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Welcome to my blog!  You'll find the latest real estate developments and news for Orange County in the posts below.  Don't forget to use the main site to search Orange County real estate listings!  And if you register you'll be granted access to more advanced site features such as pricing and new listing alerts.


June 9, 2011

Hush Lounge gets the kiss of death, Katsuya moves in

by Ashley Landsmen

Just south of Downtown Laguna Beach, sits a middling building, resting behind neatly manicured bamboo plants. Located in the rear of an unexpected parking lot on PCH, some out-of-towners might pass by the contemporary structure without a second glance.

Locals knew it as Hush, a restaurant with a modish feel, candlelit ambience, and an impeccable décor. Despite the seemingly notable semblance and animated dance floor, in September 2010, Hush was shutdown after seven years of shaking martinis.

Who’s stepping up to fill the space? Katsuya by Starck. There are other successful Katsuya resturaunt locations in Los Angeles, but this will be the first in Orange County.

From Zagat fave Tabu Grill to the frisky atmosphere of Blue Laguna, Laguna Beach is a mixed bag of culinary destinations and nightlife adventures.

Following suit with other Los Angeles locations, the Laguna Beach restaurant is a collaboration between Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi and designer Philippe Starck.

According to its parent company, SBE Restaurant Group, the Japanese restaurant will have bento box-inspired surroundings and backlit images of Geishas.

There is no doubt Katsuya’s swanky reputation has preceded its opening in Orange County. The city of Laguna Beach just might be the perfect place for Katsuya by Starck to survive.

The Orange County spot was originally scheduled to open this month, June 2011, but SBE Restaurant Group hasn’t set an opening date. Instead they stick to a generic “Coming this summer” on their website.

For up-to-date information, Katsuya - Laguna Beach Online




Posted in Restaurants
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May 14, 2011

Questions To Ask A Mortgage Lender

Here we have compiled a list of common questions you should ask a lender. 

Information about Lender: 

  • Does getting a good interest rate depends on excellent credit rating?
  • What are the different steps involved in the process of pre-approval?
  • How much time will it take to complete the process of pre-approval?
  • Is it allowed to Lock-In the interest rate while buying a home?
  • Till what time is the Lock-In best for?
  • Till what time is the Lock-In best for?
  • What will happen if the interest rate goes down before a deal is closed?
  • After approval of a loan, will you provide a written commitment?
  • What are the documents needed at the time of loan approval?
  • How much time does a loan takes to get approved?
  • How long will it take to close the loan after getting approved? 

About Loan Process: 

  • If needed, can you process the loan faster?
  • Where is the mortgage loan processed?
  • What is the total time required to process a mortgage loan?
  • Can the Lock-in also be extended if closing gets delayed?
  • Are the latest updates on loan processing available?
  • How long does it take to get a loan approved? 

Analyze your Financial Situation: 

  • Do you offer any special programs with lower interest rates or reduced closing cost for the first time buyers?
  • How much of a loan amount can be borrowed on a mortgage?
  • What can be done to fix the past credit problems?
  • What can be done to qualify for the required loan?


  • Can you give me the references of those people whose loans you have processed? 

Points and Fees: 

  • Is the originating fee a part of the closing costs?
  • When can the Interest Rate and Discount Points be locked?
  • How long is the Lock-In period valid for?
  • What is the durability of the point's quote that was given by you verbally?
  • What will be the total of closing costs?
  • How much do you charge as junk fees?
  • How many days of interest are figured by you in prepaid?
  • Can any of the fees be negotiated at the time loan process?
  • What are the fees that need to be paid at the time of application?
  • Are the credit report fee and the appraisal fee needed to be paid at the time of application?
  • What will be the principle amount and its interest that needs to be paid every month?
  • Is there any extra fee that needs to be paid if the rate goes down?
  • Can the fixed rate be converted without refinancing, if yes what is the conversion fee?
  • Can a loan be pre-paid at any point of time?
  • Is there any pre-payment penalty associated with this loan? 

