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Is Zillow a Reliable Real Estate Resource?

Can you trust Zillow as a home search and home evaluation tool? Today, I'll explain why you need to be wary of both as a home buyer or seller.

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Can you trust Zillow as a reliable tool for a home search or home evaluation? In general, I'd say it's not very good for either.

Zillow's home evaluations come from the tax assessors, which is usually just general information regarding square footage and the number of rooms in a house, but it doesn't take into account things like upgrades, additions, or even the location of the house. What about the beautiful pictures on Zillow? Those are taken by the agent, not by Zillow.

You'll also notice there may be multiple agents listed next to the listing on Zillow. Why is this? Typically, the top agent is the home's actual listing agent while the others have just paid to be there. You have to be careful because these agents might not know the area, and they definitely don't know the house. Make sure you contact the home's listing agent for questions.

Unlike the MLS, Zillow isn't updated on a daily basis.

You also need to be careful with Zillow because listings aren't updated on a daily basis, so it's not as accurate as the true area MLS. You might see listings on Zillow that have sold, are pending, or are no longer active for this reason. If you want accurate information about a listing, it's better to contact a real estate professional who knows the area and the houses that you're looking for.

If you have any more questions or you're thinking about buying or selling a home in the Southern California market, give me a call or send me an email. I'd be happy to help!

2 Great California Down Payment Assistance Programs

Barry Krevoy from Finance of America Mortgage is here to discuss two great programs that help buyers who can’t quite afford a down payment: CHDAP and the Golden State program.

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Recently, one of my clients asked me about a lease on a property. When I asked if he was interested in buying it, he said that he couldn’t afford the down payment. Today, Barry Krevoy from Finance of America Mortgage is here to discuss different down payment assistance programs available in California.

One great down payment assistance program is called CHDAP, which you can use with a conventional or FHA loan. You could also look at the Golden State program, which is actually a grant program. If you go with the Golden State program, that money does not need to be paid back.

Both of these programs are income-driven, so you need to meet certain income caps in order to qualify. Some of these limits vary depending on which county you live in. For example, in Orange County, if you are single, you have to make less than $85,450 a year to qualify for the CHDAP program, which provides down payment assistance up to 4% of the purchase price.

As for the Golden State program, single homeowners have an income cap of $97,750.

If you have more than one person in the home, CHDAP income requirements go up to $97,650 for two people, $109,850 for three, $122,050 for four, and $131,000 for five. It doesn’t matter whether you are married, have two kids, three kids, or your mother-in-law has moved in. CHDAP looks at the number of people living in the home, not the number of dependents you claim on your taxes.

You can get into a home with little to no money down.

Many millennials just out of college would definitely qualify for this program. If you are making less than $100,000 a year, you won’t be out looking at $700,000 homes. CHDAP is a great program to help millennials into townhomes or small, single-family residences. It can also help people get into a home when they make good money but haven’t saved enough for a down payment yet.

The only downside to CHDAP is that you will get a slightly higher interest rate. However, there is a no prepayment penalty. If you are on the loan for at least six months, you can always refinance later to take advantage of a lower interest rate. Barry has helped many people do just that.  

If you use an FHA loan or conventional loan, the lender can give you a credit to help with closing costs. However, that is not the case with the Golden State program or with CHDAP. If you do use either of these programs, your agent could negotiate for the seller to give you a closing cost credit instead of the lender.

So, even though you might not have enough money for a down payment, there are options available to help you get into a home. If you have any other questions for Barry, you can reach him at or 949-735-4009. You can also visit his website,

As always, if you have any real estate questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I would be happy to help you!

Debunking 8 Common VA Loan Myths

If you’re a veteran looking to purchase a home, there are a few myths about the VA loan benefit that I’d like to clear up for you.

