What The New Treasury Pick Means for OC Real Estate

February 13th, 2017

The policies of the Treasure Secretary can have major implications for Orange County real estate, particularly for mortgages and financing.

Steve Mnuchin

The President’s pick for the post is Steve Mnuchin, former Finance Chairman of the Trump campaign and current principal of Dune Capital Management, a hedge fund. He was also a partner of Goldman Sachs, where he worked for 17 years.

Among his major accomplishments was rescuing failing bank IndyMac at the height of the mortgage crises in 2008 and turning it into the highly profitable OneWest, the largest bank in Southern California. This success, critics say, came at the cost of illegally foreclosing on as many as 80,000 homes, a practice that dubbed the bank, “Foreclosure Machine,” and Mnuchin, “Foreclosure King.”

However, the Wall Street Journal notes that many of the foreclosures were on loans that were hopelessly toxic and approved before the Mnuchin purchase. However, some evidence points to his preference for foreclosures rather than loan modifications. Read More >

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Will 2017 Be Another Banner Year for OC Real Estate?

February 6th, 2017

Newbury by Brandywine Homes

A new year always bring hope that things will get better and that’s no different in real estate. But this year, you need to add the uncertainty posed by a new presidential administration. Case in point: The FHA was scheduled to initiate a rate cut for its Private Mortgage Insurance that would have made it easier for homebuyers to get FHA loans. President Trump canceled that rate cut, preventing many buyers from taking advantage of the lower rate.

Despite this uncertainty and the difficulty of predicting the future to begin with, a few pundits have weighed in on what 2017 holds for Orange County real estate. Whether these forecasts will mean good or bad news for you can depend on whether you’re selling your old home and/or buying a new one.

Home prices will increase.

Chapman University predicts an increase of 39,000 jobs, or 2.5 percent, for Orange County in 2017. Improving employment in the county points to more families arriving who will need a place to stay. In addition, many millennials who previously moved in with their parents when they graduated are now spreading wings into the real estate market. Trumps planned economic stimulus should also improve the jobs market. Read More >

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Six Lessons from Tiny Houses for Orange County Homes

January 30th, 2017








Cute as a button, practical, and affordable, tiny houses have become all the rage, scoring multiple series on HGTV and other home-centered stations. While such spaces may be too diminutive for you and your family, they still offer plenty of takeaways for when you buy one of our Orange County homes.

1. Leave the clutter behind.
Moving into a tiny house means leaving most possessions behind due to lack of space. Going into a larger home is no excuse to start acquiring meaningless items that simply fill space. Otherwise, your garage becomes so filled with boxes that it can no longer fit your cars. And your spare bedroom becomes a storage room.

Sell, give away, or donate as many of your items as you can before your transfer homes. Not only will it minimize the time and money you spend on the move, it gives you more room at your new place.

2. Exchange old for new.
Tiny house owners must practice discretion when buying anything. The only way they can make space for something new in the home is by getting rid of something old. If you follow the same strategy of exchanging new items for old, then you won’t risk running out of space. Read More >

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Celebrate the End of Winter From Your Orange County Home

January 23rd, 2017

In colder parts of the nation, the seasons are marked by weather changes that can sometimes be severe. Around Orange County homes, winter tends to merge imperceptibly into spring, even with our recent rains providing some much-welcomed variety. Still, it is nice to herald the end of slightly cooler temperatures and the arrival of colorful blooms with these upcoming festivals.

Tet Festival (Jan 27-29)

To celebrate the lunar Chinese New Year, the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California are holding their 36th annual Tet Festival at the Orange Fairgrounds. A cultural village will simulate the charms of the Southeast Asian nation while booths serve all kinds of delicious food and sell items both beautiful and practical. Performances and contests include the Miss Vietnam of Southern California Pageant and a dragon dance or two.

