Wednesday, May 28, 2008

U.S. Lawsuit vs. National Association of Realtors Online Listing Policy Is Being Settled (5-27-08)

The U.S. antitrust lawsuit filed against the National Association of Realtors in 2005 has reached a proposed settlement, May 27, 2008, that calls for the adoption of a new online listings policy.

The lawsuit had challenged the NAR policies governing the online sharing and display of property listings, including Virtual Office Web site (VOW) and Internet Listings Display (ILD) policies.

Other data-sharing policies for multiple listing services and participants, known as Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policies, were not challenged in the lawsuit and are not affected by the proposed settlement.

The Justice Department had alleged that NAR's policies could restrict competition and consumer choice in real estate services, that those policies would discourage low-cost services.

The DOJ had challenged the NAR requirement that multiple listing services permit brokers to selectively withhold property listings from companies that operate VOW-based search sites that feature a collection of property listings from MLS members.

The proposed settlement provides that the display of listing information on a VOW site does not require separate permission from the participant whose listings will be available on the VOW. However, it does provide that individual sellers can choose to block information about their home from display on the Internet.

The DOJ said that the MLSs that had adopted policies in violation of the settlement proposal must rescind those rules. The DOJ reports that under the new policy, brokers participating in a NAR-affiliated MLS will not be permitted to withhold their listings from brokers who serve their customers through virtual office Web sites.

Another rule challenged by Justice Department related to restrictions in using VOW sites as a source of referral fees from other brokers. The proposed settlement provides that an MLS may not prohibit, restrict, or impede a participant from referring registrants to any person or from obtaining a fee for such referral.

The NAR position is that all members of MLS must be actively engaged in the act of real estate buying and selling, which prevents MLS members from joining an MLS specifically to "scrape" property listings from other members.

The proposed settlement is not yet final. It will be published in the Federal Register and is subject to a 60-day comment period and a 30-day review by a judge. NAR must adopt the modified VOW policy within five business days of the final judgment on the settlement agreement.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 28, 2008
Source: settlement proposal (United States v. National Association of Realtors, May 27, 2008)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

US Congress and Senate Should Pass Permanent Federal Housing Administration Reform Legislation

US Congress and Senate Should Pass Permanent Federal Housing Administration Reform Legislation.

The time is now for the US Congress and Senate to pass permanent Federal Housing Administration reform legislation if we are to give American homebuyers and homeowners the peace of mind they need.

While new loan limits were recently enacted as part of the Economic Stimulus package, they will expire at the end of 2008 even though they have brought relief to more than 325,000 families so far this year.

Reducing these limits, or letting them expire by doing nothing, could cause further turmoil in our fragile housing market.

Realistic loan limits in high cost areas of the country are needed to bring stability to the marketplace.

So are lowered FHA downpayment requirements and options for buyers to obtain qualified mortgages for the purchase of condominiums as well as single family homes.

It is important for FHA reform legislation to be enacted during 2008 in order to create safe and affordable mortgage options for homebuyers and those wanting and needing to refinance home mortgages.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 27, 2008

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vote YES on CA Proposition 98 in June 2008 Election

Vote YES on Proposition 98 and NO on Proposition 99 in the June, 2008, election.

Proposition 98 will limit the ability of local governments to use eminent domain to seize private property and give it to other private entities.

Proposition 98’s opponents have circulated a great deal of misinformation.
Set the record straight & know the truth about 98:

Myth 1: Opponents claim that tenants currently in rent controlled units will be summarily evicted.

Truth: Tenants currently in rent controlled units cannot be summarily evicted. Prop 98 only lifts rent controls AFTER a tenant: (1) vacates the unit voluntarily or (2) has been removed for a just cause, which is defined by local rent control ordinances.

Myth 2: Critics of reform claim that Prop 98 threatens the construction of state water projects.

Truth: Prop 98 will NOT limit the construction of state water projects. This view has been rejected by independent legal authorities such as the Institute for Justice, the organization that litigated the Kelo case, as well as a prominent water attorney that represents numerous California water agencies. Experts have affirmed Prop 98's intent to protect government's use of eminent domain for legitimate public use – state water projects are OBVIOUSLY a legitimate public use. Additionally, the state Legislative Analyst's Office did not cite any impact on water projects in their report to the Attorney General's office.

Myth 3: Opponents claim that Prop 98 prevents local governments from using eminent domain to obtain property for PUBLIC purposes, like schools, libraries, etc.

Truth: Prop 98 only prevents eminent domain from being used to seize private property to give to other PRIVATE entities. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office says this: “Under the measure, government could continue to take property for facilities that it would own and use, such as new schools, roads, parks, and public facilities.”

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 24, 2008
For more information go to

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are We Starting to Experience Some Home Sales Stability in OC, California?

Are we starting to experience some home sales stability?

DataQuick Information Systems released its report on May 19, 2008, and said sales units in OC, California, totaled 2,166 in April, 2008, the first time they were above 2,000 homes a month since the market crisis started.

