Santa Cruz County median home price $649,000 in October, highest in five years
By JONDI GUMZ
Fannie Mae short sale help desk open for business
By JONDI GUMZ
SANTA CRUZ -- Relief may be on the way for homeowners in distress in Santa Cruz County, giving them an alternative to foreclosure.
The Fannie Mae Short Sale Assistance Desk is open for business, promising to speed up the time it takes to get an answer on a short sale offer. That process has been unpredictable.
Last year, short sales accounted for nearly one out of five home sales in Santa Cruz County. A short sale occurs when a lender agrees to accept less than what is owed on a property.
Hundreds of local homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments and owe more than what their home is worth due to declining property values. They are considering short sales in hopes of avoiding foreclosure.
About 20 percent of mortgage-holders in the county are underwater, according to CoreLogic, a research firm based in Santa Ana.
"Successful short sales in Santa Cruz County were up from 267 in 2009 to 378 in 2010, but processing times barely improved," according to agent Mike Young of Thunderbird Real Estate in Capitola, who has handled 16 such transactions. "It is still taking in excess of six months."
A lot of potential sales vanish.
Young said 329 short sale listings in 2010 expired, cancelled or were withdrawn.
Meanwhile, foreclosures have skyrocketed: 1,458 in 2009 and 1,700 in 2010. That's where the lender sets a date to sell the property because the borrower stops making payments.
The help desk is an initiative of the California Association of Realtors and Multiple Listing Service companies such as MLSListings in Sunnyvale, which covers Santa Cruz County and is chaired by Robert Bailey of Bailey Properties in Aptos.
Most loans were sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, both government-run mortgage companies, or investors, and most have private mortgage insurance, according to Bailey.
There are different layers of approval so it takes more time," he said. "The bank is the servicer but it's not their money. It gets much more complicated."
The help desk will address issues such as second liens, mortgage insurance and responsiveness of loan servicers, with the goal to review the case within one week.
Participating MLS companies will provide Fannie Mae with data on property sales, which Bailey said should help lenders decide on short sale offers.
"Generally a property sells with great value in a short sale than through foreclosure," he said, noting the difference can be up to 25 percent in a higher return or a lower loss.
Fannie Mae Vice President Marcel Bryar said agents are expected to work with the loan servicer first.
"The assistance desk staff will help in the event the servicer has not provided an initial response within 20 days, a final property valuation within 30 days, or a final decision or specific direction to facilitate a decision within 60 days from the original offer submission date," he said.
Part of the problem has been the lack of a standard process for short sales.
Bailey said a new software program used by Bank of America has enabled his company to close short sales with that lender in 60 days.
Young sees progress with Bank of America's new software but reports "a wide variation" in processing times.
He said it's taken a year since the federal government created the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program to see any approvals. That program was designed to standardize short sale documentation and cut processing times.
For a short sale listing in Live Oak, the lender took 45 days to evaluate and ultimately reject a client for the federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program.
He also cited a short sale listing in Carmel Valley involving Bank of America.
"Once they found out the property had serious issues, they just stopped talking to us," he said. "It is like we got kicked out of the express 15 items and under' lane at the supermarket."
Short Sale Help
To be eligible for Fannie Mae short sale help desk:
Property must have a first lien owned by Fannie Mae
Servicer must have a valid offer for the property
Agent must be a member of California Association of Realtors and MLS
Agent must be the listing agent and obtain a signed authorization from the homeowners
Source: California Association of Realtors
SHORT SALES GROWING
Short sales increased more than 40 percent last year in Santa Cruz County compared to the year before.
2009 Total sales Short sales
Single family 1,795 205
Condo 363 62
Total 2,158 267
Single family 1,633 277
Condo 372 101
Total 2,005 378
2011 as of March 30
Single family 361 69
Condo 72 14
Total 433 83
Source: Mike Young, Thunderbird Real Estate
Santa Cruz County median home price in December at $503,250
By Jondi Gumz- Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ -- San Lorenzo Valley has taken over from Watsonville as the area hardest hit by foreclosures, and that's likely to keep prices from rising this year.
The median sales price for a single-family home in Santa Cruz was $503,250 in December, compared to $536,000 in November and $549,500 a year ago, according to Gary Gangnes of Real Options Realty, who tracks the numbers.
There were 128 single-family home sales, up from 119 in November but down from 146 a year ago. Of those sales, 39 percent involved distressed properties, bank-owned or a short sale, where the home is sold for less than what is owed. Condos have been harder hit; of 33 transactions, 58 percent were distress sales.
The year saw relative price stability after the roller coaster ride of the boom and the bust, from $732,000 in December 2007 to $450,000 December 2008.
Other year-end statistics from the Santa Cruz Record indicate housing market troubles in the county are not over:
- A total of 1,695 default notices were issued, down from 1,784 in 2008 and 2,079 in 2009;
- Foreclosures reached 1,700 -- a record -- compared to 1,355 in 2008 and 1,458 in 2009;
- A total of 744 homes sold at foreclosure auctions compared to 906 in 2008 and 727 in 2009;
- The unsold inventory index, a predictor of future prices based on listings and sales, is at six months. Anything less than six months can signal falling prices.
