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Archive for January, 2012

More fallout from the UCD pepper spraying protesters incident has been uncovered with a $100,000 payout to a consultant firm that was hired to assist the campus and deflect the world-wide uproar this episode created. The crisis communications consultant, a division of Marsh Risk Consulting had ties to another New York based company, Kroll Inc.–who was originally hired by UCD to provide and independent account for that dreadful day on the Quad. Would this be considered a slight case of conflict of interest?

Two separate Marsh employees worked three or four days per week on the Davis campus starting on November 22, just a few days after a video of campus police officers pepper-spraying “Occupy UCD protesters”. This incident drew world-wide attention and had a negative impact on campus that UCD is still trying to recover from. March Risk assisted UCD with its response to a number of constituents, which included current students, parents, employees and alumni. They also helped UCD divert and cope with the worldwide press scrutiny. Doesn’t every campus in this country have an on site crisis management team that can handle situations, instead of hiring an outside firm that charges so much and does so little? It appears Marsh contributed to long-term planning and will be on call if needed. Let’s hope their services will not be needed in the future, not at that rate.Marsh Risk has been affiliated with University of California since 2009, working on training for earthquake preparedness and evaluating the UC’s response to the H1N1 flu outbreak.

 UC President, Mark Yudof chose Kroll to handle the fact-finding into the pepper spraying. Yodof’s choice of Kroll came under fire from critics, who obviously saw Kroll’s previous work raised questions about a possible conflict of interest. Of course, Yudof dismissed these accusations with this statement, “I’m a lawyer. There is zip, zero conflict here. This coming from a lawyer, who we know never stretches the truth. Anyone else a little suspicious? Request for public records of Kroll’s previous work for UC has gone unanswered. UC continues to deny any ties between Kroll and Marsh raising any red flags. They appear to be the only entity that can’t see this glaring conflict.

Marsh Risk Consulting is charging $375 an hour for its help, running up a total tally of $100,000. This astronomical amount will be paid out of the same UC risk funds being used to pay Kroll, which by the way is charging $300 an hour for their services. That’s not all, UCD is also paying a law firm in Sacramento $250 per hour and a Yorba Linda group $160 per hour to partner on the campus internal investigation. This is just the initial expenses, there will be other cost associated with this incident that are unknown at this time. How can UC justify this expense during a budget crisis? Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs and easy access to view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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More home buyers will take that plunge and purchase a home this year and rightly so. With home prices down by as much as 50% in some areas and interest rates hovering at an all time low, 2012 could be the best time in years to buy a property. This combination is the perfect storm for prospective homebuyers. There is never a wrong time to buy the right house. Whether you’re a first-timer or repeat buyer, these steps will guide you through the process.

Aligning Your Finances: Getting your financial standing in place is the most important aspect to buying a home and saving money at the same time. There are numerous loan options for today’s home buyer. Decide what monthly financial commitment you want to make and stick to your plan. Lenders can show you a variety of loan packages that meet your monetary limits. Your credit score and income/debt ratio have a huge bearing on how much home you can afford. Restrain from purchasing a home that would potentially put you in a financial bind later.

Lender Comparison Shopping: Shopping for a loan improves your chances of saving money. Different lenders offer different products, so comparison shopping helps you find the best loan deals around. Speak with a minimum of three mortgage companies and make them aware of your intentions to shop around. Request a “Good Faith Estimate” ( written estimate of fees and cost) from each lender. During this initial stage, do not allow any lender to pull your credit report or make a commitment with any mortgage company. Interest rates may not vary that much, but fees do. Most lenders will reduce or waive certain fees, when they know there’s competition involved. You could end up saving yourself thousands of dollars using this approach. The eventual lender that you select, can then pull your credit report.

Pre Approval Letter: After choosing the loan company, the next step is obtaining the all important pre approval letter. This involves verification of the financial information such as employment confirmation, source of your down payment and other aspects of your financial circumstances. The majority of offers require a pre approval letter accompanied with the proposal, it gives you more leverage in negotiations with the seller and carries more weight than a pre qualification letter.

Finding An Agent: Looking for a home can be exciting and challenging at the same time. Having a real estate professional that takes the time to understand your unique needs and lifestyle is vital. Look for an experienced professional that will listen to you, conduct himself in an ethical manner and knows the market. Successful realtors have satisfied clients, ask for references. Choose your agent wisely.

Home Search: Before you visit any properties, outline what type of homes and locations are appealing for your style of living and personal needs. What characteristics in a property you will and will not accept. Should you accept a home in a prime location, but needs work. One story or two-story. Remodeled but a bit pricey. The best philosophy to start your home search, it isn’t the one that has everything, it’s the one that has more of what you want and less of what you don’t. You’ll know when a home feels right.

Making An Offer: Your agent should have given you a sample of the Residential Purchase Contract prior to showing you homes and explained the contingencies and protections this contract covers. He should also show you comparable homes on the market and properties that have recently sold in the neighborhood. How long has the home been on the market, will be an indicator whether the home is priced correctly. As a buyer, this is where your representative’s experience comes in handy.

