Category Archives: Dana Point

Listing of the week: 34731 Calle Loma

My pick this week is this remodeled tri-level in Capistrano Beach.

34731 Calle Loma
4 bed, 3 bath
3,100 square feet
$1,350,000

Here’s why I think this is a great buy:

  • So many great features–picturesque ocean views from multiple floors, enormous great room, fireplace, gourmet kitchen, well-manicured backyard
  • Great square footage (3,100!)
  • More than $200k in improvements
  • Great in-law or guest suite downstairs (includes kitchenette and separate entry)
  • Close to the beach and Pines Park

Want to check it out? Contact me today.

Understanding building codes and zoning laws

Home for sale in Dana Point. Click photo for details.

Source

When buying (or selling) a home, it’s important to be cognizant of a property’s local zoning and code violations. If you’re thinking about adding onto a property, doing a remodel, maybe subdividing to generate some supplemental income, knowing where your property stands in terms of its code compliance as well as its zoning restrictions can yield lots of crucial information on your house hunt.

What Are Code Violations?

If your home falls short of a county or municipal building code, it has a code violation. Many homes have some form of code violation. This is because building codes change all the time, and a house that was code-compliant when you bought it may now lag behind current standards. These innocent violations are “grandfathered” in, which means they are not regarded as violations if the home was up to code when it was built.

How do you know when a property was built, when any upgrades were completed and whether it’s in violation of codes or zoning ordinances?

See what the OC Property Assessor shows. Call your City’s Building and Code Enforcement Department and ask them for any permits pulled on the property. Ask them about any non-conforming use.  Ask when and how a non-conforming use has to become conforming. Ask if the property is a “legal non-conforming use.” Further, your Realtor should have access to tools that shed a lot more light on the current status of your prospective home from a code and zoning perspective.

Most serious code violations happen because the homeowner adds more living space without the proper permission. Other examples include water heaters or electrical points installed without a permit, failure to use non-flame retardant roofing material and the absence of smoke detectors: the list is endless.

Why are Zoning Laws Important?

Is my home legal? Can I get a loan on my home? Can I rebuild my home if destroyed? These questions can be answered if you know whether your property is in compliance with local zoning codes or not. A property’s zoning status is classified as legal, legal nonconforming (“grandfathered”) or illegal.  Legal compliance means that a property conforms to current code and can be rebuilt if destroyed, and qualifies for a FNMA loan.  Legal non-conforming means that at one time the property complied with zoning code but does not currently comply, but the nonconforming use may continue; generally these homes can be rebuilt and qualify for a FNMA loan.   Illegal indicates that the property does not conform to the zoning code and must be restored or removed, and cannot be rebuilt if destroyed and do not qualify for a FNMA loan.

What about remodeling and illegal uses?  Adding an addition to a home without permits does not automatically make the property illegal; being non-permitted is not the same as being an illegal use in the zoning.  If the addition would normally be allowed by zoning, the issue of non-permitted areas can often be resolved by working with your building department and obtaining letter of compliance or a permit as long as the addition meets code.  However, if the building addition would not be allowed by zoning, the addition will most often need to be removed or significantly modified so that the addition complies with current zoning.

 

Finding a good home inspector

Is Your Home Inspector Legit? Why Buyers Should Inspect Their Inspectors

Of the roughly 30,000 U.S. home inspectors nationally, those in about 15 states don’t need to be licensed, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors. Among the non-licensure states—you guessed it includes California.

How to inspect the home inspectors—and find a winner

Good sources to finding a Home Inspector are professional trade associations. There are two quality associations available in California: the California Real Estate Inspection Association, CREIA and the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI. Both organizations require their members to pass an exam showing competence in the home inspection profession along with requiring that each member maintains continuing educational credits each year, CREIA requiring 30 hours per year and ASHI requiring 20 hours per year.

