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$1000 Donation for every escrow I close in 2016

realtordonationhomepageAs a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to DO MORE GOOD in my community.  From small things like picking up litter in the street, to bigger things (like what I’m about to say…) – little by little, one step at a time, I’m going to try to be a better person.

Here’s the big change I want to make: 

For every house I sell in 2016, I’m going to donate $1,000 of my commission to the charity of my client’s choosing.

I’m not just trying to make a token gesture as a marketing gimmick.  I chose $1,000 because it’s a significant amount, and for some smaller non-profits, a gift of this size can make a real difference.

I’m hoping to donate at least $10,000 this year!

This is where you come in: If you’re thinking about selling your home or buying one, please give me the opportunity to earn your business, and together we’ll DO MORE GOOD.

Not moving? Tell your friends and family about my offer.  I’ll gladly donate $1,000 to the charity of their choice, PLUS $100 to the charity of yours!

Here’s the fine print: The donation must be made to a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  As much as I’d like to, I won’t donate more than 100% of my take-home commission.

Wow! So many Midvale Estates Homes for Sale!

I’ve lived in Midvale Estates for almost 5 years at this point, and I can’t remember the last time we had so many homes for sale or in escrow at one time!  Granted, a number of them are listed by Cathy Cressy and are overpriced, but they’re still great homes!

Most recently on the market is a lovely 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,700sqft house on Langdon Avenue.  It’s on a huge 13,000+ sqft, gated lot, and while it could benefit from a little updating, it’s worth seeing!

Cathy Cressy brings us homes on Orion, Langdon and Blucher, ranging from $549k to $1.1m.  I would anticipate some price cuts in the near future, so hold out on making those offers!

On Firmament is a wonderfully remodeled 4-bed, 3-bath home with pool and guest house!  They’ve already dropped the price by $20k to $979,000.

We also have two homes in escrow! Just behind Carls Jr, on Peach Ave, is a fixer/teardown that appears to be in escrow for a little over $500,000.  Let’s hope it’s replaced by a beautiful Midvale Estates home to be listed for sale in 2016.  We also have an Orion fixer in escrow (listed for a little over $800k).

If you’d like to move to our wonderful Midvale Estates neighborhood, give me a call at (310)926-2386 or email me – ben@vorspan.com.  I’d love to show you some homes!

Buying a Home with a Pet Suite?

Sure, your buyers like the house they’re considering, but do their pets? It’s a question that’s coming up more frequently, and it’s causing builders to put the needs of their clients’ four-legged friends front and center. From designing homes with amenities including ‘smart’ pet doors and elaborate washing and grooming areas, to creating separate living spaces for pets, it’s clear that pets are an important factor when helping clients buy or remodel a home.

Standard Pacific Homes was one of the first builders to make pet comfort a priority. Last year they built model homes that offered a pet suite as an optional amenity. These suites included 170 square feet of pet housing, wash and water stations, automated feeders, comfortable bedding, cabinets for pet toys and food, and access for a puppy run.

Since then, more buyers are seeking out homes that keep their pets’ needs on the forefront, and with 79.8 million pet-owning households throughout the country, the demand for pet-friendly homes could grow significantly. Now other builders are seeing the importance in designing a home that is a perfect fit for pets.

“We are finding that pet owners are growing more aware of the benefits of designing homes with pets in mind,” says Rhyse Altman, an architect designer with Visbeen Architects in Grand Rapids, Mich. “What we are most concerned with is making it easier for their pets to eat, sleep, play, etcetera, on their own terms with as much independence as possible. The last thing a pet owner wants is to be tripping over food dishes, staring at a kennel in the middle of the living room, smelling the litter box or getting up in the middle of the night to let the dog out.”

Source: The Washington Post

The Midvale Estates Realtor, at your service!

For those of you looking for an alternative to the Cressy/Viola/Ross team, I’m your Midvale Estates Realtor! 

I’ve lived in Midvale Estates for a number of years with my wife and two sons, and love it here!  I’ve helped agents hold open houses and consulted with several neighbors who were thinking about selling their homes.  I’ve also worked with countless buyers interested in moving to Midvale Estates.

I know our wonderful neighborhood like the back of my hand, and would love to discuss buying or selling a Midvale Estates home!  Call me at (310)926-2386 or email me – ben@vorspan.com!

Selling a Midvale Estates Home

Thinking of selling your Midvale Estates home? You’ve probably seen for-sale signs for Cathy Cressy, Guy Violas and Ray Ross.  They’re certainly good, honest Realtors, but here are 5 reasons why you should talk to me first!

