interest rates

Grand Opening TACO EDITION 2: 25182 Birch Grove – Saturday Sept 19th, Lunch at Noon

We had so much fun with the last Taco Party so we decided to do it again. This condo is ranged priced starting at $349,900 and sell quickly so come early and make your best offer right away.

Welcome to the scenic lakes, woods and hills of Lake Forest.  This attractive and quiet 2-bedroom, 2-bath, dual master suites, ground level, end-unit, view condo is in the desirable community of Tierra Vista off of Peachwood and Trabuco.

The sellers are just finishing a whole home contemporary remodel that will include fresh neutral two-tone decorator paint, wide-plank flooring, 2” white slat custom blinds, G.E. stainless steel appliances, remodeled baths including beautiful double shower, quartz/granite counters and Anderson sliding doors that lead to a ‘grassy’, private back yard perfect for relaxing or entertaining.

Walk-in closet in one master and a wall of closets in the other. Full-size inside laundry room with storage leads to freshly-painted direct access garage with epoxy floors, storage and new water heater. Each bedroom has its own linen closet so it is great for roommates.

Pool/spa are just 2 minutes away. Situated next to exquisite Serrano Park homes with walking trails, greenbelts and parks all around. Only a few miles from the Irvine Spectrum businesses & dining venues!  A short stroll to shopping and eateries.

This condo looks like a model and will sell right after its big FREE taco bar Sat lunch!  Call me or ask your agent for info.

Jenean Says: Arrive early at 11:45am and enjoy the live catered taco bar ‘while supplies last’. There will be a line at the door, embrace it, you’ll want my same over-the-top effort when I sell your home.

Housing demand in Orange County is so low that it cannot be measured

This is a continuation of yesterday’s piece on the status of the market.  The active listing inventory is muted this year because many homeowners are still underwater.  They may have good credit and a stable job, but they do not have the cash necessary to close because they are currently too far underwater.  Also, many homeowners are now sitting on the fence while they recoup their equity.  Everybody is familiar with the term “buy low, sell high.”  It appears as if the bottom of the market was reached last February and now buyers are flooding the market attempting to “buy low.”  Homeowners know it is a low, so they want to wait.  They don’t want to “sell low.”

 DemandThe lack of inventory is cutting into demand.

As discussed above, true demand is much higher than demand based upon the number of new pending sales over the prior month.  In the past two weeks, demand dropped by 470 pending sales, a 16% drop, and now totals 2,543.  Based upon the word on the street, buyers are scrambling around at anything and everything that is placed on the market right now, but there just is not enough coming on the market.  And, that will remain the case throughout the holiday market, which does not end until the second half of January, right after everybody gives up on their New Year’s resolutions.  Buyers are in a rush to buy, but homeowners are not in a rush to sell.  Instead, they are going to enjoy the holidays with the knowledge that as their homes are slowly appreciating.  Last year at this time there were 46 additional pending sales, a 2% difference.  But, there were 8,905 active listings for buyers to choose from. 

The Distressed Market: The distressed inventory dropped by only 16 homes, but that is still a 4% drop.

For buyers looking for a “deal” and looking closely at the distressed inventory, the pickings are slim.  There are only 434 total short sales and foreclosures on the market today.  Distressed homes make up only 12% of the active inventory and 34% of demand.  Last year at this time there were 3,357 distressed homes on the market, 38% of the active listing inventory and 57% of demand, much different than today.  In the past two weeks, the foreclosure inventory decreased by 12 homes, totaling 110, and has an expected market time of 18 days. The short sale inventory decreased by only 4 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 324.  The expected market time is only 14 days and continues to be one of the hottest segments of the housing market.  Both 110 active foreclosures and 324 active short sales are new lows for the year and levels not seen since the beginning of all of the distressed activity back in 2007.

Orange County Homes – 2 for the price of One!

It is not just the low interest rates that are bringing buyers to the market, it is that you can practically buy TWO homes for the price of ONE house payment compared to the hot market we had  a half a dozen years ago.  Let’s look back in time and do the math:

Below are two  3,000-ish  sq. ft. homes in the Lake Forest II/Sun and Sail Club community of  Parkwood Estates. 

