market updates

Grand Opening Open House – 23035 Sonoita, Mission Viejo – April 18th, 12pm-4pm, Lunch at Noon

sonoita front

sonoita-grand-master-suiteHighly upgraded 5-bedroom pool home shows like a model. Beautiful brick courtyard with fountain leads to double door entry. Travertine-like tiled foyer. Grand staircase. Main floor mini-master bedroom has attached bath and separate entrance –an ideal scenario for extended family, or room for your children’s nanny. Upstairs master suite features his/hers closets-one a walk-in. Expansive remodeled master bath has dual vanities & separate shower/tub and water closet. Attractive master suite deck doubles as covered poolside patio.

sonoita-kitchenThe highly upgraded kitchen/great room features GE Profile appliances, walk-in pantry, expansive quartz center island & plank flooring. French doors lead to the backyard with its sparkling pool and spacious area for entertaining or gathering around the fire-pit. The upward slope provides privacy and the perfect place for a fruit orchard. Well over $120k in upgrades including new wide plank flooring, two-tone decorator paint, new windows & French doors.

One of the secondary bedrooms adjoins an annexed attic space creating a fun teen hangout or “man cave”. In the hallway there is a pull-down staircase leading to stand-up attic space for additional storage.

sonoita-from-firepit-to-houseCapistrano Schools. Strolling distance to Lake Mission Viejo offering sandy beaches, fishing, volley/ basketball courts, clubhouse, summer concerts, yacht club, picnic areas & even kayaks, peddle or party boats to rent for sunset cruises with your friends. Minutes from shopping, fine dining & local eateries.

Jenean is a Director of the Orange County Association of Realtors and a Broker Associate at First Team Real Estate.  You may reach her at (949) 583-1331 or She has been holding her branded Grand Opening Open Houses for 10 years.  (In fact she sold our previous Lake Forest home with a similar Auction style with a line of buyers and their agents out front waiting to enter to present their offers which ended up being 10’s of thousands over asking price.) sonoita-from-dining-room-to-living-room If you come on Saturday, you will see that she launches her client’s homes the same way Apple launches a new product.  This results in potential buyers lined up at the door before 12 noon, escrows that open on the following Tuesday and sales that raise the property values of the surrounding homes overnight.  If you would like to see the explosion of buyers and multiple offers that come from her “Grand Opening open houses”, simply search ‘Jenean Hill’ on Youtube.

Jenean spends her free time as the volunteer ‘troop goodie bag’ buyer for Saddleback Church’s Acts of Appreciation Military Outreach and as an ambassador for Irvine’s Free Wheelchair Mission – a non-profit organization providing no-cost wheelchairs and the ‘gift of mobility’ to the disabled poor in developing countries.  She has purchased 10 wheelchair gift cards to be given away to the first 10 groups who arrive to her open house before noon.  Those individuals will later be able to go online and designate the region of the world to which they would like their wheelchair to be sent.

NEWS FLASH – We may be losing our Mortgage Interest Deduction – Please Help!

Call your member of congress today to protect the mortgage interest deduction
Congress, as part of negotiations on avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff,” has made direct references to “closing loopholes” and “limiting deductions” as a way to raise revenues. Clearly, the mortgage interest deduction is high on this list of revenue raisers.

Losing the mortgage interest deduction will disproportionately affect the middle class because a larger proportion of the middle class takes the deduction. In California 89% of those who took the mortgage interest deduction earned less than $200,000. Losing the deduction would cost the average California taxpayer over $3,900 (Way more than this in Orange County).

What you can do to help:

Call Congress. First and foremost, I am urging my friends and clients to call Congress @202-224-3121. The Capitol switchboard operator will help callers identify their member of Congress and connect them. The hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Eastern Time.

Get the word out. Many people seem to be blissfully unaware that their mortgage interest deduction is in danger. Please do the following to make sure that the message spreads.

  1. Forward this message to your family, friends, and clients.
  2. Post this information on your personal and office websites and blogs.
  1. Share this information on Facebook and urge others to share it as well.
  2. Tweet about it on Twitter and urge others to retweet. Use the hashtag: #keepthemid.
  3. Link to the following web page:  This site has information about contacting Congress, more information on the MID, and links to articles.
  4. As you see new information and articles, share these on all your social networking sites.

This affects all present and future homeowners.  Your call to your Congress member is invaluable.

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

Now is the Time – Buy or Refinance

Interest Rates at Lowest in 40 Years_Landscape

If I helped you purchase a home in the last few years, you will know the author of this article.  It is my lending partyer, Rudy.  I asked if he would put together a piece that could go with the above chart that would demonstrate the perfect storm that is now in place – Low home prices at the same time as record-low interest rates:

 I have to start by saying I truly believe NOW is the time. On a daily basis, I get the opportunity to speak with many people as they do their banking.  Sometimes it’s a quick walk by my office saying “how are rates” and other times “I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me”.  Whatever the question, I do my best to answer it with my experience, professional opinion and in a way that can be understood by anyone.  I enjoy being in the mortgage industry right now as it really couldn’t be easier to assist people save, save, save!