The client should interview all potential Inspectors they are considering and ask the following:

  • Is the inspector a member of CREIA and/or ASHI?
  • What does the inspection cover? Make sure the inspection and the inspection report meet all applicable requirements and comply with the CREIA and/or ASHI Standards of Practice. Both Standards of Practice are recognized by the California Legislature
  • How long has the inspector been practicing and how many inspections have they completed?
  • Does the inspector’s company offer to do repairs or improvements based on the inspection? This is against the CREIA and ASHI Code of Ethics as it is a defined conflict of interest
  • How long will the inspection take? The average for a single inspection is 2 to 3 hours for a typical single-family house; anything less may not be enough time to do a thorough inspection. Some inspection firms send a team of inspectors and the time frame may be shorter
  • Does the inspector prepare a written report? Ask to see samples and determine whether or not you can understand the inspector’s reporting style
  • Does the inspector encourage the client to attend the inspection? This is a valuable educational opportunity, and an inspector’s refusal to allow this should raise a red flag
  • Does the inspector participate in continuing education programs to keep his or her expertise up to date? One can never know it all, and the inspector’s commitment to continuing education is a good measure of his professionalism and service to the consumer

As for what to do if problems crop up that the inspector should have found, the first course of action should be to contact the inspector directly to discuss the issue. No corrective work should be undertaken before the inspector has an opportunity to review the report and be given the chance to revisit the property. Good inspectors will make good on their services if they missed something that should have been discovered during the course of the inspection. Keep in mind that the inspector is operating per an accepted Standards of Practice which states what is required to be inspected and what is not. Also many Inspectors carry professional liability, errors and omission insurance (although it is not required).

 

Dana Point harbor revitalization


Here’s an update on the Dana Point Harbor Revitalization Project :

We’re already seeing some improvements being made to our beloved Dana Point Harbor.
Check out this 3-minute video on the proposed future state of Dana Point Harbor.

According to an article published in the Orange County Register, 3 firms are being interviewed, design proposals have been submitted, and final design plans will be reviewed this month. Under the proposed public-private partnership, a developer would design, fund and build the proposed improvements, then operate those portions of the harbor over a 50-year lease, before returning the improved property back to the county.

County officials say reconstruction of the area’s main retail center will be completed first, and the harbor should be fully restored within a decade. In the meantime, the county has begun work along Dana Point Harbor Drive, which encircles most of the harbor’s land side, adding light signals and extra lanes in preparation for the larger project.

In January, OC Public Works will start putting new facades on buildings on the wharf to keep them solid until the actual project begins. For more information on the revitalization project, visit www.ocdph.com/revitalization.

Also, check out the most recent concepts around the Doheny Village Renovations here.

Finding a property’s square footage

Home for sale in Dana Point. Click photo for details.

Who is right? The appraiser measures your house, but tax records show something different. Or, maybe you’re walking a couple of different townhomes that appear to have identical floor plans but one listing has a higher square footage estimate than the other. Why is there sometimes a disparity between the all of these square footage figures?

At times, an area such as an enclosed patio, basement, detached studio, porch, or garage is included in the square footage when it really shouldn’t be included. Remember too that an area must have direct access to the main house to even begin to be considered as living area. If you have to exit the home to enter another area, that other area is not considered square footage (it might still have value, but it’s not counted in the total square footage by the appraiser). There is square footage and livable square footage.

What do appraisers INCLUDE in the square footage of a house?

  • Interior spaces that are conditioned spaces (heated, and cooled, if necessary) such as bedrooms, bathroom and living rooms
  • Enclosed patios that are heated and (if the rest of the house is) air-conditioned and are similar in workmanship (quality) as the rest of the home
  • Finished attic space as long as it also conforms to the original structure (can’t just add carpet and call it a bedroom)

What do appraisers EXCLUDE in the square footage of a house?

Some common spaces are not considered to be living space and are therefore not included when calculating the square footage of a house:

  • Screened patios (and open ones as well)
  • Garages, unless they have been converted to living space
  • Unfinished areas, regardless of the level in the home
  • 2nd floor airspace (for example: open space, above an entry, or a vaulted room)
  • The open area above a stairway on the second floor
  • Detached living space such as an office in a extra building on the property – these spaces are measured separately
  • Spaces that are accessed only by traversing non-living space, like an enclosed storage area of a garage

These spaces may be determined to add value to the property upon analysis of the comparable properties in an area, but they are not included in the square footage.

