Conforming Loan limits extended

Conforming loan limits for high-cost areas of the United States will remain at $729,750 through the end of 2010 following action in the House and Senate this week to extend the ability of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration to make and purchase those bigger loans.The higher limits were set to expire Dec. 31. The extension removes some year-end uncertainty for mortgage companies, which had already been preparing for lower limits. Without the new law, the high-cost loan limit would have fallen back to $625,500."Given the lack of a private secondary mortgage market, FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are pretty much the only game in town," said Robert Story Jr., chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Extending the current loan limits through 2010 will allow more loans to qualify for these important programs and will help keep mortgage credit more accessible and affordable for qualified borrowers.""As we try to maintain the momentum of the housing recovery, providing affordable financing for qualified borrowers is critical. Extending the loan limits, along with other initiatives such as extending and expanding the home-buyer tax credit, will help restore stability to the housing and mortgage markets," he said.The jumbo mortgage market, loans that are above the Fannie/Freddie/FHA limits, virtually froze in the credit crunch of the last year, limiting the ability of borrowers and buyers in many cities to purchase or refinance homes. The higher limits, along with efforts by the Federal Reserve and Treasury to buy up mortgage securities, was meant to maintain liquidity in the mortgage markets.Fannie and Freddie, though, have there own problems. They are held in receivership by the government, and the debate over their future is a contentious one. Legislation to overhaul the mortgage agencies could come next year, but its shape is anything but certain.In the meantime, the FHA has become the lender of choice. As much as one-third of new mortgages today are being underwritten by the agency, which does not provide the loans but offers an insurance guarantee backed by the U.S. to lenders, with some lenders reporting 50% or more of their business is with the FHA.That has skeptics, who cite troubling default ratios in recent FHA loans, worried that the next big bailout will be of that agency.-- Steve Kerch, assistant managing editor/personal financeHOME-BUYER TAX CREDIT IS ADMINISTRATIVE NIGHTMARELast November, J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, warned the Internal Revenue Service that if they didn't ask for documentation from people filing for the first-time home-buyer credit, there would be fraud. The IRS ignored the advice. The result? The IRS doled out about $620 million to ineligible filers. Big deal, you might say. How does it affect me? Well, thanks to the problems, the IRS is now checking every return by hand.If you're among the millions of people who bought or plan to buy a first home in 2009, be prepared for long delays in getting your tax refund sent to you
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Short Sales on the rise but not REO's

Short Sales on the rise but not necessarily REO's

Word on the street is that while Notices of Default may be on the rise - that does not mean you should expect a rise in REO's.

The reasons:
1) Lenders are starting to finally figure out that Short Sales can save them time and money vs. REO's.

2) In areas outside of the City of San Francisco where an investor might buy REO's in bulk from a bank - the public may not see any evidence in a rise in REO's because they are turned around and placed on the market NOT as REO's because they aren't anymore.

Similar to yesterday's post - one of the conclusions is that there's more than meets the eye when trying to read the market.
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Could San Francisco home prices rise dramatically again?

Could San Francisco home prices rise dramatically again?

I thought I was reading an old article when I read Robert Shiller of Case-Shiller said "It is entirely possible that even with the bad news we are getting, home prices could start a major increase….what happens from here will depend on people's animal spirits and speculative impulses,"

Click here for the link to the article.

The article specifically references San Francisco:
"Home prices in certain areas like San Francisco, have risen by double-digits over four months, and if viewed on an annualized basis, they look like they are in 'bubble territory,' Shiller said."

When the Case-Shiller Index refers to "San Francisco" they are usually referring to the San Francisco "MSA" or what I'd refer to as the "Bay Area". There definitely have been pockets of strength in the City of San Francisco recently, but for big gains you can look outside of the City in low-cost areas where investors and first time home buyers are snapping up foreclosures. I predict gains to be realized in the next few reports for two reasons - the reports are old news, and Closed sales are actually reflect the month earlier action - you contract at a price, and don't get it reported until it Closes, often 30 days later.

Home prices fell off a cliff starting in late September 2008. We're probably a few weeks from seeing how this September did vs. last September, but the real news will be October over October and even November over November since again, a November sales price reflects a October contract - immediately after everyone was worried sick about the economy.

The month over month reports should be extremely interesting for a full year - and could - as Robert Shiller suggests - cause a new bubble mentality with reports of big increases leading to even bigger increases.

Foreclosure vs. Short Sale - which is best

Foreclosure vs. Short Sale - which is best?
Well neither is good. But there has been a lot of noise that Short Sales are so much better for owner/sellers than Foreclosures. From what I can tell some of the claimed advantages just aren't true. There are some advantages though.

Firstly, reviewing pages 3 thru 5 at eFanniemae.com's 2008 0816 announcement which describes underwriting rule changes in how Fannie Mae treats bankruptcies, foreclosures, short sales and other negatives transfers. If you go through a Short sale, they won't loan to you for 2 years. If you go through a foreclosure they won't loan to you for 3 to 5 years depending on whether you had "extenuating circumstances".

But the "noise" I am referring to about foreclosures supposedly being better than Short Sales is that from all indications your credit rating will get severely damaged in either scenario, and it's probably unlikely that your credit score will be high enough in 2 years time to qualify for any decent loan.

So is a Short Sale really better than a foreclosure? I think that's a case by case question.... and one you probably need to discuss with an attorney especially since one of the biggest questions is when and how a lender can go after you for a "deficiency judgement" on the amount owed.


SF Water ordinance update

San Francisco real estate Water Ordinance update:
It's official, Sellers must get a water inspection, fix any problems, and once you pass the inspection have it recorded. I hired Alex Mak Energy 415-533-3322) recently for $100 inspection and $75 recording fee. That was after a few calls and I figured I had found the best price until a colleague recommended Timothy Branham (415-269-9361) who charged $40 less.

The inspections took all of 10 minutes, so hopefully in time these might get even cheaper. Of the two inspections I needed for my listings, one passed, the other needed a new toilet - and Alex Mak got the toilet and installed it for $300.

For more on the Water Ordinance you can download the City's pamphlet at


3011 Jackson St #2 - new SFisHOME Group listing

New listing from the SFisHOME Group: 3011 Jackson St, #2, San Francisco, CA 94115

Click on "view detailed listing" link below to check out the video walk and larger photos, description, etc.