If you haven’t guessed, I sit and work in a Bank.  I have the pleasure to work with a great bank, in fact, it is the number one Retail Mortgage Bank in the county.  Why is this important you ask? Well, for many reasons.  At a time like this, lets call it the recovery; we are trying to find a solid foundation or floor in our market.  This applies to the economy, government, fiscal policy and for our conversation right now, the housing market.  You see, have gone through a pretty big shake…and we now sit in the aftermath.  It is obvious that economists and others alike might argue “are we really through the worst?” and I say it appears so.  Yes, there will be constant news updates about rates going up and down, the number of mortgage applications going up and down, home sales going up and down, certain banks holding back foreclosures or not and we can keep on going from there.  I would like to focus on the simple fact of the cost of money today or more specifically, mortgage rates.

As you can see, the chart here shows that we are at one extremely low range for interest rates.  We can also safely say that we are at historically low rates as well.  It’s funny to see what these changes bring forward in a time where the market is slow, the unemployment rate is too high to mention and the economy, both nationally and statewide, are anything but figured out.   I see on a daily basis what people do best, SHOP SHOP SHOP.  Rates are low, and everything might make sense to buy or refi properties…but our “ebay” or “google” culture has sometimes caused our own worst enemy…indecision.

I can remember when mortgage rates hit 5% again…towards the end of 2008.  The stimulus plans were in effect, first time homebuyer incentives were alive and kicking and the world of mortgage seems to be breathing once again.  As rates continued to slide down…and the “government incentives” started to pull back, it amazes me how much we change.  We all of the sudden start questioning whether now is the best time…or whether we should wait for rates and home prices to get lower.  Does the end of the first time homebuyer credit truly mean there is no purchase market?  I think we need to be aware and view a reminder course in what real estate is and isn’t. 

Homes provide many things for people today: A place to provide shelter, a place to grow a family, a place that we can enjoy the American dream and slowly, over time, create long term wealth.  Homes are NOT instant success stories of “get rich quick schemes”.  True, many people were able to time it JUST right…but what about the other millions and millions that were not?  What happened to buying a house as a long term investment …one that might help pay for college tuition for the kids or even create that equity to buy that dream retirement home?  The answer: Instant Gratification.  I know this might be a comical analogy, but how many people go to work and don’t have access to a loved one throughout the day?  Do we have text?  E-mail?  Cell Phone?  Facebook? Twitter?   I believe that the recent years have pulled us farther and farther away from reality.  We HAVE to save money.  We HAVE to plan ahead for the future.  We can’t risk it all on a loan that requires no money down, no income documentation and no assets?  We cannot expect to have it all, instantly.  Did we really think these “creative” “liar loans” were good for us?  NINA (No income/No Assets) and SIVA (Stated Income / Verified Assets) are really loans of the past and we will take YEARS to recover.  I even believe we will ALWAYS have scars.  

 So, back to rates.  I tell clients every day “Rates are ridiculous”  Some people ask me “is that good or bad” and I laugh as in my head, “I” am sure that it means GREAT.  You see, if we look at the chart, we see just how many years and how many people financed their homes at such a great expense.  Mortgage rates are percentages of our loans.  1% is a BIG difference in payment and in long term interest costs.   Looking at California, our market has ALWAYS been one of the strongest appreciation states and ALWAYS created so much wealth…long term that is.  Markets have gone up and down in the past and always recovered.  We may have been through the harshest downturn other than the great depression, but we WILL recover.  When we consider and decide that it IS the right time in our life to buy a home, or a great opportunity to pull cash out and pay off debt and/or fix up the house, or even simply reduce the loan term, rate, and/or payment, we start to see the real analysis. 

 In the 80’s, there were many changes to the IRS tax code.  Specifically, we were left with one major tax advantage…and that was the mortgage interest on our home.  While this isn’t a HUGE amount, it is a pretty significant savings when compared to renting.  IF we sit with our CPA and decide that it is a great way to create a tax shelter, we have a stable job, and have saved up enough money (or maybe a gift from family) to buy a house, I might suggest you REALLY think about it.  Right now, we sit in a space where the government is literally lending money at 0%; this will NOT last forever.  Banks then take that money, add a small profit margin and lend out money to consumers (that would be YOU in this story).   You see, we are able to finance hundreds of thousands of dollars at literally nothing right now and this is due to the economic storm that just swept through.   Know this, when the sea’s are choppy, the intelligent, well researched individuals  prevail.  If you are saying, “I need to know we are at the bottom”…my response “we will know (and everyone will know) six months after it passes”.  I am not suggesting that everyone run to the bank just because rates are low, I am suggesting that we truly complete a financial check up to see what is out there.  NOW IS THE TIME. 

