It's great living in a real neighborhood like we have here in Old Towne Orange. This compact "take-a-book / leave-a-book" lending library sprouted up on my street over the past few months (the post was the first tell tale sign that something was coming and then the library itself magically appeared yesterday).
I've seen photos of these in Portland and Seattle, but this is the first (and hopefully not the last!) that I've spotted in Old Towne.
If you know of others, let me know (and send a photo if you have one) and I'll post them here!
Short sales, which were very common a few years ago, seemed to have dwindled to a small percentage of the market in Orange County, signs of a strengthening economy and robust real estate market (although a field rep for a major bank indicated to me a few weeks ago that they still have thousands of pre-foreclosure and foreclosure properties on the books).
The interesting thing is that we seemed to have come full circle in processing short sales -- it's become a puzzle, once again! The first short sales were a process of trial and error as the banks were overwhelmed and did not have a process, or trained personnel, in place. All documents pertaining to the short sale had to be faxed to them -- and the whole file, including tax returns, offer docs, financial docs, etc. could easily exceed 100+ pages. Fax numbers changed frequently, and the negotiator with whom one was dealing often changed, and without any notice. And to add to the frivolity, the banks often "lost" one or more of the documents, or several critical pages of the documents, so they would need to be re-faxed, and it took a couple of weeks for their document imaging system to catch up. And of course each lender had their own process, and their own phone/fax numbers, all of which created the need to be extremely organized when listing and selling short sale properties. To keep things interesting, there was the constant threat of foreclosure on the property as well.
After a couple of years of chaos, a few of the major lenders began using an online portal called "Equator". At last there was some organization and process to short sales. Documents could be uploaded directly into the system, and negotiators would email all requests, all of which was documented in the Equator system. Tasks were assigned to parties, and all was very efficiently tracked. In most cases, over a period of several months, one would never speak with the negotiator -- the entire process was conducted via email and uploaded documents -- it actually worked well.
So awhile back I listed another short sale property -- something that I hadn't done for a year or so. My first surprise: No more Equator! I missed the deadline by about a week -- apparently the lender had discontinued use of their service. But at least they had a central place to which to email documents -- while a step down from Equator, it was a step up from having to fax documents (I use an electronic fax service so it's essentially the same process, but seems to be less reliable at the receiving end). So all was proceeding reasonably smoothly when I ran into another glitch: Now they no longer accept emails -- all of the documents have to be faxed in again! Seriously? We just rolled back about 7 or 8 years (and to a technology from 30+ years ago!).
I'm grateful that at least that they're not going back to quill pens, carrier pigeons, and stone tablets -- although it wouldn't surprise me!
Awhile back, I had my good friend Ty Fitzsimmons (www.TysWoodWorking.com) build me a temporary stand-up desk as I have a bad back and wanted to see if standing while working was a better option for me (and as we've all read, "sitting is the new smoking", so didn't want that hanging over my head!). For whatever reason, it didn't work out for me and I quickly abandoned that solution.
Over time, I began alternating between sitting at my desk where my laptop is located, to standing up next to an old chest of drawers upon which my iPad sat (the chest of drawers was apparently in the house when the folks from whom we bought the house purchased the house in 1936 - so it's old!). It was a good compromise except that the chest of drawers was a little too low and so my neck/back would become strained. Eventually, I found an oversized shoe box that elevated my iPad to just the right level, but it seemed like a temporary solution at best. So I contacted Mr. Fitzsimmons again, and he built me a snazzy mini-desk that fits just perfectly! I'm thinking of drilling a hole in the back of the drawer as well such that I can put a small power strip inside and utilize it to charge my phone and my iPad -- and all of the cords will be out of sight.
Now my back feels better and I have a great place to hide not only my phone, but keys, business cards, glasses, and other odds/ends, too.
I've always been comfortable around technology (having sold enterprise-wide software applications for Fortune 500 companies for many years) so when new hardware and software becomes available that appears that it might make the real estate sales process easier and/or more efficient, I'm all in (assuming that it makes sense, of course)! Smartphones, tablets, and faster cell/wi-fi have escalated the possibilities to a new level, regardless of your business -- the new world is all about being mobile, and being able to be responsive to clients, no matter where you are.