Festival of Human Abilities (Jan 28-29)

For this weekend, the most interesting specimens at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach will be land-based as the Festival of Human Abilities showcases the talents of people with disabilities. Among the performances are a choir, hip-hop wheelchair dances, and underwater adaptive dives. Look for art displays and service animal demonstrations. Read More >

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Subscribe to 400+ Magazines for Free in Los Angeles and Orange County

January 16th, 2017

young blonde woman using tablet device in stylish apartment

One of the many rituals that happen with the coming of a new year is the renewal of your magazine subscriptions. Publishers make it convenient for you by sending frequent notices so you never miss an issue. Given that it costs only about $20 for a year’s worth of reading pleasure, you don’t even give the cost a second thought. You fill in your credit card details or dash off a check and send the notice on its way.

But have you stopped to think how much all those subscriptions cost in total? If you have five or six magazine subscriptions, you could easily be spending $100 or more a year on them. That’s money you could be saving, since you can get all, if not most, of those periodicals for free.

Loving the L.A. Library
The Los Angeles Public Library lets you “borrow” over 400 periodicals digitally over the Internet from the convenience of your own home. Among the titles: Better Homes and Gardens, Car and Driver, Conde Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan, HGTV Magazine, Macworld, Men’s Health, National Geographic, PC Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Shape.

You’ll need to get a free library card and you don’t even need to be a resident of Los Angeles. As long as you live in California and have photo ID, you qualify. Read More >

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Avoiding Capital Gains Tax When Buying and Selling Orange County Real Estate

January 9th, 2017


If you already own a home but want to get one of our new Brandywine models, you’re most likely going to have to sell your current property to afford the new one. The profit you make on that sale is called capital gains, and you ordinarily pay capital gains tax on that amount, which can range from 15 to 20 percent, depending on your income.

For example, if you bought your current home for $500,000 and sold it for $650,000, your capital gains (profit) would be $150,000. You could pay from $22,500 to $45,000 in capital gains taxes. Sellers who have owned their homes for decades may make several hundred thousand dollars in profits on the sale of even small homes, just because of the price run-ups we’ve seen in Orange County.

Avoiding Taxes
To prevent the massive tax burden that such large profits would ordinarily entail, the tax code contains exceptions when dealing with the sale of your primary residence. For such a transaction, you may ordinarily exclude up to $250,000 of any gain from your income, if you’re single, and up to $500,000, if you file a joint return.

To qualify for that exclusion, you must have used your home as your primary residence for a period equal to two years out of the last five ending on the date you sell your home. For example, if you rented your home for three of the last five years and lived in it the rest of the time, you qualify. However, if you rented your home for three years and a day in the last five years, you’re out of luck.

Additionally, you are not entitled to the exclusion if you’ve already used it within the two years before the sale of your current home. So, if you sold a previous home within the past two years and avoided capital gains, you can’t do it again. But wait two years and a day to sell, and the exclusion is yours once again. Read More >

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Birthday Freebies Around L.A. and Orange County Homes

January 2nd, 2017

Happy B-Day, Colorful Cookies

Who doesn’t like presents on their birthdays? After all, you deserve a treat just for making it through another year. Many retailers share that philosophy and reward you with a freebie on your special day. All you have to do is to sign up for them before your actual date.

It’s time to wake up.
If you like to wake up your day with a jolt of coffee, Starbucks gives you a free beverage plus 15 percent off on your birthday. But don’t just go for a small coffee, since that’s fairly cheap. Order the largest size drink mix you can find, so you get your money’s worth. A couple of caveats: you must join at least 30 days before your birthday and you need to download their app so it can be scanned. To maintain your birthday privileges, you also need to buy at least one item at any branch of the retailer in the coming year.

Head to an island.
Ever dream of getting away from it all on an island vacation? With Catalina Express, you can do exactly that on your birthday with a free round trip to the island just off the shores of Los Angeles and Orange County. All you need is a valid picture ID that shows your birth date. In addition, you can download a sheet giving you all kinds of discounts and freebies at Catalina Island, such as free bottle of wine at a hotel, a free walking tour, or a massage discount. Boats depart from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point.

