Foreclosure Update

For the second month in a row, foreclosure activity was impacted by voluntary foreclosure suspensions, after certain practices commonly used during the foreclosure process were called into question. While initially limited to judicial foreclosure states, the so-called robo-signing controversy began impacting foreclosures in non-judicial states, including those in our coverage area in early October.

Foreclosure starts were down across the board in November, ranging from a 9.3 percent month-over-month decline in California to a staggering 31.7 percent decline in Washington. Despite the fact that robo-signing was not directly tied to foreclosure filings in non-judicial foreclosure states, foreclosure starts in our coverage area have dropped 25.5 percent since the controversy began.

Foreclosure sales continued to be impacted by robo-signing related foreclosure suspensions more directly, as Ally (GMAC), Bank of America and PNC all halted foreclosure sales nationwide, contributing to a 38.7 percent drop in foreclosure sales over the last two months within our coverage are. In November, foreclosure sales dropped the most dramatically in Washington, after having seen little impact in October; while California had the least dramatic decline with a drop of 9.0 percent. After having had the largest impact on foreclosure sales, Bank of America slowly began foreclosing again the week of December 6th. Their return will likely lead back to normal foreclosure levels in the months to come.

“Since September 2008 the foreclosure process has seen significant bottlenecks, first due to government intervention and now lender ineptitude,” says Sean O’Toole, CEO and Founder of “Unfortunately the resulting delays will only serve to extend the time it takes to recover and return to a normal housing market.”

Continuing downward, Notice of Trustee Sale filings dropped 24.4 percent from October to November, reaching their lowest level since March 2008. The holidays, and issues around the robo-signing controversy, likely contributed to the significant drop. Foreclosure sales were down 14.8 percent from October to November, following a 26.9 percent decline the prior month resulting in the lowest number of sales since September 2009.
View all Arizona stats by state, county, city or ZIP

Foreclosure activity slowed across the board in California. Notice of Default filings dipped 9.3 percent month over month, while Notice of Trustee filings declined a mere 1.0 percent from October. Cancellations of foreclosure sales dropped 8.5 percent in November, down 54 percent from their peak in June, likely due in part to the failure of the Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to help California homeowners. Foreclosure sales are down by 9.0 percent from October, though sales to 3rd parties increased by 7.8 percent.
View all California stats by state, county, city or ZIP

Foreclosure activity in Nevada dropped dramatically over the past two months. Foreclosure sales are down 22.1 percent from October to November, and 50.5 percent from September. Notice of default filings are also down for the second month in a row, dropping 12.7 percent from October, and 24.3 percent from September. Clearly, Nevada foreclosure activity was impacted not only by the holidays, but also by the robo-signing controversy.
View all Nevada stats by state, county, city or ZIP

Oregon’s Notice of Default filings and Notice of Trustee Sale filings dropped for the third consecutive month, reaching their lowest point since Q4 2008. Notice of Default filings declined 25.0 percent from October to November, and Notice of Trustee Sale filings dropped 21.2 percent. Foreclosure sales declined 26.7 percent in November, and have dropped 54.3 percent since September. After a four month decline, cancellations of foreclosure sales increased 34.8 percent from October.
View all Oregon stats by state, county, city or ZIP

While Washington showed little impact from the robo-signing controversy in October, foreclosure activity dropped substantially in November. Notice of Trustee Sale filings dropped 31.7 percent from October, but are still up 16.2 percent from a year earlier. Similarly, foreclosure sales dropped 38.1 percent from October but are up 29.3 percent from November 2009.
View all Washington stats by state, county, city or ZIP

Althea Garner
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida and California)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
President-Elect – 2011 (Saint Lucie County)
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

REALTORS(R) Association of Saint Lucie
Vice Chair, Global Business – 2011


Orange County infrastructure gets C+


But the region is still faring better than the nation, which earned a D.

By Kristen Schott
Published: April 07, 2010 09:29 AM
Orange County’s public infrastructure system has received a C+ but the region is still faring better than the nation, which earned a D, according to a new report conducted by a group of engineers and business leaders.The Orange County Leadership Symposium will unveil the 2010 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card tonight at the Costa Mesa Hilton. The study was produced by a partnership of UC Irvine’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Affiliates, the Orange County Business Council, and the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

This is the third time that local officials and leaders have collaborated on such a project – in 2005, the last time the report was conducted, Orange County also netted a C+.

The region outperforms the nation for a number of reasons. The report cites freezing winter weather in other parts of the country that causes the systems to age more quickly; a younger infrastructure in O.C.; and a willingness to set aside funding for the development of projects.

Yet the county has three key problem areas: water supply and quality; flood control; and electrical supply.

Water supply and quality: More than half of the water O.C. relies on comes from the Colorado River and the San Francisco Bay Delta. The report notes that despite reservoirs, a major disaster could lead to an interruption in the supply. Plus, an increase in beach attendance, the population, and tourism has begun to make an impact on the region’s surface water quality.

