Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gary Watts...'in the bag'

It looks like Gary 'in the bag' Watts is at it again with another real estate outlook. It is for 2006/2007, but at this time, there are NO predictions for 2007. Lets get down to business and look at some of the highlights of this latest report...

Here is Gary's predictions for how 2006 will end:

How Will This Year End?

1. As mortgage rates continue to decline, buyers will get off the fence and purchase homes as soon as they believe housing prices have stabilize.

2. Sales of homes should start to rise by the fall, while inventory goes into its seasonal decline.

3. Appreciation should continue to rise in the fall, compared to last year when prices actually dropped.

4. With luck, we may end the year with double digit appreciation in homes with small gains in condos.

Lets take a look at numero uno. Ok, so mortgage rates are declining a BIT, there is no way they will return to the levels of 2003 and 2004. Rates dropping half a point is not enough to force buyers to 'get off the fence' and buy homes that are still overpriced. I am not a highly acclaimed real estate agent, but I believe the stabilization period is many months, if not years away. We have yet to see any REAL sort of correction at this time. BUT, we are seeing huge increases in inventory which is the first step towards lower prices. See this report from the CAR (California Association of Realtors) and see for yourself that the sales pace is off just over 30% from the same time last year, and we all know that inventories are way up as well.

So, with the sales pace slowing drastically, and inventories steadily increasing, how do we get stabilization or even appreciation?

We are almost in October, so fall is just around the corner. I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe that the sale of homes will start rising this fall, or that inventories will decline. There is ONE thing that could make both of those things happen and THAT is a REDUCTION IN PRICES. And I am talking about REAL reductions in prices. Not 10-15k here or there on 500k+ properties.

I am sure there will be a 'median' number somewhere that will show some incremental appreciation in California. But based on the report above, I don't think 1.6% increases are what many people need, or are counting on. Meager appreciation like that doesn't buy new BMW's, Hummers, or kitchen remodels...much less give that 'I'm getting rich' peace of mind that so many people have become accustomed. Not to mention the fact that 'appreciation' has been the major selling point from RE agents, mortgage brokers, and all the real estate seminar guru's out there. I don't know how many times I heard brokers tell people that if they ever get into trouble, they can just problem.

I don't know for sure, but I think the holidays will be a bit different at Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza the next Christmas season or two. There IS a lot of money in Orange County, but there are even more people trying to live like they have more money than they really do. Lately, this money has come from the house of ATM. It will be interesting to see how or even 'if' the slowing appreciation in housing will affect the upcoming shopping season. 1.6% appreciation is the equivalent to having a $40 withdrawal limit at an ATM in Las's better than nothing...but it doesn't help very much.

One other quick thing I would like to point out: unless I missed something, how can somebody address the real estate market without any mention to the exotic loans that are making much of this possible? I guess the financing isn't that important when things only go up...silly me.

I will counter his comments about the media and more in further posts this week.

Stay tuned...


Monday, September 25, 2006

FOLLOW UP - Casey Serin

Free Image Hosting at Well, it looks like Casey Serin shut down his website. Too bad that Google keeps a cache of sites. I will show you the last things he had on his site BEFORE he pulled the plug.

I don't have time at the moment for a long post, but there is a LOT of good info in the comments on the previous post. That said, here is what Casey's website showed after he took it down...but before it was completely taken down. His website only says 'stay tuned' at this time.
What I did was Stupid!!

September 24, 2006.

This blog was the WRONG kind of exposure. I APOLOGIZE to my friends, family, associates and especially EVERYONE WHO HELPED ME with my real estate transactions.

I DO NOT BLAME ANYBODY for ANYTHING and take full responsibility.

What started as an honest desire to share my experience turned into something dangerous - playing with fire. After talking to a business associate this morning I realized I went TOO far and shared TOO much. I turned something small into a big exaggerated mess. Others were telling me this too, but I wasn’t getting it. Now I crossed the line. I misused my ambition.

I have damaged my reputation and I have damaged many good relationships through this. I never meant to hurt anyone. So to stop any further damage I am shutting down and laying low.

I am sorry.
Casey Serin [email}


Before he removed the info completely from his site, these were the last few posts. I guess he was featured in the Voice of San Diego before he axed his site. Here is the text of his site before it was pulled down. Sorry there are no pictures and the formatting might be off a bit.

I am Facing Foreclosure .com

-- September 23rd, 2006

Voice of San Diego Reports on My Story

Thanks to Kelly Bennett for writing a fair and balanced article about my foreclosure situation on Voice of San Diego.

Here it is for your convenience:

My Life is an Open Blog

Casey Serin is a 24-year-old Sacramento man who bought seven properties in four states within the first three months of 2006. Even after selling a home in Utah a few weeks ago, he's $2.2 million in debt and will be four months behind on all of his mortgages come October.