Start the day right.
You can start the day right by eating a hearty breakfast. So Denny’s offers a free Grand Slam breakfast on your special day after you sign up for their rewards program. This meal comes with two fluffy buttermilk pancakes, two eggs, two bacon strips, and two sausages. You’ll also get money-saving coupons for the restaurant throughout the year. Read More >

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Check Out These New Year’s Firework Shows In Southern California

December 26th, 2016


New Year’s Aboard the Queen Mary
You’ll need to leave the kids at home for this 21-and-over celebration aboard a majestic ocean liner from the Golden Age of Trans-Atlantic crossings. Permanently berthed in Long Beach, the Queen Mary features multiple kinds of entertainment in its many public spaces decorated in homage to favorite films like The Godfather, Mambo Kings, and Avatar. Entertainment includes country music dancing in the Royal Salon, salsa in the Queen’s Salon, swing in the Grand and Windsor Salon, and close-up magic on the Promenade Deck. Have dinner at any of the ship’s restaurants and book a cabin so you can party like it’s 1939. You’d better be on the top deck at midnight if you want to catch one of Southern California’s best firework displays right over the water.

First Night in Fullerton
Go easy on the pocketbook with the free celebration of the arts in downtown Fullerton . This annual alcohol-free bash welcomes the entire family to enjoy food vendors, and games. Fireworks punctuate the festivities at midnight.

Theme Parks
Better get into Anaheim’s Disneyland early for their Fantasy In The Sky celebration or save some time by staying at one of the resort’s three hotels. They’ll be plenty to do at the park with lots of dancing and surprise musical performers. But you’re here for the fireworks show, which is set to popular Disney music. Walt Disney himself commissioned this light display way back in 1958 but it’s been updated with the latest pyrotechnic effects and audio systems. You’ll get two chances to enjoy the spectacle: at 9 PM and midnight. Read More >

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Get Ready for Snow, Says New Home Builders in Southern California: Part II

December 19th, 2016


Our recent storms have not only watered our parched landscapes but have brought lots of snow to many areas that are just a few hours drive from Los Angeles and Orange counties. Take a break in true winter fashion by bundling up the kids and heading to these white wonderlands.

Lake Arrowhead
For a full-service vacation only 90 miles from the counties, Lake Arrowhead offers plenty to do with eateries, accommodations, shopping and adventures. The lake provides a contrast to the white landscapes. Start with a tour on the Lake Arrowhead Queen, an authentic paddlewheel boat. Bring your dog and try some of the Arrowhead Ranger District Trails, which range from easy to difficult. Other possibilities include snowboarding and skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and sledding. Read More >

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Holiday Traditions Near Your New Orange County Home

December 12th, 2016


The holidays are a time of good cheer and celebration as special events make their annual appearance. You’ll enjoy many holiday traditions around Orange County whether you’ve just moved in or are planning a purchase.

Newport Beach Boat Parade (Dec. 16 – 20)
Bundle up by the water for this annual parade of boats from yachts to canoes as they sail down the harbor all decked out with lights and other decor. The parade typically begins at 6:30 PM, although if you arrive early, you can always take a walking tour of homes in the area that get into the spirit with fancy trimmings and sparkles of their own. Opening and closing nights feature fireworks. Join the millions who watch the procession for free or buy a ticket for reserved seating at the Newport Sea Base for the best views.

A Christmas Carol (until Dec. 24)
The South Coast Repertory’s production of the Charles Dickens’ classic is notable for its constancy in its 37th year. Director John-David Keller again directs and Hal Landon reprises his role as Ebeneezer Scrooge with help from the theater’s founding members. Among the changes are the 16 children and four adult roles cast from the theater’s Conservator Acting Intensive Program. Watch for the iconic “hat trick,” which Landon only missed once, although he tried again immediately and succeeded. Read More >

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