57 Days ’til Christmas…It is time for ‘Coats for Kids’

The weather is cold, and we have seen a couple of really wet storms. Most of us have a dry roof over our heads, warm clothing and a place to sleep.

However, California’s overall unemployment rate is hovering at 12.4%, with some counties reporting as high as 16.6%, and the rate of residential foreclosures still at an all time high. The need for donated coats is more important than ever in 2010.

Century 21 M&M is gearing up for the 20th Annual News 10 Coats for Kids campaign in Northern California. Over the last 19 years, News 10 has collected more than 475,000 coats to children and families in need.  This year News 10’s goal is to collect 25,000 Coats for Kids.

Century 21 M&M’s Business Development and Public Relations director, Jesse Gibbs says, “Last year Century 21 M&M collected almost 4500 coats from 20 offices and 700 agents. This year we have an additional 550 agents and five new offices, my goal is to collect 10,000 Coat for Kids.”

Just clean out those closets and donate new or gently used coats to the Century 21 M&M offices in 25 locations!  We do accept coats of all sizes. Many of our offices will be holding events; Open Houses, Wine and Cheese Tastings, parade float collections, etc.

You are always welcome stop by one our offices and drop coats in the box already available in our front lobbies. You are also welcome to make a monetary donation, or donate your time to help Century 21 M&M agents collect these coats.

Contact any one of our Century 21 M&M offices for more information:

Clovis – 275 N. Clovis Avenue, Ste. 137 – (559)298-4609

Cupertino – 10420 S. De Anza Blvd – (408)725-4000

Dixon – 1450 Ary Lane – (707)678-9211

Escalon – 1410 California Street – (209)838-7053

Fairfield-Dixon Hill – 301 Dickson Hill Rd., Ste. A – (707)429-2121

Fairfield-Oliver Rd. – 1373 Oliver Road – (707)429-9400

Green Valley – 4167 Suisun Valley Rd., Fairfield – (707)864-4650

Livingston – 1472 “B” Street, Ste. D – (209)394-9100

Lodi – 1510 W. Kettleman Lane – (209)368-6111

Los Banos – 1155 E. Pacheco Blvd. – (209)827-3500

Madera – 2000 N. Schnoor, Ste. 101 – (559)664-9100

Manteca – 1246 W. Lathrop Rd. – (209)239-9700

Merced – 530 W. 16th Street – (209)725-9100

Modesto – 605 Standiford Ave, Ste. D – (209)529-6111

Oakdale – 1414 E. F Street, Ste. 201 – (209)847-6111

Patterson – 1040 W. Las Palmas Ave., Ste. A – (209)892-6111

Rio Vista – 241 Main Street – (707)374-3900

W. Sacramento – 725 Riverpoint Court Ste. 110 – (916)371-0637

San Jose – 3150 Almaden Expressway – (408)978-8000

Stockton – 3201 W. Benjamin Holt, Ste. 111 – (209)954-9100

Sunnyvale – 761 E. El Camino Real – (408)249-5100

Turlock-Geer – 1351 Geer Rd., Ste. 103 – (209)667-6111

Turlock-Main – 331 E. Main Street – (209)669-8000

Tracy – 912 West 11th Street – (209-835-2121

Vacaville – 1001 Hume Way, Ste. A – (707)447-2200

What is a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’?

During this Great Recession, as many as one in five American home owners have found themselves unable to keep up with their monthly mortgage payments.

The first line of defense for most of these folks has been to pursue a loan modification. However, since a loan modification is based on the borrowers ability to make mortgage payments, these transactions are not always successful.

Century 21 M&M Short Sale SpecialistsThe second line of defense for these folks is to sell their homes through the process of Short Sale. During the past year, many Century 21 M&M agents have achieved certification in the Short Sale process. Still Realtors and homeowners may experience the frustration of a long short sale process during which lenders often drag their feet and buyers give up and back out of the transaction.

Overall, a Short Sale is still the best choice for homeowners facing foreclosure.

However, if the process of a short sale fails, the homeowner may consider a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’. Simply put, the property owner gives the property to the lender, voluntarily, in exchange for the lender canceling the loan.

