Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I really keep trying to do this "green thing" and as I am finding out there are so many little things we can do to be just a bit greener. Here are some thing I found this week.

Bring your own mug ~ Each year, Americans discard more than 14 billion paper cups. For instance, that Styrofoam cup you use at your office meeting will linger nine generations before decomposing. Instead, bring a ceramic cup. Same goes for your daily Starbucks or Coffee Bean brew: consider bringing your own cup.

Car pool. Connect with other commuters at
If you use plastic grocery bags, recycle them for doggie poop bags or for small trash can liners.

Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs. You'll find more on energy-efficient products and practices at
Energy Star.

Lower your thermostat. Buy a programmable thermostat.

Go paperless. Consider reading your newspaper and magazine subscriptions online. Switch to electronic banking and credit card payment, too. I am now reading my daily paper online.

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Historic Housing Bill Signed by President

This morning President Bush signed the "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008." For the past several years, C.A.R. and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® have aggressively lobbied for Congress to pass numerous provisions found in this historic bill. Many of you participated in these efforts by communicating with your Members of Congress.

This federal housing bill is a significant move in the right direction for California homeowners. It will aid in stabilizing our economy and help stem foreclosures, while also providing support to first-time homeowners.

The legislation will assist an estimated 400,000 homeowners facing foreclosure, many of whom reside in California, by allowing them to refinance their current mortgages with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-backed loan. The bill also will permanently increase FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loan limits in high-cost areas.

The bill permanently increases the conforming loan limit to $625,500. C.A.R. has long advocated for higher conforming loan limits. In February, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 was signed, temporarily raising the conforming loan limit in high-cost areas to $729,750 from $417,000 until December 31, 2008.

Although we would have liked Congress to make permanent the current $729,750 loan limit, C.A.R. is pleased with the new permanent loan limit of $625,500. It will allow California homeowners to refinance their loans into safe affordable loan products and allow first-time home buyers to enter the market.

The new loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the greater of either $417,000 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. The new FHA loan limit will be the greater of $271,050 or 115 percent of an area’s median home price, up to $625,500. Both new loan limits will be effective at the expiration of the economic stimulus limits on December 31, 2008.

C.A.R. also supports the following bill provisions:

1. A temporary increase in mortgage revenue bonds to refinance subprime mortgages.
2. New regulator for Government Sponsored Enterprises to restore investor confidence in GSE loans and help the market and economy stabilize.
3. First-time home buyer tax credit, which allows first-time home buyers to receive a tax refund worth up to 10 percent of a home’s purchase price, up to a maximum of $7,500. The refund serves as an interest-free loan and the homeowner is required to repay it in equal installments over 15 years.
4. Temporary raise in the loan limit for the Veterans Affairs home loan guarantee program to the same level as the economic stimulus limits until the end of 2008.
5. Adjustment to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA), allowing sellers to provide the non-foreign affidavit to a qualified closing entity and not just the buyer.
6. The setting of minimum requirements for mortgage originators, which mandates fingerprinting of loan originators and establishes a nationwide loan originator licensing and registration system. The requirements do not apply to those only performing real estate brokerage activities unless they are compensated by a lender, mortgage broker, or other loan originator. States will have the ability to implement more stringent laws. 7.
The creation of a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help cover the cost of the FHA rescue plan for the first five years and develop affordable housing in subsequent years.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's Your Mother's Maiden Name?

What's up with your mother's maiden name? Passwords are crucial to accessing your personal accounts and information. The problem is: We all have so many accounts that we worry more about remembering our passwords than we do about making sure they actually protect our data from hackers. So we end up using passwords like our mother's maiden name or child's first name. But even if you add a few numbers to the end, those types of passwords are easy to break. And that means your data isn't safe.

The tips below can help you avoid the most common password pitfalls and even implement a few new ideas that will make your passwords easy to remember...and hard to break!