SIX YEARS AGO: The house on the left sold in a market that was full of multiple offers at a sales price of $850,000 in an era of 6.60% interest rates.  A 20% down purchase would have required a $170,000 cash down payment.  Including property taxes of $708 per month, the monthly payment would have been $5,050 plus HOA and insurance.  (Actually it would have been higher because it was a non-conforming loan rate)

TODAY: The house on the right was offered at $575,000  and just entered escrow yesterday.  The market in this price range  is very hot as well.  If the buyer put 20% down that would only be $115,000 down.  With an  approximate interest rate of 3.47%, and property taxes of $479, the buyer’s (P,I&T) payment would be $2,536 per month.  The new buyer is paying HALF of what the 2006 buyer paid and they also have an extra $55,000 in their pocket.

You can see that right now we have a perfect storm.  Prices are great and interest rates are at an all time low – about half of what they were in the mid 2000’s.  Have you been longing to move out of your crowded surroundings and buy the home you dreamed of?  What if I told you you could select your new home first?  Through my “Select-then-Sell System”, First Team’s teamwork, and Sneak Preview system, I can help you identify your move up home prior to placing your home on the market….and then when we do put it on the market your Grand Opening Open House will look like this:

Alternatively if you love the home you’re in, but want to reduce your monthly payments, give me a call and I will help you determine your home’s value estimate and refer you to my mortgage partner to give you white glove service in lowering your interest rate and keeping more money in your pocket.  It’s a win/win! 🙂

FREE $500 Gift Certificate Toward Escrow or Moving Costs

By now if you live in the City of Lake Forest, you should have received a Shop and Dine Passport with coupons for deals all across the city.  I have a Real Estate coupon in the book for a $500 certificate toward escrow or moving costs.  

If you would like the certificate (and a valuable stamp in your  “passport”) this is all you have to do:

1) View one of these four short videos and comment on what you like best about my real estate methods.

Selling SFRS for Top Dollar in One Day

Selling Condos for Top Dollar in One Day

Client Testimonial

Lake Forest Community Video


2) Email me at and give me your name, address and phone number so I can get you your $500 certificate (which will be good for the next year).

3) For an added bonus, “like” me on my Facebook business page, Jenean Hill’s “Live in Lake Forest” and you will receive a Starbucks gift card, and if you share me with your friends, I will put you in this month’s drawing for 2 SeaWorld Tickets.

Thanks, and I look forward to serving you in the future.

Jenean Hill  – (949) 583-1331
Broker Associate, First Team Real Estate
Director, Orange County Association of Realtors, 2006-2011, 2013-2015
Lic# 01312003

NOT ON MLS: Laguna Niguel SFR w/ wrap-around grassy yard and ocean view DEAL!

Stunning, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, end-of-cul-de-sac hilltop home on a large grassy wrap-around 6,300SF+ lot in the heart of Laguna Niguel. Beautiful peak-a-boo ocean and surrounding hills views. Walking distance to award-winning elementary school, shops, theaters and restaurants. Formal living dining room with vaulted ceilings. Eat-in kitchen/great room has marble fireplace. Inside laundry. Master has walk-in closet and oval tub with separate shower. Upgrades include NEW… appliances, custom 2″ white wood window blinds, two-tone decorator paint, neutral carpeting & travertine-like tile. Even the garage is squeaky clean! This home and location are to die for and may even sell before it hits the MLS. This is a standard Equity Sale. The estate wants it sold NOW.

The plan is for it to come on the market in late August after residents have moved out. The price has not been set yet, but it is safe to say that it will be in the mid to upper 500K’s. If you don’t have an agent working hard for you and would like to talk to me about what we can do now to put you in a good position to beat the competition on this home, call me at (949) 583-1331

For more photos, click here

Fun Fall Events coming up in Lake Forest

The new Fall Leisure Times is out!  If you are one of my Lake Forest homeowners, please check your mailboxes for this handy program guide. The new brochure includes info on new classes, fun fall events and all City recreation programs. After seeing all that Lake Forest has to offer, you may want to give me a call (if you don’t already live here) and I will help you buy a home in Lake Forest.

To view the new Leisure Times online, please click here.

Fall registration will begin on Tuesday, August 14 for all Lake Forest residents. (Non-residents can register beginning Tuesday, August 21.) Be sure to sign up for all of your favorites before they fill up

Haunt at Heritage Hill

Friday, October 19 – Dare to be scared! – Join us for our 5th Annual “Friday Night Fright”, this year from 6 to 10:30 pm. Teens 12 years and older, as well as adults, will enjoy a truly haunted adventure featuring Sleepy Hollow Scare Zone, Fright Maze, Haunted School House, and a viewing of the classic movie “Frankenstein.” Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will be at the event to meet her dad’s fans and give them inside info on this legendary actor. Admission is $5 per person. For the most current info on the Haunt, check out

Autumn Harvest Festival

Saturday, October 20 – We invite you to our annual Autumn Harvest Festival, to be held again this year from 4 to 9 pm at Heritage Hill Historical Park (25151 Serrano Rd). Kids love this opportunity to show off their costumes and trick-or-treat in a safe, fun environment. We will have a glow party, Princess Pumpkin Patch, Pirate Adventure Maze, costume parade, and so much more. Admission is $4/adults, $3/children 12 and under. Certain attractions and games are an additional fee. For more info, call Community Services at (949) 461-3450.

