this coin, both the strong needs communities have for affordable housing for their citizens and the increasing burden being passed along to the “have mores”, I must say I’m very torn over the issue

One of the cities I have lived and worked in during the past is Redondo Beach, California. This high housing cost area in Los Angeles County had a $1.10 County documentary transfer tax AND a $2.20 City documentary transfer tax. With a current median priced home of $695,000 as of August 2008, this would add $2,293.50 to a seller’s closing costs, since they are the one who typically pays this charge. Take this one step further, and if Redondo Beach had 80 homes change hands in August 2008 for a total of $55,600,000 in sales that generated $183,480 in city and county documentary transfer taxes for that month (August 2007, that number would have been 13-23% higher depending on the data source, but that’s a different topic!). That should help create a fair amount of affordable housing to help support lower income families, including senior citizens, don’t you think? I was 22 years old when I lived in Redondo Beach, and I remember afforbale housing being an issue even back then. And that was when the median priced home was a third of what it is today! I couldn’t find the current number of available homes on the City Housing Agency’s website and haven’t heard back from them yet after e-mailing the question, but if they have 1,100 families on their waiting list, however many units they have is not enough.

But, $2,293.50 is a pretty stiff bill to add to a transaction that already has several other necessary charges associated with it – escrow, title, recording, inspections, etc. – other closing costs that are already in excess of around $5,000 BEFORE this tax or commissions get added, and not including the sellers’ recurring charges.

- Does ALL the revenue from these taxes go to affordable housing?
- If $695,000 is the median, what the heck is deemed affordable?
- Is this tax waived when affordable housing is no longer able to be provided? (yeah right, but thought I’d throw the thought out there)

What say you? Which side do you weigh in on – for or against? Do you have better solutions than this funding source for affordable housing?

Oregon citizens have shown again and again they do not want this tax here. We could use some alternative ideas.

See you out there!

Karen Cooper – OR/CA Mortgage Consultant –

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rogue Valley For Sale By Owners, Want Some Free Marketing?

Okay, Rogue Valley homeowners, have you decided to put your home on the market “For Sale By Owner”? There are many reasons home sellers choose to go this route when selling their home. Today, often times, the decision to go “FSBO” is made due to current market values in relation to the amount of your loan balance.

If you would like some free home seller tips and tools I’ve gathered in my 25 years in the real estate/finance industry, please contact me.

See you at the closing table!

Karen Cooper – OR/CA Mortgage Consultant –

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is it just me, or are you also getting drawn in to the panic in the masses? Part of my day now is dedicated to actively tuning out the negativity and keeping my eye on the ball. Most days, this requires minimal effort, and I just keep on running this race I'm in. Once in a while, I find that effort is so great it has me feeling tired and drained before I even step out my front door. Yesterday was one of those days.

Friday, while spending time on learning new techniques to broaden my horizons, I slipped and clicked on the DJIA report I caught out of the corner of my eye while reading another article. As with mortgage and real estate "news", to date I've had a very careful sifting process in place. Out of necessity I've developed a pretty good suit of armor to wear these past 18 months. But yesterday, drawn in to this "impossibility" of a further 10% drop in the stocks in a single day, heart dropping to my toes, before completing reading the associated article, I found myself dialing our financial advisor's phone number for the first time in a long time.

-Have we sunk our heads too far in the sand?
-Should we be joining the stampede racing to cash positions?
-Will we have time to replenish these disappearing funds before we retire and still send our child to college?
-Should we fire our financial advisor because they didn't call us in advance to recommend other strategies/positions for us?

With visions of sugar plums no longer dancing in my head, setting aside my embarrassment that I may have slipped in to an irrational moment of panic, I spent 40 minutes on the phone with our financial advisor. Mind you, Warren Buffett we are not and we don't have tremendous amounts in these accounts, but they are our retirement funds! With my husband on the backside of his 5th decade, and me watching this impending decade race up on me, we're paying much closer attention to this stuff than we have in previous recessionary periods.

The analogy our financial advisor used - over and over again - to settle me down was making our decisions whether or not to liquidate in to cash positions while "flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet". Pull ourselves up and look down on what's happening below. Do we still believe in a capitalistic system? Do we believe the companies we own shares of still have the fundamentals we seek and will at the end of the day continue to be profitable?

Like my crystal ball, our financial advisor's is just as foggy. But, they still have some skin in the game, too.

I say thank God for antibacterial ointment and Band-Aids, because I still want to play, both in the mortgage/real estate industry and in the stock market. I've always loved a good roller coaster ride!

See you at the closing table!

Karen Cooper-OR/CA Mortgage

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bailout or Toilet Plunger? What Does the Passing of L.P.T.A.P.M.A.* Mean to Us Soccer Moms and Joe Six Pack?

Do you think “Bailout” is a good term to describe L.P.T.A.P.M.A.*? This very painful pill we all get to swallow seems rather enormous, even bigger than my Flaxseed Oil and Fish Oil dietary supplements. But like the reasons for taking my dietary supplements, is it necessary to keep our economy healthy?

Having grown from 4 pages to 451 pages, maybe the proposal is now powerful enough to act as a toilet plunger to help unclog our national credit toilet. Depending on which economist you check with, the US economy may or may not be in a recession. My guess is when the latest data available is reflected, the decision will become unanimous – we are in a recession.

As difficult as this pill is to swallow, and I must admit my first instinct was to say “let it ride” and see where the cards may fall, I think the “Credit Market Restructuring Plan” (much better than “Bailout”, don’t you think?) will aid the major block we’re facing in the credit markets.
-Have you noticed the zero percent balance transfer offers are drying up?
-Tried to get a no cost home equity line of credit lately?
-How about short term business financing?
The rules in the credit game have changed dramatically, and although we could debate the pros and cons of this to eternity, overall I think this correction has swung too far the other direction. Now, creditworthy solid borrowers are finding it difficult to get the funding they want.

Although the best laid plans do sometimes go awry, maybe this restructuring plan will thaw out the frozen credit markets, speeding up the necessary recovery process. Here in Southern Oregon, homes are moving again, albeit it at a snails pace. Our illustrious US representatives got our Timber Funding extended for 4 years and tax credits for the manufacturer of children’s wooden arrows, so we’re set now, right (tongue in cheek just got bitten)? Let’s get the Master Plunger and blast this clog through, and see a reasonable flow in the markets again!


See you at the closing table!
Karen Cooper – OR/CA Mortgage Consultant –