He started a blog to tell people about his experiences and his mistakes as a novice investor — it's called

I talked to Serin this afternoon and he told me he first got into real estate as a 19-year-old in 2002, buying a condo as his residence in Sacramento. Originally from Uzbekistan, Serin and his family immigrated to the United States 14 years ago. His parents own their home in the Sacramento area, but haven't invested in any other real estate.

He sold that first condo in 2003 and made about $30,000 in profit, he said.

"That was kind of my first experience," he said. "This real estate is a good business if you do it right."

And, Serin admits, "a rising tide floats all ships" — he knows he was successful then primarily because of the appreciation in the housing market.

But he admits he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he started investing in properties earlier this year. He financed all of the mortgages 100 percent and has been paying only the interest on those loans. (Click here to read my story about the risks involved with those loans and their popularity in San Diego.) He used "stated-income" forms that don't require lenders to do background checks to make sure the borrower actually earns as much as he says he does.

And another reason he was able to get so much financing was that he claimed he'd be living in each of the properties. Normally, only one property in an investor's portfolio can be claimed as "owner-occupied," and it's easier to get financing on that property because it's supposed to be your only property. (Investor property financing often requires much larger down-payments, to avoid cases like this).

"Some lenders told me, it's no big deal, as long as you can say that [living in the property] was your intent," he said. "I just feel that's not right."

Because Serin was applying for financing for properties in California, New Mexico, Texas and Utah within days of each other, the banks couldn't trace the pending loan documents to check up on his story — so it looked like each one really was his only property.

Now he's trying to figure out what to do. He got married two-and-a-half years ago and his wife is in school to get a degree in accounting. They're living with her parents while he sorts out his debt.

"I'm an example of what not to do," he said. "It was a combination of lack of experience and also, buying too much, too fast. I'm kind of an open personality. If my honesty helps somebody, great."

While he characterized his goals in investment as buy-fix-sell, he said he doesn't like to be called a "flipper ."

"I don't like the word flipping because it makes it sound like you're doing something illegal," he said.

I want to add, that "flipping" is a misunderstood term and has a bad stigma in the media.

See Ron LeGrand's article Flipping is Illegal.

Also, Steve Cook of in his FAQ on Flipping puts it this way:

Flipping, also known as real estate investing or the buying and selling of a home, is not illegal in any shape way or form. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a home cheap and selling it for more then what you bought it for. There is also nothing wrong with buying a home, investing in fixing it up, and selling the same real estate for way over market value. If your buyer wants to pay you way over market value, and they have the means to pay you, then it is their choice. They can do that and so can you without any recourse.

The problem arises when a lender is involved. What people typically refer to as "illegal flipping" should be called mortgage fraud. The media has given real estate investors in general a bad name, because they aren't focusing on the real problem. Without mortgage fraud, homes could not be sold for more then what they are worth when a lender is involved. Lenders want to lend based off of what a house is worth today. They lend at varying different Loan to Value ratios depending upon the borrowers credit worthiness. The problem with "illegal flipping" is when investors, mortgage brokers, loan officers, appraisers, etc… get together to "create" a better picture of a loan package to a lender. They do things such as inflating appraisals, gifting down payment, drawing up false w-2's, manufacturing pay stubs, writing credit letters, etc…

-- September 22nd, 2006

Is This a Scam? Why am I doing this?

Reading through the initial feedback I received, many people think that I am making this up. They think I'm just blogging about facing foreclosure to get traffic, exposure, leads, whatever.

You may also be thinking:

* Why would I share my financial details with the world and risk being embarrassed, criticized, made fun of or taken advantage of? Don't people in distress normally want to hide and save face?
* Why would I admit to doing "shady loans" and risk going to jail?
* Am I really facing foreclosure on all these houses?
* How can I be so calm talking about my distress?

I was amazed that people mistake my honesty / confidence for a scam. However, I understand how that may be. I went from being embarrassed and distressed about my situation to being confident about overcoming it, learning from it and sharing it publicly. Maybe it's my new-found confidence that made people suspect it to be a scam.

Nevertheless, I still feel down about the whole situation and feel sorry for making bad moves this year. But, instead of crying about it I decided that I will be writing about it.

Here are my goals for

1. Market Non-Performing Properties. When I first realized I am facing foreclosure and that I need to sell all the houses very quick, I started marketing everywhere. I sent an email to everybody I know. I posted ads on craigslist. I brought my deals in front of investment clubs. Keeping track of all the details and keeping everyone on the same page was hard. I am using this website to solve the problem.

2. Sell Fast by Being Up Front. It was embarrassing at first to tell everyone that I'm in trouble. But then I figured, I will have the best chance to move my properties quick if people understand that the time is running out!

3. Demonstrate Genuine Hardship. I share my financial details to show publicly that I'm really in trouble. Banks want to see evidence of distress before they offer options like loan-modification, payment plans, or allowing a short sale.