 I encourage all my clients that I meet, whether from a great referral partner like Jenean Hill or long term Wells Fargo Bank customers, to EXPLORE.  Exploring this opportunity is FREE and it only helps satisfy that curious little voice that says “should I/we do it”.  The pre-approval process for a refinance or purchase is simple: Application; Answer a few questions; Turn in Requested Documents.  This is the process that answers the “what if” questions.  I remind you that there is NO COMMITMENT after we complete that process. That is the beauty of the home loan business that I love.  If it makes sense, it makes sense; Numbers don’t lie.  Banks have PLENTY of money to lend – believe me they do.  They simply lend if carefully now.  You must have a good credit rating, stable job and show the ability to repay your loan.  I hate to make it that simple, but it is.  Home loans aren’t the easiest thing to complete these days, but surround yourself with a great team, and you will be able to look back years from now and say “Wow, that was a hectic time, but I/we are so happy we did it!”

 The Real Estate and Mortgage Industry has gone through some pretty major changes in the last 2-3 years.  In my world, there have been more changes to the mortgage underwriting guidelines in the last two years then there have been in the last 25.  Having the right real estate team to surround you, guide you, educate you and explore with you creates nothing but opportunity to be in the best possible financial shape.  Remember one thing, it is our job to EARN your trust and business; not expect it.  It is YOUR job to review the choices and make the right decisions; we are here to show financing options and possibilities, but we do NOT drive the ship. 

 Rates move up and down every day, hour and minute.  The financial market changes due to market news, updates, reports, government actions, global activities and just about anything else that is know on the news.  It is my belief that NOW IS THE TIME.  Rates are, from a bird’s eye view pretty stable and I think we have an opportunity through the rest of the year to take advantage.  I do recommend being proactive to insure we don’t miss out on anything. We are on the path to recovery and the more we heal, the higher the cost of money (interest rates) will be.  Our market will not skyrocket up nor will rates rise quickly; our market can’t take that kind of movement nor will our government allow that to happen.  Financial decisions, however, have a lot to do about timing.  Is now the time for you to explore?  If so, you can reach Rudy at (949) 464-7839

What kind of homeowners choose to default?

Underwater homeownersI know this sounds a lot like my last post, but it is different enough that it is worth reading.  More and more homeowners who are borderline hardship cases are opting to put their homes on the market so that the bank will consider the offer they receive and negotiate a short sale with them.  Here is what Kenneth Harney has to say about this:

People who walk away from their mortgages are not as calculating as you’d think, says Brent T. White. Memo to the bank: Take this underwater, money-gulping house and go ahead and wreck my credit for years to come. I’m walking away no matter what.  Why? That’s the provocative question posed by Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law professor whose academic paper on the fast-spreading “strategic default” phenomenon last year drew sharp criticism from lenders and Wall Street, who viewed him as the Pied Piper of the walk-away movement.  Read more:,0,2614547,print.story

Official Credit Score Will Cost You, but Fake One Won’t

 credit score icon

Savvy consumers know they can get a free copy of their credit reports at But can you get a credit score for free?

No, you generally can’t get your FICO credit score free. FICO is the brand name of the three-digit rating between 350 and 850 that most resembles what lenders will use to grant you loans.

But you can get a free “FAKO” score. These fake FICO scores come from credit-score simulators or off-brand scoring models, and they are useful for people who want to keep tabs on their creditworthiness without paying a fee.  Read on:


California homebuyer tax credit going, going….

I found this article today and it matches up with what I heard one week ago at my California Association of Realtors contract training class.  Although the author is in the Bay Area, it applies to us as it is a State Fund.going_going_gone

The popular state homebuyer tax credit returned Saturday after running out of money last year in just four months. But if you’re interested in obtaining the tax break to help reduce the cost of buying a home, you better act fast.

Funding for the credit could be used up within three weeks, said Michael Tessaro, a Realtor with East Bay brokerage J. Rockcliff Realtors and a director with the California Association of Realtors.

Association economists are projecting that funding set aside for the tax credit will be used up quickly, thanks to an expected flood of delayed closings by homeowners who hope to qualify for both the state and federal credits.  Read on:

Busiest O.C. Homebuying in 4 Years

I read this article in the Orange County Register and wanted to share it with you.  It represents exactly what the market has been like here in Saddleback Valley – Lake Forest, Mission Viejo and on.  I must say that it is a good time to be listing homes.  There are a lot of buyers right now and nice looking listings that are market right can sell within a few days and often even before they come on the market.  Right now I have 2 condo listings that might be coming up in the next few days.  If you are finding that a traditional real estate agent isn’t working to get you into escrow and you want to sign up for my “Free Home Securing Services”, let me know ASAP.  I have one opening this week for a buyer (and several spots for sellers).