  • I Live in Midvale Estates! (6500 block of Peach Ave)
    No one knows the neighborhood better than its residents.  Yes – Cathy Cressy lives in our neighborhood too (and organizes our wonderful home owners association), but Guy and Ray don’t.  Trust your neighbors to do right by you!
  • I ‘says it like it is’
    Have you noticed how most listings in Midvale Estates sit on the market for months, have multiple price reductions, and then finally sell for 10-20% less than their original listing price?  It’s a waste of everyone’s time to overprice your home, not to mention I consider it dishonest to tell you what you want to hear, just to get the listing, and then ask you to reduce the price a few weeks later.  I will always give you a thorough, honest estimate of what your home is worth (don’t worry – I know that homes in Midvale Estates are worth more than the rest of Van Nuys!)
  • I have time for you!
    I don’t have a dozen listings right now… which means I have more time for you!  Even working nights and weekends, there’s a finite amount of time in a week that I can devote to my clients.  If I’m trying to sell many homes at once, I’m not going to be able to give you the time you deserve. 
  • I’m young, creative, and an online marketing guru!
    The world has changed over the past 20 years.  There’s more to being a top-notch Realtor than having decades of experience.  My background is in website design and digital marketing.  Considering that 90% of buyers are finding homes online, wouldn’t you want a digital marking specialist to list your home?
  • I have a huge database and the best company behind me!
    Rodeo Realty is the largest privately-owned real estate company in Los Angeles with more agents and sales than any other company in the Valley.  I can personally email more than 22,000 agents and industry professionals with your listing information.  Our marketing department and in-house print shop produce exceptional material to get your home sold fast and at the highest price.

I am the next generation of Midvale Estates Real Estate Agents and I’m here, today, to serve you!  Call me at (310)926-2386 or email me at ben@vorspan.com.  Not really interested in selling, but want to know what your home is worth? No problem!  I’ll walk over, take a look at your home, and give you my honest feedback.

Thanks for reading!

The Number are in! People Want to be Homeowners!

A vast majority of Americans believe that buying a home is a solid financial decision, and most believe they could sell their home for at least its initial purchase price, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the 2015 National Housing Pulse Survey. The Survey also found that a preponderance of Americans think that now is a good to buy a home. 

The Survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing issues in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas, found that

  • more than eight in 10 Americans believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision, and 68 percent believe that now is a good time to buy a home.
  • 71% believe they could sell their house for what they paid for it, a jump of 16 percentage points from 2013.

When asked for reasons about why homeownership matters to them, respondents’ answers did not change significantly from past years.

  • Building equity,
  • wanting a stable and safe environment,
  • and having the freedom to choose their neighborhood remain the top three reasons to own a home. 

The number of renters who are now thinking about purchasing a home has increased since the last survey in 2013, up from 36 percent to 39 percent.

61% of renters stated that owning a home is a priority for their future. 

Source: NAR

Foreclosure Rates are Dropping!

Foreclosure inventory declined by 24.3 percent and completed foreclosures declined by 17.6 percent compared with September 2014, according to the recently released CoreLogic® September 2015 National Foreclosure Report. The number of foreclosures nationwide decreased year over year from 67,000 in September 2014 to 55,000 in September 2015. The number of completed foreclosures in September 2015 is a decrease of 52.8 percent from the peak of 117,438 in September 2010.

Completed foreclosures reflect the total number of homes lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6 million completed foreclosures across the country, and since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been about 8 million homes lost to foreclosure.

As of September 2015, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 470,000, or 1.2 percent, of all homes with a mortgage compared with 621,000 homes, or 1.6 percent, in September 2014.

Backyard Ideas for Fall

Autumn’s crisp, cool evenings are finally providing relief from the summer heat, which means it’s the perfect time to enjoy your outdoor space. Gather your friends and family and make the most of the cooler season with one of these fun outdoor ideas.

Gather Around the Fire — From a portable fire bowl to an elaborate built-in structure, there are fire pit designs to fit every budget. (Your town may have rules on where or if you can build a fire pit, so check ordinances first.) Use your fire feature to roast marshmallows or stay warm while you swap stories under the stars.

Host a Movie Night — Revive the drive-in movie concept in your own backyard. Prepare for your outdoor movie night by stringing a crisp white bed sheet between trees or tacking it to a fence. Then find a clear spot for the projector. Once the sun sets, grab a blanket and a few snacks, and let the entertainment begin.

Enjoy Fall Grilling — There’s no reason to write off the backyard grill just because there’s a chill in the air. Have a few friends over for a fall cookout, complete with grilled seasonal veggies and a potluck dessert. An outdoor heater or chimenea can supplement the warmth from the grill, or spread out a couple blankets for friends to cozy up with if necessary.

Throw a Tailgate Party — Fall weekends belong to football, so why not host a backyard tailgate party? Broadcast the game outdoors by setting up a TV in the garage or under a small tent. Then plan a simple themed menu, decorate in team colors, and create a playlist with feel-good tunes.