Property Inspections: The California Purchase contracts gives buyers 17 days to investigate the property which starts on the day your offer was accepted. A whole house inspection is highly recommended. This inspection entails a thorough top to bottom examination of the home. The best way to describe a whole house inspector is, he’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none. If any of the major amenities are dated, they should be separately inspected by a qualified expert. Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs and easy access to view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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Home sellers are mystified by home buyers that have either bypassed their home completely or made what they consider, insulting offers. During the real estate boom, sellers controlled the market and called all of the shots. This is no longer the case. The dilemma sellers face in 2012, is what to expect from prospective home buyers. My advice to sellers, repair, update, stage and most importantly, price your home correctly. Successful home sellers understand the necessity to create a buyer friendly atmosphere. Each situation is different and buyer motivation will change based on the circumstance, but the philosophy of today’s home buyers are patience and an implacable approach. Let’s take a look at what entices today’s home buyer.

Bargain Value: Buyers are cautious and selective. Consumers are going back to basics, searching for solid, well-maintained properties that will give them their money’s worth. They’re buying homes that are in good mechanical condition that have inherent value. Buyers want great deals and no matter where a seller prices their property, they’re looking to negotiate.

Well-Maintained Homes: Buyers don’t want any unknown expense hanging over their heads. Buyers demand properties that have been taken care of and very little flexibility on this issue. Homebuyers have enough money to buy a home, not enough to buy and improve. Prospects are a lot more critical and will not settle, because they know they don’t have to.

Buyer Incentives: Buyers want their cake and eat it too. Along with negotiating prices, prospects want some form of incentive, be it closing cost assistance or a credit for home improvements. Sellers can no longer be stubborn with these request and assume the next offer will not include an incentive demand.

Open Floorplans: Homes that have a kitchen that opens to the family or livingroom have a huge advantage over the secluded kitchen. The kitchen has become part of the living space and walls take away the ambiance that attract today’s buyer. If a wall can be removed without structurally damaging the home, this would be strongly advised.

Desire For Smaller Home: Buyers are buying smaller homes. They are being much more strategic and efficient on how they use every inch of living space. With a two-story home, consumers prefer a downstairs bedroom and full bathroom. More families are taking in aging parents or adult children that need temporary help and the added privacy that this configuration offers. There are no definition that defines every buyer, based on observations, most buyers can be characterized by these points. Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs or view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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It’s no secret that Yolo County and California’s housing markets have been in a prolonged slump. What would it take for housing to reverse course and enter a sustainable rebound? The answer lies within the economic, political and social factors, all of which revolve around the uncertainty that has characterized so much since the national housing crash began in 2006. Here are a few areas in which predictability would make a difference.

Consumer Demand: Quality jobs and a huge dip in the unemployment rate are paramount and top the list of factors that would help housing markets recover. Employment fuels consumer confidence. You’re not going to buy a home if you fear you might not have an income to pay the mortgage. There are no guarantees that home prices will be lower in the future, buyers with stable employment are actively pursuing homes, more demand would systematically increase home prices.

Supply Factor: Bank foreclosures and short sales are a drag on housing markets. Sales of distressed properties have made up a substantial percentage of home sales in recent years. These homes, sold at a discount have put downward pressure on prices. A sell-off of distressed inventory would help move housing toward stability. Areas like Davis, California that had a minimum number of foreclosures and the majority of homes sold were the traditional buyer and seller transfer, have seen home prices stabilizing over the last couple of years.

Home Equity: Numerous homeowners are underwater and can’t sell their home without a short sale approval from the mortgage holder. The solution is to reduce those loan balances, with tough encouragement from the federal government. The need for a bailout in areas hardest hit by the housing downturn is vital and would certainly reduce the onslaught of bank owned and short sale properties. The principal balance reduction is essential to get the market restarted.

Manageable Financing: Stringent financing also constrains demand. Practical underwriting is welcome, but contemptible delays in loan approvals deter both buyers and sellers. Impatience leads buyers to give up and prompts sellers to settle for lower all cash offers. Lenders have to make the loan process less restrictive and expedite loan approval.

Long-Term Policy: There’s too much uncertainty for investors, buyers and sellers with the turmoil at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, backlog of foreclosures that are scheduled for release this year and the mortgage interest tax deduction. All of these things should be addressed, but now is not the time. A major change will be needed to spark a housing recovery. These necessary steps would increase the likelihood that California would quickly recover from the housing market crash that has plagued most of California. Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs and easy access to view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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A dozen new gas leaks have been discovered by PG&E in Stonegate, a subdivision in West Davis. PG&E announced in December its plan to replace more than two thousand feet of natural gas distribution line pipe in this quiet neighborhood, as well as twenty-eight service lines that run to residents homes. The new leaks–caused by failures in the plastic caps on the service tee lines. This pushes the total over the last five years to fifty-seven in this West Davis neighborhood.