20th Anniversary Celebration Party

Saturday, September 15 – Come and celebrate our 20th year of Cityhood as we dine and dance under the stars! This special event will be held at Oakley Headquarters (1 Icon in Lake Forest). The celebration will begin with cocktails at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner at 8 pm. Attendees must be 21 and older. Fee for this event is $50 per person and pre-registration is mandatory. (Limit of 4 tickets per person.) To register for this event, please visit our online registration site beginning Tuesday, August 14 at 8 am. Walk-in and mail-in registration is also acceptable. For all the details, see page 4 in the new Fall Leisure Times brochure. For more info, call Community Services at (949) 461-3450.

Hallow’s Eve Bowl Jam at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest

Friday, October 26 – This awesome Bowl event returns for its 9th year and is sure to be the best yet! It is consistently a favorite for crowds and skaters alike. Participation is open to all ages. The $20 registration fee includes a contest t-shirt. Registration takes place the day of the event beginning at 3 pm. The event begins at 4 and ends at 10 pm. For more info call the Skatepark at (949) 916-5870 or visit

NEW Teen Music Festival

Saturday, November 3 – This brand new event, to be held from 6 to 10 pm, will allow aspiring teen musicians to showcase their talents at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest (20028 Lake Forest Dr). Opportunity prizes will be given, food will be available, and art will be on display during the entire evening. Entry fee is $5 per person (band entries are free). For more info, please call (949) 461-3446 or email

Weekly Mortgage Watch

Significant amounts of very important economic data are due this week, along with a meeting of the Federal Reserve. Mortgage rates have the potential to fluctuate, in either direction, during the course of this week. Few are expecting the Federal Reserve to make any announcement regarding any new policy direction. Most analysts are expecting the Fed to take a wait-and-see position following the recent extension of Operation Twist. If the Fed does announce a new policy, mortgage rates could be driven downward. Economic data will also influence rates this week. A few experts are expecting a bit of an economic bounce. If the data shows a measurable improvement, then rates could climb…  To read the full story and see today’s interest rates, click the link below:

Bridging the Buy-Or-Sell-First Debate

For obvious reasons, many move-up buyers prefer to sell their current home before buying another.  They avoid the risk of paying on two mortgages, and have the ready cash to invest in down-payment and closing costs.

But what if you find a new dream home before selling the one you already own?  (Or what if you don’t want to sell your current home unless you find your East-facing home with a pool and room for a garden in the right school district?)  How can you qualify for a new mortgage while still paying on an existing loan?  Through the help of bridge financing.

In reality, a bridge loan is a short-term second mortgage secured by the equity you hold in your current property.  Although typically issued for three to six months, some lenders may consider a longer bridge loan term.

For example, a bridge loan of $30,000 would cover all closing costs plus a 10-percent down-payment on a $250,000 property.  Unlike standard home equity loans that require monthly payments, a bridge loan is paid in a lump sum from the first home’s sale proceeds.  Of course, an appraisal must demonstrate that your home’s expected sale price will satisfy both the first mortgage plus the bridge loan.

To move quickly on a prime property even if your current home isn’t ready to sell, be prepared.  Talk to my lender about the availability and terms of a bridge loan before you start to look.  His name is Tom Testerman and he would be happy to explain all the details to you.  (949) 422-4497.  Have a great weekend.

“Housing Crisis to End in 2012 as Banks Loosen Credit Standards”

Capital Economics expects the housing crisis to end this year, according to a report released Tuesday. One of the reasons: loosening credit.

The analytics firm notes the average credit score required to attain a mortgage loan is 700. While this is higher than scores required prior to the crisis, it is constant with requirements one year ago.

Additionally, a Fed Senior Loan Officer Survey found credit requirements in the fourth quarter were consistent with the past three quarters.

However, other market indicators point not just to a stabilization of mortgage lending standards, but also a loosening of credit availability.

Banks are now lending amounts up to 3.5 times borrower earnings. This is up from a low during the crisis of 3.2 times borrower earnings.