Home Owner Insurance: 

  • Do you think that an individual inspection is required to rate the property?
  • Do you provide any premium discounts if homeowner's insurance are carried with you?
  • Does the Home owner insurance policy have any provision that covers personal property that is lost, stolen or damaged within the premises?
  • How much will the insurance company pay and for how long if the house is completely destroyed?
Posted in Real Estate Advice
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May 5, 2011

The Checklist For Securing A Home Mortgage

There are times, when a loan can prove to be the solution to many of your problems and if you are planning to get a mortgage, you should first take a few things into consideration. There are times when a mortgage is easily taken by people, only later to realize they’ve made a huge mistake. To avoid making a costly decision that might come from taking on a mortgage you cannot afford, one needs to take the proper precautions and be careful in how you approach a lender. There are things that you must keep in mind and we shall discuss some of these things now.

You must realize that the economy fluctuates. It is dynamic and therefore you have to act in accordance with the change in the market. However, there are a few things that remain constant and these factors influence lenders and banks in a certain way. The most important things that lenders look out for are:

•          Your income and liabilities

•          Your credit score, for a higher credit shall reap you higher chances of gaining the trust of a lender.

•          The size of your down payment

However, before you approach a lender, you must figure out if it is the right time for you to opt for a mortgage at all.  We shall discuss some of the questions you must ask yourself before you decide on a mortgage.

Do you have debts to pay?

If you have taken personal or auto loans, taken out credit cards, you would not be able to go for a huge mortgage. You must ensure that you limit your usage of the credit card to a maximum of 10% of its limit. Being debt free can be a great advantage in opting for mortgages. So, if you have big loans to pay, you must understand that this is not the time to go for mortgages.

Do you save every month for children's education/ retirement?

Many people save up a certain amount of money as a part of their retirement plan or an investment for the education of their children. Managing your savings needs skill and composure. It might not be very easy to handle and manage both your savings plan as well as your mortgage. You must feel comfortable with managing both your savings as well as your mortgage loan. If you have a huge debt to pay off, you must do so, before anything else, so that your mortgage plans can run smoothly.

Know your credit well

Getting a mortgage might not be an easy thing to do. Borrowing money can be very costly and difficult as well. So, if you are intending to get a big mortgage, you must clear off those debts. Depending on the market, your mortgage strategy must be planned. If you do not have a high score you not even be considered credit worthy. A 680 is a minimum to qualify as credit worthy and higher rates and terms.

There are certain VA and FHA programs for people with a low credit, but in order to get the  maximum benefit through a mortgage plan and avoid any kind of future problems, it is always advisable that you do away with all your debts. Clear them off to have clean grounds to begin with and a string base to build up on. Therefore, if you think there is enough debt to be paid right now, this might not be the right time to opt for a mortgage.

Most lenders look for credit history, (credit cards, mortgage, second mortgage, auto loan, store card, student loan, secured/unsecured installment loan, gas card, etc.) in a good standing.

Do you have enough cash reserves to back you up?

A cash reserve is often necessary if you want to opt for a mortgage. Sometimes lenders ask for a cash reserve that is nearly the six months of mortgage payment. A borrower with enough amounts of cash reserve or saving has a much higher chance of earning a huge mortgage than one who has meager savings. In case of other programs, such as FHA loans, such requirements are not applicable. However, having a good enough cash reserve is undoubtedly a wise option. So, if you are not at your best financial forms right now, you should hold on with your mortgage plans.

 Is there a possibility that your income shall rise?

In order to borrow money, you must be earning some substantial amount of money. If you do not have much savings or if you are running your own business and have not yet established a successful one you must take some time till you have a higher income. Once you start earning more, it will be easier for you to get a mortgage.

 How much debt do you pay every month?

You must calculate the entire amount of debt that you pay each and every month, and the amount that gets deducted from your monthly income. Therefore, if you want to take additional debts, you must make sure that your calculations are done carefully. You must know your debt to income ratio. Calculate it and you shall be able to assess your ability to afford a mortgage.

An insurance policy

There are many people, in the modern world, who invest in purchase of a lot of property and follow by paying premiums for them. If you are already paying for life insurance policies, health or automobiles, it might not be very easy to handle or manage both the mortgage as well the premiums that you pay every month. If there are many to pay, you must not indulge in opting for a mortgage loan right away.

Buying a home is a huge decision and it is one of the biggest investments that you are to make in your life, but you must consider your finances and credit score before you put yourself into any kind of trouble.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
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May 4, 2011

How To Find A Home At A Bargain Price

Buying a house is definitely a huge investment decision that should not be taken in haste as you may very well end up regretting it later. The purchase of a home is an investment that requires careful planning and effort.  If you put in the time to research and the right planning you will find that great housing bargains are waiting to be taken advantage of everywhere.

