Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008 - San Fernando Valley Residents

Happy New Year!! 2008 is going to be a great year to buy a bank owned home. There are some really great bank owned homes in Reseda. You can buy a 3 bedroom 2 bath home in Reseda in the high 300Ks. If your still renting, make it an effort to get into a single family home in the San Fernando Valley.

Have a great year!


Richard Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates
Bank Owned Specialist - REO
San Fernando Valley

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hiring a Professional - Why it Matters

I'm sure as many of you know, trying to save money by hiring the cheapest Realtor is NOT a good idea. But you can also argue that even hiring the best can come with problems.

How do you choose the right agent for you? Well, you don't want to hire the first agent you meet. You want to meet with at least three San Fernando Valley real estate agents before making a decision.

One mistake I made before I got into the real estate business is hiring the best local Realtor for the lowest commission. Man, Did I regret my decision! In fact, he wouldn't even let me cancel the agreement and list with someone else. I was unhappy but at the last minute a buyer came through offering me the asking price which was $5,000 more than his suggested price.

Whomever you choose to list your San Fernando Valley home with, be sure that you have the right to cancel the agreement if your unhappy with the performance of the agent. You don't want to be stuck with an agent who sucks. Believe me, there are many agents who suck. Have the cancellation written into the agreement at the time the listing is taken.

Let me give you some examples of agents who do a poor job:

1. Only displaying a few pictures online.
2. No virtual tour with domain.
3. Poorly written description.
4. No flyer's on the outside sign.
5. Doesn't answer the phone.
6. Other agents can't get a hold of your agent.
7. Doesn't market the home online. (craigslist, google base, msn live, etc...)
8. Thinks the old ways of doing business is the way its done.
9. Holds open houses knowing there is a less than 1% chance the house will sell that way.
10. Takes more than a few hours to reply to email.
11. Doesn't do text messaging.

One thing I like to remind all of my sellers is that 90%+ of home-buyers start their home search online. If the agent isn't maximizing the online marketplace to promote your home, 90% of home-buyers are skipping over your home and viewing the ones which are promoted by Realtors who are also Internet marketing specialist, like me.

A Realtor who is classified as an San Fernando Valley real estate Internet marketing specialist will also hold the "e-Pro" designation. This ensures that your working with someone who knows the Internet very well and will promote your home effectively online.

To search for bank owned homes up to 50% off market value, visit:


Richard M. Johnston, GRI, ABR, e-Pro

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is it a good time to buy a home in the San Fernando Valley?

Yes! Buying a home in the slow months of November and December can help you save $$$ on your next home purchase. Why? Because while everybody is out Christmas shopping and planning for the new years party, savvy home buyers are buying homes that have sat on the market for many months.

The number of bank owned homes has increased dramatically too. A bank owned site which instantly displays all bank owned homes in the San Fernando Valley can be found by visiting

Keep in mind that in order to find a great deal, you have to be willing to dedicate yourself to a bank owned specialist. You should also get pre-approved because when a good deal comes through, you want to be prepared to write an offer.

How do you determine how low the bank will go on the price?

I always tell my clients that you'll never know unless you try. Some listing agents will hint to what the home will most likely sell for. But keep in mind low-balling a seller can sometimes undermine your credibility and embarrass your agent. If you look at 5-7 homes in the local area, you'll have an idea on what the home is worth and will sell for.

What information will let you know how much negotiation power you have over price?

The first thing you want to look at is how long the home has been on the market and how many times the price has been reduced. The reason a house continues to sit on the market is because of price and condition. I believe price is always more important than condition but as far as homes which are completely updated, they always sell quickly and at a premium.

Can anyone buy a bank owned home?

Yes, buying a San Fernando Valley bank owned home is easy and can save you up to 50% off market value. Just keep in mind that it can take several weeks to get a response from the bank as they are inundated with foreclosures. Also be sure you are working with an Bank Owned REO specialist. You can search for bank owned homes at

Do you have bank owned pocket listings?

Yes! This is what sets me apart from most other bank owned agents. I have access to bank owned homes which are not even in the MLS. Pocket listings are homes which are not on the mls yet but will be soon.

If your a serious home buyer and want to save up to 50% off on your next home purchase, call me at 818-730-4128.


Richard Johnston, RE/MAX
Bank Owned REO Specialist - San Fernando Valley

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Help On The Way From The FHA

On August 31, 2007, President Bush announced a new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) plan to help an estimated 240,000 families avoid foreclosure. Under the new "FHASecure" plan, FHA will allow families with strong credit histories who had been making timely mortgage payments before their loans reset--but are now in default--to qualify for refinancing.
In addition, FHA will implement risk-based premiums that match the borrower's credit profile with the insurance premium they pay (i.e., riskier borrowers pay more.) The risk-based pricing structure will begin on January 1, 2008.

Bringing Stability To The Market

The combination of FHASecure and risk-based premium pricing will permit FHA to return to the role it was originally designed to play, bringing stability to the real estate market by helping break today's cycle of foreclosures and price depreciation and creating much needed liquidity in the now-constricted mortgage market.

According to the FHA, the number of conventional borrowers refinancing into FHA products has tripled since the start of 2006, with the FHA projecting its transactions will surpass 100,000 loans by the end of the fiscal year. (As of this writing, these figures do not include refinances for delinquent borrowers.)

The FHASecure initiative will operate under the same safe guidelines as the FHA's existing mortgage insurance program without affecting FHA's financial health. Eligible homeowners will be required to meet strict underwriting guidelines and pay a mortgage insurance premium, which offsets the risk to FHA's insurance fund at no cost to the taxpayer.

New Structure Expands FHA's Reach

The risk-based insurance premium structure will further expand FHA's reach to additional underserved borrowers, particularly first-time home buyers and others who have disproportionately taken out exotic mortgages, and enhance the FHA's overall risk management. The move to risk-based premiums ensures that FHA remains on solid financial footing as a self-financed agency for the long-term.