A couple of years ago, the ability to sign documents digitally became more common, and the software evolved to allow documents to be easily moved from person to person without the need to print, sign or complete, scan, and email or fax back -- saves time, paper, and is convenient so it speeds up the process. All good so far! Then the software utilized for real estate contracts (ZipForms by ZipLogix) migrated to the iPad and other tablets so the process could be replicated from out in the field -- great concept, but poorly executed, unfortunately.
Standard contracts and documents that originate on the mobile device can be easily prepared for electronic signature and distributed to the appropriate people. But if a person or entity (escrow, for example) emails a document that needs to be e-signed by a client, the software has no way of importing the document into the application. Oddly enough, the desktop version of the software has that capability -- so if I'm in my office I can easily save the file in DropBox, import the document, set it up for electronic signatures, and send it on its way. But if I'm in the field, it becomes a cumbersome work-around process (but can be done). If the developers would simply build a link in the iPad software to access DropBox (sort of the de facto cloud-based file manager) then it would be the perfect solution. The work-around involves remotely controlling my laptop (assuming that it's on or hasn't gone to sleep), importing the document into the desktop version of the software, and then switching back to the iPad app to set up the document for electronic signatures. I've tried, unsuccessfully, a couple of iPad file manager apps that theoretically allow one to upload files from DropBox into iPad websites, but the contract software appears to be too "locked down" to allow it to function with these apps (iUpload and iCab).
To complicate matters, some companies (lenders and escrow companies in particular) are beginning to utilize encrypted email systems. So each email they send requires a login/password to the app to retrieve the email and/or attachment (oh joy!). If the email is in a PDF format, then it's usually not a problem (unless it's in the ever-annoying legal size - a blog for another day) -- but if in another format, EML, for example, then it must be opened in a 2nd app (Klammer). To compound the issue, many companies that send a lot of documents utilize high-speed scanners that push the documents out to their email system rotated 90 deg off of the standard portrait mode. So potentially a document must be opened from within a secure email environment (yet another login/password combo), downloaded to a 2nd app just to open it, and then re-opened from within a 3rd app (GoodReader) to rotate the document so it can be easily read and/or acted upon -- all of which is very time consuming. And if the document needs to be signed, then it has to be saved to DropBox, and the remote control process noted in the paragraph above paragraph has to be invoked. And then back to the iPad software to set the document up for electronic signature.
So the next time that you receive a document for electronic signature, know that it may have traveled through a few processes before it got to you -- but it sure is "convenient", ha ha!
On several occasions I've written about Chapman's proposed expansion from its current cap of 8,700 students to its proposed cap of 11,650 students. The college has recently backed off a bit from that, due to an outcry from the community which extends well beyond the Old Towne Orange area.
But are they really backing off, or just taking a breather? They've indicated that they will continue to move forward with additional on-campus housing -- a good start but as noted in prior posts, they're a long way from being able to make even a small dent in the need for on-campus housing (about 3,200-3,300 beds shy!). And they haven't backed off from wanting to expand the student population from 8,700 to 11,650 -- just postponed it. Get ready for a confrontation, because it's going to happen.
A Pattern is Emerging...
I was looking at some articles from the past -- and Orange/Chapman University have been down this path before, and it's eerily similar to what is happening now:
Don't believe it?
Read the two articles below, one from 2003 and the other from 1989. "Deja vu all over again". The citizens of Orange need to be on their toes, as this proposed expansion may be the deal-breaker.
Not Anti-Chapman University but Anti-Chapman University Growth!
Like many in Old Towne Orange, I've been following with interest the news regarding Chapman University's proposed expansion. I'm not anti-Chapman University, but I'm not in favor of them expanding beyond their current student body count -- even with additional student housing. While it's probably a little too large for the area now, there's likely no putting the genie back in the bottle at this point, so I think it's best to construct additional on-campus housing and absorb as many of the students into that environnment as possible.