During April, 2008, buying activity was 19 percent below April, 2007, and 46 percent below the average April since 1988, and was the slowest April in DataQuick’s 21-year sales history.

However, unit of sales improvement in April, 2008, was driven partly by bargain hunters looking at the low end of the price.

The number of houses that sold for $500,000 or less increased 55 percent, and the number selling below $400,000 doubled.

Almost thirty percent of homes sold in Orange County during April, 2008, had been in foreclosure during the prior year (DataQuick).

That's amazing. Perhaps it's the start of the home sale market clearing out the foreclosures. That would be a good thing.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 22, 2008
Source: Orange County Register, May 20, 2008

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How To Manage Your HELOC Loan With Rising Rates?

Most HELOC loans (home equity line of credit) are indexed to the bank prime loan rate. When the prime rate changes, the rate on your HELOC will change also.

When prime increases 100 basis points (one full percent) the home equity line of credit borrower pays more in interest costs.

If you make monthly payments according to a fixed schedule, the rise in rates also means less of each payment goes towards reducing principal. So it will take longer to pay off the loan balance.

How to manage your HELOC loan?

One possibility is 0% Balance Transfer Offers. If you have good credit and are careful, transferring some or all of your HELOC debt to a 0% credit card can be a workable strategy.

You can ride the 0% offer until it expires. You can pay off the balance with a HELOC check (effectively transferring the balance back to the HELOC). However, there are limitations.

Be careful with this. It can be complicated. We recommend that you consult with a qualified Realtor or tax specialist in your area or jurisdiction.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 21, 2008

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Property Owners & Buyers Should Oppose CA State-mandated Energy Audits At Time Of Sale

Property Owners, Sellers, Buyers, and Realtors, should fight against any proposed California state-mandated audit law requiring time-of-sale energy efficiency audits.

CA Assembly bill 2678 was introduced in Feb. 2008, has been passed out of committee. This bill would require California Energy Commission to develop requirements for time-of-sale energy efficiency audits for residential and commercial buildings.

If this passes, owners will be required to submit for state audits and then be required to meet new retrofit standards.

If passed, this bill will add time to the home and commercial building selling process. This will also add costs for sellers, which would eventually be born by the buyers and slow the market down even further.

We and the California Association of Realtors strongly oppose this legislation.

This bill would would impose requirements at time of sale, and only at time of sale. If you are not selling your home, this would not require you to do anything.

This bill is aimed at the property owners who will be selling, is against the real estate industry as a whole, and should be opposed.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 15, 2008
Source: Orange County Register, May 10, 2008

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Banks & Lenders Are Taking Less Than What's Owed At Trustee Sales After Foreclosure

It's interesting that in Orange County, California, during April, 2008, buyers took foreclosure homes off the bank and lender hands at trustee sales for 21.5% less than the amount owed.

One year ago during April, 2007, the banks and lenders weren't so interested in discounting at trustee sales.

Perhaps the banks are getting smart.

It was reported that 84 percent of properties sold at the OC, California, at trustee’s sales during April, 2008, were offered at a discount.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 14, 2008
Source: Orange County Register, May 14, 2008

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's Good that NAR Will Consider New Rules for Listing & Advertising of Short Sales & Distressed Properties

The good news during April 2008 from the National Assoc. of Realtors is that it is considering new rules for listing and advertising of short sale and distressed properties.

It's about time.

Rules must be made and followed regarding listing of these properties with the MLS services. The rules should bind owners and sellers, listing agents, and lenders, through the short sale process.

The health of our real estate market is dependent upon buyers having sufficient and accurage information on which they can rely for truth about the properties.

Regarding distressed properties, the market and folks who buy need MLS listings to identify whether there is lender approval of offers on short-sale.

The market needs to have MLS rules on advertising of commission offered by the owner and lender to the broker Realtors for the buyers. Buyers and their agents are dependent upon accuracy of information provided to them in order to make informed decisions and protect value.

The market and buyers deserve to know from the MLS whether the property will be tied up in a lengthy process of lender determination of eligibility, whether there is non-judicial foreclosure in the works, and what is exactly being offered.

After the rules are established, the NAR, California Association of Realtors, and local MLS groups, must enforce those rules, and not allow listings that don't comply.

Banks, lenders, and holders of notes, must not be allowed to set rules and information to be provided in the MLS listings.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Group, Realtor and Broker, Irvine, CA, May 8, 2008.

Labels: Ethics and business practices, marketing, Realtors and Brokers, short sales

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What To Do If You Are Upside Down and Unable to Make Payment on Notes Secured by First and Second Deeds of Trust on Your Home

You Are Upside Down and Unable to Make Paymentd on Notes Secured by First and Second Deeds of Trust on Your Home. What do you do?

You might owe more money on your notes secured by a first deed of trust and on the note secured by the second on your home than what the property is worth.