FHASecure, like all FHA products, will be underwritten to ensure the borrowers have the ability to repay the loan, will require escrow for taxes and insurance, and will continue to offer unprecedented foreclosure prevention assistance. The FHA has never permitted and will not include pre-payment penalties or teaser rates that are common in exotic mortgages and have caused much of the current market troubles.

Who Qualifies

To qualify for FHASecure, eligible homeowners must meet the following five criteria:

  1. A history of on-time mortgage payments before the borrower's teaser rates expired and loans reset;

  2. Interest rates must have or will reset between June 2005 and December 2009;

  3. Three percent cash or equity in the home;

  4. A sustained history of employment; and

  5. Sufficient income to make the mortgage payment.

FHASecure will also bring much-needed liquidity to the mortgage market. FHA anticipates more lenders will offer FHA-insured loans, pool them, and securitize them with the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), which has the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. This guarantee makes Ginnie Mae's mortgage-backed securities among the safest on the market and helps to channel greater capital into the housing market, benefiting U.S. homeowners.

Learn More

For more information about FHASecure and other FHA products, call 1-800-CALL-FHA or visit or For a list of your local home-ownership center or a HUD-approved housing counseling center, see

Thursday, November 29, 2007

For Sale by Owner FSBO - San Fernando Valley

Yesterday, I received a live chat request from a homeowner here in Burbank who wanted to sell their home FSBO. We had a 30 minute online conversation about the benefits of hiring a Realtor. I just so happen to run across this recent article I wanted to share with anyone who's thinking of selling their home FSBO in the San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita Valley.

The article below was recently published by

FSBOs Fall Flat
by Broderick Perkins

For-sale-by-owner or 'FSBO' transactions in the softening real estate market experienced zero growth last year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The NAR's 2007 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, released at the recent 2007 Realtors Conference & Expo in Las Vegas revealed only 12 percent of transactions in 2007 were FSBOed, unchanged from 2006.

That's not surprising.

In the time it takes a first-time FSBO to sell a home, he or she has to learn what many real estate agents get to know only after assisting dozens of buyers and sellers for many years.
That includes experience gained from too many deals that don't gel, lessons learned in long hours at seminars, workshops, continuing education courses, conventions and wisdom gleaned from picking up after errant FSBOs who couldn't hack it.

Not to mention housing markets that go boom -- the wrong way.

Today's tight money market of falling prices, foreclosures and deals that don't gel is a potential minefield of blown opportunities for the uninformed.

The survey also reveals the percentage of homes sold without professional representation has continued to decline since 1997, when a record 18 percent of transactions were FSBO deals.
While the survey shows it's possible for a few staunch sellers to complete a FSBO deal, bringing in a real estate professional is a better deal in any market, and even more crucial when things go south.

"Realtors add value to the real estate transaction no matter what market conditions may be," said Pat V. Combs, NAR president.

"Realtors are experts in attracting qualified buyers, negotiating on their client's behalf, and ensuring a smooth transaction," said Combs also vice president of Coldwell Banker-AJS-Schmidt in Grand Rapids, MI.

Nearly half, 40 percent, or four out of 10 FSBO properties were private deals that never made it to the multiple listing service, but "closely held" between parties who knew each other in advance, such as family members or acquaintances.

The survey indicates most FSBOs end up working with a real estate agent, according to NAR.
"It is incumbent on Realtors to demonstrate to unrepresented sellers the value that Realtors add to the transaction," said Joseph Marovich, owner of Marovich Business Institute, a real estate education company.

NAR says the sites that cater to FSBOs have listings that pale in comparison to the home showcased on NAR's which offers more market exposure to would-be FSBOs.
Published: November 29, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week of November 11, 2007 - Homeownership Information

The links below are tips, quotes, and homeownership information for the week of November 11, 2007. Be sure to bookmark this blog or subscribe to the RSS feed as new information is added every single week.

e-Tips for November 11 - Points to Understand About Points
e-Quotes for November 11 - Test drive possible properties

Some additional reading I can recommend....

  1. 7 Smart Ways To Bring Out Your Home's Beauty And Best Value
  2. Five Tips For First-Time Buyers
  3. Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Urged To Call New HOPE Hotline
  4. Study Finds International Citizens Buying Into The American Dream

  1. Time to Sell?: What to do Before You Make Your Next Move
  2. Is Your City Among The Most Eco-Friendly?
  3. Tips For Choosing A Remodeler
  4. How To Decide Between Selling And Renting
  5. Think First Before Building Your Dream Home
  6. Heat Your Home Safely This Season
  7. The Safest Flooring For Your Stairs
  8. Vacation Homes Can Provide Buyers With Extra-Sweet Tax Deductions

Friday, November 09, 2007

RE/MAX Outsells All other Real Estate Brands in the San Fernando Valley

I think the graph above speaks for itself. If you would like to start 2008 in a new home, call me. I have an exclusive list of bank owned homes in the San Fernando Valley up to 50% off market value. Here is the link:

Homes in Foreclosure Increases 33% in 40 Days

You can see the increase in the number of homes in foreclosure A.K.A. Bank owned homes in the San Fernando Valley and a few areas in the Santa Clarita Valley above. On October 1, 2007, there was a total of 304 bank owned homes. On November 9, 2007, I calculated a total of 404 bank owned homes. Thats an increase of 33% in 40 days. Reseda had a 63% foreclosure increase in the past 40 days! Wow! There are many great deals on the market and banks are eager to sell their inventory now! If your in the market to find a great home up to 50% off market value, call me now! I've sold many bank owned homes and know how to negotiate to get you the best deal.
Some misconceptions about buying bank owned homes.
1. Can anyone buy bank owned homes? Yes. In fact, its easier than buying from regular home-sellers.

2. Are bank owned homes fixers? Yes and No. What I've noticed is the banks are cleaning the properties by painting inside/outside, new carpet, appliances, kitchen cabinets, etc... to where the homes are in move-in condition. This depends on the bank and their return on investment (ROI) if they choose to rehab the property.