The defective pipe that needs to be replaced runs along Marina Circle between Biscayne Bay and Secret Bay Place. This area is being targeted because it has experienced the highest number of reported leaks. Why has PG&E refused to provide information regarding distribution lines under other Davis neighborhoods? Will these necessary repairs be reason enough for PG&E to raise their rates again?

The newly discovered leaks have not impelled PG&E to alter its plan to replace only the two thousand feet originally announced. The utility company began performing bi-weekly gas leak surveys in selected areas near Marina Circle, after six new leaks were discovered in November 2011 when residents reported smelling gas. Last month, after residents in Stonegate again complained of smelling gas, the utility company discovered more leaks on Lake Terrace Circle and immediately repaired them. About 4.7 miles of distribution line pipe runs underneath Stonegate.

PG&E is also working to develop a GIS program that would provide more detail about the Davis natural gas system. The Davis Fire Department continues working with PG&E to monitor the progress and the plan. Fire Chief Bill Weisgerber reminds Stonegate and Davis residents to contact the Fire Department if they smell natural gas. “PG&E is keeping us informed with their progress,” Weisberger said. “It’s a rather involved undertaking and it’s going to take some time to execute this replacement project”. Have other citizens in other areas of Davis experienced any stench of natural gas? Is PG&E working expeditiously to solve this dangerous issue? Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs, get details on the free cruise to Mexico and view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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The days are gone where home sellers could start marketing their home and presto, you have multiple offers with no seller concessions. Creativity and a proactive approach are now a necessity. Selling your home can be one of the most stressful moments in your life. Back in the heyday of real estate, buyers financing was little more than an afterthought, that’s all changed. We are in a buyers market, with few actual buyers participating. Prospective home buyers can be more selective because time is on their side. Many offers are requesting financial assistance from the seller that would have been considered an insult a few years ago. By offering incentives, be it financial or credits for home improvements, can be the difference in your home selling or sitting on the market for a long duration.

Home staging is crucial in selling a home in today’s market. Research shows staging will help you sell your home faster and put more money in your pocket. Staging is no longer just clearing the clutter and spot painting the walls. Buyers buy on emotion and they want homes that fit their lifestyles and dreams. Every time a potential buyer thinks a home needs a physical change, they automatically deduct $10,000 off the asking price. Many houses being marketed today are vacant, stand out from the crowd by staging your home. Consult with a realtor for staging referrals.

With the state-of-the-art marketing techniques on the internet, it would be unusual for a buyer to visit a property without seeing it first. Posting pictures with a virtual tour of your home is a great way to let buyers measure if your home meets their needs. It’s a proven fact that buyers decide within twenty seconds of visiting a home, whether that property is the chosen one. When a buyer sees your home in a virtual tour they start to envision themselves in your living space.

With the economy being so unpredictable, consumers will not overpay for any merchandise, especially a big-ticket purchase. It’s imperative that your home be priced correctly from day one. Buyers will not blindly pursue a home that is priced based on the financial needs of the seller. The old approach of pricing high and selling lower is an antiquated concept. Home buyers are patient and have gained knowledge through this patience to study and understand market conditions. To put it bluntly, price your house to sell or don’t sell at all. Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my informative blogs and easy access to view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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It’s comforting to know with the recent peaks and valleys in real estate, that affordable mortgage rates are one of the enduring benefits of pursuing a home in 2012. Just this week, rates hit an all time low of 3.89%, down from last weeks low of 3.91%. A year ago at this time, a thirty year interest rate averaged 4.71%.  Much of the media has focused on the negative aspect of plunging home prices that have created a backlog of foreclosures and the abundance of short sales that are so prevalent in today’s real estate. You have to feel heart-sick for those families that are dealing with the prospects of being forced out of their home, due to loss of job or home equity.

The drop in home prices has created many opportunities for home buyers that were virtually impossible just a few years ago. Assuming buyers have steady income, a good credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5%, there are few barriers preventing a family from taking full advantage of owning a home today. In many communities nationwide, buyers are finding their mortgage payments are actually lower than monthly rent payments. Add on the tax benefits of the mortgage interest deduction and purchasing a home is a strong long-term investment.

In Davis, California home prices have fluctuated by as little as two percent over the last three years, which indicates that prices have stabilized. Real estate moves in cycles, but over time real estate has consistently appreciated. Pride of ownership is the most enduring reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can make alterations to your home, paint walls any color you want and it offers your family a sense of stability and security. The mortgage interest deduction is a tax benefit that you can take advantage of every year, but the Capital Gain Exclusion is a benefit that can turn into a huge financial windfall when you sell your home. If you live in your home for at least two of a five-year period, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a married couple. There are no age restrictions and you can take advantage every twenty-four months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit–free from taxation. Please visit my website www.JohnnyBrooksHomes.com for helpful tips on buying or selling a home, scan my other informative blogs and to view local area homes for sale in Davis, California and the surrounding communities.

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