The report gave O.C. a B- for its water supply and a D for its surface-water quality, which includes beaches and water parks, saying the region needs to work with the state and federal governments to receive support on new projects.

Flood control: These systems need to be continually upgraded in order to provide the highest level of safety for the public, but the report notes that it is a “challenge” to do so, especially during the economic downturn.

“Current flood-control funding deficiencies in Orange County for regional flood control facilities alone are in excess of $2.5 billion,” notes the report, which says that it is projected to take more than 90 years to upgrade the local system to be free from such problems.

The flood control system garnered a C-.

Electrical supply: The survey notes that recent rate increases approved by the California Utility Commission may not be enough to fund the needed work to replace and modernize the systems currently in place in the county and the larger region.

“As the infrastructure continues to age, the potential exists for less reliable service.”

The energy condition received a C+.

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the ratings:

Aviation: B
Demand in O.C. will reach about 37 million in the next 15 years – but the current passenger limit is just under 11 million, according to the study, which suggests developing high-speed rail transportation to area airports. The report does make note of John Wayne’s “excellent” condition.

Ground transportation: B-
Measure M sales tax offers needed assistance, but not enough funding needed to perform many of the improvements needed for O.C.’s ground systems. The report again highlights the possibility of a high-speed rail to meet future transportation needs.

Parks/Recreation/Environment: C+
The economic downturn stopped more than 100 projects totaling $70 million for local recreation areas in 2008 and 2009, and O.C. lacks the $680 million needed for new projects in the next five years.

School facilities: C+
Despite improvements over the past five years, school districts have seen enrollment drop or remain the same, which lessens the need for renovating the grounds. “Deferred maintenance and upgrading of older school buildings continues to be a daunting problem to solve,” notes the report.

Solid waste: B+
The overall picture for solid waste was pretty positive, due to the region’s recycling and waste diversion projects. O.C.’s three landfills have more than 40 years of life among them.

Wastewater: B
The systems in place are “generally well run,” and funding and planning to replace older parts of the infrastructure are “generally adequate.”

Looking ahead, the report notes that local businesses and individuals can support the region’s infrastructure a number of ways, including conservation and reuse, and supporting key bond and fee proposals.

“Without funding to maintain our infrastructure, the water, roads, electricity and other necessities of daily life may not be there at the moment you need it, or at the quality level you’ve come to expect,” notes the report. “Without it, the high quality of life that we enjoy here in Orange County will diminish.”

Courtesy of OCMetro

Follow-Up to Auction Property Fiasco

Subsequent to our purchase of two properties on a recent auction by REDC, you will recall that after signing the purchase documents,  the properties were broken into – one of the properties was being occupied by transients and had suffered substantial damage and trashing.

Upon contacting the Escrow company and voicing our opinions rather firmly, we were told that the Escrow process had not yet begun and that if we wanted to get out of the purchase,  we could!

Huh?  The Escrow period was to be 30 days and we are now 5 days from closing and the Escrow company is telling us that nothing has been done yet? I have never heard of anything quite so preposterous!

The Escrow representative went on to tell us that there had been a delay because the seller (the lender/bank) had not yet accepted our Offer!  And they were going to tell us this….  WHEN?  Wait a minute…….  what was all that,  that we went through on the day of the auction?  What was all that signing and paying of CASH.  How come one seller was ready to close after a week but the other seller hasn’t had the common courtesy to let us know if they have accepted our Offer or not?

Gentlemen,  can we have a level playing field, please?  This seller was so confident that we had bought the property,  that they disconnected the utilities and abandoned the property and now they’re telling us that they hadn’t made up their minds as to whether to accept our Offer or not?

Something decidely odd here!  Is it remotely possible that they did this, in the event that they received a better Offer prior to closing but if not,  they would proceed, delivering to us a trashed property?

Well,  suffice it to say that the lender is now the proud owner of a property that isn’t even worth what WE paid for it, and if they hope to resell the property,  they will have to dig deep to have it cleaned up first, because we signed the cancellation documents.

If you are going to buy property on an auction,  ensure that you know your rights – they will tell you that the deal is legal and binding upon your signature, but apparently they can get out of it just as easily as we did.

Now,  excuse me while I look for another property………..

Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

More Property Auction Traps!

So picking up from yesterday’s blog about the tips and traps of buying property on auction,  today’s article continues AFTER the documents have been signed and Escrow is opened.

Bear in mind that to bid on the REDC auction,  one has to arrive with a cashiers check for $5,000 to open Escrow on the first property, $10,000 for the second property, $15,000 for the third property etc.  We attended the auction, carrying cashiers checks to the tune of $30,000, planning on buying 3 properties.

One of the clauses I warned readers about is the one that binds you to NOT visit the property until Title has been passed to you – ie,  AFTER close of Escrow.  During Escrow,  the property legally still belongs to the lender. Let’s not forget that all property purchased on auction, is bought ‘As Is’! Most people consider this to mean that the property is a ‘fixer’ and certainly in our case,  the repairs were only cosmetic.

