January 2009: My Market Forecast

 

crystal-ball

It has become tradition to take out my crystal ball at the beginning of each year and try to foresee the future, but also re-cap my previous year’s market projections.  New to this year, however, I hope you too will share your own market opinions through an on-line survey (see below).  Enjoy my market guesses for what they are (guesses!), and I will look forward to hearing yours.

As always, I simplify my housing market forecasts into 3 categories: supply, demand, and interest rates.

 

Supply
‘08 Projection: “I expect only homeowners who must sell their homes will be trying to do so in 2008, which will help prices stabilize by the end of the year.
‘08 Result: In Sacramento County, the median home price fell $100,000 to a new decade-low of $180,000.  But, during the 1st half of the year they fell markedly faster than the 2nd half of 2008, showing a slow-down of price drops.  From September to December, the median home price fell less than $15,000.  Additionally, there were 28% fewer homes up for sale in Dec. 2008 compared to Dec. 2007.
’09 Projection: Supply will remain low until April because many banks opted to not foreclose on properties during December and January.  Once those back-logged repossessed homes hit the market in the spring Sacramento will likely see a large number of homes for sale.  If I had to guess, the number of homes for sale will roller-coaster up and down throughout the year, and end up close to it’s current level.

 

Demand
‘08 Projection: “Buyer demand will…strengthen…as buyers get off the sidelines and pounce on amazing deals the Sacramento region has not seen since 2003.
‘08 Result: Contrary to main-stream media, gobs of Sacramento home shoppers bought in 2008.  According to the Sacramento Association of REALTORS, 81% more homes were bought in 2008 compared to 2007.  Most of these homes were at the entry-level price ranges (which largely contributed to the big fall of the median home price).  First-time home buyers and investors alike found many affordable homes with monthly mortgage payments comparable to a monthly rent payments.
’09 Projection: While the global economic crisis has raised fears as to whether home prices will continue to fall, I believe low prices, low interest rates, and tax incentives will keep entry-level buyers extremely active in 2009.

 

Interest Rates
‘08 Projection: “Mortgage rates will be incredibly low…as the economy will slow further…with sluggish employment and consumer spending figures.” 
‘08 Result:  Mortgage rates ended 2008 at ridiculously low levels, with 30 year fixed mortgages below 5%.  Most zero and low down-payment programs went away last year, leaving only well-qualified borrowers with these super-low rates.
’09 Projection: With continued government intervention, mortgage rates will remain well below 6% for the year.  Lending guidelines will remain tight, but those able to qualify will have unbelievable refinance and home buying opportunities.

Looking back, my crystal ball was working fairly well in 2008.  As our economic challenges widen and government interventions heighten, the housing market will be increasingly dynamic and unpredictable.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to predict and I would love to hear your market predications.  Fill out this brief survey, and I will compile and share the results of these surveys with you next month.

Regardless of the market’s behavior, I look forward to providing insightful, professional service to you and those you refer me in 2009.

November 2008: My Favorite Quotes from Leaders

7765_photo1_fuRegardless of how you voted in this year’s presidential election, I hope you had the opportunity to watch Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on election night.  Even though he will lead our country in a time of enormous doubt and difficulty, his speech was laced with optimism and potential for a “brighter day.”   It reminded me of some of my favorite quotes from other leaders in history:

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.”
-Winston Churchill
Our economy has fallen flat on its face as of late.  Many have predicted Depression-esque conditions that will plague our country for years to come.  I encourage you to ignore those dramatizations.  While many consider our certain elements of our economy and banking system as failing, their circumstances are not fatal.  They will recover, and that determination to recover is what makes America great.

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
-Dwight Eisenhower
Our government has been handing out bailout packages left and right.  With all of this bailout talk, it would be easy for us as individuals to put our hands out to the government and ask “wheres MY handout?”  We are privileged to live in a country with such means, but do not let this privilege cloud the principles that make the independent, can-do spirit of America so strong.

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”
-Albert Einstein
I LOVE this quote.  As you may have come to know about me, I believe attitude is everything. Our country faces a difficult road ahead in economics, politics, and war.  You too may be facing challenges with an unstable job outlook or ailing health condition.  Don’t let these problematic events take away your positive attitude, for doing so will make your challenges even harder to overcome and bring on additional ones in the future. 

“Recession is when a neighbor loses his job.  Depression is when you lose yours.”
-Ronald Reagan
Keep in mind that our economy’s struggles are affecting us all differently.  Just because your job, finances, and investments have remained in tact doesn’t mean that others have fared as fortunately.  While news anchors may debate the definition of a recession, be considerate to others whose hard times are all the evidence they need to understand the state of our economy.

I’m not talking about politics; I’m talking about attitude.  Like President-elect Obama said about our county’s future; “the road ahead will be long; the climb will be steep.  But America I have never been more hopeful that we will get there.”  Adopt the right attitude in testing times, and you will prevail.