Whether you choose to purchase directly from an owner or through a bank (foreclosures), the easiest and most convenient way to locate good bargains in real estate is through a reputed real estate agent.  This is a hassle free way where you don’t need to go through the trouble of finding the right property as your agent will do the initial grunt work for you.  You might not possess the required knowledge regarding real estate to be able to identify the best deal for yourself.  A veteran real estate agent on the other hand has the right expertise and skills to make a shortlist of properties matching your requirements. Real estate agents can point you towards the best bargains since they know where to look.

Going through a real estate agent has its drawbacks. When you are looking for a deal on a house purchasing directly from the owner might just be the smartest choice. Homes listed under “For Sale by Owner” signs have a lower asking price since there is no selling agent’s fee to be calculated here. Unfortunately, such properties are the most difficult to find.

But don’t be discouraged for there are plenty of other clues or hints that can alert you to identify a good bargain.  These insiders’ tips assist a buyer to weed through a wide range of properties to find the best deals. What are these tell tale signs that shout a good bargain?

  • The duration for which a particular home has been in the market is a vital clue in understanding whether the owner is willing to lower the asking price. If the property has been put on sale for more than three months the chances are that the owner is desperate to sell it. In such a situation the buyer has an upper hand during the negotiation process. Where will you get such information? You may ask your realtor or check out websites like Newport Beach Homes to find out how long a property has been in the market.

  • The next bit of information that you need to hunt for is how long ago the owner bought his property. If it was more than a decade ago then there are chances that there is a lot of equity on the property which will mean more bargaining room for you. The county assessor’s office will have the necessary information regarding when the property was originally bought and what the price was then, while the auditor’s office will have information on whether the owner took out a second mortgage on the property or not. So get started on research now to locate the best deals.

  • Find out whether the owner has already bought a new home or not. If that is indeed the case then you should know that longer you draw out the negotiation process the more desperate will the owner become to close the deal so that he/she does not get burdened with two mortgages. The more desperate the seller, more the chances of lower rates.

  • While on the hunt for a home look for properties that are listed as contactors’ special, investment property or a fixer upper, as these properties are bound to have a lower asking price. An owner who has already invested a certain amount to repair and fix up his/her home before putting it up for sale would try to at least recover the investment. By contrast a fixer upper home will come at a cheaper price.

  • Finally you may look at foreclosure properties to find a good bargain. When an owner fails to meet his/her mortgage payments and has to give up the property, it is called a foreclosure. However, a buyer should be aware that buying a foreclosure is not as easy a task as it may seem at first glance. Foreclosures are tricky deals that require a lot of research and preparation. First thing that you should understand is that not all foreclosed homes offer good bargaining opportunity; rather there are certain properties where a minimum bidding amount has been fixed. This is fixed depending upon the debts incurred by the previous owner and has no relation to the actual worth of the house. In fact in many cases the minimum bid is more than real worth of the property. Foreclosures also may have unpaid taxes associated which will become your headache once you purchase the property. Hence, you need to tread carefully to avoid getting saddled with a property that might turn into a perpetual drain on your resources. If possible hire an experienced realtor specializing in foreclosures and seek legal advice to protect yourself.

  • If you are convinced about buying a foreclosure then look for notices for trustees’ sales or foreclosure notices which are basically announcements of auction of foreclosed properties. You may search for foreclosures online and check government agencies like Fanny Mae, HUD, IRS and others. You may have to hire a broker to be able to bid for property under government agencies. It is also a smart idea to read up on foreclosure laws of your state to ensure you do not end up making a bad decision.

  • Wait for foreclosures to become bank owned or real estate owned as these involve lesser risks on your part. Bank and real estate owned properties are those which could not be sold through foreclosure auctions. Such properties have no unpaid taxes associated with them, making them perfect bargain opportunities for you.

Remember to get the property surveyed and inspected to find out its actual condition and how much you will have to invest for renovations before taking the final decision to purchase. Buy what you can afford to avoid regrets later on.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
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May 3, 2011

How To Buy A Second Home

Last year, Beatrice Anderson and her husband decided to purchase a beachfront property in Hawaii that they fell in love with on their honeymoon a decade ago. They bought the sprawling property that offered a stunning view of the beach as a vacation home where the entire family can spend their summers happily frolicking in the sun and sand. “Ten years ago we stayed in this beautiful beachfront inn as a newly wed couple. We always had plans to buy a second home in Hawaii so when we found the property up for sale we jumped at the opportunity,” says Anderson.