4. Show You What NOT to Do. By telling my story honestly and in detail I have the best chance to help others learn from my mistakes. The lessons I'm learning are costly and painful. I don't want people re-inventing the wheel like I did. Whether you're looking to buy a house to live in or you are a beginner real estate investor. Learn from me!

5. Expose Shady Industry Practices. Too many real estate professionals encourage you to cheat and lie in. Yes, I am not innocent. But I decided to take a stand with this blog. No more compromise!

6. Expose Bad Real Estate Gurus and Education. Don't get me wrong. There is a lot of good books, tapes and seminars out there. However, some of them teach you just enough to be dangerous. A lot of education is overpriced / incomplete / inaccurate / shady.

7. Help You Stop Foreclosure and Recover. Are you facing foreclosure too? I know the feelings of denial, desperation, helplessness and intense financial pressure you feel. As I learn and get out of my situation I can help you through my experience. I will help you to either save your home, or help you sell it fast. I want you to understand the foreclosure process, the time line, your options, forbearance, loan modification, short sale, etc. Know when (and if) to file bankruptcy. Learn how to rebuild your credit. Learn how to get back on your feet.

Bottom line, why this is not a scam:

A couple of weeks ago I sent an email to everybody in my address book - friends, family, real estate contacts, associates, past clients and co-workers. In the email I shared the situation and provided a link to this blog. Why would I lie to EVERYBODY and destroy my reputation?

You can check all the facts. Drive by the houses. Call the lenders and verify. Check the public record next month for Notices of Default. It's all legit!

What do you think?

-- September 21st, 2006

Brutal Comments and The High Cost of Honesty

I was featured on The House Bubble Blog with Attitude and received a flood of mostly angry comments. People are giving me a beating! (NOTE: it was the blog that 'featured' this story)

Yes I do deserve a beating. I fully own up to my mistakes and choose to take the consequences!

However, some people are taking it a bit too far with obscenity and just pure HATE. I had to delete a few comments to keep this blog PG. I am all for honest feedback but lets be reasonable.

So I enabled comment moderation. And NO I am not trying to silence the critics. Anybody who has something helpful or honest (but not overly brutal) to say will receive my approval. As you can see from my blog I am not trying to hide anything.

Aside from the brutality, there has been a lot of good and constructive feedback. You can look through the different posts in the sidebar and check out the comments.

On the constructive side, I did receive some good advice from Osman, a real estate blogger in Colorado. Thank you.

The High Cost of Honesty.

It's true I got into some shady loans this year including….

1) Calling investment properties OWNER OCCUPIED


2) Stating a high income that I can't prove


Shall I continue to lie to cover up my old lies??

That's not right!

I am braking the lie cycle. On this blog I will tell the world the full truth. I will take whatever consequences that come as a result.

Some future topics will include:

* The truth behind stated income loans aka "Liar's Loans"
* What some mortgage brokers will tell you to make a quick commission check
* The truth about owner-occupied loans and " the intent to occupy"
* The truth behind cash-back at close
* Consequences of lying on your mortgage application
* Does "flipping houses" cause housing inflation ?
* Is buying, fixing and flipping houses wrong / illegal?
* Do "house flippers" improve neibhorhoods and provide credit-challenged buyers a way to realize the American Dream and Pride of Home Ownership?
* Is it wrong to make a profit while providing a valuable service?
* The consequences of not having a solid exit strategy or two.
* The result of not having a business plan
* The effects of the "Get Rich Quick" mentality in housing
* How the Real estate Gurus teach you just enough to be dangerous
* The true cost of fixing houses with no construction experience .
* When and why should you file for bankruptcy?
* Can you go to jail for mortgage fraud?
* And more on my situation, selling houses quickly, foreclosure, short sales, subject-to, etc…
* Did I miss something?

Hopefully people will learn from my mistakes and be positively encouraged by the way I handle it.

The Truth Hurts… as they say.

-- September 20th, 2006

Very Honest "For Sale By Owner" Sign

Honest For Sale By Owner Sign

My For Sale by Owner sign for Muncy Modesto property with I am Facing Foreclosure. com address and my phone number.

I'm really putting myself out there and taking a risk by being honest about my situation. Hopefully people will sense the urgency and help find me a buyer.

I was a little embarrassed putting up this sign. Good thing I was there mid-day and nobody saw me. Although, after I put it up and started leaving I saw a neighbor from across the street go over to pick up a flyer.

Buyers may try to exploit my weakness. They tell you to negotiate from your strength, right? Is being honest = weak? I don't know. I don't really want to negotiate anyway. My terms are pretty straight forward. I just want some cash and walk away.