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I just closed a deal with one of my veteran clients not too long ago and I realized that there is a lot of confusion out there about VA loans. Today I’d like to debunk some of these myths for you so that you know what to expect when obtaining a VA loan.
Myth #1: Veterans have only one chance to use their VA loan benefits. This is false. This loan can be used more than one time, allowing you to purchase and sell homes as you please.
Myth #2: VA loans can only be used to buy a house. This is also untrue. You can actually use a VA loan to refinance a property, in some cases, up to 100% of the value of the property.
Myth #3: VA loans are small and only ideal for starter homes. In reality, if you want to buy a $1.5 million home, a VA loan will actually let you do that. The one thing to remember is that you’ll have different limits on the VA loan depending on the state and county that you’re in. For instance, in Southern California, LA, and Orange County, the limit is $625,500; you can purchase a million-dollar property; you’ll just have to make up the difference.
Myth #4: VA loans take too long to process. For real estate agents out there that like to promise a 30- or 45-day close of escrow, it’s possible to do this for VA loans, but I would suggest aiming for the 45-day close just because there are not a lot of VA loan appraisers in certain counties and states throughout the country. For this reason, it may take a property a bit longer to be appraised, but the deal should close fairly easily afterward.

It may take a bit longer to get a VA loan appraisal.
Myth #5: Veterans have to be discharged or retired to use their VA loan benefit. Active veterans can actually use their benefit, even if they’re going to be discharged in the near future.
Myth #6: Veterans serving away from home or overseas cannot get a loan until they can return to occupy the property. If a veteran is active and deployed, as long as they are back within that year or have a spouse that would occupy the home while they are serving, this benefit is still available to them.
Myth #7: Members of the Reserve or the National Guard are not eligible. This is also false. As long as they were honorably discharged after six years of service, members of the Reserve or National Guard can use their benefit.
Myth #8: VA loans require perfect credit scores. Some lenders would ideally like to see a credit score of about 620 or higher, but there are lenders out there who will do it for a credit score as low as 580.

Don’t believe these common myths about VA loans! If you have any other questions about VA loans or Southern California real estate in general, give me a call, shoot me a text, or send me an email. I’d be happy to help you!

What Market Trends Have We Been Seeing Lately?

As we head into the fall market, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about some market trends I’ve been noticing lately in Southern California. Quite a lot has changed lately.

Last year’s average home price was $614,000. This year, the average home price has risen to $641,000. This is a substantial 3.5% to 5% increased. The average mortgage payment has gone up as well, from $2,800 last year to $2,900 this year depending on the type of house.

As far as some of my preferred lenders are concerned, the interest rates are still absolutely phenomenal and near 3.5% in most cases. If you need to get pre-approved or just speak with a lender, I can recommend some great lenders to you. They will help you get the lowest price possible.

We have had about 6,600 homes listed on the market and have sold 2,700 of them. Right now, we have about 2.7 months of inventory available, putting us in a great seller’s market. Pending sales and closed sales are up as well.

The time to make a move is now.

Although we are in a seller’s market, homes are taking slightly longer to sell. We were seeing homes sell in around 42 days this summer, but right now they are taking an average of 67 days to sell. The market is starting to flatten out for fall.

For those of you looking to put your home on the market, you should act quickly. As we continue into the fall and winter season, it’s going to take longer and longer for homes to sell. If you are looking to sell, it’s important that you price your home slightly below or right at market value. The price gap between what people ask for and what they’re netting at closing is around $9,000.

The market may have slowed down a little bit, but it’s still a great time to buy or sell. If you have any questions or would like to take advantage of this market, give us a call or send us an email. We would love to hear from you!

Can Home Buyers or Sellers Trust Zillow?

Is Zillow the best tool for your home search or home valuation? In general, I would say no, and there are a few reasons why.

First of all, Zillow gets its information for home value from the tax assessor’s office. The tax assessor usually has general information about the square footage of the home. Zillow has no way of knowing how many upgrades or additions you have made to the house. It can’t tell if your house is situated on a corner lot or by a high traffic area. Ultimately, you cannot rely on Zillow for an accurate home value.

You cannot rely on Zillow for an accurate home value.

You should also keep in mind that the pictures of properties on Zillow are beautiful because they come from real estate agents. Zillow doesn’t go out to the house and take those pictures themselves. Agents take the pictures and put them on their website to promote the home. Again, Zillow does not know about the actual condition of the home.

When you look at Zillow, you might also notice that there is more than one agent pictured next to the listing. Typically, the agent at the top is the listing agent for the home. The other three agents listed beneath that first agent pay to advertise on Zillow. You have to be careful about working with them; they might not know the area and they certainly don’t know about the house. If you are interested in a property or working with an agent in your area, it’s important to contact the actual listing agent for the home.