Andersons are not alone in their quest for a second home, in fact many Americans dream of purchasing a seconds home as a summer get away, investment property or a source of income. In fact a second home can serve all three purposes – it can be a vacation home where you retire when tired of the hectic life at the city, rent it out at other times to earn a steady income and finally resell it after a while at a greater value.

All the points that required careful consideration during purchase of your primary residence hold true at the time of buying a second home as well. While buying a second home you possess some additional advantages though, the most important of which is time in hand. Since, you already own a home there is no hurry to close a deal and you have all the time in the hand to carry out a comprehensive survey of different properties to arrive at a final decision. Even if you do find a place that you absolutely love immediately let is stand for a while. Since you are under no compulsion to buy immediately, it is a smarter choice to weed through multiple properties at different locations before making a final decision. 

“A rash decision can come back to haunt you later. While purchasing a second home patience is a virtue that the buyers need to cultivate. Only fools rush in without properly weighing the pros and cons and live to regret it. So don’t be a fool, take your time to find the right fit,” advices real estate agent Peter Jones.

Another advantage a buyer has while purchasing a second home is the equity he enjoys on his primary property. If you are not planning to rent out the secondary property then it is not considered to be an investment property and you may even be able to get the same mortgage rate as your primary residence. It might even be possible to deduct the mortgage payments on the second home from your income tax in certain select circumstances.

Despite all the advantages associated with purchase of a second home think long and hard before jumping to saddle yourself with a second mortgage. Ask yourself whether you truly can afford such a huge investment at this point? A second home whether as a vacation escape, rental property or as an investment can prove to be an enjoyable and profitable proposition but not if you go broke making the purchase. If you can afford it then here is what you need to keep in mind while buying it: 

Ask any real estate agent and he will tell you that finding the right location is the most important criteria when it comes to buying property. So compile a list of possible locations and research the areas by visiting and speaking to the locals. Remember to buy property in an area that has the scope to grow in value is you are looking to profit on the property.

Get your finances straight before buying a second home. If you have credit card debts, student loans or any other debts then this is definitely not the right time to take on the burden of a second mortgage. Calculate the annual cost taking into consideration not just the down payment and mortgage rates but also taxes, associated expenditure like garbage collection, maintenance, landscaping, renovations etc.

A very important decision needs to be taken regarding which type of home desire to purchase. Do you want a spacious single family home or is a luxury condo more to your taste?  May be you want a house in suburbs with big yard for the kids to spread their wings.

Find a good realtor who specializes in second home purchase. A professional agent will have access to larger number of properties and will be able to locate good deals for you. Hiring an experience agent will cut down the total amount of time and effort invested in the hunt for the right second home. Also if you are hunting for a reliable real estate agent stick to a local agent as he/she would be able to provide accurate information regarding the property and the neighborhood. A local agent will know whether the house next door keeps the neighborhood awake with all night parties or whether the next door neighbor is planning to carry on construction obstructing your interrupted view of the beach.

Ask your real estate agent to provide photographs of the property at different seasons. A house may seem to be crowded from both sides due to lack of leaves on trees in winter might look less so during summer. It is also a bad idea to expect prices to fluctuate according to seasons for it rarely works out that way.

Once the choice of property has been made it is time to start looking for a mortgage lender. Beatrice Anderson and her husband went to the lender who had handled the mortgage on their first home.  This is indeed a good starting point but it is important to understand that many lenders have altogether different set of standards while lending for a second or third home. There are lenders who go out of their way to attract such borrowers while others refuse to touch secondary home purchase and still others who provide same mortgage rates on second home as on primary residence. The trick is to find the right lender best suited to your needs.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
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April 18, 2011

Homes Sales, Prices In Orange County Drop

Home sales in Los Angeles County dropped 2.3 percent in March, compared to the same month a year ago, while prices dipped 2.7 percent, a real estate information service reported today.

A total of 6,590 homes changed hands locally last month, compared to 6,747 in March 2010, according to La Jolla-based MDA DataQuick. The median price of a home in Los Angeles County in March was $320,000, down from $329,000 in March 2010.

In Orange County, 2,615 homes were sold in March, down 1.4 percent from March 2010, when 2,652 were sold. The median home price was $430,000 last month, down 0.5 percent from $432,000 a year ago.