3. Can I ask the bank to pay my closing costs? Yes. Banks are eager to sell their inventory and getting 10K to 12K to help pay your non-recurring closing costs is acceptable in this market.

4. Will the bank pay for my home warranty? No. But, you can ask your agent to buy it for you as a thank you gift. The cost is around $250 for a condo and $400 for a home.

5. Is buying a bank owned homes easier than a short sale? Absolutely. When buying from the bank, you are working with the bank. There are no emotional sellers or any third party lien holders.

6. What are the advantages of buying bank owned homes? You'll be buying a home up to 50% off market value.

7. How long does it take to close on a bank owned home? Expect up to a month delay. This would also depend on the bank and how fast they respond to requests. The bank will also choose its own escrow and title company which may or man not be local. This could cause additional delays.
Do you have a question? Click the Live Chat button below or call me anytime.
Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Source: Socal MLS

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Five Tips For First-Time Buyers

  1. Check your credit before you apply for a loan. You can get a free credit report by contacting one of the big three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. Do what you can to improve your credit score if it isn’t in the excellent range. You may need to pay off credit cards, close some accounts or correct errors in your credit report.
  2. Plan your housing budget realistically. Figure out how much cash you have to put toward a down payment and closing costs. List all the expenses you’ll incur as a homeowner, including estimated property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, repairs and new furnishings. (We can supply estimates for you.) Add your other regular expenses for car payments and loans, transportation, clothing, food, recreation, medical care, college fees, retirement savings, etc. What’s left over will be the realistic monthly home payment you can afford—even if you are approved to borrow more.
Continue with here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Picture of the Day

I recently ran into a site run by Athol called "Bad MLS Photo of the Day." Looking through the pictures, I came to the realization that I've seen many poorly taken pictures by real estate agents here in the San Fernando Valley too. If these pictures remind you of your home, I suggest you call me ASAP and fire your current agent!

Here's one that caught my eye...

Athol updates his list of Bad MLS Photo's daily so if you want a good laugh or two, be sure to bookmark his site. His site has got some humor and "Photo Portfolio" of pictures Athol has taken. Be sure to spend some time on his site. His web-site is located here:

Saturday, October 27, 2007 & Sucks - Not Realtor Friendly

As Realtors, we know the #1 place to list a home is in our own MLS system. This system integrates with and our IDX systems which allows the home to be listed on agent sites. Statistics prove that is the #1 real estate site online.

Thinking back over the years before Zillow and Trulia, lead generating sites like and was all the rage. Now that those companies are dying- out and consumers are tired of selling themselves to the highest bidder, start-ups like Zillow and Trulia became the new buzz.

The unique aspect of Trulia and Zillow is that they know how to give people the information they want unlike Keep in mind when I say information, I don't mean property listings but everything else doesn't do. Though Zestimates is a disgrace and should not be used to justify anything, I can understand the ferocious appetite for the consumer to gain knowledge about their neighborhood. I mean...some of the information on their sites are useful, but should never be relied upon for accuracy. Only local professionals who are familiar with the area should be consulted upon for a good idea on what the home will sell for.

Lately, I've been spending some time answering questions on Trulia's "Trulia Voices." Thought I think it's great to be able to communicate with other agents and sellers/buyers, I'm skeptical if their system will ever provide any realistic financial incentive by participating. Also, what recourse does a person have for getting inaccurate information from people who are not familiar with their local city/county/state laws.

What I do believe is Zillow and Trulia are in a sense wanting to be what is and has been, but better. They know they have to create a better and more interactive system in order to gain the trust and respect of agents and buyers/sellers. But without the participation of every MLS in the country, I doubt they will make it far. They will be just another information site and will eventually be integrated with a major site like MSN or Yahoo.

So their objective continues to entice agents to input listings and reap the benefits of free business. What agents don't realize is that if they continue to do so, they are actually chipping away at the foundation of the Realtor and MLS system.

Take a minute and think about it... If all the MLS's automatically imputed their listings to sites like Trulia and Zillow, what do you suppose is going to happen to Well, I can bet people are going to visit Trulia and Zillow because the people there seem to be a lot more creative than the people at But without the checks-and-balances we have with our MLS and, I predict home-buyers and seller will suffer financial harm.

I believe Trulia and Zillow should stay what they really are..a data aggregating site which displays neighborhood statistics. I also think Zillow should discontinue their Zestimate as other companies have integrated their useless system and providing incorrect information which can cause a financial loss to people who are unaware of how they calculate market value.

I also believe any MLS which integrated themselves with these so called Realtor friendly sites should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable financially for anyone who has a financial loss because of the information displayed on their sites.

If your selling your home, there are many things your agent can do to get your home more attention.

1. Add as many professionally taken pictures into the MLS sytem which will also be shown on and agent websites(IDX).

2. Add a virtual tour which will also be integrated with and agent websites.

3. Build a single site for the property and include that URL in all advertising.

4. Promote the home on,, Ebay's,,, MSN Live Expo, Google Base, and Yahoo Classifieds.

Sellers can also help sell their homes faster by pricing aggressively and also making the property available with a lockbox. If your home is not in the MLS, call me or click the "Live Chat" button below and let me show you how I can generate more buyers for your home than any other agent in the San Fernando Valley.


Richard Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Selling Idea

During my last office meeting, an agent recommended an idea that has worked in selling one of his listings. I thought I would share his idea with you.

During the coarse of his listing, a buyer visited the home on several occasions and expressed interest in the home. But what happened is that the buyer never wrote an offer thinking the price was too high and didn't want to waste his/her time.

Though this can be frustrating for a seller who sees a party walk through the home on different occasions, this agent pondered on what he can do to get them interested in the home and to get both parties to come to an agreement.

We all know that over 90% of the time, an offer is usually written by the buyer's agent. So just imagine if we turn the tables and have the seller and listing agent write an offer on their own home, and present it to the buyer for acceptance. That's what I would call a paradigm shift in real estate. It completely changes the way you think and do business.