I will need to put on a thick skin. This may cause me to become the talk of the neighborhood. People might laugh, criticize or ridicule. The concerned parents of teenage or 20-something kids will tell their kids "See! This is what happens when you take dumb risks!". Some may think "Facing Foreclosure .com" is just a ploy to make a sale.

I don't care… I'm desperate.

-- September 19th, 2006

Not Your Typical Flyer

Here is a flyer that I put together for the Muncy property. The big "I am Facing Foreclosure" will hopefully attract extra attention. I am going down to the property today and will put up a For Sale By Owner sign and put my flyers in the flyer box.

Muncy Modesto CA Flyer

I offer owner financing "takeover my payments" as an option. The flyer includes information on my loans as well as a break down of all the costs to justify the price.

I'm getting ready to list this property on MLS with a flat fee broker for only $249. Of course I will still be offering 2.5% to the buyers' agent.

The MLS listing and the I am Facing Foreclosure flyer should help me sell the property quickly.


Well, there you have it. It will be interesting to see what happens to this whole situation. I am sure that we will hear more about this in the future. Keep the comments coming. I will have more content coming down the pipes.

Stay tuned...


Friday, September 22, 2006

CASE STUDY: 24yr old lied to get 2.2 million in loans

I have been saying for a long time that anybody can get a loan. I have told you that there is a lot of crap going on in the mortgage industry. I saw the credit reports, the 1003's, the income figures, etc. and was amazed at the loans people were able to get. The thing is, I was looking at numbers on paper...I did not deal with the actual borrowers, only brokers. I 'knew' there were shenanigans going on, but I can't give you the details better than an individual who was DOING the shenanigans. That is why I am going to give you Casey Serin...and let you hear his story.

Seems 24 year-old Casey got himself into 2.2 MILLION in mortgage debt...and is about to foreclose on 5 houses.

Here is part of how he 'did it'. The sad thing is....none of this surprises me. I will go into more detail later.why he is facing foreclosure:
What happened? Why am I facing foreclosure? Basically, I bit off more than I could chew.

Here is the long story.

I started investing full-time in January of this year. This is after going to numerous real estate investing seminars, reading books and learning from other investors for the past 2 years. Made a few successful deals on the side and was anxious to go full-time. I quit my website programming job and went all out!

In the last 6 months I bought 7 houses in 4 different states, mostly with the help of 100% LTV stated income (liar’s) loans. Most are fixers. I was going to rehab and flip each one within a month or so. Buying was easy, but man was I in for a surprise (or a lesson?).

I grossly underestimated everything. The money it would take to find contractors, run a rehab job, and resell quickly. Add the cost of doing out of state deals. I was not prepared for the huge travel expenses to manage the deals.

I messed up the local deals too. First I didn’t calculate all my costs correctly. Second, the lack of construction experience got me in trouble. The contractors took advantage of me. The first crew on the Modesto deal dragged me out for 6 month and never finished. The worst part is I paid them all of the money.

I did NOT have a solid exit strategy. I thought I would just wing it. You see, I become a “motivated” buyer. The kind they warned us in the seminars NOT to be. They told us to play it safe and start with wholesaling. But NO! I thought I can skip the basics and take a shortcut to the big profits NOW!

Yes, I did buy some of the houses at a discount enough to make a profit. However, I juiced up all of the equity on most of them right away by getting cash at close. So every time I bought one there was a “CHA-CHING” sound and my bank account got fatter. This gave me a false sense of profit and kept me going.

Well, everything went wrong. The rehabs were way behind schedule and grossly over budget. I was too busy flying around the country visiting each job. No time to manage details. I couldn’t sell the houses fast enough. I did sell one in Albuquerque on a round-robin auction. But I got stuck with the rest.

The holding costs on 6 houses is what started killing me. Paying about 15,000 per month in mortgage payments and utilities can really drain ones’ reserves. All the cash I pulled out at close is now gone. And the houses are not selling fast enough to keep me afloat.

As the last resort I went for one more cash-at-close deal. It’s another builder lease-back house in New Mexico from the same builder. The builder and I have become friends and we structured a pretty good deal. I told him I will close with no problems.

I went to get financing figuring I will get it just like before. However, this time my credit score took a dive because of all the maxed-out credit cards. I still pressed on and tried different loan programs and loan brokers. Finally I find the right program and was set to close. A few days before the close the bank denies the loan. Why?

They Googled me! Its ironic/funny/embarrassing. They found one of my early blogs where I was talking about flipping houses. It was pretty hard to find too. It was supposed to be hidden from the search engines.

Flipping (or quick turn investing) is not bad or illegal. What’s bad is applying for an owner-occupant loan but having no intention to live in the house. I have been doing this for most of the deals in order to get better rates and/or 100% financing. It’s actually pretty common and many mortgage brokers will encourage you to do it (along with stated income loans). But it’s plain lying! So the bank denied the loan.

That was the last straw.