And I have to say I'm at least mildly offended by the cartoon that accompanied a recent editorial piece in the Panther (a copy is in the upper left corner of this post). The residents of Old Towne Orange have worked extremely hard over the past 30 years, in both time and treasure, to restore the beautiful homes found throughout Old Towne. If the students of Chapman spent a few years stripping paint, sanding floors, fighting termites, running back/forth to Home Depot, painting (and then painting some more!) they might have a better appreciation of why the local population is resisting additional expansion into our quiet community (and might reflect some of the same haggard characteristics of the old guy in the cartoon!).
A little math: Chapman can currently only house, on campus, approximately 40% of it's current capped population -- a total of 3,480 students. To house 85% of its students, again at the current cap, they would need 7,395 beds -- a deficit of 3,915 beds! The two largest proposed Chapman housing projects of which I'm aware -- one Chapman owned and the other a private enterprise -- only add about 685 beds, and are years away from approval/ground-breaking/completion.
In neighbor-to-neighbor meetings, and various other Chapman-sponsored meetings, they often reference the Claremont Colleges and how the students all live harmoniously with the residents in a similar historic community. I graduated from one of the Claremont Colleges -- there's a huge difference -- the biggest of which is that approximately 95% of the students live on campus, in college-owned housing. From U.S. News and World Report:
- Claremont McKenna College - 94% of students live on campus
- Scripps College - 96% of students live on campus
- Pomona College - 98% of the students live on campus
- Pitzer College - 100% of full time students required to live on campus
- Harvey Mudd - 98% of students live on campus (www.collegeexpress.com)
So a goal of 85% is actually a little underwhelming. Sizewise, the combined enrollment of all of the Claremont Colleges is slightly under Chapman's current cap (about 7,500 students), so it can be done with the proper planning and build out. The result -- most student life, including the after hours partying, is retained within the campus walls. The students are happy, and more importantly, the property-tax-paying residents are happy.
So Chapman, build more on-campus housing (without destroying existing historic structures and neighborhoods) and settle into being a comfortable size and a good neighbor -- then we'll all be happy.
Our neighborhood gets it share of door-to-door solicitors, as I'm sure does yours. After 20 years of answering the door, I'm at the point where I'm firm but polite -- "no sale here!" (save for the occasional girl scout cookies or wrapping paper from one of the neighborhood kids).
But the other day the doorbell rang, I answered the door, and then found myself doing something that I've regretted ever since.
The man at the door was an older gentleman, polite, had a clipboard of some sort, and he could see that I was ready for battle. We got right to the point. He wanted me to sign a petition to get an initiative on the ballot requiring any state bond expenditure over $2B to go to the voters first -- he used the example of the bullet train, of which I'm not a big fan. Sounded legit enough (although I got to thinking later -- wasn't the bullet train on the ballot and voters approved it? Hmm). in any event, after asking him a few more questions, I signed the petition on his very official looking forms and he went on his merry way.
Later, I got to thinking -- couldn't I have "signed" that petition online? If the guy was legit, no problem -- but if not, he now has my name, address, and signature (which is easily scanned) and could later be used for nefarious purposes. Probably the easiest identity theft job ever!
Hopefully, it won't come to that.
Now I'm even more jaded when it comes to those door-to-door sales folks. The next one doesn't stand a chance-- unless they're selling Girl Scout cookies, of course! Then it's me that doesn't stand a chance! :-)
A few weeks ago I wrote about a few listings/listing photos that should make any seller curious about seeing a copy of their own listing -- and not just take their agent's word for it that the listing will accomplish their mutual goal of selling the house (click on the "Real Estate" category to the right and it should pop up).
This morning, I came across a listing that stood out as I had seen it before many years ago. It appears that the owner has put the property back on the market with several different brokers within the past few months. While I expected to see that the listing photos had changed (they had -- although one of the agents used a very inexpensive wide angle lens with which to take the photos, resulting in a "fish-eye" effect, with very curved walls -- like living in a submarine!).
What I didn't expect to see was that the last agent had simply cut/pasted the listing description from a prior listing agent! They couldn't even be bothered to draft a new description of the property! My first thought was that perhaps they worked for the same office/broker and simply transferred the listing from one agent to another (maybe one left the business, or the broker, but the listing remained with the brokerage, for example). Not so -- different offices, different companies, and different brokers. Here's a copy of the pertinent parts of the listing:
And here's the 2nd listing:
And here's an example of a listing photo taken with an inexpensive (cheap!) wide-angle lens - note the curved door frame!:
Title insurance seems to be one of those necessary evils that everyone is forced to purchase when buying or selling a home -- one rarely hears of title insurance claims being paid, so it seems as though the title insurance companies have a pretty good thing going. I suspect that it's a profitable endeavor, but like any insurance, when you need it you reaaallllyyyy need it and you're glad it's there!