Next month I will elaborate on our current economic challenges and how they could very well mean good things for Northern California housing in 2009.  Until then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

October 2008: Setting the Record Straight About Credit Markets

panicbutton2Does the current economy have you reaching for the panic button?  If so, I hope to calm your nerves and set the record straight about credit markets.  If you have two eyes and a pulse, you’ve undoubtedly been reading and watching reports about the wacky economic conditions our world is facing.  These stories paint the picture of frozen banks refusing to lend to anyone: small businesses can’t get loans, the state of California can’t get loans, and home buyers can’t get loans.  I don’t know about businesses and governments, but I am here to tell you that home buyers are not only getting loans in the current “credit crisis”, but they are getting competitive rates as well.  Let me repeat myself: mortgage loans are still competitive & available for qualifying borrowers.

The only way I know how to prove this is to give you the examples of clients I am working with RIGHT NOW:

1.) 1st-time home buyer Mr. B has a 714 credit score and can document his income.  He has a 5% down payment that he is taking out of his retirement accounts penalty-free.  His rate is currently locked and approved for a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5% without paying any additional mortgage insurance.
2.) 1st-time home buyer Ms. S is a Veteran who qualifies for 100% financing from the federal government.  The seller is paying her closing costs too, so she is buying her home with literally no money down and obtaining a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5%.
3.) 1st-time home buyer Mr. C has a marginal credit score of 646.  However, his 10% down payment along with his $40K in the bank are allowing him to qualify for a 30-year fixed loan at 6.5% with monthly mortgage insurance.
4.) Home-buyer Mr. L has a 20% down payment and awesome credit.  He is obtaining a 30-year fixed rate at 6.00%.

I emphatically share these examples to give you the straight scoop.  Some of these clients are not “perfect” borrowers, yet financing is still available to them.  While the media, who is feeding off our fear, is convincing us our global economy has screeched to a halt, their message is not entirely true.  I assure you that the mortgage industry is still “liquid,” meaning money is flowing from banks to borrowers at healthy rates.

This letter hopefully counters the barrage of over-inflated hysteria you’ve been reading about credit markets; specifically the mortgage market.  I don’t doubt the fact our economy is facing serious and unprecedented issues, but I refute the over-generalizations that are being made about credit markets.  This is not an attempt to find a silver lining, but rather a simple matter of fact.  Mortgage financing is still readily available to help home buyers take advantage of the low prices in our housing market.

Rather than reaching for the panic button, I urge you to stay grounded through these uncertain times.  Don’t follow the herd out of fear.  Lastly, take action to help fix our country’s troubles; get to the polls on November 4th and make a difference.

August 2008: Challenges

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“When you contend with challenges that test your strength, you move more surely towards the top”
“Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”

These quotes have encircled my life and those around me as of late.  Many of my close friends are going through challenging times: financial, relational, and health. Life is rarely a cake-walk, and I’d bet you have some significant challenges facing you right now too.

Some challenges we go looking for.  We may challenge our physical abilities by taking on a work-out regimen.  Or perhaps our intellect by going back to school.  We may challenge ourselves in our faith and ideals to evaluate our moral compass and to avoid becoming sedentary in our beliefs.  Challenges keep us sharp, make us passionately strive for improvement, and move us “more surely towards the top.”

Challenges can also come looking for us.  Case in point: Spencer, my friend who is battling cancer, is about to face his biggest challenge yet on his road back to a healthy life.  On September 5th, he will go to Stanford Hospital to undergo his final phase of his bone marrow transplant to remove the cancerous cells causing his multiple-myeloma.  The near lethal doses of chemo will come close to killing him, but then his body will come back stronger and cancer-free.  Up until Spencer’s challenge, I considered the “whatever doesn’t kill you” line a trifle way of finding the silver lining of a bad situation.  Spencer’s experience, however, has changed my perception of this quote.

For those of us outside the vortex of the challenge, they are words of encouragement.  For those of us facing the challenge, it is a mantra to help you get through the pain.  For those of us who conquer the challenge, this quote is a life-defining testimonial.

If you feel inclined, I urge you to send your thoughts, prayers, and emails to Spencer prior to and during his stay at Stanford.

Challenges are opportunities to learn, endure, and strengthen.  Just don’t allow them to kill your spirit or positive attitude along the way.

June 2008: Get Out There…In Your World

I’ve been getting some pretty good mileage off of Spencer’s “get out there” message.  Last month I encouraged us all to “get out there” in our communities and make a difference.  I had no idea that the message would hit so close to home for me, and that I would be reminded that my idea of community was too small in scope.  Let me explain.