Since that deal fell through I started falling behind on payments on all the mortgages. I ran out of money to finish the rehabs. No money to even buy groceries.

I may have to get back to a full-time job just so I can pay basic bills. I AM grateful to at least have my web development skills to fall back on. Or I may do some wholesaling or help other investors to make a little money.

It’s embarrassing to talk about this. Yes it’s my fault and I deserve the consequences. It sure is a tough way to learn though. This will teach me to be more responsible and play smart next time.

I started this foreclosure blog in order to talk about my experience. Hopefully this will help you if you’re in the same situation or know somebody who is.

I could go on and on about this situation, but I will keep it brief for now. This kid screwed up HUGE! He lied to get loans. He lied about income. He lied about owner occupancy. He wanted to get rich quick. At least this kid is standing tall and admitting his wrongdoings...for that I give him credit. He isn't grabbing a lawyer and trying to blame everybody but himself for his situation (yet...anyway). He is taking personal responsibility for his mistakes. But just because you take personal responsibility doesn't mean the consequences of your actions are waved. There should be no free-pass for Casey, or any of the people in similar situations. They deserve exactly what they have coming to them, and there should be NO taxpayer funded bailout of ANY kind.

Spend some time on Casey's blog and read about his situation. He is NOT the only person that did such things, or that is in such 'trouble'. Use it as a REAL WORLD example of what happened during this housing bubble.

AND PLEASE...keep the comments civil on my blog and his. Give your honest opinion and criticism, but keep the vulgarity out of it.

I look forward to the comments on this one. I will be active in the comments, and possibly even editing this post to address certain issues. There is just sooooo much I could say, but it is getting late.

Stay tuned....there will be many more stories like this popping up!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Don't blame exotic loans for the housing malaise"

That was the headline in the OC Register this weekend in the 'Marketplace' section. The smaller print after the big headline is "Stats suggest borrowers are handling supposedly riskier mortgages – so far." The BIG emphasis should be on those last 2 words...SO FAR. Here is the link to the online version: OC Register article - "Don't blame exotic loans for the housing malaise"

I will expound on things a bit more, but I think a post that I did about 10 months ago will be a good start. I am sure some of you have read it before, but it won't kill you to read it again. You will notice that some of the numbers in the post are lower than the numbers we are currently hearing today, that is because of more data is available today than was 10 months ago. Not to mention that mortgage resets is not the easiest statistic to compile. Well, here we go...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Are we there yet??" "What is taking soooo long!?!?"

Like a neverending road trip in the family station wagon as a poster wonders "when are we going to get there?" (this post was actually taken from Ben Jones blog with the posters permission to use it here)

Former LA Homeowner said...

socalmtgguy and all the rest,

I believe there is a housing bubble, especially in So Cal but it is taking a freaking long time to burst. How long do we have to wait for this mess to unravel? I just want a decent house, nothing to flip or speculate on.

1:21 PM

There is not been any REAL pressure on the market yet for it to start coming down. Yes, interest rates have gone up some, and lending standards have tightened a smidge in some places, but for all intents and purposes, not much has changed. The latest increase in rates doesn't really affect that many people at the moment.

We all know that in the bubble markets, there is an overwhelming use of ARMs, I/O ARMs, and option-ARMs to be able to "afford" the property. Most of these loans are fixed for a minimum of 2-5 years, with some going as long as 7 and 10 years. The borrowers that are refinancing right now more than likely bought 2-3 years ago, and now their ARM is adjusting, or about to adjust. Assuming they didn't take out too many HELOC's (home equity line of credit), they should have plenty of equity to be able to refi at a lower LTV. Some of these people will be impacted, but for the most part, they have enough equity cushion to keep themselves safe.

On the other hand, you have the people that have bought in the past 12-18 months. These people are still sitting pretty with their low payments for another 12-18 months at least. Some of these people have some decent appreciation.

Here is where things get tricky. In 2006 there are approximately 335 billion dollars worth of ARMs that are set to adjust. Let's just assume that each loan set to adjust is for $500,000. That means 670,000 households are going to have 4 options: refi, sell, foreclose, or pay the higher payments.

Things get really tricky in 2007 as 1.2 TRILLION dollars of arms are set to adjust. That means 2,400,000 households have to pick one of those 4 options. (again, we all know that 500k is a high loan amount, but it will give us a 'low estimate' as the number of households that could be effected) Let's look at those 4 options a bit closer now...

Refinance - Most people will NOT like their mortgage payment fluctuating on a monthly basis, and they will certainly not like the fact that their payments will jump pretty dramatically as rates will most definitely be higher in 2006 and 2007. Rates will still be historically low, but not in the 4's and 5's which many of these borrowers will have had.

