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A Review of the Melrose Tract at Pavilion Park - Residence 2

Posted: 22 Nov 2013 03:22 PM PST

The Melrose collection in Pavilion Park (the first of the Great Park Neighborhoods), has the community’s largest – and most expensive – homes.  The three models feature rooms often not seen in new construction these days.  They have formal dining rooms and two downstairs living spaces, rather than just a great room.  Built by Ryland Homes, each house has the option for a downstairs living suite plus a three car garage.  The models didn’t offer lists outlining the upgrades, but I will list some of the standard features and try to note upgrades when I can.  Once you express serious interest in purchasing, the information about upgrades is available.

See the rest of The Melrose Collection Overview and Review of Residence 1 here.

Residence Two
4,080 Sq Ft
5 Bedrooms, 5.5 Bathrooms, 3 car garage, downstairs living suite, bonus room
Base Price from $1,529,808 ($375/sq ft)

Residence Two, known as Pasadena, is modeled in the East Coast Traditional elevation; Santa Barbara and Craftsman elevations are also available.  Like Residence One, I think this is a very attractive house from the outside.  It has a nice front porch area, with access to both the main home and the private suite, and an L-shaped balcony on the second floor.  This home has a two-car garage facing the street and a single car garage on a separate wall.  The separation is really nice if you plan to use the garage as a workshop or extra room.  The two-car garage has direct access to the home; the single car side must cross the porch to get in the house.  The only variations to the floor plan that can be made to this home are a California Room and/or stackable doors leading outside from the Great Room. 

This home has a large, square entry with the staircase immediately to the left.  A hallway leads to the powder room and private living suite on the right and the formal dining room is visible directly in front of you.  There is a large storage closet under the stairs.  The powder room shows an upgraded vanity with a single sink. 

The entry to the private living suite is just off the powder room.  There are linen cabinets immediately inside the entry, shown in the standard white Thermofoil and with the optional upper cabinets included.  You can see the private door from the outside porch and the entry to the single car garage directly across from it.  In comparing this suite to the optional living suite from Residence One, the living room in the Pasadena home is the same width, but is 10’ longer than the other.  The bedroom in Pasadena is bigger as well, but only by about a foot each in length and width.  The living area has ample space for a sitting area and a separate dining space.  The kitchenette, located on the back wall of the room, has a microwave, sink, small fridge, and several cabinets.  A hallway leads back to the bathroom and bedroom.

The bathroom in the suite is highly upgraded, with nicer tiles and upgraded fixtures in the single sink vanity.  It has a good size shower and no option for a tub.  The bedroom is at the back of the suite.  There is an option to put a door from the bedroom to the dining room in the main home.  The bedroom has a two door sliding closet and a door leading outside to the suite’s small, private California Room and the rest of the backyard.  All of its windows face the back of the house.  This is a very nice living suite and is bigger than many of the others I have seen throughout Pavilion Park.  However, this one does not have laundry hookups.

Back in the main house, I walked through the entry to the dining room.  It is a large, square room with three windows looking out to the backyard and the optional California Room.  One wall is completely open to the kitchen.

The kitchen is very big with an island shaped like a slice of pie.  The sink and dishwasher are located in the island, which also has several cupboards and a bookshelf.  There is seating for four or five around the curved side.  The stove (again, shown upgraded) is directly across from the sink.  The ovens, microwave and fridge are on the far side of the island.  This home doesn’t seem to have quite as many cabinets as many of the other new kitchens I’ve seen lately and has only three that are pantry height.  At the back of the kitchen, a short hallway (or “drop zone”) leads to the two-car garage.

The great room sits just beside the kitchen.  One full wall is sliding doors and another has windows facing the backyard.  A stone fireplace sits at an angle in the corner of the room.  The room is big and bright and has one more window facing the side of the house.

The backyard is beautiful, but much bigger than the standard lots.  This one has a large grassy area, a covered outdoor kitchen and a fire pit with plenty of seating around it.  The outdoor kitchen even has a flat screen TV.  It’s hard to know what a backyard would be like on most lots.


The bonus room is at the top of the stairs but is definitely more of a room than a loft.  It has a half wall dividing it from the hallway and is bigger than most lofts.  It is shown with the same upgraded flooring that they used downstairs.  There are windows facing the back and side of the home.  The hallway wraps around the upper floor, leading to all of the bedrooms, the laundry room, and the deck.  Each bedroom sits at one corner of the house, offering a lot of privacy. 