While I've been fortunate to not ever had a title claim situation, I have had a few instances where a title company was able to bring resources to an issue that might have become a bigger problem in the future!
Recently, I was involved in a transaction where the seller, when purchasing the property a few years prior (direct from another party for cash - no Realtors or lenders involved), neglected to require title insurance from the seller. When he decided to sell, the lack of a clear chain of title became a huge impediment to the sale, requiring several months of paperwork and affidavits to provide the title insurer for the the current transaction confidence that they could deliver clear title to my clients (in this case, the buyers). So the good news is that my clients are covered should there ever be a title issue in the future -- most likely when they sell the property down the road. They should have smooth sailing at that point
Another situation arose when it was discovered that a portion of the back yard of a property in which I was involved selling was thought to belong to Cal Trans. As it turned out, the property still belonged to the family of the original developer of the tract. My clients were able to use the property, but at some point the owners could put up a fence (and likely get rights to an easement across my client's property for access) to build a billboard, cell tower or other use that was suitable to a long, narrow strip of land adjacent to a freeway.
And the the last example that I recently encountered was a simple structure that a neighbor had built that crossed my client's property line. Fortunately, it was shoddy construction and easily removed (which the City required/enforced upon discovery). Again, the title insurance company sent out an inspector to confirm that the structure was not infringing upon the neighboring property -- title insurance couldn't be obtained until the offending structure was demolished.
So when you see title insurance on your closing statement, whether buying or selling, rest assured that it is a valid service and may very well protect the largest asset that you own!
I ran across the first red tag that I've seen in the City of Orange for non-adherence to the State of California mandated water restrictions.
Watch out -- the water police are out there!
Adjust your sprinklers now if you haven't already!
Thinking about buying a house, car, or other consumer product requiring financing? Or selling a house? "Know Before You Owe" is the the new mantra of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) -- see my blog post from 6/3/2015 for additional information.
Yesterday, I attended a brief seminar on the new rules and guidelines, the majority of which are spelled out on CFPB's website (click here for additional info), but there will be a couple of things of which buyers, sellers, Realtors, escrow companies, and moving companies will need to be aware:
All of the fun begins for loan applications completed on or about October 3, 2015 (or thereabouts -- subject to change per the CFPB).
Every once in awhile, I'll come across a listing that makes me shake my head a little and I think "...is that the Realtor's best work?".
For example this listing below from a few years ago (single photo, trash cans/truck in the photo, and a very negative description for a very typical Old Towne house!):
Or would this be preferable:
Or how about this one from today (and yes, all of the photos in the listing are upside down, with the exception of one):
Of course sideways photos are fairly common as well, along with my favorite (I'll post the next one that I see) the shot out of the car window, with the car rear view mirror proudly in the frame -- the agent can't be bothered to even get out of the car! In the photo below, the agent got out of their car, but then decided to use the car as a tripod (taking up about 1/4 of the shot!).
The moral of the story is, when you list your house, ask your Realtor for a copy of the listing -- you may be unpleasantly surprised!
Occasionally I'll read an article or hear a comment along the lines of "...the Realtors are driving the prices up" or recently, in the case of the Chapman University proposed expansion, "...the Realtors are making big bucks selling houses to Chapman University". I touched on this in a prior blog post, but here's the bottom line:
In Old Towne Orange, basic supply and demand is a huge factor in the price that prospective buyers will pay. We have a limited number of homes for sale, a great location for quality of life and for commuters, and an overall unique environment that attracts buyers. So prices go up -- Realtors aren't driving the prices up. I was in Washington DC last week and looked at a couple of real estate ads just for fun -- by DC standards, living in Orange County is affordable:
A couple of months ago there was speculation that Apple was going to build a car. Apparently they have hired a number of engineers from the automotive industry, and there was a mysterious van driving around Central California that was registered to Apple.
