Riverside Realtor Blog - Alma Dizon

Alma shares her experiences and observations as a Realtor in Riverside California.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The wind and the barn owl

The wind was very strong yesterday, about the worst we've had in a couple of years. Whenever this happens, I expect baby owls to start raining from the palm trees.

I have no idea why, but the local barn owls like to build their nests in the Mexican fan palms around us. They must like the view from up there, but these slender, graceful trees bend and bow in the winds, their fronds flying off. Nestlings don't have much of a chance. One year, three baby owls fell. One died immediately, another was so injured that it had to be put down, and the third was in good enough shape for the county to take it in. I couldn't get near the lives ones. They have wicked talons and beaks, and they're too scared to let anyone get near. There's not much their parents can do when the little ones can't fly.

This year, however, instead of a baby, I found a dead adult owl by the lemon tree in the middle of the afternoon. At first, I panicked, thinking that it might have eaten a rat that had been poisoned. I spent some time talking to our pest control and several vets' offices, considered paying for a necropsy, then read up on barn owls online. It turns out that they're quite short-lived in the wild, often dying during the first two years of life. So, in the end, we figured that it was more likely that the owl was asleep in a palm and got knocked out by the wind. He was probably too groggy and fell too fast to save himself. (I was once outside at night when a stray cat knocked a sleeping pigeon out of a tree. I scared the cat off, and the pigeon sat on the ground for a while, too befuddled to get up right away. He eventually managed to get back into the tree. Like us, their reaction time is affected by deep sleep!)

Toward dusk, I heard its mate calling, and I felt sorry for it. I've found a site that has instructions for building barn owl nests, and I'm going to talk to our handyman about trying to set one up. Maybe that way, we can keep them safer, and if they stick around, we'll be able to stop paying for the rat control. Then our owls can be secure, knowing that they're getting only organic rodents in our yard!

Here's the site I found with the owl nest plans:
owl nests
And here's the Press Enterprise article on yesterday's weather:
Press Enterprise article on windy weather

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is actually a terrific time to buy if you don't want to go with the herd

I keep reading in the paper that the market will be down for a while longer, and I even saw one article that recommended that buyers wait another 6 months. What for? I have to ask, to start a mini sellers' market in the spring?

Actually, this is good time to buy as the sellers who are on the market are more motivated (they're the ones who have hung on through the fall). I'm seeing some nicely priced houses that are fixed up now and look better than they did when they first came on the market last summer.

And there's very little competition right now from other buyers. So while other people are lowering their FICO scores by picking up items that they don't have to pay for until 2007 (which is basically the same as getting another store credit card despite the "no interest until...") or reducing their savings (ie., funds for closing costs and deposit) by splurging on tinsel, this could be a good time to get a home instead. Give everyone handmade gifts (homemade cookies and your children's art projects are priceless) and promise to have them over for lots of backyard barbecues once it gets warmer. And then they can give you housewarming gifts that will more than make up for budgeting during the holidays.

Or you can wait like everyone else and then see what happens when you're in competition.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sharks with Halos? Investors and Foreclosures

I got a call last week from a woman who teaches people how to invest. She wanted information about buying foreclosures. It turned out that she didn't have a real estate license and had never bought a foreclosed property before. We talked for a little while, and I told her that there are implications for the realtor who is representing an investor who is buying a property that is in foreclosure. Namely, that there are so many pitfalls, and that if the seller complains that he or she has been defrauded, the agent is the first to fall. As I put it, a few thousand isn't worth losing one's license. There are special laws to protect sellers who are in foreclosure (ie., they have extra rights of rescission) due to a history of investors abusing these people, to put it mildly.

She began to explain to me that when she first thought about the subject, she had been inclined to think that it was about taking advantage of sellers in foreclosure, but she had come to see it as helping these people out. Well, I told her, while it may be true that they're getting out from under a mortgage they can't handle, the investor is generally looking to profit and prefers to pay about 40% less than the market value. Also, the seller is still ruined credit-wise and will have trouble even renting an apartment afterwards.

The way I see it, it's not too different from telling someone who is about to die that you will save their lives if he or she gives you both their kidneys. After all, they can go on dialysis and eventually get a donated kidney (perhaps from one of their own children!). Yes, you have literally saved this person's life. Will he or she love and appreciate you? I don't think so. Do you have enough self-love to make up for this deficit? Well, that depends on you. Some of us go there, others won't.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Replacing CC&Rs with HOAs

I've been seeing more and more new tracts pop up with very low HOA fees but no common space whatsoever and no shared maintenance of front yards. Where do the fees go? Actually, that's an interesting question, and it's all about controlling your neighbors (and you) to keep property values up.

For decades, CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) were the accepted way to control the use of property and are still handed down with the deed. They can have very specific rules, such as no parking on lawns, taking in garbage cans, and fence heights. However, without a governing body to enforce these rules, things can get lax in neighborhoods where people decide to mind their own business.

So builders have implemented another strategy, that of organizing new tracts into home owners' associations that exist primarily to keep everyone in line. Depending on your lifestyle preferences, this can be a good or a bad thing. The good news is, you won't have to look at unsightly messes that your neighbors can't get around to cleaning up. The bad news is, you may not be able to paint your color fuschia, and it's your absolute favorite color. And then HOA's are made up of fallible human beings. For some friends of ours who got cited for parking an 18-wheeler (that wasn't theirs!) near their house for 2 weeks, their HOA can be annoying.

There was a time when a PUD (Planned Urban Development) meant tiny lots, a gate, and a tot lot, sometimes a pool, and very little parking. They tended to have lower fees than condos because the houses didn't share common walls, and thus they didn't have to share earthquake insurance. Now, I'm seeing more and more tracts of large houses with big yards also coming under the title of PUD. Without the common areas and gates, the fees are on the low side, and no one has to get nervous about attempting to reach the parents of the obnoxious teens across the street who dump their fast food little in the gutter.