Finally, Zillow does not always have updated information. Your agent might run a search for a home you found on Zillow only to find that it’s no longer on the MLS. Zillow’s website does not update on a daily basis. The bottom line is that Zillow is not as accurate as the true MLS that real estate agents have access to. If you find a home you like on Zillow, it could already be in escrow, pending, or sold.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how Zillow actually works in the real estate world. If you are buying or selling a home, it is incredibly important that you work with a real estate agent who knows the area and can guide you through the process.

If you have any other questions about Zillow or about real estate in general, give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

I wanted to talk about some programs that are helpful to empty nesters.

I'm joined today by Barry Krevoy from Finance of America to talk about some of these programs. One of the most popular financing option for some older homeowners that are not just refinancing, but buying, is a reverse mortgage. It's a good options for people making $2,000 or $3,000 a month on a pension or social security. A reverse mortgage also makes sense for those who are downsizing.

Reverse mortgages don't work like they used to.

It's important to understand, Barry says, that reverse mortgages don't work the same way they used to. They are FHA-insured loans, and when you make a payment, the interest gets tacked onto the loan. There is no qualifying financially other than showing that you can make payments on the property taxes and insurance. If the homeowner passes away, the people who the home is left to have six months to either sell the home or refinance.

Then, of course, you have the extra money you're bringing in on a monthly basis to do things like pay bills or travel. Go to Europe or take the kids to Disneyland; the possibilities are endless.

If you have questions for Barry, you can call him at 949-735-4009 or email him at

As always, if you have questions about buying or selling a home, feel free to give me a call. Let's talk soon.

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What's the First Step to Buying a Home?

I'm joined today by Barry Krevoy from Finance of America to talk about working with a lender to get pre-approved to buy a house.

According to Barry, you should avoid diagnosing yourself when it comes to real estate. Many people do things in reverse order, in that they look for homes before they even know what they can afford. Sometimes buyers save more money than they need to save or pay off credit cards that they might not need to pay off. These things can actually work against you.

Don't go house hunting before 
knowing what you can afford.

Many people who think that they're not able to buy a home often find out that they are, thanks to down payment assistance programs, or by improving credit with the help of Barry’s preferred credit guy who he swears by. Barry recommends going to see a lender as soon as the thought of buying a home even enters your brain. It may take a year, or it might only take a couple months.

If someone wants to work with Barry or inquire about seeking a home loan, he usually starts off with a consultation to find out what kind of buyer they are. In a short 10-minute conversation, he can get an idea of what he needs, and then he can send a needs list back to you. This probably includes a copy of your taxes, W-2s, driver's license, and other items.

If you have questions for Barry, you can call him at 949-735-4009 or email him at

As always, if you have questions about buying or selling a home, feel free to give me a call. Let's talk soon.

What You Need to Know About Home Warranties

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I get questions all of the time in regards to home warranties, and today I want to answer some of them for you.

A home warranty is something 
I do suggest.

  • What is a home warranty? A home warranty is an insurance policy that covers the home after it is purchased.
  • Do I need a home warranty? A home warranty is something that I do suggest. It will cover most of the major HVAC systems, the plumbing, and the electrical. It will keep the buyer and seller happy so that everyone knows it will be a safe transaction after the purchase.
  • How much does it cost? The typical cost ranges anywhere from $250 to $600, depending on the type of coverage. Most of the standard coverage covers the high-cost items like the HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical, but you can add on additional coverage for things like pool and spa equipment.
  • Who pays for it? It varies from region to region, but most of the time the seller pays for the warranty. This ensures that the buyer is buying a home that will be covered after the term of the escrow. The coverage usually lasts 12 to 13 months.
  • Who’s in charge of paying for the service? The buyer. Like any other insurance policy, there will  probably be a service charge included. In case anything goes wrong, you’ll call the home warranty company and they’ll charge the buyer to have a service person examine the equipment.

A couple of things you might want to look for in a good warranty company are 24-hour-a-day availability and whether they have a customer service line. If they do, that will ensure they’ll get your request as soon as possible and you won’t have to wait until after the weekend.

If you need further information or would like references for home warranty companies, feel free to reach out to by phone, text, or email. I’d be happy to help you.

Join Us at Our Upcoming Golf Tournament

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We wanted to talk to you about a special event we have coming up. In September, we will help sponsor the Stars and Stripes OC charity golf event to benefit veterans, and we are here to give you all the details.