Sell - This is an option that many people will take. They knew going in that they could not afford the property for 30 years, but they would do whatever they had to do to get a piece of property and start getting the appreciation. There will be many of these people who will try and sell. The only problem is that supply and demand works both ways. The got the appreciation when the supply was low, now they will have to give it back as there are massive increases in inventory.

Foreclose - do I really need to go here? Many borrowers will lose their property because they cannot make their adjusted mortgage payment, or they cannot sell fast enough, or they cannot sell where they won't be upside down.

Make the higher payment - Some people might not be able to refi because of credit scores dropping, employment changes, or even tightening of lending standards. These people will do what is necessary to keep making the payment. Hopefully the jump in payment will not crush them.

So there you have it. That is one of the things I belive that will be the catalyst for the bubble to burst. Massive people selling will lower prices. Rising rates will force people to lower prices as the same payment buys less house. Tightening lending standards will pull potential borrowers out of the market. Once those stated loans get a bad rap and/or they actually start pricing them correctly, you will remove another section of people from the market.

Once these things start happening, I think you will see the beginning of things REALLY coming down. Don't fall for the dead-cat-bounce when people start buying in on the first dip.

I hope this helps to shed some light on how much longer "you will be stuck in this station wagon"!


It really doesn't surprise me at this time that the 'toxic loans' aren't performing worse than the 'conventional' loans. You see, many of the people with the exotic loans STILL have the low payment, and the ones that did get into trouble were generally able to sell before they got into any real foreclosure problems. With inventories at least double in many areas, and the sales pace down 25-40% from the same time last year, selling to get out of trouble is going to become MUCH harder...and we aren't even into 2007 yet. I can only guess that the first half of this article was to squash the 'bubble talk' that has become more commonplace in the media today.

The second half of the story is where people should be paying attention. The first half covers the 'past' the 2nd half of the story looks to the future. Once there is a don't least 1.5 trillion dollars worth of mortgages adjusting, that could spell trouble for the future. The foreclosure rate is up across the country from the same time last year. Sure, it is still not a very high number of actual foreclosures, but lets revisit the stats AFTER 2007. Remember, it takes months to gather this data, analyze it, and get it reported to the people. So don't start jumping on my back when the first wave of numbers comes out in February/March/April of 2007 and say "you said 2007 was the year of reckoning"...much of that data will still be from 2006. Look at the data from late 2007 and early 2008 to see what REALLY happened with all the mortgage adjustments. Remember, 2007 will be a key year, but it will by no means be 'over' after 2007. You can't have a 5-8 year bull run and only a 1-2 year pullback. This thing will take time to run its course.

On a side note, I had another friend who just left the business. He said he had 3 borrowers in the past month or so that got loans, and went 30, 60, 90, 120, default. The loans were all stated 100% loans from 500-800k. I guess the borrowers were hoping to 'flip' the property before they could default.

On another side note...I couldn't sleep the other night, so I was doing a little channel surfing. I came across the show "Million Dollar Listings" which I had heard of, but not seen. Needless to say, I stayed up another hour to watch this show. I actually felt bad for the realtors in this show. The sellers they featured were completely irrational. This one lady bought her home for 1.5 million, did 200k of 'renovations' and wanted to sell it for 3 million a mere 18 months later. Actually, it was 2,995,000...or $5000 less. So shoot me for 'rounding up'! The realtor finally got an offer at 2.3 million, but the seller wanted nothing of it. The realtor took the lady to several other houses to try and show her that her house was priced to high. She did NOT get it. There was one she REALLY liked, nicer than here home, she asked how much it was...a mere 1.9 million. She says...GREAT! get me 3 million for mine and I might buy this one! The highest comp to her house was 2.19 million, but she said she would get 2.95 million, or nothing at all. She said she wasn't in a hurry, and would wait to get exactly what she wanted. Needless to say, the listed was removed, and no sale was made. It was amazing how the sellers were completely disconnected from what their houses were really worth. The other realtors waited about 5 weeks to call the seller and recommend listing at a lower price. After debating firing them, the borrower decided to lower his price, and finally sold his house in the end.

Well, that is all for now. I look forward to the comments and feedback. Look for more frequent postings in the future.

Stay tuned...


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Do you own your house? ...or does your house OWN you??

NOTE: This book title deals with allergies in the home. I think another book could be written with the same name...but along the lines of my post below.

I was restocking one of my accounts in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area when one of the techs needed me to move out of the way so they could reach some instrument. I said "how are you doing?" They replied "I'm alive." I said "That is a good thing!" They said "I guess..." in a less than chipper mood as they left the room.

I assumed somebody was just having a busy day. It wasn't until I heard the next conversation that I found out why.

I guess it was this persons turn to drive to go pick up lunch, or run other errands for the office. I heard the person quip "I only have 4 dollars in my wallet until I get paid again. I just paid my mortgage and that is all the money I have until payday on Friday."