We decided to do a drive-by of the two properties we bought (both in the same area) as only my husband had seen the residential complexes – we had no intention of entering the properties. Upon our arrival,  we noticed a man exiting the property and pulling the door closed behind him.  As the agents sign and the auction sign were laying flat on the ground,  I asked the man if he was the agent. He said that he was a prospective buyer, having been sent to preview the property by his wife.  He was carrying a REDC auction book.

I thought this was strange!  Why would REDC include a property, now in Escrow, on their forthcoming auction, which is only due to be held in July?  As the man disappeared down the road, we noticed that the front door was not closed and we approached. The property had been broken into and the door frame was nothing but splintered match wood.  As we peeked into the living area,  a really bad smell became evident, empty alcohol bottles were strewn around the floor,  the carpet was pulled up in various places and human feces were visible in several places on the carpet and floor!

Yuck!  Upon further investigation, it was obvious that the utilities had been turned off,  because the toilet was blocked with unflushed feces.  A foam bed roll was in one of the bedrooms and the other bedroom boasted MANY cigarette ends on the carpet and used condoms on the floor of the closet!  The wash hand basin in the vanity area was heavily laden with loose tobacco.

This is the property that we bought FOR CASH and are bound NOT to enter till close of Escrow!  NOW WE KNOW WHY!  As the properties are purchased ‘As Is’, and the buyer is not permitted to enter the property till close of Escrow, the lender can claim that the property was in this disgusting state at time of signature! (Note:  If you plan on buying property on auction,  PHOTOGRAPH every room and the exterior, on the day that you preview.)

Like I said in yesterday’s article, the purchase contract is not approved by CAR (California Association of REALTORS(R)) and there is NO protection for the buyer.  Like many contracts,  it is one-sided and very much in favor of the lender.

As REALTORS(R),  we need to be cognizant of the message sent, when we place a ‘Foreclosure’ sign on a vacant property – this is an open invitation to vagrants and squatters to occupy the property and to use and abuse it!  Every vacant property should have utilities turned on and be visited AT LEAST every other day by the agent/lender and the Police should be notified that the property is vacant.  Apparently,  neither REDC not the lender did this in our case and as a consequence we are contesting the purchase – if necessary,  we will walk away from our $5,000 deposit, if the lender does not restore the property to the condition that it was on preview day!  Clearly, Tiempo Escrow  (the Escrow company for this transaction) is also content to accept closing fees for this transfer, pretending that none of this ever happened! 

Where are the good old days,  where service and reputation counted?

So there you have it!  The tips and traps of buying on a property auction.  Let’s face it:  neither REDC nor the lenders really care about the property – they just want it off their books!  They could care less if the property has been trashed by squatters or that it has devalued in the time it takes to close Escrow!  From the time of signing the documents,  they wash their hands of the property and the consequences of their lack of responsibility becomes YOUR expense!

So,  do you STILL want to buy property on the auction?


Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009


Tax Credit for New Home Purchase



Information directly from the California Franchise Board

In addition to the updated items identified on this page, we have updated Form 3528-A and the instructions for line 6 and Part III. If you have already faxed a completed application, you DO NOT need to resubmit a new application. We will update this information frequently. Please check this page often.

This tax credit is available for qualified buyers who on or after March 1, 2009, and before March 1, 2010, purchase a qualified principal residence that has never been occupied. The buyer must reside in the new home for a minimum of two years immediately following the purchase date. We will accept applications for allocation of credit by fax only (916.845.9754), starting March 1, 2009; however, we will not send notifications of credit allocation until we have developed procedures. Once we begin processing allocation applications, credits will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

We will update this page as soon as we begin mailing credit allocation letters. We plan to begin mailing credit allocation letters no later than May 1, 2009. This delay is necessary to allow us time to develop a system to capture and verify the application information, allocate the credits, and send the credit allocation letters. Please be patient with us and do not send applications more than one time. Tax credit amounts California allocated $100,000,000 for this tax credit. Buyers must apply for credit allocation from us. Applications will be reviewed and credit allocations will be made on a first-come, first-served basis. Once $100,000,000 has been allocated, the tax credit will no longer be available.

Please check this page for updates on the allocated and remaining credits available. Total credit allocated: $0          Remaining credit available: $100,000,000

The remaining credit amount displayed above only reflects allocations processed. This amount will be updated once we begin mailing credit allocation letters, which is expected to commence by May 1, 2009. This amount does not include applications that have been received, but not yet processed.

Applications for New Home Credit received, but not yet processed as of 3/25/09

As of Applications received: Credit claimed:
3/4/09            173     $1,715,826
3/11/09          711     $6,987,515  
3/18/09      1,188    $11,599,825
3/25/09     1,710    $16,647,498

This reflects the total amount of credit reported on applications received as of the date indicated. This amount has not yet been verified and may include duplicate, incomplete, and invalid applications. This amount is provided for informational purposes and does not reflect the actual amount to be allocated. We will update the amount received, but not yet processed, on this webpage each Friday.