Typically a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ proceeds in this manner:

  • The homeowner and lender sign an Agreement in Lieu of Foreclosure which sets out the terms and conditions of the ‘deed in lieu’.
  • The home owner and lender sign a deed, which conveys legal ownership of the property to the lender.
  • The lender marks the borrower’s note as “paid” and provides the borrower with a document that states that the debt is canceled.
  • The lender provides the borrower with another document that waives the lender’s right to a deficiency judgment (the lender’s right to ask for the amount of the debt they are unable to recover from the sale of the home).
  • The agreement for ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ is executed through an escrow company which receives the borrower’s note (marked as “paid”) from the lender.
  • The escrow then records the deed in the property’s file at the county recorder’s office and sends the note to the borrower, releasing the borrower from all obligations under the mortgage.

The Pros of a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ include:

  • Foreclosure is devastating to a credit score, almost anything is better than foreclosure, and results in a lighter impact on your credit score.
  • The borrower is immediately released from most or all of the personal indebtedness associated with the defaulted loan.
  • The borrower avoids the public notoriety of a foreclosure proceeding and may receive more generous terms than he would in a formal foreclosure.
  • Advantages to a lender include a reduction in the time and cost of a repossession, lower risk of borrower revenge (metal theft and vandalism of the property before sheriff eviction), and additional advantages if the borrower subsequently files for bankruptcy.

The Cons of a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ may include:

  • A negative strike on the borrowers’ credit rating, however, it is less harmful than a mortgage foreclosure.
  • The lender may not be willing to forgive the deficiency balance. It is important to read the contract carefully (or take it to an attorney) to see how the deficiency balance issue is handled.
  • Since deed in lieu foreclosure involves the transfer of property, the borrower may need to pay a state deed tax on conveyance of property to the lender.
  • The borrower surrendering a home to the lender may owe income tax on cancelled debt. However, under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Tax Relief Act (applicable till the end of 2012), you may not need not pay any income tax on canceled debt resulting from a deed in lieu, however, some borrowers do not qualify for this tax relief.

NOTE:  It is important that you first consult with an attorney and/or a tax accountant in order to understand all of your options in resolving your mortgage debt.

Look for this real estate blog every Friday on the http://www.c21mmblog.com website. If you are looking for property in Northern California, or for more information on buying or selling a home, visit – c21mm.com.  Please send any comments, questions or suggestions, to me at newsandviews@c21mm.com or just leave a comment below.

What is the Foreclosure Freeze and How Does it Affect Real Estate Sales?

Source - Lender Processing Services

UPDATE: As of 10/19/10, both Bank of America and Ally Financial have lifted their Foreclosure Freeze, saying that they didn’t find any significant problems with the foreclosure documents.

The Foreclosure Freeze is big news, not only locally, but nationwide. Two of the nation’s largest banks have stopped foreclosures in some states; Chase and PNC Financial. And, according to CBS Money Watch, Ally Financial and Bank of America have done so in 50 states.

What triggered this latest foreclosure development?

A sworn deposition in Pennsylvania by GMAC loan officer named Jeffery Stephan. In this deposition, Stephan admitted that he signed off on up to 10,000 foreclosure documents a month for five years.

If you do the math, that means that Mr. Stephan had approximately a minute and a half to make sure grounds for foreclosure actually existed. And Mr. Stephan admitted that he hadn’t reviewed the documents.

The banks that have stopped foreclosures say that they are checking to see if their employees made errors in the loan documents needed to complete foreclosures.

In some instances lenders cannot show that they have a legal right to foreclose on a home. Every time a mortgage changes hands, the new owners are supposed to receive an “assignment” of the mortgage notes from the buyers. This assignment is typically a short document, signed by both the buyer and seller of the mortgage, acknowledging the sale.

For most mortgages, this “assignment” note exists somewhere, but due to the fact that some of the original mortgage lenders have gone under or merged with another bank, tracking down these notes can sometimes be difficult–if not impossible.

Banks are also looking for faked notarizations and forged documents. Many documents appear to have been signed without a notary public witnessing that signature and that is a violation of law.

What does this foreclosure freeze mean for Real Estate Agents?

Roxanna Shatz, Century 21 M&M Escalon Office (209) 821-1413 email-rshatz @c21mm.com

Roxanna Shatz, Escalon Office (209) 821-1413 email-rshatz @c21mm.com

In talking to Realtors for Century 21 M&M  about the Foreclosure Freeze, they have a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Roxanna Shatz of the Century 21 M&M Escalon office says, “So far the foreclosure freeze affects only Bank of America transactions in California. None of my sales have been affected and I don’t know of any other agents in the Century 21 M&M that have been affected.”