Economic update for the week ending September 19, 2015

Stocks drop after Fed leaves rates unchanged – Stocks were up this week until the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged. Many investors feared a rate increase because higher rates increase borrowing costs which cut into profits. It has been widely felt that the Federal Reserve would have begun rising rates because the economy was on solid footing. Stocks had dropped over the past couple of months partially on fears on a rate increase; however, stocks dropped further when the Fed announced they were not going to increase rates! The Fed’s statement made investors feel the economy was weaker than the data indicates, fearing that future growth may not materialize as expected. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 16,384.79, down from last week’s close of 16,433.09  The S&P 500 closed the week at  1,958.03, almost unchanged from last Friday’s close of 1,961.05. The NASDAQ closed the week at 4,827.23, also just about the same as last week’s close of 4,822.34.

Federal Reserve leaves rates unchanged – The Fed chose to leave rates unchanged. In one sense this was good news for investors that had expected the first rate increase since 2006. However, this decision, and their statement spooked investors. The Fed’s statement included that The U.S. was currently the worlds strongest economy, but the risk to future growth in the economy is very high due to weakness throughout the world. It further ran through a bunch of data that showed why they are concerned. Some included: a drop in exports, inflation well below the 2% target range, a stabilizing housing market, and stagnant wages. Strong employment growth was cited as a positive. They left room to raise rates as soon as the next meeting, but added that with inflation so low that even if they did begin to raise rates they would keep rates lower than “normal levels” for a prolonged period of time due to low inflation which they said could persist for as long as a decade. Many experts took these statements to mean that the economy was not as strong as they thought. Stocks sold off on Thursday and Friday after the report was digested on fears that The Fed fears the economy may weaken.  This would affect sales which would affect future corporate profits. All in all, the one thing that investors agreed upon is that the Fed’s decision not to raise rates, which have been at near zero since 2008 to stimulate the economy, creates an environment of uncertainty. Markets fear uncertainty.

Mortgage just under 4%  –  The 30 year fixed rates ended the week around 3.875% for loans up to $417,000, and around 4.00for loans over $417,000.  The 15 year fixed rate loans are about 3.25% for loans up to $417,000, and around 3.375% for loans over $417,000. The 5 Year-ARM rate is around 2.75% and 1 Year-ARM mortgages are about 2.50%. 

Treasury Bond yields slightly lower this week – The 10 year Treasury bond yield closed week at 2.13%, down from 2.20% last Friday.  The 30 year treasury bond yield closed Friday at 2.93%, almost unchanged from last week’s close of 2.95%. Mortgage rates follow bond yields so these are closely watched.

California employers add 36,200 non-farm jobs – The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.1% in August from 6.2% in July. Unemployment is at its lowest level since January 2008 in California according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since August of 2014 the state has gained 470,000 jobs. That represents an annual growth rate of 3% which has outpaced the national average of 2.1% for the 50 states. 

California existing home sales and prices beginning to level The California Association of Realtors reported that the number of homes sold in August dropped 3.8% on an annualized level from the number of homes sold in July. Sales were still up 9.3% from the annualized number of homes sold last August. This year the number of sales have been much higher than last year which was the lowest number of sales in decades, but those increases did moderate in August. Prices are beginning to level as well, according to The California Association of Realtors. The statewide median price in August was up 1% from July, and up only 2.5% from August 2014. That marks the lowest year over year price increase in 3 1/2 years. Unsold inventory ticked up to a 3.6 month supply from a 3.3 month supply in July. This is still a very low number. A normal market has a 6-7 month supply. It’s unusual to see prices stabilize with such a low number of homes on the market. The assumption is that prices have risen to a level that buyers have pulled back on their home purchases. Either inventory can rise quickly or prices can begin to rise more quickly in this environment. Unfortunately, we won’t know for sure until one or the other happens!

3 reasons why Californians shun quake insurance

Even though 90% of the earthquakes that strike the United States are located in California, only about 10% of homeowners there have earthquake insurance. What gives?

Here are three reasons why many quake-prone Californians shun insurance:

1) Quake damage rarely exceeds deductibles.

Some argue the insurance is not worth the money for homeowners. Earthquake insurance generally comes with a deductible of 15% of the home’s value, according to John Rundle, a professor of physics at the University of California, Davis.

“Most homeowners will never exceed the deductible even if they do get damage,” he said.

Most policies are purchased from the California Earthquake Authority, a privately funded, publicly managed organization that was created by the state legislature after severe losses in the Northridge quake threatened to send private insurers packing.

Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of CEA, said he would love to have a zero deductible, but that would make the premiums unaffordable for homeowners. Check out what you would pay on the CEA calculator.

The big deductibles mean money that would have gone to paying insurance premiums might be better spent being invested in temblor resistant home retrofits, according to Rundle. Homeowners could get their houses bolted to bedrock, for example, or braced and reinforced to prevent them from shaking apart.

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