For the 22 business days ending April 14 – DataQuick’s latest homebuying report — Orange County saw …

For the 22 business days ending April 14
Slice Price Yr. ago Sales Yr. ago
Houses $510,000 +20.0% 1,690 +10.1%
Condos $300,000 +20.0% 831 +13.5%
New $527,000 +17.1% 156 +48.6%
All O.C. $435,000 +15.4% 2,677 +12.9%
  • Shoppers buy 2,677 residences — that is +12.9% vs. year-ago buying activity. (From 1997-2006, monthly sales averaged 4,304 per month.)
  • At the current pace, this will be the busiest April since 2006.
  • Builder’s new homes sales were 6% of all residences sold in the period vs. 4% a year ago. From 1990-2008, builders did 15% of the selling.
  • $435,000 median selling price that is +15.4% vs. a year ago and -33% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000.
  • The most recent median is 18% above the cyclical low hit in January 2009 at $370,000 — a current bottom that was -43% below the peak.
  • Prices fell on a year-over-year basis from Sept. 2007 through August. (Worst at -31.5% in August 2008.)
  • Single-family homes resell for 31% less than their peak pricing (June ‘07) while condos sell 36% below their peak in March 2006. Builder prices for new homes are 39% below their February ‘05 top.
  • Single-family homes were 70% more expensive than condos in this period vs. 70% a year ago. From 1990-2008, the average house/condo gap was 57%

Waiting Can Hurt You – 30-Year Mortgage Rates Back Under 5%, But Not For Long.

E. Scott Reckard – RISMEDIA, February 13, 2010—(MCT) –   Average rates for traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have fallen below 5% again, Freddie Mac recently reported.

The giant mortgage buyer’s weekly survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday, pegs the average rate nationally at 4.97%, with 0.7% of the loan balance on average paid in upfront charges, or points. Last week, 30-year rates averaged 5.01%. That continues a trend so far this year in which the average has come in either just above or just below 5%.

The survey asks 125 lenders across the country the rates they are offering to borrowers with good credit and a 20% down payment, or at least 20% equity for those refinancing their home loans.

The approaching end of Federal Reserve purchases of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgage bonds is expected to result in rate increases later this year. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates the typical interest rate might rise by half a percentage point. If the average 30-year fixed rate rose a half-point to 5.5%, that would still be unusually low by historical standards.

Nonetheless, such an increase would make any home purchase somewhat more expensive and could put an end to a continuing mini-boom in refinances, which have accounted for about two-thirds of home-loan applications this year.

Let’s get specific here.  I have a Lake Forest, California home buyer who has not been keeping up with my blog or newsletters and is facing this scenario: Let’s say that you are approved for a maximum loan amount of $400,000 to purchase a $500,000 home.  If you wait a few months buy that home, it is likely that its price will go up $10,000 to $510,000. You will now need to find an extra $10,000 to add to your $100K (20%) down-payment. No one likes to see that happen and most of us cannot earn money that quickly.  This isn’t the bad news, though.  If you look at the chart, you will see what happens when the interest rate increases from 5% to 5-1/2%.  In order to keep the same monthly payment of about $2150/month, you will now only qualify for a loan amount of $380,000.  That means that you will require an additional down-payment of $30,000 to purchase this same house.  Your down payment just increased 30% from $100K to $130K. 

Buyers who got used to the idea that ‘waiting’ would keep more of their hard earned money need to catch up with the  market and understand that homes under $600-$650K started increasing in price almost a year ago. “Waiting” is now counter-productive and can cost more and more each day.  If you are looking for homes closer to a million dollars, this is not necessarily the case.  Each market has its own dynamics.  To find out what is happening in your price range, just give me a call. 🙂PS0228

Can you think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to work with the #1 Real Estate Broker in Southern California?

The more things change in Real Estate, the more things stay the same.  While the rules of buying and selling real estate vary day by day as of late.  One thing doesn’t.  That is the track record of First Team Real Estate and Jenean Hill.  When you are considering which firm and representative will have the most resources to help you get top dollar for your home, think about this:

  • First Team is the #1 independent Real Estate company in Southern California according to the RIS Media Power Broker Report.
  • First Team has sold more Orange County million dollar homes than any other broker according to 2009 Trendgraphics.
  • First Team is the #1 Selling Unit Broker in the city of Lake Forest.

  • Jenean Hill is the #1 First Team Lake Forest/92630 Broker

Feel free to look at the testimonials section on the right column and decide for yourself if a meeting with “First Team Jenean” would be the first step to putting more equity dollars in your pocket or beating out the offers on your first choice dream home.