As we approach the $100,000,000 limitation, we will update the reported amounts on a daily basis. Keep in mind, that all applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date received by fax only.

California allows qualified new home buyers a total tax credit amount equal to either five percent of the purchase price or $10,000, whichever is less. Taxpayers must apply the total tax credit in equal amounts over three successive taxable years (maximum of $3,333 per year) beginning with the taxable year (2009 or 2010) in which the new home is purchased.

How to apply Within one week (seven calendar days) after the close of escrow:
The seller must complete Part I of Form 3528-A, Application for New Home Credit, certifying that the home has never been occupied, and provide a copy to the buyer or escrow person. The buyer will complete Parts II & III of Form 3528-A.

The escrow person on behalf of the seller and buyer will fax the completed Form 3528-A to FTB at 916.845.9754, and provide a copy to the buyer. Fax is the only delivery method that will be accepted and considered for credit allocation by FTB, as the date and time stamp on the fax will determine the order in which credits are allocated.

Fax only one completed application per residence with all qualified buyers listed. Do not include information on nonqualified buyers. An incomplete application may delay or prevent credit allocation. Do not fax the application to FTB before escrow closes. Do not fax the application to FTB more than once. We will process the applications in the order received as quickly as possible. Escrow companies should only send one application per fax transmission. The buyer keeps a copy of the completed Form 3528-A for their records. The Form 3528-A is now available online as a fillable form. Simply fill in all required information, print the form, and sign.

If you fill out the form by hand, please print numbers as clearly and neatly as possible using CAPITAL LETTERS and staying between the lines. The faxes can be very hard to read.

Application processing
The buyer will receive notification of credit allocation from us. An allocation of credit will not be issued if:
The home has been previously occupied.
The application is not received within one week after the close of escrow.
The application is received after the total credits available ($100,000,000) have been allocated.

Requirements of the credit
The home must be a “qualified principal residence” as defined under California Revenue and Taxation Code Section 17059(b)(1).

The home must:

  • Be a single-family residence, whether detached or attached.
  • Never have been previously occupied.
  • Be occupied by the taxpayer for a minimum of two years.
  • Be eligible for the property tax homeowner’s exemption under California Revenue and Taxation Code Section 218.

For over three successive taxable years, the total credit allocated among owners that occupy the home must not exceed $10,000. (Multiple qualified buyers that occupy the home will be allocated credit based on the amount paid and their percentage of ownership.)

Any credit that reduced tax on a tax return must be repaid if the buyer does not occupy the home for at least two years immediately following the purchase date.

FTB may request documentation to ensure buyers have complied with the requirements of the credit. Claiming the credit The buyer must receive an allocation of credit from us to claim the credit. The credit allocation letter will state the amount they can claim listed by tax year. The buyer should refer to Publication 3528 (available by 12/2009) for instructions on claiming the credit.

The buyer must claim the credit on an original timely filed return, including returns filed on an extension. Special rules apply to married/RDP (Registered Domestic Partners) taxpayers filing separately, in which case each spouse is entitled to one-half of the credit, even if their ownership percentages are not equal.

For two or more taxpayers who are not married/RDP, the credit amount will have already been allocated to each taxpayer occupying the residence on their respective credit allocation letter. If the available credit exceeds the current year net tax, the unused credit may not be carried over to the following year. The credit is not refundable.

Definitions Purchase date:
The date escrow closes.
Qualified buyer: A taxpayer who purchases a single-family residence, whether detached or attached, that has never been occupied, that is purchased to be the principal residence of the taxpayer for a minimum of two years, and that is eligible for the homeowner’s exemption under California Revenue and Taxation Code Section 218.

Qualified Principal Residence/New Home:
A qualified principal residence means a single-family residence, whether detached or attached, that has never been occupied and is purchased to be the principal residence of the taxpayer for a minimum of two years and is eligible for the property tax homeowner’s exemption.

Types of residence:
Any of the following can qualify if it is your principal residence and is subject to property tax, whether real or personal property:

  • a single family residence
  • a condominium
  • a unit in a cooperative project
  • a houseboat
  • a manufactured home
  • or a mobile home.

Owner-built property:
A home constructed by an owner -taxpayer is not eligible for the New Home Credit because the home has not been “purchased.”

Contact us Phone: 888.792.4900 (press 5) 916.845.4900 (not toll-free)

Email:   This is not a secure email address.

Please do not send confidential information.


Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

Ooops…. she did it again!

I guess I am too used to working foreclosures and in general, real estate, so I really don’t want to discuss HOW I got the FakeAV virus – just how I got RID of it!