So here is how it would work. The listing agent would ask the seller, "If I got a party to buy your home today, what is the lowest price you would sell your home for?" The seller would probably give their lowest price. Having that information, the listing agent would draft a "Purchase Contract" and then take it over to the original Buyer's agent to present to the client for acceptance.

You are most likely wondering why a listing agent and seller would go to the trouble of doing the buyer's agent paperwork. Well...if you have a feeling the buyer loves the home and never writes an offer, then what do you have to lose? 20 minutes of your time?

This is a win/win situation for all. Both agents get paid their commission, and the buyer and seller agree on a price that works for them both without having to go back and forth negotiating or being afraid to ask for what they want.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Short Sales Suck - Agents Walking Away

Though I have been optimistic about selling a home short, it seems more and more real estate agents are getting tired of dealing with banks who expect more money from buyers and their agents commission. AGENTS ARE WALKING AWAY FROM SHORT SALES!

I've been seeing more listings specifically mention "NOT REO / NOT SHORT SALE" as agents are starting to avoid short sale homes. I mean do I really blame them? It's already hard enough to find qualified buyers with at least 5% down, then to find them a home their going to love. Just imagine doing all that work + the crazy paperwork, then the bank rejecting your offer and demanding more than what the agent listed the home for. How many times can you kick yourself or bang your head to the wall? I guess as many times needed to avoid the next Short Sale crisis!

Just today, I was visiting a top producer who is a close friend of mine. He was very discouraged about dealing with short sales saying, " I just had a deal fall apart because of the bank. I'm avoiding short sales and looking for homeowners with equity."

To minimize the risk of losing a great client and potential sale, more agents are looking for bank owned homes. In fact, with a bank owned home, your dealing directly with the bank. Also, bank owned homes are usually priced 10%-25% below market value. The listing agent representing the bank is most likely an REO specialist so he/she will know what deals the banks going to take - minimizing wasted time & money. What I've been seeing is bank owned homes offering $10,000 credit to buyers to help pay their non-recurring closing costs.

At this present time, unless the banks wake up and start negotiating on short sale homes, more agents are going to find bank owned homes the attractive option.

Recent articles:

Bank Owned Activity for San Fernando Valley

Buying Distressed Properties

Los Angeles Bank Owned Homes

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Favorite Cities in the San Fernando Valley

Out of all the areas in the San Fernando Valley, here is a list of my favorite cities and the best part of the area to own a home in:

1. Toluca Lake - Living anywhere in Toluca Lake is great. But if you happen to live near the Lake in Toluca, it's better. And let's not forget the Lakeside Golf Club. Toluca Lake has the least amount of foreclosures. So that tells you the place rocks. The entertainment industry is right there so you'll be bumping into actors and acctresses all the time.

2. Studio City - Buying a condo or Townhouse in Studio City is excellent. Your close to the entertainment industry, Ventura blvd, and the westside. Homes south of the blvd are at a premium and this is one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in the San Fernando Valley. I can consider Studio City the epicenter of the Valley. The closer you get, the more expensive homes are. If I had a choice to live anywhere in the Valley, it would be Studio City.

3. Burbank - I would only consider buying a home in Burbank which bordering Toluca Lake and east of the 5 freeway. If I was to live in Burbank, I would stay as close as possible to Toluca Lake. Keep in mind Burbank has an airport so be sure when you search for a home, your not buying in the direct path of the airplanes.

4. Sherman Oaks (where I currently live) - I love Sherman Oaks. This place rocks. Any home south of Burbank Blvd is great if you ask me but homes south of Ventura Blvd sell at a premium. Beverly Hills is on the other side of the mountain and it only takes 10 minutes to get there by street.

5. Encino - Any home south of Ventura Blvd is great. Some people call Encino the Beverly Hills of the Valley but I would like to think of Encino as a great place to build a big home. If I was looking to buy a large home and have a large flat lot, I would buy in Encino.

6. Tarzana - You get more bang for your buck in Tarzana. If I was to live in Tarzana I would only consider homes south of Ventura Blvd. If you want to really see what Tarzana has to offer, drive south on Reseda Blvd past Ventura Blvd and take a look at some of the new homes their building. The reason you get more bang for your buck, is because Tarzana is the farthest from Studio City.

If your unfamiliar with the Valley, you can visit The Valley of The Stars.

Your Fico Score - View Your Credit Score FREE!

Before beginning your home search, it's important you know what your credit score is and discuss financing with a professional mortgage loan officer here in the San Fernando Valley. A great site which I can recommend is Myfico. The best part is, Score Watch provides daily monitoring of your Equifax Credit Report and weekly monitoring of your FICO® score, notifies you when you may qualify for better interest rates, delivers alerts when important changes to your score and report are detected, and shows you key factors affecting your FICO score and how lenders view you. The best part is, it's FREE for 30 days. If your thinking of buying a home now or in the near future, I suggest you keep an eye on your credit score so you'll get the best loan and rates.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Four Ways to Fend Off Foreclosure

By Marshall Loeb
From MarketWatch

When faced with the possibility of foreclosure, many people are paralyzed by fear. But it's important to contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your options. If a lender believes you are acting in good faith, it will often work with you to find an alternative payment schedule.


Richard's notes...If you're unable to afford your home for whatever reason and would like to sell, please contact me (818-730-4128). I will need to know how much you owe on your home and what your home will most likely sell for. I would also like to know why you are unable to afford your home so I can help you with your difficult situation. Based on this information and after consulting with my preferred mortgage brokers, manager, etc..., I'll be able to advise you on the best coarse of action to take. Believe me, nobody wants to see you walk away from your home.