I don't know this person and it wasn't my business to say anything. I just listened as this all happend about 8-10 feet away from me. Now I know nothing of this persons finances, what their mortgage is, or what they 'own'...but I do know that the mortgage payment, however big or small it is, is putting some serious stress on this person.

I would assume the property is at least 300k, as that is pretty much a 'starter' home in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area. I'm not here to debate this person or their situation...but to ask the question: Does this person own their house, or does their house own them?

I remember just a few years ago that it was OK to move somewhere and rent for a little while before making any decisions. I remember those 'rent vs. buy' calculators which have become so 'outdated' the past few years as the ONLY option was to buy, buy, buy!

I remember when it didn't make sense to buy unless you were going to be in the same place for at least 3-5 years. Oh wait, that was before the days when 5-10k per month of appreciation was 'in the bag'! You see, real estate is generally a long-term investment. It takes time for the real estate to appreciate and for the principal to be paid down. Not to mention the fact that you have 5-7% transaction costs that need to be figured in when buying/selling a piece of property. It wasn't that uncommon for people to actually RENT for a year or two because there was uncertainty with their job or they were actually going to save money for a downpayment. They didn't know if they would be moving, getting promoted, or changing jobs. It was the smart financial decision to make because MOST of the time it didn't make sense to buy a home for a short or uncertain time frame. Not to mention that it is OK to get on your feet, get some money saved, and make an informed decision when the correct time comes.

The problem came the past 5 years when if you waited a year or heaven forbid TWO years, you either lost 100k+ in 'appreciation' or became priced out 'forever'. What most people didn't realize is that they were competing with the rest of the masses who were also rushing to buy, buy whatever costs. The lenders were all too willing to 'help' people 'afford' the 'American dream'. Don't make enough...state your income. Don't have a downpayment, no don't need it. Heck, we will even give you 3-25% at closing to help you pay closing costs and even furnish the place. Have a BK, don't worry...we won't hold that aginst you. Want lower payments until you get promoted, make more money, or win the lottery...we have I/O and neg-am. You need to buy TODAY because prices are going up...look how rich everybody else is getting.

It is at this point that I loved to ask people: "what happens if property doesn't continue to keep going up?" You would have thought I just gave the Pope 'the finger' the way people would look at me. Heaven forbid this guy actually question the appreciation of housing, but he muttered the 'R' word at the same time. What do you mean it can make more sense to RENT than to buy?

For the past few years people quit 'doing the math' when making decisions about real estate. Sure, many people made a lot of money, and many more had a lot of 'equity' in their property. BUT, we are going to see the other side of a real estate boom starting in 2007. Just like people stood back and wondered why they bought '' when it was trading at 180 times future earnings, they will again stand back and wonder whey they paid 2-3 times the cost of 'renting' to 'own' the same property with creative financing. Just like the stock market, you don't have the gains until you SELL! Ever wonder why inventories are skyrocketing in many areas across the country??

That gets me back to my original question: Do you own your house, or does your house own you? If you have a fixed rate mortgage that you can afford...and by afford I don't mean having '4 bucks' in your wallet until payday, then you will probably be OK provided you are not forced to sell due to relocation or other unforseen circumstances. That said, you truly don't own your house until it is paid off. That is something that I think will become fashionable again some time here in the next decade. I remember when several friends and neighbors made that last payment. They were so excited to be completely DEBT FREE! No mortgage, no car payments, no credit cards...just property taxes and insurance.

If you have an I/O mortgage, you are just renting from the bank and your state. You do NOT own your house at this time. Sure, on paper, it is yours...but if you doubt me, stop making your mortgage payment for a few months and then let me know who REALLY owns that house. With an interest only mortgage, your principal balance isn't changing and you get the added joy of paying property taxes. Sure there is a tax write-off, but in most of the bubble areas that doesn't make up the difference between 'owning' and 'renting'. That wasn't a problem when property was increasing in value every month, but treading water financially when prices are flat or falling is NOT a good place to be, especially when facing an ARM that is about to reset to a much higher payment. Making higher payments on a decreasing asset sounds about as much renting! Ha ha...just kidding. You get the point.

Like I have said countless times before, 2007 is going to be the year of reckoning. We are going to find out who owns their house, and whose house OWNS them. I bet there will be thousands of home 'owners' who will wish they could give a landlord 30 days notice and get on with their lives. But instead, they will be trying to sell an 'asset' they over-paid for, in a market where every other person getting OWNED by their house is trying to sell as well. The same people competed with each other to buy these properties with creative financing...and when the tide really turns, they will all be scrambling for the door. If you think I'm crazy, then please tell my why less than 1-2% of all loans in 2000-2001 in California were I/O. Then in 2004-2005 you had over 80% using this kind of financing?

Who is getting OWNED.....YOU, or your HOUSE?

I look forward to the comments and feedback...