Roxanna attended a webinar on the subject this morning, and she states, “Bank of America seems to be confident that the process of reviewing their foreclosure documents should only take a couple more weeks.”

In general, contracts to buy bank owned foreclosed homes have been put on hold and extended for 30 days. And, in some cases, banks are reaching out to buyers and offering them the option to cancel their contracts and recoup their deposit.

Santiago Salcido, Realtor for Century 21 M&M Modesto

Santiago Salcido, Modesto Office (209) 568-7391 email-ssalcido @c21mm.com

Santiago Salcido, Realtor for Century 21 M&M Real Estate Modesto, also states that none of the transactions that he has been working on have been affected. However, he is careful to say, “You just don’t know, this crisis is still in the early stages.”

Both Santiago and Roxanne agree that banks may be more willing to accept a short-sale offer if the foreclosure route is temporarily unavailable.

This is a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers of short-sales:

  • A short sale would be safer to a buyer because he knows the person he is buying from is the true owner.
  • Sellers will not suffer the same financial and credit damage set backs from a short-sale that they will suffer from a foreclosure.

Roxanna says, “The thing that really concerns me is the fact that the California Attorney General, Jerry Brown wants to put a halt to all foreclosures.” Actually, in all 50 states, the attorneys general are reviewing whether mortgage companies have violated their states’ laws.

In the short term, the foreclosure freeze may cause home prices to stabilize, however, if this freeze goes on for a long time, the result may mean more foreclosures…which could delay the recovery of the housing market and home prices for some time.

Look for this real estate blog every Friday on the http://www.c21mmblog.com website. If you are looking for property in Northern California, or for more information on buying or selling a home, visit – c21mm.com.  Please send any comments, questions or suggestions, to me at newsandviews@c21mm.com or just leave a comment below.

Technology Enhancing the Business of Real Estate

Alan Aoyama, Sales Manager for Century 21 M&M Cupertino

Alan Aoyama, Sales Manager-Cupertino (408)366-6230 email-alan @c21mm.com

Technology has come a long way since Alan T. Aoyama entered the real estate industry 19 years ago.

“I had a cell phone that looked a lot like a brick,” said Aoyama, a Cupertino-based vice president of Century 21 M&M and Associates.

He also recalls the Multiple Listings Service was printed out on large-format, thermo-printed sheets.  The bulky listing of homes for sale was awkward to handle and was called “The Book.”

Fast-forward to today and the once revolutionary cell phone takes a back seat to smart phones and connectivity with the Internet.  According to a recent survey by the California Association of Realtors, 71 percent of real estate transactions in the past 12 months originated with an Internet contact.

“It’s all about the readily available information on the Internet,” said Aoyama, who uses an Apple iPhone and iPad.  “Prior to this, getting that information was up to the agent.”

Today, not only the real estate agent, but also homebuyers, can easily access information about a home for sale — such as state rank of the school district and median prices of nearby homes —from their smart phones or computers.

Joseph Calderon, Century 21 M&M Turlock

Joseph Calderon, Turlock Office (209) 668-5099 email-jcalderon @c21mm.com

Joseph Calderon, a Century 21 M&M Realtor in Turlock, said many homebuyers have done their own search for a home via technology, before contacting a Realtor.  It’s easy.  Just click on the comprehensive Century 21 M&M website, c21mm.com, and answers to home-buying questions are available.

“The first place they go is online,” said Calderon about homebuyers.  “They don’t look at the newspaper classifieds anymore.”

For realty agents, technology makes their jobs much more efficient and much more productive.  Century 21 M&M, which has invested nearly $2 million in technology in the past four years, gives its agents such tools as:

  • Internet agent aids, such as special hand-held apps for clients
  • Comprehensive company website and individual agent websites
  • MLS automatic marketing system
  • In-house information technology support
  • Escrow coordination

“It is going to sell more homes,” said Aoyama about the high-tech tools.  “It’s going to give agents more time to sell homes.”

Surprisingly, all this technology is sourced from Century 21 M&M, not the recent Silicon Valley acquisition of Century 21 offices in Cupertino, San Jose and Sunnyvale.

“Century 21 M&M came from Oakdale into the Silicon Valley ahead of the curve in technology,” said Aoyama.  “Century 21 M&M embraced this technology and put out a great IT support and training system for it.”

Calderon said the new technology has him using his cell phone less and less.