Please seek professional advice from a Realtor, Accountant, & Attorney before buying/selling any property.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Local MLS Search - Socal MLS, Crisnet MLS,

Can it be true that there are over 1000 mls systems in the United States? I believe most are controlled by the local Association of Realtor and some by the largest brokers in the area. As a home buyer searching for homes, how can you make sure you are using the correct MLS search site to view all the homes on the market.
The first thing to do is search for a local agent. For example, if your searching for available homes in Encino, CA, you'll want to search for "Encino homes or Encino real estate or Encino Realtor." Be sure to skip over the lead generating sites like Homegain,, housevalues, etc.. because they are in the business to sell you to an agent. And I know you don't have a FOR SALE sign around your neck.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. I'm a member of both the SocalMLS which includes all of the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley real estate. I'm also a member of which targets the Westside. One of my websites, allows you to not only search the San Fernando Valley, but at the top of the page there is a link to allow you to search the Westside real estate including Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Century City, etc...).
If you use the SocalMLS to search Beverly Hills, the system would return a total of 9 homes. If you used the TheMLS system to search for Beverly Hills homes, it would return a result of 61 homes. Using the right system is important if you want to view all the homes on the market.
Here is what you should do before you begin to search online for homes:
1. Make sure the MLS system you are using to search for homes is the one all agents input their listings too. If your not sure which one to use, ask a local agent.
2. If your going to sell your home, be sure to hire a local agent.
Written by: Richard Johnston, RE/MAX
P.S. - It's a crazy world out-there, be sure to work with an agent who knows what their doing.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hire a Local Realtor

The subject line might sound funny to you, but you would be surprised how many homeowners hire agents who are not familiar with the local market. Take a moment and think about it… An out-of-area agent is most likely not a member of the local Realtor MLS, doesn’t have the required Key-box to allow other agents access to the home, can’t show your home quickly when a potential agent/buyer calls, is unaware of the local market condition, has no idea on what homes have sold, pending (in escrow) and active, and the worst part is, some agents prefer not to work with out-of-area agents because it makes the entire process more difficult.

Are you really saving money or doing yourself a favor in hiring an out-of-area agent? The answer is obviously no. Now, if you are stuck in deciding if you should hire your out-of-area cousin or a local Realtor, you can contact your cousin to refer you to a local agent. This way, your cousin will get a split from the commission and you’ll be represented by a local professional. It’s a win/win situation for all.

Written by Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can bookmark the page or Subscribe in a Reader.

Friday, October 05, 2007

San Fernando Valley Notice of Default Update September & Year to Date 2007

The chart below outlines the specific January '07 Notice of Default (NOD) filings, and September '07 NOD filings for each city. I've also included the Year to Date (YTD) 2007 filings so you can get an idea on where the Notice of Default market is headed. Based on what I can see from this chart, I belive the number of homes in Default will double by the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year. Some areas only experienced a slight increase while other like Northrige will more than double. A Notice of Default is usually filed when the homeowner has not made a payment to their mortgage company for the past 3-4 months.

Source: Default Research, Inc.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Default Research - Notice of Default NOD

Default Research

I signed up with Default Research several months ago because I wanted to know which homeowners in Sherman Oaks were in default . What I mean by default is when a Notice of Default is filled on title which means the homeowner has not paid their mortgage payment for the past 3-4 months. You can learn more by visiting their site by clicking this link: . The cost is more than other sites but well worth it. This is a great tool for anybody who wants to save money on their next home-purchase.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Foreclosure and Short sale

Written by: Tom Cortesi, First Financial 1-323-791-8145

When you first purchase a home, this loan is generally called a "Non-Recourse Loan." During your home-ownership, if you decide to refinance, then the loan is generally referred to a "Recourse Loan." The explanation is below:
Recourse loan = Non-purchase money, refinanced loan or non-owner occupied property.

Non-Recourse loan = Purchase money owner occupied property

Here is what will happen if you lose your home in a foreclosure:

If you lose your home in Foreclosure with a Non-Recourse loan, the Bank goes after only the property and will not 1099 you or chase you for your other assets.

If you lose your home in Foreclosure with a Recourse loan, the Bank will chase you for your other assets if the loan is shorted and if they don’t they will 1099 you.

Here is what will happen if you sell your home short (short-sale):

If you sell your home as a Short sale and have a Non-Recourse loan, then the Bank agrees to the short sale. They are giving you debt relief and therefore will 1099 you for the shorted amount.

If you sell your home as a Short sale Recourse loan, then the Bank agrees to the short sale they are giving you debt relief and therefore will 1099 you for the shorted amount.

How they affect your credit:

Both a short sale and a foreclosure are reported in the trade line section of the credit report and both affect the score identically.

When a lender looks at your credit for a loan they will treat a foreclosure and a Short sale identically.

Please contact you CPA, tax accountant, attorney, to verify information is correct and up to date.

An Article you should read:
Eliminating "Phantom Tax" On Foreclosures Is Good For Consumers

San Fernando Valley Bank Owned Statistics

I usually like to wait a month to provide comparable statistics but with all the homes falling into foreclosure here in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, & Simi Valley, I wanted to provide statistics to let you know how quickly the foreclosure inventory is increasing. On Sept. 23, there was a total of 275 foreclosure properties in the areas listed above. On Oct. 1, 2007, there are a total of 304 bank owned properties available. This is an increase of around 10% in nine days.

These homes are listed in the Realtor MLS system and are labeled as "Bank Owned, REO, Foreclosure, Bank Owned."

You can view these bank owned homes by visiting this link:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Most Expensive Homes: Beverly Hills, CA

You can search for available homes in Beverly Hills & Santa Monica by visiting this link:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

View Properties by Map

One of my new sites allows you to zoom in and view what homes are available in specific areas.

On the map above, I've narrowed down all available homes between Van Nuys Blvd, Magnolia, Burbank Blvd, and Woodman. The properties pop-up so there is not registering. But if you would like to receive properties by email and RSS, you will need to register. There is nothing like it online so enjoy and be sure to bookmark the site.

The site is located at:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

San Fernando Valley Fixers - Distressed Properties

Hi everyone! I just finished developing my new site This site instantly displays Fixers in select cities. You will also be able to see distressed homes, homes which need TLC (tender loving care), and homes specifically for investors, builders, and contractors.
This site is new as there could be some bugs. Let me know if you have any problems.
If your looking for bank owned homes, visit:
Here are a few articles which you might find useful:
Landscaping's that Sell

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Indication on Where the Market is Headed in the San Fernando Valley

Here is the most recent statistics from my personal website . This is another indication that the number of buyers looking for homes has dropped off considerable from the beginning of the year.