On the right side of the house, there are two bedrooms, each with a private bath.  The one at the back of the house (bedroom 2) is a little bit smaller, but it has a walk-in closet in a small foyer area of the room.   Its private bath shows what appears to be the standard vanity, but has upgraded tile in the shower/tub combo.  With just one window facing both the back and side of the home, it doesn’t get as much light as the other rooms.

The one at the front of the house (bedroom 3) has the bathroom just off the hall and the bedroom beyond it.  This bathroom is identical to the one the other bedroom.  The room itself is a little bigger and a lot brighter.  It has windows on three different walls, including a big one facing the street.  You can have an optional door leading to the L-shaped, covered deck.  There is also access to the deck from the hallway.


On the opposite side of the home, the laundry room and bedroom 4 are at the front of the house.  The laundry room has a sink, side by side machines and lots of cabinets but no counter.

Bedroom 4 is a tiny bit bigger than bedroom 3.  It has windows facing the street and side, plus a walk-in closet comparable to the one in bedroom 2.  Its private bath is configured differently, but still has the same single sink and shower/tub combo.  This one has different tile, but I don’t know if it is standard or upgraded.

The master suite sits alone at the back of the house and is completely private.  A long hallway leads back to the room and includes linen cabinets, plus the options for upper cabinets and/or a small fridge.  The model shows both.  The bedroom is rectangular (20’ x 15’) and the shape makes it feel bigger than a square room.  With windows on three sides and no houses blocking two of them (because of the huge backyard), the room can be quite bright.  There is plenty of wall space for furniture plus an open area for seating.

The master bath has a nice set of linen cabinets just inside the door.  The two vanities are located on opposite walls with the tub between them (similar to Residence One).  Again, one vanity has both the sink and seating area.  While most master bathtubs have the long side against the wall, this one has a short side against the wall, so it sticks out farther into the room.  Fortunately, the bathroom is so large that it doesn’t feel imposing.  The shower is directly across from the tub and has a seat, but isn’t particularly big.  There is a nice set of built in cabinets in the water closet.  Finally, the walk-in closet is at the back of the bathroom.  It is L-shaped and comes standard with organizers.

I like the upstairs of this house more than the second floor in Residence One.  I think it has a better layout and the deck is a nice touch.  In comparing the first floors, I also like Residence Two more, but wish the kitchen had a pantry and tech center like the ones in Residence One.

The Real Estate Bloggers

The Real Estate Bloggers

Florida Attempts to Seize Waterfront Property

Posted: 31 Jul 2013 11:49 AM PDT

The State of Florida is filing suit against a property owner in the Tampa region. The man, Rick Ware, owns a dock that sits on St. Petersburg’s Snell Island. The deed for the property goes back to 1883, but Florida is claiming that it is invalid.

Instead, they are claiming the property as being built on a navigable waterway, and thus being sovereign land and the property of the state.

What is scary is that if they win the suit, they can claim ownership of millions, if not billions, of dollars in property throughout the state. This taking will impact local tax collections, city owned docks and property, and may have a major impact on real estate in the state.

Plus, it now makes people question the value and long term ownership of property, Never a good thing for a marketplace.

Watch the video, shared on Facebook by Cyndee Haydon, a Clearwater Beach real estate agent, and pay attention to this story if you are involved in real estate in coastal regions of the country. Because, if one state can seize some of the most expensive real estate within their borders, other states will most likely follow suit.


Options Abound For Older Homebuyers

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:32 AM PDT

seniorhomebuyers2When it comes to residential real estate, age is often overlooked. Well, more accurately, old age is often overlooked in favor of news and programs geared toward first time home buyers in Illinois and elsewhere, who are typically on the younger side of the spectrum. However, if news out of the construction market is any indication, older Americans are helping to drive the housing recovery.

Data from the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index shows that confidence in senior housing has been on the rise for quite some time. Not only did the index rise 19 points over the past year for the over 55 single family housing market, reaching 46, first quarter data shows that this is the highest level the senior housing index has reached since the inception of the survey in 2008. What's more, this marks the sixth consecutive quarter for year-over-year improvements.

“Builders and developers for the 55 plus housing sector continue to report increased optimism in the market,” said Robert Karen, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council. “We are seeing an increase in consumer demand for homes and communities that are designed to address the specific needs of the mature homebuyer.”

Builder sentiment regarding future sales is also positive, with the index for expected sales over the next six months increasing by 21 points to 53. Fortunately, there's also good news for the older Americans forecast to purchase these properties.


Program helps retired homebuyers

While becoming a retiree comes with many perks, a limited income isn't one of them. Buying a home in Illinois is ideal for older Americans who wish to take advantage of ultra-low mortgage rates, but not having a high, steady income that employment can provide creates a challenge. However, according to Christina Boyle, vice president and interim head of single-family sales & relationship management at Freddie Mac, retirement doesn't have to mean the end of homebuying.