This year’s event will be held at the Tustin Country Club out here in Central Orange County. It will start on September 9th at 8 a.m. and go throughout the day and into the evening. Each $250 ticket includes three meals. Breakfast and dinner will be provided by the Country Club, and lunch from In-N-Out. The ticket also includes gifts, a swag bag, 18 holes of golf, as well as some adult beverages. There will be an auction event to go along with dinner as well.

The event starts at 8 a.m. on September 9th.

If you would like to participate in this great charity event, head on over to to register. If you’re a business owner, you have the opportunity to sponsor the tournament as well.

So get yourself and your swing ready, and join us to support a great cause. If you have any questions, give us a call or send us an email anytime. We look forward to hearing from you.

What Should You Know about the 1031 Exchange?

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A 1031 exchange is a tax shelter used by investors when they sell their investment properties. They can defer all their capital gain in the property they’re going to buy.

Debbie A. Bannister, Vice President of Exchange Resources Inc., is here with us to discuss the 1031 exchange, and what you need to know about it.

A forward exchange with Exchange Resources Inc. for one sale and one purchase has a flat fee of $750, with an additional $250 fee for any additional properties. But why would you use Exchange Resources Inc. to help you with this?

They have become 
experts on tax codes.

First of all, they are a national company. They also have a phenomenal legal staff that clients can access at any time during the exchange. Finally, they have become experts on tax codes, and they can consult and educate their clients to make sure they are following it correctly.

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

Have You Heard of the VIP Perks Club?

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I have been able to help a lot of clients throughout the years, and one way I like to do so is by giving them a VIP Perks Club membership. This is a card that you can use to get more than $365,000 worth of discounts throughout the country at various casual and fine dining restaurants, retailers, and entertainment venues. It’s a way for us to give back and say we appreciate your business, while saving you a little bit of money in the process.

It’s a way for us to give back.

The other aspect of the VIP Perks Club card is that you can use it as a fundraising tool. I can give this to sports teams, churches, schools, and other charities. What I would do is give these cards to all their participants and they can raise money by selling these at a price they choose.

If you want more info about the VIP Perks Club, or if you have any other questions about real estate, give me a call or send me an email. I would love to hear from you.

The Real Story of VA Loans

Today I'm joined by a business partner Barry Krevoy with Finance of America to discuss 3 different topics regarding Veterans Loans.

First, I wanted Barry to address some myths about them. The first he often encounters is that a veteran can only use a VA loan once. Veterans can actually use VA loans an unlimited number of times, as long as it is paid off. The second myth is that VA loans are hard to get. In fact, it's actually one of the easiest loans to get if you qualify. It has the most liberal credit limits, debt-to-income ratio, and there's no mortgage insurance.

Veterans can actually use VA loans 
an unlimited number of times.

Interest rates for VA loans also tend to be less, around an eighth or a quarter lower than conventional loans. With a VA loan, no down payment is needed up to $625,000 in Los Angeles and Orange County. Nationwide, that number is closer to $417,000. Closing costs can sometimes be offset by the lender as well and, of course, sometimes they can be built into the home offer.

There is another myth that people don't want to accept offers with VA loans, for a few reasons. Our goal is to educate Realtors about what a great loan it is. Some Realtors think that it takes longer than 30 days or the borrower may have a tough time coming up with closing costs. All of these things can be addressed, though.

If you have any further questions or you'd like to get a hold of Barry, feel free to reach out. We'd be happy to help you with any questions you have.

What Characteristics Should You Look for in a Realtor?

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Today, we’ll discuss three important characteristics to look for when hiring a real estate professional.

  1. Updated credentials: Typically, an agent starts as a Realtor. Then they can get further credentials, like a relocation certification to help people move nationwide. Agents might also be VA reps, meaning they have a lot of experience helping veterans move and navigate the VA loan process.

  2. Full-time versus part-time employment: You need a full-time agent. An agent who is working two or more jobs won’t have time to meet with vendors, go to showings, or look for homes for you. Full-time agents will be there whenever you need them, and they are working hard behind the scenes to make sure you have a successful transaction. 
  3. Testimonials and reviews: You can simply click here to read testimonials about how I conduct my business. You should look for reviews from past clients, vendors, and other agents to get a clear idea of what it will be like to work with that agent.