I don't think Apple is interested in building a car at all -- but I do think that they are interested in being the brains of the driverless and semi-autonomous cars that are on the horizon -- maybe a slightly different approach than Google is taking. As cellphones become even more powerful, and are already being integrated into newer automobiles (Apple's CarPlay, or Android Auto for example), wouldn't it be natural to utilize your phone as the hub of the driverless car? It can already communicate wirelessly and transmission speeds will only increase over time (although I've read that current cell connections are not fast enough to support car-to-car communications, but that will rapidly evolve). Not only will the phone be tied into the autonomous driving system within the car, and interact with the other cars, but will also support all of the sensors that deal with engine, drivetrain, and onboard computer (no more "check engine" light, but a complete description of the issue and what it takes to resolve it -- although there are apps that will do some of that today).
If Apple can integrate itself fully into the automobile from the sensors and wiring harness outwards, then it will have almost completely immersed itself into our lives. Even older cars would be able to take advantage of some of the car-to-car networking capability -- just download the app and go! Which also makes me wonder why they are selling wifi connected cars? Isn't the car already wifi enabled once a person with a smartphone hops in?
And if all of that isn't exciting enough, now Elon Musk/SpaceX has announced plans to build a prototype Hyperloop (does that guy ever run out of ideas?). I'm hoping that enough resources will be thrown at that to derail California's bullet train, which seems to be focusing a LOT of scarce resources on a project that will take years, and will likely be obsolete by the time it's completed (if ever). So aside from teleportation, a lot of exciting transportation options (and one not-so-exciting option) are on the horizon!
Revised 6/25/2015: I posted the exact same poll included in the prior blog entry to www.NextDoor.com, which in my case includes Old Towne Orange and several surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to the votes, there were also 86 comments regarding the University's proposed expansion -- the majority of comments were anti-expansion, however there were several comments regarding well-behaved students/tenants and enthusiasm for Chapman's proposed growth -- included in the 86 comments were a handful regarding Orange public schools as well. The results of the poll were as follows (with 86 votes -- more statistically significant than the handful of votes on my blog poll) are shown below. If you would like to read the comments, simply login to www.NextDoor.com to view and/or join the discussion:
I attended last night's City Council meeting and, as expected, there were several speakers that exercised their right to speak for up to 3 minutes on a topic not on the current meeting's agenda. By my count, there were 6 speakers who eloquently spoke for their allotted time regarding their opposition to Chapman University's proposed expansion within the City of Orange.
Which got me to thinking -- aside from Chapman University themselves and their consultants, at the Chapman scoping meeting of a week ago, at last night's City Council meeting, and on a long thread on NextDoor.com regarding the subject, I haven't heard anyone overtly support Chapman University's proposed expansion. One online commenter did express that she had 2 different groups of Chapman young men living next to her over a 2-year period and that they were all well behaved and only had the occasional weekend party. So while not directly supporting the expansion (my words -- not hers) she did want to acknowledge that not all of the off-campus students were problematic -- fair enough.
So what do you think? Results are anonymous and you can only vote once (theoretically). If there is enough response by June 15, 2015 I will pass the results on to the City of Orange -- so let your friends know and have them vote!
Drones seem to be everywhere one turns these days, and real estate has not been left untouched. But is there a benefit or are drones just another gimmick to make the listing agent seem "hi-tech" and on top of the latest trends?
While I'm an early adopter of many technologies, I can't jump on the drone bandwagon. Most of the aerial shots of real estate that I've seen look exactly as you would imagine -- a picture from 50 ft. above the house, with a slight fisheye effect from the usually lower-quality wide-angle lens. I suspect if Google Maps/Earth and the the like weren't so prevalent, this might be beneficial, but we've all been able to get the same (or a very similar) perspective for several years by simply logging onto our computers. Would that view compel me as a buyer to consider a particular home over another? Probably not.