"A little-known change in Freddie Mac’s rules could be a big help to qualifying retiring Baby Boomers and other savvy homebuyers who have limited incomes, but substantial financial assets, for a low-rate conforming, conventional mortgage," Boyle writes for Freddie Mac's Executive Perspectives Blog. "The change lets lenders use a significant portion of a borrower’s eligible financial assets to determine whether they qualify for a Freddie Mac mortgage. Although it took effect in the spring of 2011, word has apparently been slow to spread judging by the calls we field from inquiring borrowers and housing professionals."

Freddie Mac guidelines allow individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s, lump-sum retirement account distributions and proceeds from the sale of a borrower’s business to be used as determining factors in whether an individual is eligible for a home loan.

There are, of course, some rules. Firstly, the assets in an IRA or 401(K) must be in a fully-vested retirement account that is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Also, these financial assets must be entirely accessible to the borrower. This means there must not be a withdrawal penalty, and the assets must not already be being used as a source of income.

In addition to Freddie Mac already allowing a lender to issue a home loan using a borrower's dividends, interest payments, trust distributions and Social Security payments as determining factors, older homebuyers have more options than ever when it comes to obtaining financing for a home purchase.

Homeownership Drops as Housing Market Recovers

Posted: 01 May 2013 10:16 AM PDT

Understanding the real estate industry is always a challenge, but the recovery that we have been talking about recently has not been kind to homeowners. Instead, what we are seeing is the market finding it’s base through the investor class.

The share of Americans who own their homes was 65 percent in the first quarter, down from 65.4 percent a year earlier and the lowest level since the third quarter of 1995, the Census Bureau reported today. The vacancy rate for rented homes dropped to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent a year earlier, while vacancies for owner-occupied houses fell to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent.

Investors are buying single-family homes and renting them out to capitalize on demand among families unable to qualify for a mortgage. Their purchases, many made with cash, are helping to support the housing recovery and pushing up prices. Home values in 20 cities increased 9.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the most since May 2006, according to the S&P/Case- Shiller (SPCS20Y%) index released today.

Tight credit has been a huge part of the real estate industry these days. The home owner class has been beaten up financially by the downturn and still has not recovered from it. Instead of being homeowners, they are renting the homes they used to own… Ouch.

Investors are finding the low prices and even lower interest rates as the chance to increase their holdings. Add to this large investment pools buying up real estate in certain cities, the market volume has been increasing. But the "American Dream" buyers are still recovering and sitting on the sidelines. They will be back, but this recovery is investor driven so we must be patient for the past homeowners to come back.

Top 10 Worst Cities For Tornadoes in the United States

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 06:50 AM PDT

Top 10 Cities For TornadoesWhen you think of tornadoes you think of Kansas and the Great Plains states. You may be wrong these days. The Weather Channel has come out with their list of worst cities for tornadoes and the list is dominated by cities in the Deep South.

I grew up on Long Island in New York and now live in Wilmington, North Carolina, but I spent 20 years in Atlanta so I have an interesting perspective on storms. Growing up with hurricanes that can be just as deadly as tornadoes I found was no where near as nerve wracking as living in a tornado alley.

Hurricanes are like a great white shark. Odds are you had fair warning to put yourself in harms way, so you understand the risks you are taking. But a tornado is like a barracuda. You typically don’t even see them and the attacks are random. Even with the new radar images tornadoes can pop up quickly and destroy your home before you even know it is there.

To be honest, tornadoes scare the heck out of me while hurricanes I just respect.

So for the people who live in these cities, good luck. Be safe. And have a good weather radio.

Top 10 Worst Cities For Tornadoes in the United States

  1. Huntsville, Alabama
  2. Jackson, Mississippi
  3. Birmingham, Alabama
  4. Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  5. Little Rock, Arkansas
  6. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  8. Atlanta, Georgia
  9. Wichita, Kansas
  10. Canon City, Colorado

Why Wait To Buy Your First Home Till You Are Married

Posted: 22 Apr 2013 07:26 AM PDT

YoungCoupleIn my parents generation it was easy, you dated, got engaged, got married, then bought the house. Lots of little check marks on the list and very few deviated from the norm.

In my generation it was a bit more difficult. You still did the dating part, but we typically added the living together part before the marriage or even the engagement. It was practical, and a bit controversial, but we did it.

Now our children are facing another change in the equation. Young couples are buying homes together before they get married.