What do you do?

Here in California we have the ONE ACTION RULE, the law preventing lenders from both foreclosing and suing you on the note. If the lender chooses the non-judicial foreclosure process, he is then prevented from suing you on the note itself. However, if the lender fails or declines to foreclose on the note, he retains the right to file and prosecute a civil lawsuit and get monetary judgment against you.

This could happen to you. It is more common these days.

If you are here in California and upside down on both the note secured by the first and that secured by the second on your home, always make all payments on the first if possible. Do whatever it takes to prevent the first from foreclosing. If you are unable to make payments on the second note, always force that note holder to foreclose. Once the holder of the second starts non-judicial foreclosure, he chooses that route and is prevented from filing a separate lawsuit for monetary judgment.

What is happening here in California is that some folks with note obligations secured by a first and a second on their home decline to make payments on either note. Their thought is to allow the holders to foreclose and to let the property go.


In that situation, the holder of the first can foreclosure and wipe out the deed of trust that was the security for the holder of the first. However, since that second holder did not exercise his right to foreclose, he could then file and prosecute a lawsuit against you for damages, the monetary amount of the note.

Think about this carefully. It is complicated. Seek and retain the advice of qualified counsel in your state and jurisdiction.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Realtor and Broker, Explore Properties Group,
Also a lawyer licensed by the State Bar of California since 1976.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Is A Home Buyer Equity Sharing Arrangement a Good Thing in This Market? -- Part One

A man contacted us a week ago about his predicament. He and his wife had entered into an EQUITY SHARING AGREEMENT with a mortgage broker during 2006 to buy a home in South OC. This family made payments to the mortgage company as rent on the agreement. The mortgage company in turn made some payments to the lender on the note. The mortgage company went out of business six months ago and is not now making payments. This family could be facing foreclosure and evication? Was this EQUITY SHARING ARRANGEMENT a good thing?


Investments in real property can take various forms, such as syndication, partnership, limited partnership, or LLC, where none of the parties live in the property and the property is rented to tenants.

An EQUITY SHARING ARRANGEMENT involves one party (the owner-occupant) occupying the property and the other (investor) putting up the bulk of the financing. Both the owner-occupant and the investor can receive tax benefits and share in the profit according to their investments as described in their equity sharing agreement. First-time homeowners are the typical owner-occupant while the investor can be a family member, a seller, or any real estate investor.

EQUITY SHARING is a form of ownership and investment that allows two or more parties to share an interest in real property. It is frequently used in situations where, because of the high cost of housing, one party, the investor, puts down the bulk of the downpayment, and the other, the owner-occupant (also caller the "occupier") puts down little or no downpayment but agrees to pay a monthly amount consisting of "rental payments," mortgage payments, taxes, and other specified charges, and lives in the dwelling. The owner-occupant may pay all of the mortage costs as "rent" or may pay two different amounts, one portion representing the rent and the other representing mortgage, which would include interest for which he or she could receive a tax deduction.

Depending on the specific terms of the contract, there are tax and ownership advantages to EQUITY SHARING.

Be very careful. There are potential tax and financial pitfalls in an equity sharing agreement that is loosely worded. Since the owner-occupant does not own 100 percent of the property, he or she must pay a "fair market rental" to the investor for living in the dwelling. The rent paid by the owner-occupant should be proportional to the percentage interest that the owner-occupant has, and should be based on the fair market rental value determined in good faith. Ideally, they have both signed the note and trust deed and are also on title. The rental paid to the investor is taxable income, and the interest paid on the mortgage is tax deductible. On the other hand, the investor also pays the remaining fraction of the mortgage each month based on his or her proportional share of ownership and can deduct the interest as an expense of the property, subject to passive loss and other restrictions.

Be careful with EQUITY SHARING AGREEMENTS. Consult a qualified Realtor and also with an experienced real estate lawyer in your area and jurisdiction.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 3, 2008
Source: California Association of Realtors, March, 2008

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Reinstatement of Your Home Loan or Mortgage After Default?

You don't have to be a bum or a deadbeat to get into a foreclosure position with your home. It can be as simple as missing some days of work or having a mortgage payment late. You are in over your head with your lender. Now your lender's threatening you with foreclosure. The last thing you need is the stigma of foreclosure and are seeking a way out.

If it's possible, the best way to get out of this mess is to come up with cash and go for reinstatement of the loan.

This could be difficult. The lender requires you to catch up with payments and late fees in a lump sum. If you can work this out, get it in writing. The only chance you have of making it happen is if you satisfy the lender that conditions that led to this situation will not be repeated.

Be careful with this. Hire a qualified and professional Realtor, someone to trust who will look out for you during tough times. Get sound advice from an objective advocate who will be in your corner.

Then decide for yourself whether reinstatement of your defaulted mortgage is a possibility and/or the best course of action.

Posted by Harrison K. Long, Explore Properties Group, May 2, 2008

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