A total of 19,412 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in March, according to DataQuick. That was up 35.1 percent from 14,369 in February, and down 5.2 percent from 20,476 in March 2010.

"As an indicator of coming trends, the month of March is actually pretty reliable," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "We got off to a slow start with sales this year and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. Two of the likely game changers in the short run would be a surge in job creation or another round of price corrections."

The median price for a Southern California home was $280,500 last month, up 2 percent from $275,000 in February, and down 1.6 percent from $285,000 in March 2010, according to DataQuick.



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April 3, 2011

Orance County All Cash Home Sales Hit Record Highs

All Cash Homes In Orange County

April 3, 2011 -  All-cash home buying is surging across the United States, including in Orange County, as lenders tighten mortgage standards, middle-class buyers are sidelined and investors see opportunity.

Nationwide, cash buyers grabbed 33 percent of all used homes sold in February, the National Association of Realtors reported March 21. The figures, based on agent reporting, do not include foreclosure auctions on courthouse steps, which are usually cash-only.

In Orange County and California real estate, DataQuick Information Systems reports similar trends based on county recordings that do not show any purchase loan.

Cash-only sales have more than doubled in Orange County, from a monthly average of 10.4 percent in the past 23 years to a monthly average of 24 percent in the past 12 months, DataQuick statistics show. In January, all-cash sales hit 28.3 percent in the county – the highest for any month since DataQuick started tracking the figure in 1988.

In Irvine, 31.6 percent of the 393 homes sold so far this year were paid for in cash, real estate broker Cathy Haney said. The average sales price of the all-cash deals this year was $657,854, while the median price for all the Irvine homes sold was $535,000, she said.

Across California, mortgage-less home purchases have doubled from an average 14.7 percent in the past 23 years to 28.3 percent in the past 12 months, according to DataQuick. Cash deals hit 32.9 percent in February, the highest for any month since at least 1988.

"You're seeing an increase in cash deals at both ends of the price distribution curve," said Sam Khater, chief economist for CoreLogic Inc., a real estate information company. "You're seeing it in the hardest hit areas, where investors are coming in and picking up low-priced properties. And you're seeing higher cash activity at the upper end as well."

The "lion's share" of all-cash purchases nationwide are from investors, according to Walter Molony, a spokesman for National Association of Realtors. Real estate investors seek rental income, long-term appreciation or a quick profit.

Vito Antoci, a full-time real estate investor from Newport Beach, recently bought an ocean view home at 1006 White Sail Way in Corona del Mar for $1.45 million in cash. He is spending another $500,000 in cash to expand and renovate the house, and said he will sell the home within six months for $2.5 million to $2.89 million to earn at least a half-million dollars in profit.

"When you buy with cash, you get the best deals," Antoci said. "Sellers don't want to deal with the bureaucracy of banks."

Antoci, who owns Varm Development, saw a nonlocal realtor putting the for-sale sign into the ground as he drove the streets looking for homes to buy. The sellers were asking $1.8 million. He made an offer and it was accepted that same day. It never hit the market, and escrow closed in a week.

"It was a quick, intriguing cash offer, and they took it," he said.

Carl Alford, a retiring owner of a dry-cleaning product business, recently paid cash for two homes in Irvine that he is renting out for income.

"Stocks and bonds are a gamble, and banks certainly aren't paying anything on money," he said. "You can earn more in real state, and I like something you can touch, feel and correct."

Alford recently sold a home in Fontana and carried the mortgage note himself, he said, meaning the buyers are paying him monthly payments.

Investors are also using cash – either their own or from alternative resources – to gain an advantage over buyers using a mortgage in nabbing bank-owned properties, which are plentiful these days and usually less expensive than other homes. Foreclosures in January accounted for 37 percent of all home sales nationwide, 25 percent in Orange County and 54 percent in California.

Traditional lenders often reject mortgage applications for foreclosed properties because the homes need a lot of work, appraisals come in below the accepted price or deals just take too long to close, said Thomas Popik, research director for Campbell Communications Inc., which conducts national surveys of real estate brokers.

Some flippers don't even have to improve a foreclosure.

"You buy the house at a discount with cash, then you flip it almost immediately to the first-time homebuyer who's using a mortgage, simply because they were not able to buy at the foreclosure sale," said Oliver Chang, a housing-market analyst with investment bank Morgan Stanley.