Coldwell Banker has come out with a new survey that shows 24 percent of millennial couples are buying the house before they get married. Now part of this is because these couples are waiting much longer to tie to the knot, but for those in the real estate industry it is a trend to watch.

Especially as we see the housing industry start to recover. If these numbers were growing in the recent housing recession I think they will explode as the market takes off.

So remember when you want to go back into your personal history to predict future events in real estate, odds are you will be mistaken. The world is changing, fast, and the smart and successful agents are watching these trends and using them to their advantage.

Survey Trends: Love, Marriage and Homebuying

New Homes for Newlyweds: More than one in three married homeowners (35 percent) purchased their first home together by their second wedding anniversary.

Cold Feet? Not These Couples: 17 percent of all married couples surveyed purchased a home together before their wedding day.

Millennials are Less Likely to Wait Until Marriage: 24 percent of married homeowners ages 18 to 34 bought a home together before they were married, compared to 14 percent of those ages 45 and older.

Southerners Take Their Time: 72 percent of married Americans in the South waited until after they were married to purchase a home, compared to 60 percent of Americans in the Northeast.

To Have and to Hold … and to Own: Only 16 percent of married U.S. adults have not purchased a home together with their current spouse.

View the whole study here.

U-Haul’s Top 10 US Destinations For 2013

Posted: 17 Apr 2013 01:07 PM PDT

uhaulI always like lists that come from companies that are in the trenches. The U-Haul report is especially interesting because it is counting those that are migrating without hiring the big moving companies. This captures the economic moves for families that are leaving not because of a corporate relocation or high dollar retirement, but those that are looking to find a better start.

Recent graduates, the unemployed, or those looking for a new start typically will load up the U-Haul and start again. From a real estate perspective, it may capture the foreclosed upon. From an economic perspective, it shows where people are to find a better economic situation.

Some cities that have typically done well in attracting relocations, such as Atlanta, have fallen drastically to the 33rd  position. Meanwhile Houston has held the top position for 4 years straight as people are moving to the Texas city. My guess is that opportunity in Houston has not let up for the middle class.

U-Haul’s Top 10 US Destinations For 2013

  2. RALEIGH, N.C.


Here is the full list of the top 50 cities in the U-Haul survey.
6 AUSTIN, Texas
18 TAMPA, Fla.
22 TUCSON, Ariz.
24 BRONX, N.Y.
25 PLANO, Texas
32 TULSA, Okla.
38 SAN JOSE, Calif.
39 TACOMA, Wash.
40 MIAMI, Fla.
46 RENO, Nev.
47 OAKLAND, Calif.
48 FRESNO, Calif.
49 DENVER, Colo.
50 EUGENE, Ore.

via U-Haul

Home Starts Surge on Rental Construction Demand

Posted: 16 Apr 2013 06:54 AM PDT

Home builders are thrilled today on reports that demand for new construction improved significantly during the month of March. While any increase is great news for the battered construction industry, this news may fortell an economic future that real estate agents may not be as excited about.

The demand is much greater right now for rental and multiunits properties than traditional single family homes. This indicates the rebound in home ownership may not be happening as much as the investors are reading the tea leaves and trying to lock in quality, new construction investment properties going forward.

Either way, for the contruction industry this is great news. People are being put back to work and suppliers are ramping up their inventories. New construction is a large driver in the overall economy and however it is occurring is a good thing for the United States.

Starts climbed 7 percent to a 1.04 million annual rate, the most since June 2008, after a revised 968,000 pace in February that was larger than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 930,000. Building permits, a proxy for future construction, fell.
Builders are rushing to satisfy growing demand for rental units, propelling the jump in construction that will help support economic growth. Work began on fewer single-family houses last month, adding to evidence that part of the market is pausing.
"Whether it's driven by demand from homebuyers or renters, it doesn't really matter because it's roofs over peoples' heads," said Aneta Markowska, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who had the highest starts forecast in the Bloomberg survey. "There's still a lot of room for improvement in housing, both for activity and for prices. This is critical for the U.S. economy." via Bloomberg

HARP Distressed Borrower Loans Extended For 2 More Years

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 07:26 AM PDT

harpIf you are in a home that is still underwater, you may qualify for a H.A.R.P. mortgage from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The program that was supposed to expire at the end of the year has now been extended for 2 more years through 2015.