Ruth Bates of Thunderbird Real Estate in Capitola pointed out that of the 96 bank-owned homes in the county, 40 percent are in San Lorenzo Valley, one of the most affordable areas.
Many of these were "entry-level" homes for people who wanted to live in the Santa Cruz area during the buying spree between 2004 and 2007, Bates observed. The mountain town of Boulder Creek has 20 foreclosures compared to 13 in the farm community of Watsonville.
One example of how foreclosures have dropped prices is in Boulder Creek. Four years ago, a three-bedroom, two-bath home on Acorn Street sold for $534,000. This past year, two bank-owned homes with the same number of bedrooms on the same street sold for $256,750 and $143,800, Bates said.
The average list price for a bank-owned homes in San Lorenzo Valley is $280,000 compared to $503,000 in Santa Cruz, she noted.
San Lorenzo Valley listings range from a two-bedroom cabin at 160 Riverview Drive in Boulder Creek for $70,000 to 1065 Eagle Tree Lane, a 22-acre estate vineyard in Felton priced at $749,700.
Thunderbird also is offering the most expensive bank-owned house in the county, an unfinished beach property at 633 Beach Drive in Rio del Mar, asking $1.95 million.
January typically is a slower month for sales, but rising interest rates could push demand as buyers try to lock in at lower rates. Bates said she had a client in December get 4.5 percent and another in January get 4.75 percent.
Laura Grenyo of Coldwell Banker made four all-cash deals in the past month. One of them, a two-bedroom house at 1250 Trout Gulch in Aptos, sold for $162,500, unusually low for that community.
It was bank-owned and red-tagged, with mold and a failed septic system that required an expensive custom solution.
"I just talked to another buyer today, all cash, above $600,000," Grenyo said. "People are out there looking."
Buyers at the high end are closing deals for less than the asking price. That was the case for the three most expensive homes sold in December.
The asking price for a four-bedroom house at 116 Laurent St. in Santa Cruz was $2.195 million; it fetched $1.825 million.
The asking price for a three-bedroom home at 101 Hollister Ave. in Capitola was $2.595 million; the buyer paid $2 million.
"That is driven by motivation on both sides," said agent Nancy Comstock of David Lyng. "If you don't have a motivated seller, it's hard to put a deal together."
She said sellers asked $6 million for a "gorgeous" three-bedroom home at 860 Via Gaviota in Rio del Mar "right on the sand." The buyer, from San Jose, closed the deal in 15 days, paying cash: $3.9 million.
CLOSE TO THE MEDIAN
City of Santa Cruz
303 Marnell $512,500
726 Trevethan $519,000
218 Walk Circle $533,000
220 Alta $579,900
Santa Cruz County
323 Hillcrest, Seacliff $480,000
180 Larkin, Boulder Creek $494,000
107 Santa Clara, Seacliff $520,000
2565 Parker, Soquel $525,000
1350 49th, Capitola $525,000
42 9th, Watsonville $106,500
7 Meidl, Amesti $120,000
1250 Trout Gulch, Aptos $162,500
701 Delta, Watsonville $165,000
153 Hillside, Amesti $170,000
190 Monte Sereno, Aptos $1.28 million
700 Del Valle, Aptos $1.31 million
1116 Laurent, Santa Cruz $1.825 million
101 Hollister, Capitola $2 million
860 Gaviota, Rio del Mar $3.9 million
SOURCE Real Options Realty
Median price: $503,250 ($549,500 in 2009 and $450,000 in 2008)
Listings: 773 (690 in 2009 and 944 in 2008)
Sales volume: 128 (146 in 2009 and 114 in 2008)
Distressed: Bank-owned, 28; short sales, 22
Unsold Inventory Index: 6 months (4.7 months in 2009 and 8.3 months in 2008)
Average price: $578,052 ($601,239 in 2009)
Median price: $275,000 ($338,250 in 2009)
Listings: 251 (209
Sales volume: 33 (36 in 2009)
Distressed: Bank-owned, 9; short sales, 10
Unsold Inventory Index: 7.6 months (5.8 months in 2009)
Average price: $316,629 ($373,597 in 2009)
SOURCE: Real Options Realty, www.ror.com
Median home price in Santa Cruz County at $510,000, but July sales are slow
By Jondi Gumz- Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ - Homebuyers made themselves scarce in July though usually it's the biggest month of the year for sales. Gary Gangnes of Real Options Realty, who tracks the numbers, reports single-family home sales in Santa Cruz County dropped from 175 in June to 145 in July. That's not a record low, but it's close. The record is 143 sales in July 2007, a month before the credit crisis exploded. July's median price was $510,000, down from $775,000 three years ago, but sales haven't taken off.
Despite falling prices and record low interest rates, agents say prospective buyers are reluctant to commit, worried that foreclosures will bring the housing market down another peg. About 49 percent of sales were for under $500,000; only 6 percent were over $1 million. With listings up and sales down, it would take 7.6 months to deplete the current inventory, nearing the eight-month point where there's pressure to lower prices.