Firstly,  how did I know that my computer had a virus in the first place?  Honestly,  as anal as I am, I am paranoid about maintaining a clean computer, as much for my protection as for those with whom I am in communication (for which reason,  no-one has heard from me for three days!).  I was doing an Internet search for electricians, but what came up, was a list of dating sites.  HUH?  I am married and wouldn’t need a dating site!  I checked my search criteria, just in case I typed it incorrectly, but no….  I was correct!  Second guessing myself (as we do) I typed it in again and guess what?  I got dating sites again!

My next search (logically) was for new viruses,  as I have virus protection and assumed that the virus I might have was something not detected by my current program.  This time I got vacation resort sites!

Huh?  What the ———?  Just the mere typing of the word virus, took me to all and sundry sites EXCEPT for those that might give me information.  I launched my McAffee virus protection (and eradication) software only to find that ‘Scan’ etc, was grayed out!  Well naturally,  the virus didn’t want to be removed and therefore had disabled my protection software! Clever little virus, wasn’t it?

Now,  my biggest fear was that this type of virus (a Trojan or worm) is used by those criminals who reduce your computer to ‘zombie’ status, and use it as a mail server to launch thousands of e-mails!  Consider those ads that offer you X-thousands of mailouts for $Y.00?  Yup,  they’re coming from YOUR computer,  so when it is time to black list for spam,  it’s YOU they black list! And you don’t even know that your computer is being used!

This was Friday afternoon and thus started a weekend of virus hide and seek.  My first line of attack was to seek out all the files created in the last 24 hours (I would have expanded to the last week etc, had this not been successful) and sure enough,  I found a Windows file that was downloaded outside the update time frame.  Upon closer scrutiny, I noticed that this appeared to be a Microsoft file, BUT, checking the original name (through Properties) a non-Microsoft name was revealed with no manufacturer.

“Ah-HA!  Got you,  you little sucker”, I thought, and promptly deleted it!  There followed a list of 103 files generated in an around the time that I deleted the offending file!  What now?  It would appear as though deleting the master file, caused the virus to ‘spawn’ hundreds of aliases in different folders.  “Aw…..  I don’t have time for this,  I thought ~  I’ll call a geek!”

Now understand that my Internet Explorer was giving me everything EXCEPT what I was searching for, so I fired up my laptop, found Best Buy and called them.  HOW MUCH?  $399 per incident to remove a virus (any virus) – $299 if I took my tower in!  You MUST be JOKING!  I remember telling the Best Buy person: “You can’t see me, but I don’t LOOK stupid, either!” Dang…  I’m in the wrong business!

Doing a little research on the Internet via my laptop,  I found the file extension of the spawned files (all three of them) and started searching and deleting the files, one by one. This added a new challenge – as I scrolled down the list of files,  the window would freeze, halting my system, but with each file that I deleted, I noticed that a file was being added to my Trash Can, but that nothing was visible when I opened the Trash Can window!  Sneaky – very sneaky!  Still,  I dutifully instructed my computer to empty the Trash Can and sure enough,  the file had gone from the list.

103 files,  103 deletions,  103 Trash Can empties. 103 painful file searches and 103 reboots and finally,  my McAffee would work to the point where I could scan for malware!  By the time I was done,  it was Monday morning at 11am,  but I was virus free, adware free and spyware free!  My system was so squeaky clean that it just plain glowed!

Just a word of advice:  Download McAffee Stinger (free from the McAffee web site) which will scan for 538 of the most virulent viruses, Trojans and variants.  Follow this up with Windows Defender (free from which will catch any spyware or adware that might still exist.

Oh…..  I must mention that when I was ready to tear my hair out this morning,  I called my son, who is possibly THE most knowledgeable IT person I have ever known.  It was he who pointed me in the direction of Stinger and Defender, but by that time, the virus had already been arrested and removed.  Still,  in all my ‘hacking’  I had made quite a mess of my Internet settings and really needed someone ‘in the know’ to check on what I had done!

Thanks, son…..  I guess I really am in diaper credit now!  (For those of you who might not understand the currency of diapers:  a mother leverages the years of diaper changes – “I changed your diapers….  I washed your diapers” etc.  Well,  by now,  my diaper bank account is sorely in overdraft!  LOL) 

As sons go,  I don’t know how he got so smart, while I am so dumb for having got that virus, when I really knew better!


Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Chair – 2009

The Start Of The Real Estate Year

The start of a new year is always busy and certainly for me, the state of  ‘mass hysteria’ only calms down around tax time – mid April.

The normal causes for being busy, usually revolve around the aftermath of the holidays, the setting up of the new years systems and preparation for Spring buyers, but this year was different.

First, let’s consider my life this time last year:
Aside from the usual causes for being busy, we had just sold our house in Fountain Valley and on February 17th, we were 2 days from moving to Signal Hill.  It was hard to down-size, but after 3 garage sales, we were left with mainly boxes.  We dumped our boxes in our new home and took off for the Bahamas! Seriously….  we didn’t open a single box!