Sellers Turn to Renting

Sellers who are unable to sell their homes in the San Fernando Valley are considering leasing their home until the market improves.
If your one of these sellers, the first step is to research the rental market in your area. Several websites can help including,, and other online classified sites. Be sure to be realistic as far as setting the monthly payment. You can consult with a Realtor who will market your home and find a qualified buyer.
A few recent articles you might find interesting:
Owners Battle Invasion of Renters -

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bank Owned Activity for San Fernando Valley

The list below indicates how many bank owned homes are listed for each area. You can click the city to access the list of bank owned homes. No registration or sign-up is required.

The Federal Reserve Bank indicates“....that foreclosed properties average 22% less than typical properties.”

Encino Bank Owned homes -8 properties available
Sherman Oaks Bank Owned homes - 3 properties available
Tarzana Bank Owned homes - 20 properties available
Studio City Bank Owned homes - 0 properties available
Toluca Lake Bank Owned homes - 1 property available
Burbank Bank Owned homes - 7 properties available
North Hollywood Bank Owned homes - 17 properties available
Van Nuys Bank Owned homes - 30 properties available
Lake Balboa Bank Owned homes - 1 property available
Valley Glen Bank Owned homes - 2 properties available
Valley Village Bank Owned homes - 5 properties available
Reseda Bank Owned homes - 30 properties available
Canoga Park Bank Owned homes - 16 properties available
Woodland Hills Bank Owned homes - 14 properties available
Calabasas Bank Owned homes - 2 properties available
West Hills Bank Owned homes - 9 properties available
North Hills Bank Owned homes - 19 properties available
Northridge Bank Owned homes - 27 properties available
Chatsworth Bank Owned homes - 8 properties available
Winnetka Bank Owned homes - 13 properties available
Granada Hills Bank Owned homes - 13 properties available
Valencia Bank Owned homes - 10 properties available
Panorama City Bank Owned homes - 10 properties available
Stevenson Ranch Bank Owned homes - 4 properties available
Thousand Oaks Bank Owned homes - 6 properties available

New bank owned homes are added daily. Be sure to bookmark the specific page and visit daily. The # of available homes is calculated on the date this post was made. These are bank owned homes listed in the MLS.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Disclosure – Why You Should Disclose or Risk Getting Sued

I believe the #1 reason why buyers and sellers end up suing each other is because of disclosure. As a home-seller, you’ll want to keep in mind that if there is anything that would affect the salability of the property, it’s important the buyer knows.

Here are a few things that would affect the value of the property:
1. Leaky roof
2. Mold
3. Galvanized pipes
4. Fire or water damage
5. Death on the property
6. Outdated Kitchen & Bathrooms
7. Old carpet

Keep in mind that your agent is a trusted advisor. Please do not keep any information from your agent which knowingly can be financially damaging to all and do not plead ignorance. During the transaction process, there are many forms which will filled out concerning the house in general. One form is called the “Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS).” This form is filled out by the seller and asks various questions concerning the property.

Some agents/brokers will also have additional forms in-case specific questions are not asked on the TDS form. If you should not understand a specific question, please consult with your agent. On occasion, a buyer will have questions of their own.

As a buyer, you’ll want to do your due diligence and perform a home-inspection by a qualified general contractor who is also CREIA Certified. A company I have used in my home-inspections is Larocca Inspection Associates. Your inspector will note specific issues which then you can hire specific professionals who can offer their advice and cost to get it fixed. Don’t purchase any property without it first being inspected.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Living in Valencia, CA? Tired of the Traffic?

Last Wednesday around 12:30pm, I left my house here in Sherman Oaks to visit my friend in Valencia for lunch. Thinking it would take me up to 30 minutes to get there (worst case scenario) and hoping to avoid any traffic, I was surprised when I was stuck in traffic right past the 118 freeway.

Let’s just say if I got out of my car and walked all the way to the 14 freeway, I would get their faster. It took me 90 minutes to get to the 14 freeway which should have taken no more than 10 minutes. There was a small accident on the way but with all the looky-lews, and huge 18 wheelers, traffic slowed to a crawl.

This is the major reason why I moved back to the San Fernando Valley 4 years ago. When I bough a home in Valencia 6 years ago (North-Park area), you kind of knew when to avoid the freeways. Most of the time you pray hoping you avoid the traffic especially on those 3-day holidays. The amount of money being spent on gas, maintenance and time, outweighed the benefit of living in a new community with lower priced homes.

So why would anybody in the San Fernando Valley want to move to Valencia? I suspect the same mistake I made. I was hoping to own a new home in a well-developed community at a lower price. What everybody failed to mention was that traffic on the freeways was bad and only going to get worse over the years.

I cringe every-time I get a call from a buyer who would leave the sanctuary of the San Fernando Valley to live in Valencia because they probably don’t know what their getting themselves into. Don’t get me wrong, Valencia is a beautiful vibrant community with firefighters and Sheriffs/Police officers at every turn – even your neighbors. But what most people don’t realize is the loss time and money spent in traffic. Is it really worth it? That would depend on your work and lifestyle.

If your thinking of buying a home in Valencia or the neighboring areas including Stevenson Ranch, Saugus, Canyon Country and you currently live in the San Fernando Valley, the best way to know if living there will make your life more comfortable is to stay the night and drive to work the next morning. Then when work is finished, drive back to Valencia as if you live there. Try that for a week and you’ll know your answer.

BTW, I have no problems with Valencia itself as it’s a beautiful area and I’ve sold homes in the Santa Clarita Valley to former San Fernando Valley residents. But as a professional, I always want to make sure my buyers understand the ramifications of living in an area which depends mostly on a few major freeways to get into and out of the area – especially when they are bogged down by traffic during normal rush-hour.