About half of all home purchases were paid for in cash in Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Chang said.

In the local, million-dollar-plus home market, buyers are choosing to use their own money to purchase their principal residence, says Chris Valli of luxury real estate brokerage Surterre Properties.

Why? Banks are asking intrusive, exhaustive questions of anyone trying to get financing for a home above $729,000, Valli said. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't insure mortgages over $729,750. Buyers feel it is just less of a hassle to pay for the home with their own money, Valli said. The buyers also want to negotiate a better deal on the property by showing they can close escrow without a third party lender, he added.

"It puts the seller more at ease and gives them a little more assurance," Valli said. He recently sold an estate in the $7 million range in Irvine's Shady Canyon community for all cash. Another home in Shady Canyon recently sold for $4.3 million in cash.

Chris Crocker, a Coldwell Banker broker in Corona del Mar, says the wealthy are looking at waterfront dream homes priced 40 percent below the peak as a safe venue to out their money in for the next few years while also having some fun. The cash buyers he or his colleagues have worked with are looking to buy second or third homes as a place to dock their yachts and their money on the West Coast.

There's a general perception that the market has bottomed out on prices, Crocker said.


Tighter underwriting in general for mortgage loans is also a factor in the percentage increase of cash-only deals among all sales.

Lenders are requiring higher down payments and higher credit scores.

The median down payment for all home purchases with a mortgage rose to 22 percent last year in at least nine major U.S. cities, according to a survey by Zillow.com. That's up from 4 percent in late 2006, when the housing bubble began to burst. During the housing boom, buyers could purchase a home with little or no money down.

The weighted average FICO score for a home purchased with a Fannie Mae mortgage was 762 last year, up from 716 in 2006, the mortgage finance company reported.

The tighter underwriting is sidelining many would-be middle-class buyers, especially first-time buyers, from purchasing a home – even though prices are relatively low because of all the foreclosures.

"The average Joe can't take advantage because he simply cannot get the credit to buy," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for consulting firm Capital Economics.

The banks who fueled the housing bubble with lax mortgage underwriting are now being too restrictive, said Molony, the Realtor association spokesman.

"Lenders have only been willing to lend to the cream of the crop in terms of credit scores," he said. "As a result, you're seeing a depressed level of traditional buyers."

Bloomberg News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted in Real Estate
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March 16, 2011

Pilot Launch of REALTOR Ratings Program

March 14, 2011 - MLSListings, Inc. and the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) announced today the pilot launch of the REALTOR® Ratings program, a joint effort to develop an industry standard across northern California for measuring real estate agent performance and customer service—based on independently-verified reviews from home buyer and seller clients.

Designed by independent consumer review agency Quality Service Certification (QSC), the program collects and evaluates feedback from both buyer and seller clients in the months following the home sale, and provides information to brokers and agents to help them better evaluate and market their services to consumers.

“Despite the variety of real estate agent review sites, there is no single consistent standard for comparison among agents, nor in many cases, reliability of the reviews themselves,” explained Jim Harrison, president and CEO of MLSListings. “Through this program, we’re looking to create a system that combines third-party verification with real transaction participants, involving the agents and brokers in the process, and provide information that consumers can trust as a legitimate and thorough evaluation.”

“Not only is the REALTOR® Ratings program a way to make sure that REALTORS® are being rated accurately based on actual transactions, but it also helps raise the bar of professionalism in the real estate industry and provides accountability for the REALTOR®,” said C.A.R. Treasurer Don Faught.

Northern California brokers from Intero Real Estate Services, Bailey Properties, Alain Pinel Realtors, Sereno Group, Realty World, and Legacy Real Estate have volunteered as local pilot participants, making the program available to their agents in several diverse markets from Monterey to the Peninsula, and across to Fremont and the East Bay. Clients of the participating agents will receive a survey of close to a dozen questions evaluating their complete transaction experience, and QSC will manage the data collection, analysis and display.

Agents can offer a link to their ratings page via an email signature or web page banner, as well as neighborhood flier and other promotional opportunities. Additionally, consumers will be able to view REALTOR® Rated agents via the QSC website directory. The pilot program is slated to run for the next several months, as participants evaluate its feasibility and ways to improve upon the process.

MLSListings, Inc. is among the first MLSs in the nation to pursue a consistent, reliable standard for customer service in the real estate profession, which will serve both subscribers as well as the general public.