 

Three weeks ago, my wife decided to join a group from our church to go to Cambodia and do service work for an orphanage in desperate need of some facilities improvements.  This type of humanitarian effort is something she has wanted to do for some time, and also embodies how big Mary’s heart is.  She left on Father’s Day and will be there for two weeks.

 

Talk about getting out there!  She is reaching out to her community, which in her eyes is the whole world.  When I consider the word “community” I think Folsom, but Mary is a much worldlier person.  We recently had a discussion about creating a family mission statement, and one of the first things she wanted was the goal of raising “responsible citizens of the world.”

 

“Getting out there” in our communities has a much bigger meaning to me now.  We all should strive to be responsible citizens of the world.  That may mean physically getting out there like Mary, or making concerted efforts to responsibly consume our world’s limited resources, or simply being aware of world issues rather than ignorantly burying our heads in the sand.  Get out there, and become a responsible citizen of our world.

May 2008: Get Out There…In Your Community

In last month’s post I passed along encouraging words from Spencer for all of us to “get out there” and enjoy life.  I hope you took Spencer’s encouragement seriously, and that you are looking for a good work/life balance that I too am striving for.  I would like to stay with the “get out there” theme this month as well, but in a different light.

 

I have had the opportunity over the last several months to get out and become involved in my community.  For the last nine months, I have participated in Folsom Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy.  It is a class geared towards developing leadership skills, and I am honored to have been a part of the 20+ enriching sessions.  As a result of this academy, I have become involved in the Folsom community in a number of ways; ways I never thought possible prior to my participation.  My involvement has also increased my awareness, appreciation, and connection to a town I’ve called home all my life. 

 

Additionally, I am currently working with a group of my peers to create a Young Professionals Organization within our community where young professionals can fellowship and develop in their career pursuits.

 

This process of getting out there and becoming involved in my community has been a very rewarding experience.  I encourage you to get out into your community and become involved in causes, benefits, and projects that interest you.  You will become a fuller person, your career will indirectly benefit from your involvement, and your world will be a better place.  Get out there, and make a difference.

April 2008: “Get Out There” a la Spencer

Spring is here!  It’s expected to be 80 degrees this weekend in Sacramento, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  I read something a few weeks ago that I wanted to pass on.  It was written by Spencer, my friend I wrote about in February, on his blog.  He was encouraging everyone to “get out there” and enjoy the weather, and life in general.  Here it is:

 

Yesterday’s (weather) was perfect…It seems not so long ago that a day like this would be all I would need for an excuse to get out and enjoy. Somewhere along the way things like paying mortgages and health care bills, meeting deadlines and closing deals became more important. Now I see the error in my way. The fact is that we are all living on a finite schedule and at the end I am going to measure our life not in the things that I have acquired or the amount of money I have made but in the experiences I have had and the differences I have made in other people’s lives. I can not make a difference in someone else’s life unless I am centered. The way that I get centered is to enjoy perfect moments. Days like yesterday…are so conducive to that perfect moment that there should be NO excuse not to get out and enjoy them.

You may be reading this right now and thinking “yeah sounds good but I have got to do XYZ thing or else blah blah blah.” Well you may be right but I would encourage you to ask yourself what will really happen if you take the day or the afternoon or morning off? I mean really what would happen? There is someone willing to watch your kids or do a trade with you. Your clients will either not know or understand that you need to take some time for “personal issues.” Your work will not bust you for taking a sick day. I can guarantee that all that stuff that you are working on will still be there when you get back and the only difference is that you will be refreshed and ready to go to work…

So call your friends, make a plan and get out and enjoy. While you still can…Go ahead, I give you permission. Your spouse will understand. The people around you will appreciate it because you will mellow out a bit and god knows you need it. Do this and I promise you this, you will be happier and better for it, and you will feel better than those who choose not to do it.

His message really inspired me.  For the next several weeks, Mary and I have made a conscious effort to “get out there” and do what we love most…travel.  We plan on going on vacation with some friends to Donner Lake, then with family to Dillon Beach, and then the two of us are off to Switzerland.

 

I encourage you to take Spencer’s message to heart, get out there, and live it up!

March 2008: C’est la vie

This time of year is a time of great anticipation for me.  I can’t wait for the warm weather to arrive.  When late winter teases us with a few days of sunshine I don my shorts and sandals, convinced that spring is here to stay.  Then suddenly the rain clouds settle in again and I wonder if spring will ever come.  C’est la vie…

 

“Such is life”…the weather can be a reflection of the tides of life.  Consider these little nuggets:

 

The weather never asks us what we want.  It has its own agenda.  C’est la vie…we never ask for many of the things we get in life, especially the bad things.  We must deal with the rain clouds of our lives, and have faith that a rainbow is just around the corner.

 

The weather is never constant.  It is always changing.  C’est la vie…no two days are the same, nor would we ever want them to be.  We all need to think about this blessing of change the next time we find ourselves complaining about the weather, or life in general.