We are in about the third week of the buyers coming back to the market.  I have visited multiple real estate offices in the last week to hear each office talking about what is happening in their city.  The stories are all the same.  Buyers are back and are not only eating up all of the standard sales, they are standing in line and writinig offers on Short Sales.  I had over 80 people at my last short sale grand opening and sold it in 4 hours. 

What should you do?  First of all, don’t be ‘doing it’ on your own.  Sign up to work with the best agent to represent you and treat you like a full-time job.  I just had  buyers I met 6 months ago at an open house call me up and ‘hire’ me.  After 3 weeks of looking all over Orange County, we wrote an offer the day the home came on the market.  We paid just over asking price and beat out all of the other offers.  They sent me a nice letter of their experience.  I will post it soon.   It is time to buy NOW before the sellers starting demanding more from their buyers.


The news in the papers, financial websites, and money blogs this month has us pondering interest rates and refinancing again. First, 30-year mortgage interest rates continue their historic drop, reaching an average low of 4.125 percent. It’s difficult to predict if those rates will continue to go down or start to creep up, but we know one thing for sure:  These rates could mean a lot of savings for homeowners. Then there’s the news about the Obama administration’s plans to help struggling homeowners refinance their mortgages. This program would help homeowners with government backed loans refinance to more favorable terms to keep their homes. Finally, home prices have seen a slight increase this spring – rising by as much as 3.5 percent. This good news means some homeowners may actually have equity in their homes again as the value of houses climbs. All this news about loans and refinancing got us thinking: Is now a good time to refinance your home?  Who Can Refinance?

These days, not everyone can refinance a home – nor does it make sense for everyone to refinance. The main reasons to apply for a refinance are to lower monthly payments, secure more favorable loan terms, or consolidate debt. If you already have a low interest rate, good loan terms, and a manageable monthly payment, you may be better off leaving your mortgage alone. Most people assume homes that are underwater, meaning you owe more than the home is worth, aren’t eligible for refinancing. However, many programs, both governmental and non-governmental, work specifically with homeowners in this situation so they can take advantage of today’s low rates. The standard rule of thumb for homeowners considering refinancing used to be  that, unless you can lower your interest rate by at least one percentage point, the refinance doesn’t pencil out financially. With “No-Cost” loans often available today, this is no longer the rule. If you’ve maintained good credit and would like to lower your monthly outlay, ditch some less-than-desirable loan terms or get out from being underwater, refinancing now might just make perfect sense. Interest rates are at historic lows, and banks are ready to work with refinancing applicants.

Refinancing Advantages

The main advantages of a home refinance don’t change much, no matter the state of the housing  market. There are really three main reasons to seek a refinance. 1. The top reason to refinance is to lower your monthly payment by securing a lower interest rate. Right now, 30-year mortgage interest rates are averaging about 4.125 percent. Rates can go lower if you refinance into a 15 or 20-year loan instead. We don’t know where rates will go in the future, but they can’t get much lower.

2. The second reason you might try to refinance your home is to secure better loan terms. During the housing boom, many homeowners got themselves into interest-only, adjustable rate mortgages.

At the time, this loan option made sense as home values kept rising. In today’s housing market, a fixed-term loan that locks in today’s low interest rates makes more financial sense for homeowners and allows you to pay off your principal balance, not just interest. Now could be an especially good time to refinance if you are in a 5, 7, or 10-year adjustable rate mortgage. You don’t want to get to the end of that loan and suddenly face skyrocketing interest rates. Also, if you’re underwater on your home, any refinancing option that lowers your payment or helps you gain equity in your home is better than your current mortgage.

3. Lastly, many homeowners use a refinance to consolidate debt, either from a home equity line of credit or credit cards. Rolling these debts into your mortgage secures a better interest rate and lowers the total amount you’ll end up paying for these debts in the long run. the refinance by the amount your monthly payment is reduced. The answer tells you how many months it takes to break even.

However, a better way to determine whether now is a good time to refinance is to figure out how much the refinance will save you in overall interest expenses. You want to capture enough savings in interest expenses to offset the closing costs. A lower interest rate can certainly lower total  interest expense, but so can refinancing into a loan with a shorter term – 15 to 20 years, for example. This move can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. A shorter loan term means your monthly payments will increase, but if you can afford the additional cost you can save yourself a bundle of money in the long run.

 Next Steps

Talk to my lending partner, Tom Testerman at (949) 422-4497 to learn about whether a refinance makes sense for you right now. You could save yourself a bit of money right before the holidays arrive – there are only so many shopping days left!