Strength Training ~ A well-protected password is not only unique, but also hard to guess. How do you do that? It's pretty simple really. Just follow this advice:
Use a random string of characters. That means no sequential letters or numbers. None.
Make it looooong. The longer the better--even up to as many as 10 to 14 characters.
Switch things up. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, along with a few numbers mixed in the middle or end.

Don't use substitutes. Using "@" for "a" or "1" for "I" may look good to you, but most hackers are smart enough to break those substitutes rather quickly.

Avoid easy targets like words straight out of the dictionary or things like family names and birthdays.
Multiplication Facts ~ Most of us cheat when it comes to passwords. We have trouble remembering our passwords, so we come up with two or three that we can remember and use them everywhere. But you should avoid the temptation. The fact is, once a password is compromised, all of your accounts are vulnerable. There's no way around it, you need to a way to create and remember multiple passwords--a different one for each account!

Sure-Fire Technique for Memorable, Unique Passwords ~ For all the advice above, good passwords come down to two things: they're easy for you to remember, and they're hard to break. Implementing the tips above can make your passwords hard to break, but what about remembering them--especially if you have a unique password for every account?
Here's a sure-fire tip to help!
1. Think up a phrase. Instead of a common word or family member name, think up a unique phrase that only you know. For example, you may think up something off the wall such as "I Like Short Hair Too."
2. Make it an acronym. In our example, "I Like Short Hair Too" would become ILSHT.
3. Add Complexity. Remember those substitutes you're not supposed to use with dictionary words? Well, you CAN use them with your acronym. For example, "I Like Short Hair Too" can become "1 Like $hort Hair 2" which makes: 1L$H2. You can also use upper and lower letters to make it 1L$h2. The point is to be creative, but in a way that you can easily remember it.
4. Make it unique. A password is only really unique if you use it for one account and one account only. So you can't just use 1L$h2 for every account. And, in reality it's still too short. Here's the key to the whole process: Mix in additional letters and numbers that are unique to each account. For example, if you're logging into a "gmail account" you can use the "gm" and "@cct" (for acct) to make: 1L$h2gM@cct. Then, for a Netflix account, you may use: 1L$h2Nf@cct.

Of course, these are just examples. You'll want to be creative and think up your own acronym and ways to add unique characters for each account. And then keep that little secret to yourself so no one will be able to guess your account passwords.

Follow these simple steps and you'll have passwords that are tough to break, unique to every account, and easy to remember!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Great News for Buyers as Entry Level Housing Affordability Rises!

The percentage of households that could afford to buy an entry-level home in California is up at 44 percent in the first quarter of 2008, compared with 26 percent for the same period a year ago, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. This is great news for move up buyers as well as first time buyers looking to take advantage of the low interest rates.

First-time buyers typically purchase a home equal to 85 percent of the prevailing median price. The monthly payment including taxes and insurance was $2,260for the first quarter of 2008. The minimum income required with 10 % down would be approx. $67,000.

Interest rates are low, inventory is high and it is a great time to get into the market and start to increase your personal wealth.

For detailed information you can view the article in it's entirity at the C.A.R. website.

Considering Moving to the East Bay? ~ Do you want to Buy or Sell a home?
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?

Please give me a call if you have questions about the East Bay Real Estate market.
I can be reached at 925 824-4878 or Toll Free 877 876-8889 or you can visit my website at

Ever wonder what these words really mean?

In today's market there are an abundance of properties for sale. Some of these properties are being sold by sellers; some are short sales, REO/bank owned and pre-foreclosures. Here is a list the definitions of each and what it means to you as a buyer and the choices you make when looking at homes.

• Regular Sale ~ a sale where the seller has equity in the property, the buyer and seller will the negotiate price and terms of the sale. The seller is required to provide Transfer Disclosures according to California Law and statute. There is sense of urgency with the seller to negotiate and move on.