More than 2.2 million borrowers have used the program so far. To qualify, homeowners must be current on their payments and have loans originated before June 1, 2009.
HARP is "a useful tool for reducing risk," FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said in a statement. "We are extending the program so more underwater borrowers can benefit from lower interest rates."
The FHFA will soon begin a marketing campaign to expand the program's reach, DeMarco said in the statement.
There may be as many as 2 million eligible borrowers who haven't taken advantage of HARP, according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. via Bloomberg

Now with the housing market starting to recover and competition for home loans driving down rates, the lending industry is happy to write HARP loans that are backed with government guarantees.  The 2 million households that would qualify for these loans left is a huge profit center for the banks, and the politicians like having the win to talk about.

About the Home Affordable Refinance Program:


  • The mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
  • The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.
  • The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously unless it is a
  • Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March-May, 2009.
  • The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%.
  • The borrower must be current on the mortgage at the time of the refinance, with a good payment history in the past 12 months.

Steps Towards Refinancing:

  • Determine whether your mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac by visiting their respective Loan Lookup Tools.
  • Contact your current mortgage servicer or another that is approved by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to inquire about HARP.
  • Compare rates and costs with additional mortgage companies to ensure best refinance terms.

Important Links:

Real Estate Broker Has Cyanide Scare Showing House in California

Posted: 08 Apr 2013 10:55 AM PDT

cyanide-bottleWhen a real estate agent shows a home, they really never know what they are going to run into. That was the case for an agent working in California’s Marin County over the weekend. She is very lucky that she and her clients were not injured after handling some deadly chemicals.

Here is the story:

Novato fire Capt. Alex Bowlds said the broker was showing a Novato home that was in a probate sale because its owner had died. The deceased homeowner was apparently an inventor who used chemicals, and the broker found the stash of cyanide, formaldehyde and other toxic compounds in liquid and powdered form, Bowlds said.
The broker removed the chemicals and brought them to her husband’s auto body shop in Bel Marin Keys, thinking the business could dispose of them. The shop realized it could not handle the chemicals and called police. Police looked at the chemicals and called the fire department at about 1:30 p.m.
The fire department summoned the county’s hazardous materials team in to removed the potential lethal assembly of chemicals, a process that took five hours. Emergency officials notified hospitals that the chemicals were being moved in case there was an accident. via the Mercury News

First, brokers and agents probably should not remove an item from a home, especially if it dangerous. Being a probate sale, they had more rights in this situation than a normal transaction, but removing cyanide and putting it into your car is not the recipe for a long and successful career.

Secondly, we all know that real estate brokers and agents run across the bizarre on a regular basis. The job of showing other peoples homes and understanding the special needs of buyers often presents, how shall we say it, "unique opportunities." But at the end of the day, safety and common sense have to be the main concern for all.

Fortunately, no one got hurt or poisoned out there in Navato this weekend and it is a humorous story to write about.

Now my question to the real estate agents out there; What is the craziest thing you have come across showing or listing a home? Let us know in the comments below.

The Cycle Continues – Obama Wants Banks to Lower Home Lending Standards

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 07:05 AM PDT

spanish-inquisition2The housing industry has always been in a cycle where the the lending standards will loosen until there is a bubble or over-valuation and then over tighten to create an inability to borrow. That is understandable, and a normal part of the housing industry. And some will get hurt on either end of the spectrum.

However, over the past 30 years as the government has created a vast array of laws and regulations for the banking industry. Lenders are under the thumb of government regulators (and their political bosses) to fulfill the administrations objectives as opposed to following sound lending practices. And this is not an indictment, both political parties have been guilty of pressuring bankers.

To no ones surprise, the increased political pressure has caused the housing industry’s boom bust cycle to be more extreme. Now, in a stagnant economy, the administration is looking to open up the lending floodgates and create looser credit.

In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today's low interest rates, among other steps. via The Washington Post

What is not being reported, but everyone knows, is that with thousands of pages of banking regulations on the books, all it takes is a bank regulator to do is give a nod and a wink to the bankers that it is time to loosen the credit standards for home loans. The bankers know that if they do not capitulate, they will face an audit that would do the Spanish Inquisition proud.

Since the banks know that if they play ball, they will be protected with generous government bailouts and subsidies when things go bad, it is not a bad play. If you do not believe me, go back and see how the bankers were treated after the last housing meltdown. No one of importance went to jail and the phrase "To big to fail" entered our lexicon with billions of taxpayers dollars heading right into the banking sector.

The housing industry is still barely recovering with record low interest rates and housing prices still near the bottom of the market in many parts  of the country. We have an election coming up in 2014 that is of great consequence to the political class. How can anyone be surprised if the strong arm is applied to the banking industry to make sure that the modest housing recovery is goosed to make sure that it benefits the administration.

It’s just politics…

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