Recently I ran into another use of drones in real estate -- during a home inspection. The inspector used a drone to "inspect" the 2nd story concrete tile roof. Most inspectors will use binoculars if the roof is too tall and/or has too steep of a pitch on which to walk. Likewise, they will avoid walking on concrete or clay tiles to avoid breaking them. When the inspector first mentioned it, I thought the idea might have merit -- then I saw the photo (upper left corner of this post) included in the inspection report -- not much substance -- it would have to be a HUGE problem to even be noticed! But I guess now the home inspector has a cool toy that he can write off as a business expense as it's used in the course of his work. He's happy, his wife is happy, and the client believes that their inspector is "hi-tech"! Disclosure: This is not the inspector that I generally use -- this inspector was retained by the buyer of one of my listings.
On August 1, 2015 buyers, sellers, Realtor, lenders, escrow companies, moving companies, and generally anyone involved with the purchase or sale of a property, and its aftermath, will be impacted by the new Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requirements.
On the surface, the revised forms and timeframes are designed to assist consumers in making informed choices -- that's a good thing. I can speak from experience -- when I purchased my first home in the mid 1980s (from the builder) no one mentioned anything about "closing costs". When escrow called me to have me bring in my funds a few days prior to closing, the number that that quoted me was wildly above my expectations -- I had to scramble to come up with a few extra thousand dollars that I wasn't anticipating -- all very stressful! And it's not uncommon to meet with first time buyers today who, after learning of the incremental impact of closing costs, elect to put things off for a few more months while they save up the necessary funds.
The new forms should be more straightforward for buyers to understand (I use a spreadsheet that I've developed to essentially accomplish the same objective - to lay out ALL of the expected upfront and monthly costs involved with purchasing a home) and is to be delivered by the lender to the buyers no later than 3 business days after the loan application is completed/signed. No problem there.
Where the industry might run into issues is with the final set of paperwork required to be delivered to the buyer, which compares the initial estimates with the actual costs -- again, a good thing for consumers (and in an easy to understand format). Where the law of unintended consequences might strike, is that it must be delivered to the buyer at least 3 business days prior to loan docs being signed. While it sounds good in theory, it may cause some issues. A last minute credit from Seller to Buyer that changes the APR by more than 1/8th of a point? New TILA documents and a new 3-day waiting period. "But wait a minute, I've got the movers scheduled for this weekend!" Sorry, you will need to reschedule (if you can). "Escrow forgot to credit me the $$ that we negotiated for repairs!" Oops -- new TILA documents may have to be sent out -- another 3 day waiting period goes into effect. Factor in 2 or 3 houses that need to close concurrently so that buyers and sellers can "move-up" and the situation gets even worse!
It will be interesting!
Click here for additional information.
I attended the scoping meeting last night for Chapman University's proposed modifications to its current Specific Plan. It was kind of a bloodbath, as expected.
On the one hand, Chapman wants to expand its campus and student enrollment, and on the other, residents of Old Towne Orange are pushing back hard.
The primary issue (based upon audience comments from last night and the neighbor-to-neighbor meetings I've attended) appears to be the students themselves. Chapman University does a commendable job of adaptively reusing historic structures, blending new structures into the current environment, and restoring historic homes that they own near campus. But there are enough problematic students living in the Old Towne Orange area (and well beyond, as I learned at the meeting) that the aesthetics of the architecture and restoration are overshadowed by the unruly students. Chapman doesn't currently have enough on-campus housing to provide for the majority of its students, but wants to continue to increase the enrollment while providing additional housing along the way (but still in woefully inadequate numbers to accommodate current enrollment, much less expanded enrollment).
Therein lies the paradox: As Chapman, Chapman parents, and investors acquire residential properties to house students and faculty, more students--not fewer--are housed off campus and into residential neighborhoods (and not within the confines of the campus); In addition, if bought by Chapman University, those homes are then no longer available to the general public for purchase, in all likelihood, forever.
As Realtors, we can't control who purchases homes - that is the responsibility of the seller. While many sellers want to find a nice family to inhabit their home and create memories just as they did, ultimately most concede to whomever is willing to pay the highest price -- it's just human nature. In many cases that may be an investor, a Chapman University parent, or Chapman University themselves. As noted prior, if Chapman University procures a residential property, it is one less home in the local inventory that we have to sell in the future. From a quality-of-life perspective, I think that the City of Orange also has some responsibility to make certain that local ordinances and codes are enforced, especially when involving occupancy and parking issues. The City of Berkeley has done just that (click here to read their local ordinances regarding students in residential areas - mini-dorms).