Home Value Declining? Learn to Reduce Your Property Tax

If you have purchased a home here in the San Fernando Valley in the past 12-18 months, it’s possible your homes value is below what you paid. You may be eligible to temporarily reduce your property tax by filing “Decline-in-Value Reassessment Application (Prop.8).”

The form states that it must be filled by December 31, 2007. You can contact the Assessors office by calling 213-974-3211 or 1-888-807-2111 or visiting the Assessors site by clicking this link:

More about Proposition 8: Proposition 8 allows a temporary reduction in assessed value when property suffers a “decline-in-value,” which is authorized under Section 51 of the Revenue and Taxation Code. A decline-in-value occurs when the current market value of your property is less than the current assessed value as of January 1, 2007. Please provide information that supports your opinion that the market value of your property is less than the assessed value. The best support includes information on sales of comparable properties. You should select two comparable sales that sold as close to January 1, 2007 as possible, but no later than March 31, 2007.

Source: Los Angeles County Assessors Office

Friday, September 14, 2007

Buying Distressed Properties

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the rise in California home foreclosures in no exception. That's if you're an investor hunting for good deals.

Investing in foreclosures is no low-risk venture. You often need to act quickly, have ready cash to buy, and may need to earmark money for repairs to make properties sellable. Here are some basics on buying distressed homes.

Identify properties: Right now, choices are abundant. One way to locate homes is to register with foreclosure information services, such as . This site is free and properties are updated daily.

Options to buy include:

Short sales: When borrowers can't keep current with mortgage payments, some lenders agree to allow the sale of the property for less than the loan balance. Frequently, you can find such deal through real estate professionals representing troubled homeowners.

Auctions: Auctions typically offer the best buys, but the risk to you is greater. You must research liens against the property and decide on your maximum bid price. You're also required to have cash on hand; remember, you're bidding on homes you haven't inspected, and competition can be stiff.

REO's. These are properties that have been taken back by the bank. These homes are frequently listed in the multiple listing services and can be found on which is the San Fernando Valley's exclusive bank owned REO site.

Related links:
Learn how to buy bank owned homes here in the San Fernando Valley.
Need to learn more about short sales? click here.
Another great article titled, "Don't Expect a Bailout if Your Overpaid" is another example on what you should do incase you have bought a home in the last 12-16 months or are thinking of buying a home short.

First Time Homebuyer

Are you a first time home-buyer here in the San Fernando Valley? If so, your options may be limited to purchasing a home. The first step you should take is to get pre-approved from a reputable mortgage broker. The mortgage broker will need to get an idea on your financial position, employment, and credit scores.

Most people start their home search even before they know what they can afford. This can be a problem if the buyer finds the perfect home, then finds out that they can’t afford it. That would hurt and believe me I have seen people get into that mess before. If you have a home to sell, be sure to list it first. Agents really don’t like a buyer with strings attached so be sure your home is in escrow before you start writing offers.

What most agents won’t tell you…
Before you write an offer on a home, I suggest you NOT remove your loan contingency. If the lender goes out-of-business before you close escrow, you might find yourself unable to get another loan and thus might lose your initial deposit (3% of the purchase price) and the home. It’s best to have your broker double-up on your loan.

You can read more about NOT removing your loan contingency here:

Monday, September 10, 2007

One Voice

Over the years I’ve been a Realtor, I’ve had a first-hand experience on what happens when two or more family members openly disagree on their next move. Not only do opportunities disappear, it makes the situation uncomfortable for all.

One Family = One Voice

It’s important that all decision makers know their objective and work-out their differences. As a home-buyer or seller, you should first trust your Realtor first-and-foremost. Relying on friends and the media for advice will make your Realtor question your integrity, honesty, and trust. If there is no trust, there is not foundation.

Just like you would trust your Doctor, Attorney or Accountant, you should have the same trust with your Realtor. In any given year, a Realtor will communicate with hundreds if not thousands of prospective home-buyers and sellers. If you want to demonstrate to your San Fernando Valley Realtor that you are serious about your next move, be sure to demonstrate loyalty, trust and commitment to having a "One Voice." You’ll be surprised how much harder your Realtor will work for you.

Written by: Richard Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Friday, September 07, 2007

August Statistics for San Fernando Valley

The statistics above represents the total number of homes Sold, Total Active, and Percent Sold for the month of August. The four highest selling cities are: Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Toluca lake & Encino. The worst selling city is Van Nuys.

Source: SoCalMLS
Homes up to 4 units, condos, and townhouses

This data is NOT pulled from the County Recorders Office and thus can change as agents adjust the status of their listings. This information was compiled from the Realtor SoCal MLS system on the date this post was published.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Properties with No Pictures?

As any home-buyer searching online for homes in the San Fernando Valley, on several occasions you may run into a home which has no picture(s). The only reason why a home for sale would not have any pictures is that the listing agent did not add them in the Realtor MLS system.

You might be wondering why an agent would take a listing and not do his/her best to market the home with the most amount of pictures and a virtual tour. The fact is these unexperienced agents still have the assumption that adding pictures will not sell the home. They still cling to their old ways of marketing homes disregarding the effectiveness of the internet. With over 80% of home-buyers starting their home search online, it’s one of the most important marketing tools an agent has to promote the home.

Also, when Realtors search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for their own clients, homes which have no pictures are usually skipped over. Our MLS allows agent to add up to 20 pictures and a virtual tour. These pictures will also be displayed on all agent websites, and more! So if you see a home with just a few poorly taken pictures or no picture at all, keep in mind the only person who ends up losing is the home-seller. The home will eventually sell, but at a loss to the seller.

The bottom line is, when you are thinking of selling your home in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, be sure to hire an agent who will add up to 20 pictures online, and also create a virtual tour. You can see an example of one of my virtual tours by clicking this link:


Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sherman Oaks Lease - Townhouse

4970 Kester Ave., #9, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Beautiful Mediterranean Tri-level townhouse in the heart of Sherman Oaks. Recently remodeled: New paint, bamboo floors, Berber carpet, stainless steel appliances, granite counters, 2 master suites with own bath, Jacuzzi bath-tub, Kitchen with breakfast nook, bonus/storage room, washer/dryer in unit, great closet space, direct access to 2 car garage, private end unit.