“I’ve sold homes texting and emailing, never directly speaking with anyone on the phone,” he said.  “It’s transitioning more to that.  You can just get more done if you don’t spend time on the phone.”

Calderon is quick to note, some clients prefer meeting in person, communicating by phone, and signing paper documents.  He is more than happy to accommodate them.

Jennifer Luna, a Realtor at the Century 21 M&M Stockton office, markets her services on the Facebook social network.

Jennifer Luna, Century 21 M&M Real Estate, Stockton

Jennifer Luna, Stockton Office (209)320-2770 email-jluna @c21mm.com

She has 648 “friends” on Facebook and the figure grows by the week.

“It gets my name out there,” she said.  “There’s a lot of potential.  I get lots of people that need help.  I look at that as potential clients.”

Facebook, among the more than 300 websites and social networks Century 21 M&M utilizes, has more than 500 million active users — about one out of every 14 people in the world.

Luna believes the day will come when Facebook leads account for up to 30 percent of her real estate transactions.

Her future Facebook plans include publishing regular real estate tips and posting her listings on her Facebook page.

“I don’t want to be boring,” said Luna. “I like to mix personal and business, so people know you’re real.”

Look for this real estate blog every Friday on the http://www.c21mmblog.com website. If you are looking for property in Northern California, or for more information on buying or selling a home, visit – c21mm.com.  Please send any comments, questions or suggestions, to me at newsandviews@c21mm.com or just leave a comment below.

Agricultural Real Estate Sales Growing Stronger

Last of a two-part series

Boosted by strong demand for almond orchards, open land with irrigation and growing interest from investors, sales of agriculture properties has been strong, according to Realtors from Century 21 M&M and Associates.

Jeff Titus, Century 21 M&M Real Estate Oakdale

Jeff Titus, Oakdale Office (209) 844-1759 email-jtitus @c21mm.com

“Ag sales are relatively strong, I would say,” said Jeffrey Titus of Century 21 M&M in Oakdale.  “There are people that want to buy cheap and the people selling want top dollar.”

Ag sales also have been solid in the greater Madera area, according to Derrick Upton, a Realtor with Century 21 M&M in Madera.

“It’s going pretty good,” said Upton about his farm sales this year.  “I closed two escrows this month (September). “

Derrick Upton, Century 21 M&M Real Estate Madera

Derrick Upton, Madera Office (559) 675-5921 email-dupton @c21mm.com

Upton said his most recent sales were $1 million for 456 acres of open ground and $800,000 for 53 acres of almonds.

The price of open land often is determined by the availability of irrigation water.  Titus said property in a water district is typically valued from $12,000 to $15,000.  Property with a history of having good source of well water is priced from $3,500 to $6,500.

Smaller dairies, up to 50 acres, often are purchased and then demolished and transformed into open ground.  Popular crops planted on open land include almonds, walnuts, grapes, cherries and olives, said Titus.

Titus said dairy sales are very slow.  “The financing is tough because the dairy industry is in the tubes,” he said.  “The income doesn’t support the price, so banks won’t loan money.”

“Almond ground has gone up from a year ago,” said Upton.  “Last year, you could tell someone it’s $16,000 an acre and they’d fall down.  Now, they’re looking to buy almonds for $16,000.  The price is high right now, it might not be in another month or two.”

Titus said almond growers are not able to produce enough product to meet the worldwide growing demand.

“The almond industry has done a tremendous job in increasing consumption of their product,” said Titus.

The demand for almond orchards has attracted outside investors.

“Almonds are up right now,” said Upton.  “A lot of investors are looking at almonds.  Some of them are afraid of putting money into the stock market.”

Titus, who works the eastern portion of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties, said a group of investors has purchased about 3,000 acres of farmland in the Oakdale area the past two years.

A September 19th article in the Los Angeles Times noted foreign investors are putting their money into California farmland.

“In California, investors from countries including Spain, Switzerland, China, Egypt and Iran collectively boosted their holdings 2.5 percent from February 2007 to February 2009 to 1.08 million acres — about 5 percent of the state’s total farmland,” the Times reported.

Upton said a foreign investment group recently purchased 1,200 acres of farmland near Chowchilla for $16.9 million.

Look for this real estate blog every Friday on the http://www.c21mmblog.com website. If you are looking for property in Northern California, or for more information on buying or selling a home, visit – c21mm.com.  Please send any comments, questions or suggestions, to me at newsandviews@c21mm.com or just leave a comment below.