Friday, September 08, 2006

Read the SMALL print!

I just thought I had to share with everybody what I pulled out of my mailbox this week. I got a 'nice' 6 x 11 inch card in the mail that says across the top: "RENTERS!" then the next line says "Kiss You Landlord Goodbye!". Maybe you didn't catch that, but yes, it said 'you' and not 'your'. So that was my first clue that attention to detail is NOT a strong suit of this 'luxury' condo cough-conversion-cough. I assume it is a condo-conversion because of the location and the fact that it says "New Spanish Tile Roofs" as a highlight of the building. Most 'new-builds' do not highlight the fact that the roof is new. You can check these condos out for yourself at

But lets get back to the "kiss YOUR landlord goodbye!" part of things. Below that it says you can "Own for as little as $1,088*/mo". That doesn't SOUND too bad. Heck, it is hard to find a decent place to rent for under $1000 in San Diego. I figured I would check and see what that little asterick (*) had to say. I won't retype what all of the 23 lines of micro-print had to say, but I will run through the highlights.

Here is the card:
Image Hosted by

The loan is a CalFHA 2/1 buy-down with a 3.5% start rate and the payments are only $1,088 per month!

Sounds 'good' so far... (wink-wink)

This is based on the 'lowest' priced unit in the complex of $249,900, and the mortgage is on $242,400 (that would be $7,500 down...or 3%).

The loan is 3.5% for the 1st year with the seller paying for the 2/1 temporary buydown. Hey, at least you are paying principal with this loan!

The next year, the loan payment jumps to $1,228.21 at 4.5%, and the 3rd through 30th year, the payment is $1,376.32 at 5.50%.

So all in all, this doesn't sound THAT bad. It is a fixed loan after the first 2 years, and you are paying principal and interest the whole time...but wait! I really like these next parts.

"Mortgage monthly payment of $1,088.48 does not include mortgage insurance of $171.70 and property taxes of $229.08. Property taxes calculated at 1.10% tax rate. Does not included HOA fees. (yes, they put included instead of 'include') HOA fees estimated at $171 per month."

Wow, lets add that up...171.70 + 229.08 + 171 = $571.78 I don't know about you, but that extra $572 bucks a month kind of changes the picture a little bit. These costs add another 52% to the $1,088 mortgage payment. You can look at it like that, or that the mortgage payment only accounts for 66% of the total cost of ownership. Suddenly, $1660.26 per month doesn't look at good as $1088...and don't forget that is ONLY for the first 12 months! Assuming HOA's, taxes stay the same, you are looking at almost a $2000 a month payment after 24 months ($1948.10 assuming the HOA or taxes don't increase).

Don't forget, we are talking about the lowest priced 1-bedroom condo (conversion) in the complex!

But here is where it gets interesting: To qualify for the 5.50% CalFHA program, income limit for low income borrowers is $49,680 for 1-2 persons, $57,132 for 3 or more person in household.

Maybe its just me, but if you are only making about 49k per year, I don't know that spending $250,000 on a small 1-bedroom condo conversion is the best use of funds. You are going to be spending about 45-50% of your gross income on housing. I know there are worse things going on out there, but come on is just a house! Forget the massive appreciation that lots of people have seen the past few years, those days are OVER for a long time. If you are spending that much on housing, that isn't going to leave much room for savings, car payments, gas, food, etc. I hope that a 3 person household would not be buying a small 1-bedroom condo conversion, so I won't even go there right now. I know they must be small because they don't list the square footage, and the units don't look big from the pictures. If I were making an educated guess, these places would probably rent from $950 to $1200 per month.

I guess the thing that bothers me is that many people will see the "Own for as little as $1,088/month" part of things, and 'think' that is all there is. Aside from putting a LOT of money down, there is NO WAY to 'own' this place for $1088 per month. The last time I checked, you HAVE to pay your taxes, HOA, and PMI.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I hate it when I'm shopping for a hotel room on one of the online sites and the rates look good until you find out there is a $15-20 resort fee, and/or a nice 19% hotel tax or something. If you are going to charge a mandatory fee...just add that to the price of you $129 room. Am I the only person annoyed by this??

Other than that, I am sure that many of you are feeling better and better with the news that is coming out with regards to housing. Our fearless leaders are slowly starting to eat their words. Leslie Appleton-Young and Mr. Lereash are slowly coming around. It is just unfortunate that thousands of people are going to lose tens of thousands of dollars because they listened to those biased cheerleaders.

Stay tuned to Ben's blog and this one. I am working on a few things that I think you will really enjoy. REMEMBER...this is only the beginning. This is the equivalent of the NASDAQ dipping under is just a start. 2007 will be the year of reckoning. You think inventories are high now? Wait until another 1.5+ trillion dollars worth of mortgages adjust next year.

Stay tuned!