You can see the virtual tour here and also print
out a property brochure:

Call Richard Johnston, RE/MAX
for a private showing 818-730-4128

Monday, August 27, 2007

Traffic Graph for

The graph above provided by is another example of why choosing a professional agent to list and sell your home is important in this marketplace. The number of buyers searching for homes has dropped off dramatically since the first quarter of 2006. Pricing your home correctly and marketing it online will help sell your home sooner and at a higher price.

Here are a few things a professional Realtor should do to help sell your home quickly:
1. Add up to 20 professionally taken pictures in the MLS
2. Feature your home on
3. Make a virtual tour of the home with it's own website. This tour should also integrate with and the local MLS so everyone will see it.
4. Promote the listing on Trulia,,, etc...
5. A professionally staged home will also increase its value.

Over 80% of home buyers start their home search online. Choosing the right agent makes a world of difference.

Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Virtual Tour

Below are two property links of virtual home tours I recently put together for my clients.

One is a Sherman Oaks home on Nagle Ave. And the other is a Woodland Hills home on Campo Road. Also, be sure to print out the property brochure. This is the same brochure I place at the property.

Here are the links:
If your thinking of selling your home, make sure your agent has the ability to create a virtual home tour with its own website. A recent report I wrote in July found that only 14% of active homes in the Sherman Oaks area actually had a virtual tour. You can read more about my article by clicking this link:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Los Angeles Bank Owned Homes

A new site I recently build instantly displays all San Fernando Valley Bank Owned homes with no sign-up required. This list of bank homes is updated daily so be sure to bookmark the links below.
Please note that the following homes are ALL bank owned. They are not short sales or in the process of foreclosure. They have already gone back to the bank. No waiting around for short sale approval. No waiting around for sellers to reduce the price on their foreclosure or pre-foreclosure properties. Buy these homes below market value....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Re/Max On the Blvd Sells More!

RE/MAX On the Blvd Estates
Serving the Entire San Fernando Valley!
Encino, Studio City, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks & More!
There is a reason why most people decide to buy and sell through a RE/MAX agent here in the San Fernando Valley. We outsold Prudential & Century 21 combined! We left Prudential & Coldwell Banker eating our dust! Why settle for second best? When a new home comes on the market, be the first to know. Click here to sign up for property updates. It's FREE!
As a home-buyer or seller here in the San Fernando Valley, you'll want to work with an agent who not only communicates well with you, but also communicates well with other agents, mortgage brokers, and the general public.
There are many people who work behind the scenes during a transaction so communication is essential to a smooth transaction. An agent should take no more than a few hours to answer an email, up to 3 hours to return a phone call, and should respond instantly to sms messages. Information flows quickly and time is of the essence.
Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Monday, August 20, 2007

Women Call Shots When House Hunting

U.S. women control or influence $7 trillion in consumer spending annually and make 85 percent of all purchase decisions, according to marketing experts. Single women accounted for 22 percent of all home purchases made between July 2005 and June 2006.

What do women want when they are house hunting?

Women respond best to a holistic approach when buying a house, says Richard Peterson, a psychiatrist who specializes in investment psychology. “They handle global impressions better” than men.

Men's ability to make multifaceted decisions, on the other hand, is diminished when they have to rely on "more than three to four factors," imaging studies of the brain show, Peterson says. For example, when men shop – an activity that requires dealing with an array of facts and feelings – stress hormones increase and focus dwindles.

Here are some things that work and don’t work when a woman is the customer.

Stimulate the senses.
Men like quick factoids an bullet points, but this approach is the antithesis of a woman’s preference for seeing, touching and talking. Instead, try videos, testimonials, livability surveys, and newsletters detailing community activities.

Patience is key.
Women like to return multiple times to a property they are considering. Each visit brings a new set of questions.

Enthusiasm sells.
Women like to be excited about the property.

Spousal approval goes one way.
If she likes it, chances are he’ll like it, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, Diane Wedner (08/12/2007)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Panorama City Bank Owned

I recently sold a home in Panorama City which was bank owned (REO). The previous owner had purchased the home, made some improvements and found his/herself unable to afford the mortgage payment of this home. The previous owner had also made-off with the kitchen - so there was no kitchen in the home when my clients previewed it for the first time.

My clients were fortunate enough to find and purchase this bank owned which was owned by Wells Fargo with no money down (Stated income / stated assets). That's right, people can still buy a home in the San Fernando Valley with no money down but you should have a credit score at least in the low 700's. We were also able to get $12,000 credit from the bank for buyers none recurring closing costs. This way, when escrow closed, the buyer would receive all of their initial money back and pay nothing out of pocket.

The most difficult aspect with working with a bank owned home is that the bank was slow to open escrow. It took approximately 3 weeks to open an escrow. Normally, it takes less than a day. Also, response times took 1-3 business day. The bank also provided their own paperwork which was not standard with the Realtor forms we use as agents.

Keep in mind when you purchase a bank owned home, your usually buying the home AS-IS. But in our situation, the bank had taken the steps to fix the major problems of the house and the previous owner had made upgrades which saved my buyers tens of thousands of dollars. The bank also installed brand new cabinets and granite counter-tops.

It took close to 3 months to close the property. So keep in mind that if you are considering buying a bank owned home, expect a delay from 60-90 days as banks are inundated with short sales and REO's.

More articles concerning bank owned homes:

San Fernando Valley - Buying Bank Owned Homes

Buying Foreclosure Properties Has It's Rewards & Risks

If you are considering buying a bank owned home in the Panorama City and surrounding cities including; Burbank, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Lake Balboa, contact a professional Realtor who knows how to work with Bank Owned homes.
Written by: Richard M. Johnston

San Fernando Valley Bank Owned Specialist

More Links: