Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase

April 17, 2010

I am so proud of Mar Vista.; this is a great event, and they have been offering the Sustainable Works programs that were developed in Santa Monica. I hope you can join me for this year’s Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase to see how residents in our community are combating California’s water crisis through drought resistant landscaping.

 Free self-guided walking and biking tours through 79 private Mar Vista resident gardens offers a firsthand look at a variety of sustainable, drought-resistant landscapes. As a model community for water wise best management practices, Mar Vista has been at the forefront of Los Angeles’ most progressive water conservation measures which include hosting a Water Wise Use Expo and participating as the first neighborhood in the City’s Rainwater Harvesting Pilot Program.

 Click marvistagreengardenshowcase.blogspot.com for a preview of the gardens and a map of the locations to plan your own tour. Choose a walking, biking or driving tour, or select the gardens that showcase solutions that you may be considering. Look for the flags with the Mar Vista Community Council  (MVCC) logo in front of each house on the day of the tour:

   Sunday, April 25  2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

 This is a wonderful opportunity to get some fresh air and some fresh ideas about how you can take steps to save water while at the same time greening your garden.

Earth Hour Saturday, April 8, at 8:30 pm

March 26, 2010

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour. In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative. Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.

Preparing for Home Ownership

March 15, 2010

1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.

2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.

 3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.

 4. Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.

6. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.

7. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to pre-approved you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.

 8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal. Can you receive a gift from family?

 9. Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.

10. Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process.  Not everyone real estate agent is a Realtor®.  Contact me today for more info: 310-398-2332,

3rd Annual Home Buyer’s Fair

March 4, 2010

It is that time of year again:

LOS ANGELES  – The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) and the Los Angeles Times are sponsoring the third annual Southern California Home Buyer’s Fair at the Los Angeles Convention Center March 13 and 14.

Time: Sat. 10-5 pm, sun. 11-4 pm. Concourse Hall, 1201 S. Figueroa St, LA, 90015

For more info visit: homebuyersfair.com

It’s free, but pay to park.

California Real Estate buyer tax credit

March 3, 2010

H.R. 3548 provides both for the extension of the first-time homebuyer tax credit and expansion of it to qualified non-first-time buyers as well.  A few of the provisions of this new law include the following: 

(1)  Both the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit and the $6,500 tax credit for “move-up” buyers (see 4 below) would sunset on April 30, 2010. However, purchasers who have binding contracts as of April 30, 2010 (before May 1, 2010), would still qualify for the credit as long as they complete the transaction within 60 days (or June 30, 2010).

(2)  The amendment establishes income limits of $125,000 for an individual or $225,000 for a couple for both credits.

(3)  The cost of the home being purchased cannot exceed $800,000 for both categories in order to be eligible for the credit. 

(4)  “Move up” buyers (an individual or his/her spouse, if married) are qualified if he/she “has owned and used the same residence as such individual’s principal residence for any 5-consecutive-year period during the 8-year period ending on the date of the purchase of a subsequent principal residence.”

For purchases made in 2010, taxpayers would be able to claim the credit on their 2009 income tax return. Homebuyers would not have to repay the credit, provided the home remains their principal residence for 36 months after the purchase date. However, this recapture provision would not apply in the case of a member of the Armed Forces, military intelligence or Foreign Service who is on qualified official extended duty. In addition, members of the military who have been deployed overseas for 90 days or more in 2008 or 2009 would have until April 30, 2011, to claim the homebuyer tax credit.

The amendment also includes anti-fraud language that gives the IRS the authority to do greater oversight during the processing of the return rather than waiting for an audit situation. The amendment requires the taxpayer claiming the credit to be 18 or older and requires a HUD-1 settlement statement to be attached when claiming the credit.

Ideas for your garden

March 1, 2010

Many homeowners think that a new landscaping project will cost them a great deal of time and money. While it’s true that there’s no end to the ways one can spend money on landscaping, there are many things you can do to improve your yard at relatively little expense. All it takes is a little planning and a couple of days of good weather. Rethink your walkway: Even if you can’t dig up your walkway or change the direction of your entranceway, consider creating a welcoming path to your door using plants, border fencing, or other treatments. Add new flowerbeds to your lawn: Sketch your plans for the new beds and consider creating attention with intriguing shapes. Install new lighting: Fixtures don’t have to be the expensive type – they just need to be strategically placed to highlight features and to create awareness. Decorate freely: Use rocks, driftwood, outdoor art, a fountain or birdbath to provide visual anchors and points of interest. Get neighborly input (and plant contributions): Ask friends, neighbors and relatives for advice, and don’t refuse plant transplants from their perennial gardens (but pay special attention to seasonal foliage, hardiness, etc.).  Since we have many years with little rainfall (not this year)I would also advise you to do some research on drought tolerant or native plants.  The Sunset Garden Book is a great resource , as well as TheodorePayne.org which has a nursery and demonstration gardens in Sun Valley.  Their Native Plant tour is April 10-11 .   Culver  City Garden Club has a meeting the first Tuesday of every month, at 7:30 pm in the Garden Room of the Culver City Veteran’s Building located at Culver Blvd. and Overland.  You can go to the meetings for free or join for $12/year, $18 for 2 people.  They have plant raffles at every meeting.  The Coral Tree is Los Angeles office tree, not the Palm Tree.  Bird if Paradies is our official flower.  Gardening can be a very relaxing past time, just try not to over do it.

For info on what your house in Los Angeles is worth or to search your new home go to my site DonnaBenton.com.  310-398-2332

Do I have to give the buyer my furniture?

February 11, 2010

It is a good idea to begin this conversation with your agent before your property hits the market.  There are laws on the books about what is a fixture: “The California legislature has declared that a thing is affixed to the land when it is attached and imbedded into a wall permanently by means of cement, plaster, nails, bolts and screws is a fixture.  Also, it is affixed to the land so as to be regarded as a permanent part of it, such as a building, a tree or bridge, as well as anything that is similarly affixed to an already affixed object such as the doors of a building, or permanently installed cabinets, or built-in appliances”.   California Department of Real Estate Reference Guide.

So how does this affect you?  You may have a lovely chandelier in your dining room that was given to you by a family member and it holds strong sentimental value, the best advice is to remove it and put another one in its place.  Invariably the new buyer will want what you want.  You should have your agent insert the exclusion in your contract with your agent and in the MLS.  I have had buyers ask for flat screen TV’s, patio furniture (a lot of furniture), bar stools, furniture, fish in the coy pond.  Jokingly, some buyer’s upon first seeing the house may ask for the family pet or that fantastic car in driveway.   The most common requests are for the refrigerator, washer, dryer and stove, and sometimes fireplace equipment, which may match the fireplace screen. Some refrigerators and stoves are built-in, or built as part of the structure, and it would damage framing around these items to remove them.   I had one transaction in 22 years where the lender disallowed the transfer of the washer, dryer and ‘frig, and considered them personal property.  All we had to do was remove the items from the contract.  If there are a number of items, for instance, a house full of furniture, the lender may ask for it to be taken out of the contract as they lend on real estate and not personal property.  Some buyers offer to buy some of the seller’s personal items.

If you think about when you bought your home the thought of forking out more money after the closing may not figure into your budget.  You might be able to ask for them on a subsequent purchase.

For info on what your house in Los Angeles is worth or to search your new home go to my site DonnaBenton.com.

Real Estate 101 Glossary V-Z

December 31, 2009

The last blog  of the year with the last letters of this glossary.  Thank you for joining me this year and have a Happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

VACANCY RATE   The current percentage of vacant properties in a given area, regardless of why they are vacant.

VA MORTGAGE  A mortgage that is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VARIANCE   An exception to municipal zoning regulations granted for a specific time period to allow for non-conforming use of the land.

VENT PIPE   A pipe allowing gas to escape.

VESTED   Having the right to use a portion of a fund such as an IRA. Typically vesting occurs over time. If you are 100% vested, you have a right to 100% of the fund.

VETERANS AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF (VA)   The successor to the Veteran’s Administration, this government agency is responsible for ensuring the rights and welfare of our nation’s veterans and their dependents. Among other duties, the VA insures home loans made to veterans.

VOLTAGE   An expression of electric force, or pressure. One volt being the force needed to move one amp against one ohm resistance.

WALK-THROUGH INSPECTION   A process whereby an appraiser examines a property in preparation for estimating its value. Also, the process of inspecting a property for any damage prior to that property being bought or sold.

WARRANTY   An affidavit given to stipulate the condition of a property. The person giving the warranty assumes liability if the condition turns out to be untrue.

WATT   An expression of amount of electrical power. Volt times amps equals watts.

WEAR AND TEAR   A term used to indicate the normal damage inflicted on a property through every-day use.

WEATHER STRIPPING   Material used around windows and doors to prevent drafts.

WEEP HOLE  Drainage hole that allows water to escape.

ZERO LOT LINE   A municipal zoning category wherein a building or other fixture may abut the property line.

ZONE   A specific area within a municipality or other jurisdiction which conforms to certain guidelines regarding the use of property in the zone. Typical zones include single-family, multi-family, industrial, commercial and mixed-use.

Real Estate 101 Glossary S-V

December 17, 2009

We are coming down to the end of the alphabet.

SALE PRICE   
The actual price a property sells for, exclusive of any special financing concessions.

SALES COMPARISON APPROACH   
An appraisal practice which estimates the value of a property by comparing it to comparable properties which have sold recently.

SCARCITY   
An economic principal that dictates the price of a good or service through the interaction of supply and demand. When an item is scarce, its price tends to rise, given a constant demand. Real Estate is a classic example of scarcity.

SECOND MORTGAGE  
A loan secured by the equity in a home, when a primary mortgage already exists.

SECONDARY MORTGAGE MARKET   
An economic marketplace where mortgage bankers buy and sell existing mortgages.

SECURED LOAN   
A loan that is backed by collateral. In the case of a mortgage loan, the collateral is the house.

SECURITY   
The property used as collateral for a loan.

SEMIDETACHED HOUSING   
Two residences which share a common wall.

SERVICER   
A financial institution which collects mortgage payments from borrowers and applies the appropriate portions to principal, interest and any escrow accounts.

SERVICING   
The processing of payments, mailing of monthly statements, management and disbursement of escrow funds etc Typically carried out by the company you make payments to.

SHEATHING   
The covering on outside walls beneath the siding or exterior finish such as stucco.

SHEETROCK   
Also called drywall, the gypsum board commonly used on interior walls.

SHORT SALE   When a borrower owes more on a mortgage than their home is worth and are financially unable to continue making the mortgage payments.  In order for this to sell, the borrower’s lender would have to agree to take less than it owed on the property and pay seller’s closing fees.

SILL PLATE   
The lumber used around the foundation to support exterior wall framing.

SILL COCK   
Garden hose pipe connection.

SINGLE-FAMILY PROPERTY   
A property designed and built to support the habitation of one family.

SOFFIT  
The underside of a cornice at the eaves.

STUCCO   
A textured plaster exterior (and occasionally interior) wall finish.

STUD   
A vertical framing piece in a wall, generally 2×4 lumber in interior walls.

SUBDIVISION   
A residential development that is created from a piece of land which has been subdivided into individual lots.

SUBJECT PROPERTY   
A term which indicates a property which is being appraised.

SUMP   
A basin into which water drains and from which the water is pumped out.

SURVEY   
A specific map of a piece of property which includes the legal boundaries and any improvements or features of the land. Surveys also depict any rights-of-way, encroachments or easements.

SWEAT EQUITY   
The method whereby a home owner develops equity in a property, either during the purchase or throughout its life, by personally constructing improvements rather than paying to have them built.

TAX-EXEMPT PROPERTY   
Any property which is not taxed.

TENANCY   Back to top
The right to occupy a building or unit.

TENANCY IN COMMON   
A form of holding title, whereby there are two or more people on title to a property, ownership does not pass on to the others upon the death of one individual.

THIRD PARTY ORIGINATION   
When a lender uses a third party to originate and package loans for sale to the secondary market (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac).

TITLE   
A specific document which serves as proof of ownership.

TITLE COMPANY   
An organization which researches and certifies ownership of real estate before it is bought or sold. Title companies also act at the facilitator ensures all parties are paid during the real estate transaction.

TITLE INSURANCE   
A policy which insures a property owner should a prior claim arise against the property after the purchase has been completed. This also covers a lender should a question of ownership arise.

TITLE SEARCH   
The process whereby the TITLE COMPANY researches a properties title history and ensures that no outstanding claims exist.

TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP   
Any means by which the ownership of a property changes hands.

TRANSFER OF TAX   
Taxes payable when title passes from one owner to another.

TRAP   
A bend in water pipe.

TRUSTEE   
A fiduciary that holds or controls property for the benefit of another.

TRUTH IN LENDING   
A federal law requiring full disclosure by lenders to borrowers of all terms, conditions and costs of a mortgage.

TUDOR   
A style of architecture typified by exposed stone, wood and brick construction. Similar in style to English manor homes.

UNDER IMPROVED LAND   
A piece of land which has been improved, but not to the full extent of its potential.

UNENCUMBERED PROPERTY   
Any property which has no outstanding claims or liens against it.

UNIFORM STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONAL APPRAISAL PRACTICE (USPAP)   
Developed in 1986 by the Ad Hoc Committee on Uniform Standards and copyrighted in 1987 by The Appraisal Foundation, USPAP forms the guidelines followed by every licensed and certified real estate appraiser in the United States. The purpose of these Standards is to establish requirements for professional appraisal practice, which includes appraisal, appraisal review, and appraisal consulting. The intent of these Standards is to promote and maintain a high level of public trust in professional appraisal practice.

USEFUL LIFE   
The span of time over which a property can be used or can provide benefits to its owner.

VACANCY RATE   
The current percentage of vacant properties in a given area, regardless of why they are vacant.

VA MORTGAGE   
A mortgage that is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VARIANCE   
An exception to municipal zoning regulations granted for a specific time period to allow for non-conforming use of the land.

VENT PIPE   
A pipe allowing gas to escape.

VESTED   
Having the right to use a portion of a fund such as an IRA. Typically vesting occurs over time. If you are 100% vested, you have a right to 100% of the fund.

VETERANS AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF (VA)   
The successor to the Veteran’s Administration, this government agency is responsible for ensuring the rights and welfare of our nation’s veterans and their dependents. Among other duties, the VA insures home loans made to veterans.

VOLTAGE  
An expression of electric force, or pressure. One volt being the force needed to move one amp against one ohm resistance.

Real Estate 101 glossary P-R

November 28, 2009

Here we are after Thanksgiving.  Forget the turkey, I was stuffed.

PARTIAL INTEREST   A shared ownership in a piece of property. May be divided among two or more parties.

PARTIAL PAYMENT   A payment of less than the regular monthly amount. Usually, a lender will not accept partial payments.

PERIODIC PAYMENT CAP   The limit on how much regular monthly payments on an Adjustable Rate Mortgage can change during one adjustment period.

PERIODIC RATE CAP   The limit on how much the interest rate on an Adjustable Rate Mortgage can change during any one adjustment period.

PERSONAL PROPERTY Owned items which are not permanently affixed to the land.

PERSONAL RESIDENCE   The primary domicile of a person or family.

PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT (PUD)   A coordinated, real estate development where common areas are shared and maintained by an owner’s association or other entity.

PLAT   A plan or chart of a piece of land which lays out existing or planned streets, lots or other improvements.

POINT   A percentage of a mortgage amount (one point = 1 percent).

PRE-APPROVAL   The process of applying for a mortgage loan and becoming approved for a certain amount at a certain interest rate before a property has been chosen. Pre-approval allows the borrower greater freedom in negotiations with sellers.

PREFABRICATED  Any building or portion thereof which is manufactured and assembled off site, then erected on a property.

PREPAYMENT  Payment made that reduces the principal balance of a loan before the due date and before the loan has become fully amortized.

PREPAYMENT PENALTY   A fee that may be charged to a borrower who pays off a loan before it is due.

PRE-QUALIFICATION   Less formal that pre-approval, pre-qualification usually means a written statement from a loan officer indicating his or her opinion that the borrower will be able to become approved for a mortgage loan.

PRIME RATE   The interest rate that banks and other lending institutions charge other banks or preferred customers.

PRINCIPAL   The amount owed on a mortgage which does not include interest or other fees.

PRINCIPAL BALANCE   The outstanding balance of principal on a mortgage. Does not included interest due.

PRINCIPAL, INTEREST, TAXES, AND INSURANCE (PITI)   The most common constituents of a monthly mortgage payment.

PRIVATE MORTGAGE INSURANCE (PMI)  A form of mortgage insurance provided by private, non-government entities. Normally required when the LOAN TO VALUE RATIO is less that 20%.

PROPERTY  Any item which is owned or possessed.

PURCHASE AGREEMENT   A written contract signed by the buyer and seller stating the terms and conditions under which a property will be sold.

QUADRAPLEX  Any building designed to accommodate four families.

QUALIFYING RATIOS   Two ratios used in determining credit worthiness for a mortgage loan. One is the ratio of a borrower’s monthly housing costs to monthly income. The other is a ratio of all monthly debt to monthly income.

QUITCLAIM DEED   A legal document which transfers any ownership an individual has in a piece of property. Often used when the amount of ownership is not known or is unclear.

RAFTER  A structural element of the roof, sloping from the peak to the outer walls.

RANCH HOUSE   An architectural style typified by a single-story, low-roof construction. Popular in the western U.S.

RATE LOCK   A guarantee from a lender of a specific interest rate for a period of time.

RAW LAND   Any land which has not been developed.

REAL ESTATE   A piece of land and any improvements or fixtures located on that land.

REAL ESTATE AGENT   A licensed professional who facilitates the buying and selling of real estate.

REAL ESTATE SETTLEMENT PROCEDURES ACT (RESPA)  A federal law requiring lenders to give full disclosure of closing costs to borrowers.

REAL PROPERTY   Land, improvements and appurtenances, and the interest and benefits thereof.

REALTOR®  A real estate agent or broker who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS®.

RECEPTACLE   An electrical outlet to plug into.

RECORDER   A local government employee whose role it is to keep records of all real estate transactions within the jurisdiction.

RECORDING   The filing of a real estate transaction with the appropriate government agent (normally the RECORDER). A real estate transaction is considered final when it is recorded.

REFINANCE TRANSACTION   A new loan to pay off an existing loan. Typically to gain a lower interest rate or convert equity into cash.

REGISTER   Where air from a furnace or air conditioning system enters the room.

RELOCATION SERVICE   Any company or agency that assists corporate employees in relocating from one place to another. Services may include hiring and coordinating real estate agents, moving companies, utilizes and the like.

REMAINING BALANCE   Back to top
The amount of principal, interest and other costs that has not yet been repaid.

REMAINING TERM   The amount of time remaining on the original amortization schedule.

REMODEL   An activity designed to improve the value or desirability of a property through rebuilding, refurbishing, redecorating or adding on to it.

REPAYMENT PLAN   A plan to repay delinquent payments, agreed upon between a lender and borrower, in an effort to avoid foreclosure.

REPLACEMENT RESERVE FUND  An account, or fund, setup for the replacement of short life items, such as carpeting, in the common areas of a cooperative property.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY  A piece of property whose highest and best use is the maintenance of a residence.

REVOLVING DEBT   A type of credit that allows the borrower/customer to make charges against a predetermined line of credit. The customer then pays monthly installments on the amount borrowed, plus interest.

RIDGE BOARD   The structural member of a roof where the rafters join at the top.

RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL   An agreement giving a person the first opportunity to buy or lease a property before the owner offers it for sale to others.

ROOF PITCH   The degree of slope in a roof.

RURAL  An area outside of an established urban area or metropolitan district.