 

There isn’t a single place on Earth where it never rains, or a place that never receives sunlight.  C’est la vie…we all have our ups and downs in life, and none of us are blessed with permanent happiness, nor cursed with constant depression.

 

The rain is a necessity in this world.  Without it, our flowers would never bloom.  C’est la vie…the struggles we face and the obstacles we overcome are what make us human.  Without them, we would not be the dynamic people God intended us to be.

 

The weather can be transcendent to each of us.  If you’re soaking up the sun in your life right now, that’s great!  Be thankful for your happiness everyday.  Or, if you have a rain cloud hovering over you, hang in there.  Your sunshine will come soon.

 

As I have collected my thoughts for this letter, I have found myself inspired to embrace this unpredictable weather, knowing that consistent sunshine will be here in no time.  I hope that you too find inspiration from this letter.  If not, at least you now know what “C’est la vie” means.

February 2008: Living in Gratitude

Gratitude…that has been the name of the game for the last several weeks.  Most of the time we find ourselves grateful for when life is rolling right along and everything is going our way.  To the contrary, I am currently witnessing a great friend live in gratitude while being dealt the worst news of his young life.  This friend has been diagnosed with cancer on the eve of his 41st birthday. 

 

You may know this friend…he is my co-worker of seven years, Spencer.  In the face of this battle with cancer, a battle that so many of us would face with anger, resentment or self-pity, I have witnessed Spencer begin this battle in gratitude.  He isn’t grateful to have cancer, but rather he is grateful for the circumstances, tools, and people in his life that will allow him to fight this battle fiercely.  He is grateful he will fight this battle instead of a loved one.  He is grateful for the support he has around him that won’t let him fight this battle alone.  He is grateful he has reasons to fight.

 

As for me…I am grateful to have the opportunity to watch Spencer be a shining inspiration to those around him during this difficult time.  He reminds me to not face adversity with fear, but with gratitude.  He reminds me that it is attitude, not actions or accomplishments, that makes a great man, father, leader, and friend.  Spencer has been all of these things during the best of times.  Now I get to watch him be so during the hardest of times.

 

I pass this story and my feelings towards it on to you for three reasons:

1.) I want you to keep Spencer, his wife, and two young daughters in your prayers;  

2.) I want you to be as inspired by Spencer as I am; and

3.) I want to challenge you to face your adversities in gratitude. 

 

As Mary, my wife, so eloquently said this past weekend…the importance is not what happens in our lives, but rather how we handle life as it happens to us.  We are all faced with things in our life we didn’t ask for, deserve, or control.  What exactly these things are is immaterial.  Instead, our character is defined by how we decide to approach these challenges life throws our way. 

 

When life gets rough, will you chose to live in fear, anger, isolation, confusion, and bitterness…or in gratitude?  I promise you that single attitudinal choice will do more to determine the outcome of your battle than any other action. 

Choose well.

December 2007: Life-To-Do List Revisited

This time of year is perfect for reflection, appreciation, and goal-setting.  As 2007 comes to a close and 2008 rapidly approaches, I can’t think of a timelier topic than a Life To-Do List. 

 

In August of 2006, I wrote about creating a Life To-Do List, and how I believe it’s a tool to help you discover yourself and identify what’s truly important to you.  As you may know, my Life To-Do List is one of the most important internal compasses, other than core moral values, that guide me.  I spent serious time focusing with myself and discussing with Mary the things I really want to see happen in my life, and then I made a list of these aspirations.  Some of the items on my list I wonder if they will ever come true, but I recently realized that when it comes to goals, if you dream it; they will come.  I know it sounds corny, but let me share with you my experiences with my Life To-Do List and encourage you to create your own Life List.

 

Last August, I shared some of the items on my list.  Taking a sailing vacation in the Caribbean and running a marathon were on that list, and they were two major events that I wondered if they’d ever occur.  A sailing trip is quite an expense, and it requires many things to fall perfectly into place for it to happen.  And a marathon…I’ve never been a strong runner so the idea of running 26.2 miles was a distant hope.  I had no substantial plans to tackle either of these goals, but nevertheless, both were things I wanted to see happen in my life, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to put them on the list and see what happens.

 

To make a long story short, Mary & I went sailing in the Caribbean with some of our best friends in June, and I completed my first marathon at the 25th annual California International Marathon earlier this month.  In one short year, two monumental events that I thought may never happen actually transpired, I believe, simply because I had my internal compass set on the goals that were truly important in my life.320-img_0645

 

 

As you reflect on 2007 and look forward to 2008, I challenge you to dig deep into your soul and identify what you would like to see happen in your life.  Create your own Life To-Do List, and watch how it guides your life in extremely powerful ways.

 

Enjoy your goal-setting process for 2008, and dare to dream big!