Outside Expertise

For more than a decade I have been recommending that Sellers first, before contacting a Realtor, get the advice of a outside appraiser – and for the past decade I do not know of a single person who did what I advised, until the past year.

In the past seven months I have had four inquiries as to the name of an independent Appraiser. This is good news, because both Seller and Realtor have discernable personal interests in the home that they cannot erase, while an Appraiser has none

Further, if you use an Appraiser who is also used by lenders, you get foresight into what the Underwriters are telling the Appraisers as to the future market in the Lenders’ opinion, and everyone knows that the lender does not mark to market – they hedge to future markets.

Why does this matter? Because no matter what number a Buyer and Seller agree upon, the FINAL arbiter is the Lender. The Lender will appraise the home with one eye on the future. If the market in home prices is rising, he will let time cover any high price that the Buyer and Seller have agreed upon. In many markets I have seen, a $10,000 over-agreement be covered before the close of a 90 day escrow!

In this market, we have exactly the opposite. It is more likely that a Lender’s appraisal will be UNDER the agreed upon price, because the Buyer and Seller are working in the present with pretty good knowledge of where they stand. The lender will hedge his bets by appraising with an eye toward the future, and lending 80% of a lower appraisal.

This upsets the agreement between Buyer and Seller. With prices falling between a half a percent and a full percent each month, and no economic reason to see any change for at least six months (and then facing Winter markets), Sellers who do not want to face another year need to get ahead of the curve.

I just wish the foreclosures and short sales would stop, because that is what drives lower prices. All markets overcorrect, and this one certainly has. Every market harms some and helps some, and this one certainly has.

A Critical Mass

Normally, this sort of comment is relegated to my political blog, but the subject matter is so important to the real estate industry that I will reprise it here. Parents who can, buy homes in high-performing school districts, leaving most students in less than optimal conditions.

There is a new documentary in the works by the Director of An Inconvenient Truth, and you can tell it’s good because American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is already trashing Waiting for Superman

“There are more than 3 million teachers working in our 130,000 public schools. Are there bad teachers? Of course there are, just as there are bad accountants, and lawyers, and actors. I wish there were none.”

Duh! The difference is that bad everythings get fired – but teachers don’t! In fact the very AFT president, Randi Weingarten, has been one of those union leaders manning the pass against the LA Times ranking of 6,000 teachers in 250 LA schools so the parents will know who the bad teachers are!

As I was typing this Blog, my wife , who never watches Oprah and certainly never tells me when she does – called me in to watch Oprah and Bill Gates discuss Waiting For Superman. Since I had already seen the trailer, which you can watch by clicking on the link above, what I learned is that apparently Time Magazine featured this movie on Sept. 8 of this year, and the movie opens on Friday of this week.

We can only hope that there is developing a critical mass of people who have had enough of this failed public school system

A great School Resource

The LA Times publishes a database of information about California schools that is easy to read and simple to determine the condition of each prospective school.

It is called the California School Guide.


Wherever you are you can put in your zip code, and it will tell you the schools nearby – and just about everything you want to know about the schools: Their teacher/pupil ratio, their immunization rate, their API relative scores (or SAT scores), their ethnic makeup, etc. etc. etc.

Having poured over Excel spreadsheets for years, this is a much easier way for localities to determine how the most local schools are doing. It won’t help me in my analysis of large geographic areas or school districts, but for parents who have a limited geographic availability of schools, this is near perfect.

The nearest school to Hidden Meadows is Reidy Creek Elementary on North Broadway in Escondido. It has 798 students, only 23% of students get free or reduced-priced lunch, there are only 16.8% who are “English language learners,” and the student body is 54.1% there are 39 teachers and the student-teacher ratio is 18 to one.  Eight of the 99 kindergartners were exempt from vaccination (for the record this is NOT GOOD!). The API score is 850 (this IS good – but not great.)

Car Care in the Meadows

Because we are not in a place where we pass a car wash every day, it is wise to keep our cars clean during what may be long periods between car washes. I have been dedicated to keeping my cars looking good for many decades because of my real estate business, and I have usually had black or maroon luxury cars, which are very hard to keep clean.  My cars are used in Real Estate and must sparkle!