Why this matters: This conversation underscores the importance of marketing your home accurately. After all, it can make a price and value difference whether a property is actually 1500 or 1700 square feet, right? Case-in-point: I recently measured a home for an investor that ended up being the 3400 sq ft model instead of the 3000 sq ft model as tax records incorrectly stated. My advice? If you doubt the accuracy of your square footage, hire an appraiser or someone else who knows how to measure a house accurately. It’s better to be informed up front than leave money on the table unnecessarily.

 

Beginner’s guide to loans

Home for sale in Dana Point. Click photo for details.

How much home can you afford? There are several loan programs available, and depending on your credit history, there is bound to be one that is perfect for you. Here are a few examples of the most popular programs offered today:

Fixed-Rate Loans

The fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular mortgage program in use today. Fixed-rate loans offer the borrow a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan, typically 15 to 30 years. Borrowers have peace of mind knowing that their monthly payment will not change over time. Conventional fixed-rate mortgages have underwriting requirements established by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and require certain down-payment and debt-to-equity ratios to qualify. Fixed-rate loans are especially attractive to buyers who plan to stay in their home for more than a few years.

Adjustable Rate Loans

With an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), the interest rate changes periodically, and payments go up or down accordingly. Rates are tied to an index that reflects the cost of money at any given point in time. Generally speaking, lenders charge a lower initial interest rate for the ARM than for the fixed rate mortgage. If you are expecting interest rates to decrease in the future, or if you are trying to maximize your purchase power today knowing your income will rise in the future, then this loan may be right for you. Adjustable rate loans are attractive for buyers who expect to be in the home for a short period of time.

FHA and VA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), offers loans for low-to-moderate-income home buyers. FHA loans have lower down payments, and have relatively easier requirements than conventional fixed-rate mortgages. FHA mortgages have no income restrictions and even those with lower credit scores may be considered. Past bankruptcy does not necessarily disqualify borrowers from using this program.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a zero-down mortgage program. To take advantage of this program, borrowers need to be among those listed as veterans and service personnel in the U.S. military. One of the biggest benefits of this program is that it eliminates the need for private mortgage insurance.

>> Review common mortgage terms

A rookie’s guide to buying a rental home

Duplex for sale in Dana Point. Click photo for details.

Source: OC Register

As rents hit record highs, here’s a rookie’s guide to buying a rental home

Hugh Siler had a vision when he bought a full block of small houses in Orange this spring. He would restore the homes, built in the early 1900s and long fallen into disrepair, to their original state. After that, he’d rent them out at top dollar.

One house is done, and if it’s any sign, his payoff will come sooner than later. The 450-square-foot, one-bedroom cottage on Palmyra Avenue near Orange Plaza rented for $1,850 a month – immediately.

“Literally, it rented before I even stuck a sign in the ground,” Siler said a couple of weeks ago. His tenants, a young couple, plan to move in by the end of November.

As rents break records, apartment vacancy rates stay low, and millennials delay homeownership, buying houses to rent appeals to investors large and small. But the foreclosures of the Great Recession have been receding for years, and bargains can be hard to come by in Orange County, where the median home price was $640,000 in September.

That’s led many local buyers to set their sights on less pricey property in the Inland Empire and sometimes other states.

“Most investors still invest in their backyard,” said Daren Blomquist, spokesman for Irvine-based Attom Data Solutions. “So for those folks in Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino are good options.”

Of course, risks abound, including the impact of housing and economic policies to be shaped by a new president, albeit a real estate developer. Also, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week the U.S. central bank is ready to lift interest rates. The hike is expected in December.

Earlier this year, real estate adviser RCLCO predicted, “If household income growth for lower and middle-class Americans remains slow relative to historic gains, and home mortgage standards do not loosen for subprime borrowers, it is likely that the recent boom in single-family rentals is here to stay.”

Here are five additional things investors and would-be landlords should take into account.

POPULAR PLACES

Attom released a report in October showing potential profits on rental homes throughout California. The analysis included capitalization rates – or rates of return on a real estate investment property based on the income the property is expected to generate.

With a potential annual gross rental yield of just 4.3 percent, Orange County came in at No. 461 out of 473. By comparison, San Bernardino County has a 7.6 percent potential capitalization rate, ranking No. 311. Riverside County has a 6.1 percent potential cap rate, ranking No. 399.

So where else are Orange County investors looking?