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March 16, 2011

OC Board of Supervisors Considers Tax Hike

During last's week's Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, dozens of concerned residents packed the meeting room inside the Gordon Building to show their support of emergency and education funding.  In the budget work session after the meeting the supervisors tentatively agreed to reinstate almost the full amount of emergency and waste collection funding, but have not yet amended county administrator Julie Jordan's proposed allocation for schools.

Reinstating complete funding for fire and EMS, as well as keeping all waste collection sites open, which Jordan had proposed to cut in a cost saving measure, would cost the county $655,036. To make up those funds the supervisors considered a one-cent increase to the real estate tax. However, that increase would not completely make up the reinstated funds, but would add roughly $500,000 to the general fund, according to interim finance director John Sieg.

"There was enough supervisor support to reinstate the funding for fire and EMS," said District 5 Supervisor Lee Frame, who also said funding for the waste collection sites would rely on a revised plan being developed by public works director Kurt Hildebrand.

Frame said that he would vote in support of a one-cent tax increase to help fund the collection sites and fire and EMS, but any additional increase would depend on the allocation of the funds.

District 1 Supervisor Shannon Abbs said she does not support a tax increase, unless it is the last effort to make up for needed expenses.

"I will not support a tax increase until the board of supervisors has gone through every line item," said Abbs. "We need to be able to say we've done our due diligence and at this point I don't think that's the case."

The county would save $129,285 by closing all eight waste collection sites and the landfill an additional day per week, according to Orange County Public Works Director Kurt Hildebrand. In Jordan's proposed budget, closing all waste collection sites, excluding the landfill, would save the county $453,772.

"There was not too much doubt that there was not much support for closing the collection sites," said Frame.
District 2 Supervisor Zack Burkett said he would not support a tax increase of any kind at this time.
"This is not the year for a tax increase," said Burkett. "This is the year for us to get serious about being business friendly."

At the March 15 budget work session, District 4 School Board Member Jerry Bledsoe and school superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey presented the board updated figures in state and federal contributions to schools. State funding has increased $261,517 since the budget was presented in early February, but federal funding has dropped $29,907.

At the the highest priority of unmet needs in the proposed budget is the restoration of 10 elementary school teachers' aides, which would cost $215,372.

"The absence of instructional assistant positions was missed almost immediately following the return of our elementary school students last fall," said Bledsoe in a letter to the board. "Their absence caused a serious degrading of our capacity to provide [essential services] in grades K-5."

When speaking about potential cutbacks, the board noted that they instructed Jordan to cut her proposed budget to the bone and that they all appreciated her efforts. In looking for additional cuts Frame was reluctant to name any specific department, given the already thin budget proposal.

"I'm concerned about making cuts too deeply," said Frame. "At some point the ability to perform a function begins to atrophy."

At this Thursday's budget work session the board is expected to revisit and possibly settle on a proposed tax increase to advertise.  That figure is likely to be advertised as a two-cent increase on the real estate tax.  Tax rates can be lowered after advertisement, but they can not be increased.

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March 16, 2011

Real Housewife of OC Short Sells Mansion

Alexis Bellino, pictured with her husband, have short sold their Newport Beach mansion for $3 million.  That is almost $400,000 less than their asking price ($3,995,000).  The house was listed for about four months before this sprawling 6-bedroom was finally sold.

Though the Bellinos insist they were not facing financial problems, this sale did halt foreclosure proceedings on the property.  In an statement issued by their laywer, Michael York, he says:

"The issues between them and (JPMorgan) Chase are due to good business decisions that Mr. and Mrs. Bellino have made, not financial problems," said the statement from Michael York after the foreclosure was canceled. "The property was never going to be foreclosed against.  Mr. and Mrs. Bellino have been negotiating with Chase for months, an agreement with Chase has been reached, and the issues between them and Chase have been resolved."

The listing was sold by Realtor John Stanaland of Hom Real Estate Group, while David McCulloch of Coldwell Banker Previews International represented the buyer.  The mansion sits on a 9,135-square foot double lot, and was touted as having "every high-end amenity imaginable."  Additional features include: "High ceilings, gorgeous crown molding, pristine wood floors, and a grand staircase… a state-of-art kitchen, wine cellar, home theater, & large recreational area with pool table & bar …". And that's not to mention the wrap-around balcony, rooftop view deck, a gym and a 6-car garage.

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