Here is a good method to avoid car washes for as long as possible. You can get five to six weeks easily between car washes with these suggestions. And in my case I have not seen the inside of a car wash for more than two years!

If you have a dusty car, or one with a few water spots or handprints, a Kozak Cloth has worked for me for fifty years. It is near magic, and can be bought in some car stores and easily by mail order. (6 South Lyon Street, Batavia, NY 14020.)

Buy a good supply of small terry towels at COSTCO.

For a slightly dirtier car, or one that is water spotted, I use a spray called Maguire’s Spray Detailer or EagleOne’s Wet Wipe and Shine, or Final Finish. For black cars, Maguire’s makes and “Extreme” extra-cost product that is superb.  Any of these will do something to put a smile on your face in 10 minutes without you getting wet. (During the summer months, it is not unusual to get caught by one of the golf course sprinklers as you come home late at night. You would not like to get your car washed each time this happens!)

The best product for glass is “Invisible Glass” by Stoner. You can get it at any car store like Pep Boys. The best product for leather is Lexol – the choice for saddles in horse competition.

Finally, if you want to wax your car, you can buy Mothers or Meguiar’s Carnauba (which lasts longer) – each works beautifully. Counter to intuition, Consumers Reports says that liquid wax products last longer than paste wax but if you have your cars waxed every two or three months as I do either will do the job well.

If you use these products, you will need far fewer, or no car washes. It is not the cost of the car washes that kills you, it is the time. It takes an hour and a half to drive to the Texaco or the Auto Park Car Wash, get the wash and come home. You can do a good job in 1/5 the time, get your needed exercise, and feel virtuous about saving time and money.

Or call Tony at 760-877-3990 who does GREAT (and very inexpensive) car detailing using theses exact products (I trained him!) & he does fine yard work as well!

Great Idea!

I had two calls last night from lostmydoggie.com inquiring if I have seen two lost dogs in Hidden Meadows.

I hope you got them also. That is a great website, and if it can reunite people with their pets more power to them.

If you have a dog that might roam, check them out at http://www.lostmydoggie.com/

Do it BEFORE you have a problem, and put it on your desktop.

MLS Update and Analysis Aug. 19

In the past 72 hours there has been zero activity in The Meadows: No listings, no Pendings, no closings.

There is no Realtor Caravan tomorrow. There are five total new listings since our last Caravan, but getting three homes at one time ready for the “Thundering Herd” of Realtors to see is always a problem.

Sellers are unnecessarily concerned. Realtors don’t look at unmade beds – they are professional and see traffic flow, cottage cheese ceilings, square footage, age of appliances, granite v tile, and general condition. Realtors look for what the Buyers want: White, light and bright.

Realtors want the beds made when they show Buyers, but they don’t much care when they are doing the previewing except as a Red Flag that things might not be ready when the Realtor has the Buyer with them.

One of the major qualities that Realtors want is accessibility. They want the home available when their Buyer is available.

Realtors are lazy. They want to see homes when they want to see them. If you make it hard to get in – well, there are lots of competing homes to be shown so if you want to make things hard for Realtors to see your home they won’t show it!

Making it hard for the Realtors Caravan is NOT a good idea. It is the wrong step to start off with Realtors unless your home is being tented or painted!

Feeding the Firefighters

For the uninitiated, Meadows volunteers bring food or deserts weekly to the Meadows Firefighters as a treat. Some of us “adopt” several local fire stations. I sent this out yesterday:

It might help those Meadowites who prefer to pick up desert for the Firefighters to learn that the Manager of CoCo’s on W. Valley Parkway suggested that Jean and I buy the pie  that is on special in any given week.

As it happened, we had promised both fire stations a lemon and an apple pie, so we stuck with that.

Right now chocolate is on sale, but the pies on sale rotate. Those on sale are under $7.00, but the regular prices are something above $11.00.

If you are buying several pies, for several stations, you could save some serious money.

Anyone can call the CoCo’s manager, David Larson (745-2513) to find out which pies are on sale on any given week.