The company did an analysis for the Register last week and found the top 10 counties where Orange County residents own investment homes are led by Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Those places were followed by Clark County, Nev.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; San Diego County; Mohave County, Ariz.; Kern County; Wayne County, Mich.; and Harris County, Texas.

FINDING A NICHE

Many investors specialize in one type of residential property, whether it’s single-family houses, mobile homes or apartments.

Siler has found a niche within a niche: restoring and renting out historic homes.

It can be a difficult proposition. For one thing, he said, a bidding war ensued over the five homes – one a duplex – that he purchased in April. He said he spent a total of $1.62 million to come out the winner.

Then, there’s the exacting work of creating authentic restorations. “Most people would say I’m fairly nuts to take this on,” he said. Compared with remodeling homes from the 1970s or ’80s, “When you do a vintage home, the template goes out the window.”

He’s had some experience, restoring the historic Shaffer Cottages, a set of four tiny, attached apartments he bought elsewhere in Old Towne Orange for $585,000 in 2011. That project saw him spend about $175,000 and some 4,000 hours on refurbishing and restoration.

At least he could count on some future cost-cutting. The original, refinished floors eliminate the need to buy carpeting for every new tenant, and it takes only a gallon or two of paint to refresh a small interior.

RENTS UP

One of the most dramatic shifts in the U.S. housing market in the past decade was the “unprecedented” increase in single-family home rentals, RCLCO said in a report this year.

But, the firm added, “While there has been widespread discussion of the economic and demographic shifts affecting the U.S. multifamily rental market, a major component of the overall rental market – single-family rentals – has been largely overlooked.”

Reis Inc., which tracks apartment rents, said rates went up in all 79 major U.S. metro areas it studies. The average rent for all metros was $1,271 a month, up 19 percent over the past 4 1/2 years.

In Southern California, rents hit all-time highs. Orange County rents were the ninth highest among the top 79 U.S. cities.

The average asking rent for an Orange County apartment climbed to $1,781 a month, following 61/2 years of steady hikes, according to Reis. In the past 4 1/2 years, rents shot up 14.3 percent, or $223 a month.

In Los Angeles County, the average asking rent reached $1,676 a month, rising nearly 18 percent over the past 41/2 years, Reis reported. In the Inland Empire, the rents were up 17 percent to $1,239.

Meanwhile, homeownership has been dropping, and millennials are expected to rent for longer than their parents did.

John Burns, an Irvine-based real estate consultant, predicts an overall 60.8 percent homeownership rate among all age groups by 2025, the lowest since the mid-1950s.

THE RISKS

Still, investors can face plenty of uncertainty, starting with their newly purchased property.

For one thing, often, a home inspector won’t find everything, Siler said.

“So make sure to set aside an additional fund of money – about 15 percent of your overall renovation budget,” he said, “and call it your ‘just in case’ fund.”

Investors also say it’s best to have at least six months of reserves in the event a renter doesn’t turn up right away.

Institutional investors – those with 10 properties or more – have purchased more single-family rental properties this year, even though average returns dropped to a nine-year low, Attom said in an Oct. 27 news release. But, the data firm said, “After a drop-off in single-family purchases by both individual and institutional investors over the past two years, we’re starting to see investor acquisition activity pick up again.”

Blomquist said it’s a good idea for smaller investors to pay attention to what the larger, better-capitalized investors are doing.

“In some cases it may be so the smaller investor can simply follow the lead of larger investors who have found a market or strategy that delivers strong returns,” he said. “But in some cases, it may be to avoid the strategies and markets employed by larger investors, so the smaller investor doesn’t have to compete.”

NOT A LANDLORD?

A lot of mom-and-pop investors like the idea of collecting monthly checks, but balk at the hassle of finding renters or fixing dishwashers. Or they worry about being too far away to handle the upkeep.

An Irvine company is one of one of several online investment management firms helping buyers more easily pick up single-family rental homes in lower-cost markets where returns are higher.

HomeUnion acquires the property on behalf of the investor, completes the documentation online, lines up property management, and later helps the investor figure out when to sell. Transaction fees are 3.5 percent of the purchase price; management fees are 10 percent to 10.5 percent of the rent.

The company, operating in 18 U.S. markets, has penned the motto, “You invest, we do the rest.”

It appears to be working.

The firm recently announced plans for an initial public stock offering.