• Short Sale ~ a short sale is the sale of real property where the fair market sale price is less than the loan(s) on the property. A short sale means the seller's lender is accepting a less than the existing loans on the property. Just because a property is listed with short "sale terms" does not mean the lender will accept your offer, even if the seller accepts it. Many of these properties have been trashed, are in ill repair and are sold their present "as is" condition (what you see is what your get) without any repairs to the property. The property may not meet your lenders standards to obtain your loan. There is not much flexibility and room to negotiate price.

If there are two loans, there could be a problem. The first mortgage lender's position is protected by the second lender, unless the second lender does not want to foreclose. The first lender will need to give something to the second to gain cooperation.
The process for lender approval can take as long as 5 months. There is no guarantee the lender will approve of the sale. Statistics show over the last six months that only 20 % of these sales have closed.

• REO/Bank Owned Property ~ REO is an acronym for a real estate owned property that has been foreclosed on or repossessed by banks or lenders. These properties are sold in "as is" condition (what you see is what you get) without any repairs or warranties, in ill repair and some have been trashed. There are no disclosures on the property. The property may not meet your lenders standards in obtaining your loan. Not much flexibility and room to negotiate price. The process for bank approval can be anywhere from 3 - 10 days.

• Pre-Foreclosure Property ~ a property where the homeowner has fallen behind in their payments or when a Notice of Default (NOD) has been filed against the property by the lender. May not have much flexibility in negotiating. These properties may be regular sales or potential Short Sales.

• Auctions ~ Many properties that have been turned over to auction houses have been bank owned properties that did not sell or in some instances they can be builder closeouts. The condition varies depending where the property came from. When the auction is all said and done there is a 5-10% fee paid to the auction house in addition to the find bid price. These properties are all "as is" sales without inspections or warranties and may not meet your lender's standards in obtaining your loan.

• New Construction ~ Most builders are cooperating with your Realtor in today's market. It is important to take your Realtor accompany you on the 1st visit to the new development to register you. Your Realtor will represent you in the negotiation process so you obtain the best price and builder upgrades for your price.

(Copyright © 2008 By Pam Winterbuaer All Rights Reserved.)

Considering Moving to the East Bay? ~ Do you want to Buy or Sell a home?
Do you have clients with needs in the East Bay?

Please give me a call if you have questions about the East Bay Real Estate market.
I can be reached at 925 824-4878 or Toll Free 877 876-8889 or you can visit my website at

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Come Celebrate the 4th of July and San Ramon's 25th Anniversary!

Tomorrow is the 4th of July and it's time to come out and celebrate with us the City's 25th Anniversary. Come one come all and celebrate tomorrow.

City of San Ramon celebrated its 25th anniversary of incorporation on July 1st, 2008. Twenty-five years ago, the voters of the then sleepy village of San Ramon voted to incorporate effective July 1st, 1983. The entire community will celebrate with an anniversary party at the City's Star Spangled Spectacular tomorrow at Central Park. Attendees will enjoy a special edition fireworks display along with music, food and fun in the park.

The resulting impacts of the hard work and dedication of our "pioneers" of incorporation are most evident today as our beautiful City has evolved into one of the best places to live and work in America. From the beautiful landscaping that is along virtually every major roadway to our over 50 wonderful parks, our own citizen serving police department, two outstanding libraries, the best schools in California, community sporting facilities that are "world class," our City enjoys a quality of life that is the envy of communities across California and beyond.
Celebrate San Ramon!

Run San Ramon July 4, 2008 ~ 3K Fun Walk ~ 5K Run/Walk & 10K Run
Race Day Registration Begins at 6:30 a.m.8:15 a.m. 10K Start 8:20 a.m. 5K, 3K Start
San Ramon Central Park - 12501 Alcosta Blvd
>>Click Here for More Information

Star Spangled Spectacular San Ramon Central Park - 12501 Alcosta Blvd 5pm - 10pm
Enjoy music, food by local non-profit and a tribute to San Ramon's 25th Anniversary! Fireworks start at approximately 9:30pm Music available on 101.7 fm KKIQ