The trend is playing out across the nation. Sales of previously occupied homes in the United States fell 27 percent in July, putting home sales at the lowest level in 15 years.
In Santa Cruz County, 41 percent of single-family sales and 45 percent of condo sales in July were bank-owned or "short sales," where lenders accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage. "Buyers are very cautious," said Josh Thomas of Town and Country Real Estate in Felton. He thought he had a hot listing on Mckenzie Street in Watsonville, a three-bedroom, one-bath house with fruit trees in the yard for $299,999, with a monthly payment of about $1,500. Five agents told him they would submit an offer, but none has come in. Next door, renters pay $2,000 a month, but several properties on the street are bank-owned or scheduled for a foreclosure sale. Distressed properties lower prices as appraisers use bank-owned homes and short sales to set values. "There's not as many people looking," said Derek Timm of Montalvo Homes in Santa Cruz, citing "a combination of fear and the job market."
In July, he closed two transactions in Santa Cruz and had a couple over the hill.
Sellers of mid-price and high-end homes are cutting asking prices to close the deal.
The Painted Moon Ranch, at 24275 Soquel San Jose Road in Soquel, dropped from $1.995 million to $1,812 million and 115 Centennial St., Santa Cruz, dropped from $1.325 million to $1.29 million. Buyers paid $525,000 for a two-bedroom house at 202 Berkshire Ave., Santa Cruz, not the asking price of $569,000. "Quite a few homes in Santa Cruz have sold recently for under $500,000, either short sales or foreclosures, but it's still hard to get a 3-bedroom, 2-bath for $500,000," Timm said.
Newly built condos at 605 Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz are priced at $329,950; these are one-bedroom units. People with good credit can get a 30-year fixed loan at 4.3 percent interest if they put 20 percent down. For a $500,000 home, that means having $100,000 in the bank and paying a mortgage of $1,979 a month plus $645 a month for insurance and property taxes.
When Thunderbird Real Estate hosted a tour of distressed properties Saturday for prospective buyers, only four people showed up. None was a first-time buyer.
Mike Young of Thunderbird sees buyer confidence being undermined by the expiration of the $8,000 federal tax credit and the general negative economic news.
"Don't count on double-digit appreciation any time soon," he advised.
The Thunderbird tour used to be known as the "REO tour" for "real estate owned" because it featured homes owned by banks. Now half the homes on the tour are short sales. Visitors were impressed by 290 Dry Creek in Aptos, a $550,000 short sale. The 2,000-square-foot home has three bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Young said an offer came in for the home on the morning of the tour, but noted many short sales fall apart as banks take time to respond to offers and buyers get impatient.
"Sales rates should be much lower than they were during the tax credit times of mid-'09 to mid-'10," said Menlo Park analyst Mark Hanson. "Foreclosures, short sales and overall real estate supply are at record highs at the same time sales volume is falling sharply, meaning significant price pressure going forward."
July 2010 STATISTICS
Median price: $510,000 ($520,000 a year ago; $607,500 two years ago)
Listings: 1,097 (1,044 a year ago)
Number of sales: 145 (175 a year ago).
Distressed: Bank-owned, 36, short sales, 24; not applicable/not disclosed, 85
Unsold Inventory Index: 7.6 months (6 months a year ago)
Average price: $554,986 ($553,224 a year ago).
Median price: $308,500 ($404,500 a year ago; $406,000 two years ago)
Listings: 287 (235 a year ago)
Number of sales: 38 (34 a year ago)
Distressed: Bank-owned, 6; short sales, 11; not applicable/not disclosed, 21
Unsold Inventory Index: 7.6 months (6.9 months a year ago)
Average price: $388,587 ($428,485 a year ago).
SOURCE: Real Options Realty, www.ror.com
The Special Parents Information Network has named Ride A Wave the Recreational Program of the Year and Dave King Volunteer of the Year. They will be handing out the awards at their awards ceremony on Aug 28th at the Watsonville YMCA ( 340 Beach St ) from 3:30 to 6:30.
Praiseworthy: Aug. 9, 2010
-Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 08/09/2010 01:30:48 AM PDT
King comes to the rescue of rafters
Dave King does not know us, but we know of him. His picture is occasionally in the Real Estate section of the Sentinel. On the late afternoon of Aug. 3 we were enjoying the views from a bench above Sunny Cove. Through binoculars we noticed a flimsy yellow raft being blown off shore by a stiff easterly wind. The raft was occupied by two people without wetsuits with a small plastic oar. Just as we were contemplating calling 911, Mr. King appeared with a paddle board and proceeded to rescue these unfortunate people. Perhaps he saw them from his living room, leaving the comforts of a Giants game on TV or some jazz tunes on the stereo. Whatever, it was nice to see a concerned person come to the aid of some distressed strangers. Little things like this don't get reported enough, hence this letter.
Jennie Anderson, Santa Cruz