So far, this year has included:
~ Christmas with my parents-in-law in San Diego

~ New year with the kids in Sacramento and San Jose

~ A Women’s Council Of REALTORS(R) State conference in Monterey

~ A week of being office bound, while my Broker did jury duty

~ Wrapping up 2008, capturing, scanning and shredding 2008 documents

~ Tax preparation

~ Seeing our vacation rental in the mountains, through a busy snow season

~ Setting up 2009 systems

~ Training, being tested and becoming certified for Foreclosure business

~ Listing a property in Garden Grove

And it’s ALL DONE!  Yay!  AND we’re only 7 weeks into the year!

I will admit that a large part of my time has been spent maintaining a paperless office, but I can tell you that when we get busy,  the paper can mount up in no time.  Today, for the first time in 3 months, I can actually see the wood surface of my desk and you have NO idea how good that feels!

With the property market picking up during the first week of the year, real estate has been extremely busy, too and every day starts with a ton of phone calls to get back to those wishing to buy or sell. I try to work with only 6 clients at a time. Realistically,  any more than that and I am not devoting quality time to any of them. Right now, I have 37 active clients on my books and am in dire need of paring back.  Some of these clients will disqualify themselves, by virtue of the fact that they didn’t qualify for a loan or the market isn’t in a good place for them to sell,  so these clients will be placed on hold till later in the year, as we repair their credit, allow them time to save a little more or simply allow the sellers time to de-clutter their homes in preparation for listing.

Still,  all things considered, it has been a dynamic start to the year and I truly believe that 2009 is going to be an excellent real estate year!

Happy house-hunting!


Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

The ultimate insult to a prospective client

I was with a buyer this week – a lady who has had a hard life and simply wants to do the right thing by her family (she was looking in the $250,000 range and had $7,500 to put down).  We went out and looked at homes and came up with two properties that suited her.  An Offer was made.

During our 150 mile drive, looking at properties, she related to me that her listing agent had told her:  “Don’t be so dumb!” and that for this reason, she would not engage that agent to source a home for her.

Wow!  I can’t say that I blame her.  How can any agent be so pompous and condescending?

Hey, I know that the market is tough for most REALTORS(R) and that there are frustrations on both sides, but REALLY‘Dumb’?  Does this agent really want work?  And in this market?  Does he (and yes, it IS a guy!) expect that this seller will refer him to her friends and family? REALLY?

Who is this man kidding?  Has he forgotten that the SELLER pays his commission and that he is working for the BUYER?

Hey,  it’s hard enough to procure a client.  Then you have to build rapport – find commonality, show knowledge of the market, negotiations, etc…  this is not a piece of fish that they are buying, dripping in oil and vinegar and shrouded in today’s newspaper …  it happens to be the biggest purchase most people make in a lifetime.  You think they could be a little more polite, yes?  NOT!

Take this prime doozie:  ‘Whether it’s stocks or real estate it’s best to buy low now and sell high in later years. For those bottom feeders who think that prices might slip a little further, the only way you’re going to know if it’s the bottom of the market is when you look behind you and it’s already happened. Would you rather buy a house in a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?”

How can ANY REALTOR (R) refer to prospective clients as ‘Bottom-feeders’, and would any of you readers WANT to do business with her (and yes, this IS a woman – won’t call her a lady, though!)?

Being called a ‘Bottom-feeder’ doesn’t give the buyer the ‘warm fuzzies’, does it? “Would you rather buy a house in a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?”, she asks.   No,  I’d like to buy in a market where the agent does the job that they’re employed to do and not have to put up with her insults, THANK YOU! (That would be my answer….  how about you?)

And guess what?  Since she wrote that, THE MARKET SLIPPED EVEN FURTHER!  So much for expert advice!

True:  The buyer should have some idea of what they are looking for, within their budget, while maintaining some flexibility

True: The loan market is tough and agents must ask questions that sometimes make the buyer feel a little disquietened

True: It might take 150 miles in a car and 42 properties viewed to find the one that suits

True: It might take a few days to get an answer or to be pre-qualified


Buyers:  You don’t have to do business with a REALTOR (R) who insults you!  Do your research and find one that fits with you, your personality, your lifestyle and standards of ethics – heaven only knows – we are ten-a-penny in this market…..  find one that makes you feel comfortable and excited about finding the RIGHT home for you!


Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online
(714) 264-3458

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Chair – 2009

Flip Properties- Use Our Cash To Flip Properties in Nationwide – Earn Thousands Per Deal

Well,  that was the Blog heading that was posted by someone else but on reading further, I encountered the words ‘easy’ with regard to obtaining a mortage and 2.5% commission to the lender, etc etc etc.

Let’s be honest…..  this is NOT the market to be flipping properties.  I mean, GET REAL!  The banks are clamping down on loans and the property market has dropped,  so where, in all reality, is the profit to come from?

Yes,  you can put lipstick on the pig, but buyers are not stupid – they can see when a property has been rehabbed in a hurry, just to turn a fast buck.

I attended a seminar by a leading investment speaker about 5 years ago, and he advised his students to (and he has been teaching this for about 20 years)!:

1)  Go to an open house and get a look at the guest registry.  Contact the people in the registry, telling them that you are selling the house (then put in an Offer – the idea is to sell the house to one of the ‘lookers’ and close before a mortgage is raised, excluding the REALTOR (R) from the deal).

2)  Go to Home Depot (or equivalent) and buy all the ‘seconds’ paint in one color (ie, all white seconds) and mix it all together in a 40 gallon trash can. What would emerge, would be ONE color – white!  Now this is a good idea, but not used in the way prescribed. Offer to paint the house for the seller, at no charge (read: blood money).

3)  Tell the seller that you have a buyer and offer to plant some flowering plants in the front yard, thereby creating ‘curb appeal’ (During all this time, I can assure you that the listing agent would be asking some questions!

4)  Invite all the ‘lookers’ from the guest registry to the house to arrive at the same time, in order to create a frenzy and have one buyer bidding against the other which would ultimately push the price of the house UP!

Problem #1: The person bringing the buyers is NOT a licensed REALTOR (R)

Problem #2: Think the seller wouldn’t smell a rat?

Problem #3:  Have you ever tried to get information from a REALTORs (R) guest registry?  Best kept secret!

Problem #4:  The likelihood of anyone getting a purchase to close on the exact day that the sale occurs is minimal, to say the least, so interest WOULD be raised and one would be responsible to pay that interest! When that property is flipped,  if the purchase and sale did not go through simulataneously, the IRS would be after their Capital Gains unless you chose to exercise the $250,000 per person tax-free benefit (once every second year), but you’d be nailed on the next flip!

Problem #5: Probably the most important of all – if it could be proven that the buyer came from the guest registry, FULL commission would have to be paid to the agent by the bogus selling agent (or owner, if the purchase/sale went through on the same day), because they would be sued for ‘probable cause’. This commission would be over and above that paid to the agent from the transaction.

Bottom line is that there is no easy way.  One may buy property at a discount but there are risks.  One may obtain a loan through a discount lender, but there are risks (and we have seen the result of discount loans, haven’t we?).  One can buy and sell without a REALTOR (R), but there are risks.

If it seems easy, or rapidly profitable,  there’s usually a catch. Don’t get caught! 

Don’t ever under-estimate the buyer…  even a first-time-home-buyer!  They are simply new at this – not BLIND or stupid! What an insult for them to be treated this way!

The purpose of flipping homes, is to buy at a low price, rehab the property and sell soon after, at a higher price, thereby recouping all costs with an additional bonus profit.  What is the point of buying low, adding rehab costs, labor costs and interest and then selling LOW, which is what is happening in this market?  Anyone who talks you into this scheme, is talking you straight into a LOSS!

 I was chatting to a colleague of mine the other day who was really fired up about purchasing a property (at a discounted price – whatever that might be). He said that as he was in the construction business, he could rehab the property at a low cost and was just looking for ‘investors’. Yeah, right!  I tried to explain to him that his time in rehabbing the place was worth something and although he wasn’t ‘charging’ for his labor, in essence, the profit on the deal would be ‘blood money’. Needless to say, I gracefully declined his generous offer.

So let’s discuss the home flipping reality shows on TV.  These really make me laugh when I do the math, but I get really angry at the message that the show puts out.  On one hand, the math doesn’t add up because the show only gives you SOME costs – not all (for example,  they don’t factor in the closing costs or the agents commission. the agent, I believe does not charge a commission because of the air time they get – I could be wrong but agents commission is not something that is in the costs)!  On the other hand, I really feel for those who go out and try to do this themselves only to find that because the math can’t add up (there are hidden fees that the show doesn’t disclose), the buyers find themselves grossly out of pocket!

But the show is entertaining and they sell advertising based on the popularity of the show. Never mind all those people who lose their shirts finding out that things are not what they appear on TV!  After all,  that is Hollywood and life is quite different.

Some of the things that one has to consider when buying ‘discount’ property is perhaps a neighbor who has a water leak and the water is seeping into your property. This may not be apparent at the time that you buy, however, your foundations are being undermined and slippage can occur, causing not only cracks but, a pulling apart of the house – front from back etc.  Such would be the case of the homes that we have seen on TV where the sub-flooring had to be lifted, due to damp conditions. They make it seem so simple, but this issue can have far-reaching effects.  To repair this type of defect, can range from $20,000 – $100,000!

With that damp, almost certainly comes a mold issue, which requires an expert for abatement and then an inspector to give clearance. These services are not free – in fact they are quite costsly.

A friend of  mine recently expressed concern that her home might have been built on the burial ground of cows, which during the 1920’s had to be ‘covered over’ because they had hoof and mouth disease.  As these cows decompose, they give rise to sink holes, into which homes subside.  I am told that hoof and mouth disease never goes away (don’t hold me to this as I am not a vet), but one wonders what would happen, if the house sunk, exposing the diseased corpses.

I guess this is why one might want to employ the services of a REALTOR (R) who might have knowledge of these things or at the very least, could investigate for the buyer. Realistically, if one were flipping a property and it sunk because it was on a cattle burial ground (as an example), there is no limit to the time span one could get sued – 10 days or ten years! It could still come back on you, even if you were the seller, three times ago. Does that make sense?

These are the things they DON’T tell you on the TV reality shows!

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Althea Garner
Executive Real Estate
House Of Homes Online

What’s up with this property market?

OMG!  I can’t believe the Offers that buyers are submitting!

Rumor has it that John Lansner of the Orange County Register does not own ANY property,  yet he has set himself up to advise an entire County (Orange County, California), as to how to invest in the largest expenditure of a person’s life! YOUR investment and YOUR life!

How is this possible?

Would YOU allow a brain surgeon to operate on your tumor, if he had not done this before?  Would you let him loose, if he did not have an active role in recent brain surgery – no hands-on experience?  Let me see if I can get this right? ……  I have no hands-on experience in fixing a car – I’ve only seen it done by others,  but I will call myself an expert because I can write about it? And then I will derive an income from that writing, despite the fact that people lose money because of my lack of hands-on and current experience?

How can someone who is NOT a property owner, advise an entire County in the ways of property investment, over those who are experiencing the market first-hand on a daily basis and who are not only qualified but tested on the subject?

We received an Offer today of $600,000, on a property that Appraised at $970,000!  $370,000 lower than Appraisal?  THIS is what John Lansner is doing….  he is encouraging buyers to low-ball sellers and you know what is happening?  Sellers are being insulted and rejecting those Offers!

 What we are hearing is “But the Newspaper says that we should……” and our answer is: “And you believe that garbage?  Words written by a person who does not even own his own property?”

Buyers are wasting their time in submitting insulting Offers.  They are wasting the time of their Realtors, too,  who should have better sense than to even submit those ridiculous Offers!

So,  the person leading the troops to the front line, is NOT a General?  In fact he is not even a Private!  And you trust this person to lead you to slaughter?


We have investors who assume that properties are up for foreclosure, purely because those properties have languished on the market for a while.  What gives people the right to make that assumption?  Not all properties are subject to NOD (Notice of Default), Bankcruptcy, Short Sale and Foreclosure.  Sometimes sellers genuinely want to sell their property and ask a fair price for a quality property.  A property that will yield a tenfold profit.

OK,  try this:
The economy is not at its best, right? Supermarket chains are vying for customers to the point where they will try to undercut each other, yes?

The next time you visit your local chain store supermarket,  take a $1 can of beans….  go to the check out counter and offer them .05c and just watch what they do!

Think you’ll get the beans?  I don’ think so!

Yet,  that is what people do with property – the BIGGEST purchase that anyone ever makes in a lifetime!  The security for their future…  their kids college fund ….  their retirement!

Sheesh!  What’s up with THIS picture?

Back to the beans:

You: I’ll offer you .05c for this can of beans.

Supermarket: Um….  the label price is $1.

You: But John Lansner says that I can offer 10% below list price, so I am offering .90.  Now if YOU don’t get paid,  I can take another .03c off the price. 

Supermarket:  But that makes this can of beans .87c, when the shelf price is $1 and why shouldn’t I get paid?  Don’t you get paid for what YOU do?

You:  Of course I get paid, but the market is bad and you don’t deserve to be paid. Well,  since you are not earning anything for the sale,  we think that the distributor shouldn’t earn anything either,  so that’s another .03c off,  making it .84.  What the heck…  the market is so bad right now and beans are not selling,  so let’s take off another .75c.  That brings the ‘worth’ of the can of beans to .09c,  which makes my offer of .05c an attractive Offer!

 Go on….  try that the next time you go shopping and see how it works!  Then ask John Lansner to go shopping with you,  so that he can take the flak that the supermarket lashes out!

See,  it’s all very well to sit in an ivory tower, being paid a salary, whilst issuing useless advice that simply devastates an entire industry and results in buyers making fools of themselves…..  but some of us work in the REAL world.  The REAL world where people still envisage a home – a sanctuary – freedom of tenure and security for our families,  and the John Lansner’s and the Robert Allen’s of this world are not in this for YOUR security…  they are in, it for what’s in it for THEM!

 Don’t be taken in.  Don’t be brain-washed by those who advise you how to buy property, but themselves do not own property!

Deal with a reputable Realtor who works in this market everyday and whose reputation is steeped in the success of past sales to happy clients.

The proof is in the tasting.  Taste only from those who know how to cook, because tasting from one who does not know how to cook, could cost you your life!

Rose-Marie & Althea
The OC Dream Home Team

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