To be fair, I suspect that the majority of Chapman University students are decent humans -- but it only takes a small percentage of the student body to create the wrong impression in the community. I like to think that there is room for compromise -- as we get older we tend to forget that we were younger once and likely caused some of the same problems when we were in college. But I also recall having a healthy fear and/or respect for adults when I was that age -- some of that may not be present in the current generation of college kids. In the interest of full disclosure, I also don't live next door to a Chapman party house -- for those folks that do, I'm sure it's a different story.
Whether you are for or against Chapman University's expansion in Old Towne Orange, I would encourage you to make your voice heard. Contact the City, the City of Orange Planning Commission, and the City of Orange City Council Members -- especially Planning and the City Council, as they will be the ultimate decision makers. This will be an interesting process. Click here for a recent article from the OC Register on the subject.
Direct your comments, for or against, to be included as a matter of public record for the environmental impact review (prior to June 15, 2015) to:
Acting Assistant Community Development Director
City of Orange
The photos above are of an old house in the small, historic town where I grew up (Astoria, OR). It was right around the corner from the grade school, so I would pass it often. It has been owned for many, many years by a prominent, but somewhat reclusive family -- although has been mostly vacant since about 1990. The harsh weather in the region and neglect have taken their toll. The good news is that it was recently purchased by the owners of a local lumber yard, and hopefully the restoration will begin. The house is 4,600+ sq. ft. (if one is to believe the news reports) and sits on a large lot with a view of the river. Click here for the recent news article regarding the property.
And a blog chronicling the restoration process (click here).
Ancestors of the same family also built another prominent house in town, which has been restored and is now a museum -- photo below. There are better photos of this property online -- I chose the photo below as it has people on the front porch, which gives you a feel for the scale of this property. Look at the height of the front door compared to those folks -- this place is massive! For additional photos online, click here.
Next week, Wednesday, May 27 from 6PM - 8PM there will be a scoping meeting, open to the public, regarding Chapman University's proposed amendments to the Chapman University Specific Plan. The meeting will be in the Weimer Room at City Hall in Orange.
If you live in Old Towne Orange, or enjoy Old Towne Orange in its current state, you definitely want to attend this meeting! A few of the highlights from their proposed amendment:
There was also a phrase embedded in the document that could be nothing, or it could have a much larger impact. The phrase is as follows: "an enhanced circulation discussion". What does that mean? Does it imply closing off streets, or multiple streets, to make the campus more contiguous? For whom is circulation being enhanced? Students or residents?
The list of construction and demolition projects is long (and expected to be completed over the next 10 years), and will impact Old Towne Orange for not just the next 10 years, but for many, many years to come.
So what are your thoughts on the matter? Has Chapman University's expansion and influence been positive or negative for Old Towne Orange? I suspect that an argument could be made either way. I'm anxious to know what YOU think!
On the front page of my website, I publish the current number of "Active" MLS listings in Orange as of that morning. Many graphs and news articles also include properties that are in "Backup", which indicates that they are under contract (in escrow) but will entertain backup offers in the event that the current escrow fails. That number will be higher as it incudes both Active and Backup listings. I think that showing only Active listings gives prospective buyers and sellers a more accurate view of the market. Is it a Buyer's Market, a Seller's Market, or somewhere in between?
As of this morning, there are 210 "Active" listings in Orange. But what does that mean? Is that good or bad? From a recent historic perspective, when the market was white hot in 2004 and 2005, for example, it was not uncommon for there to be only 75 to 85 properties that were "Active" in Orange on any given day -- clearly not enough inventory to satisfy the overwhelming demand at the time.
When the market crashed in 2008, the average number of "Active" listings in Orange shot up to over 825 properties! An increase of 860%! Over time, that number decreased to about 350-400 properties on any given day, which produced a fairly balanced market. A buyer could evaluate multiple properties, consider which worked best for them, make an offer, and receive a response (and maybe even some concessions) within a reasonable time. For sellers, they had to have their homes on the market longer, but could generally negotiate reasonable terms on their replacement property.
Over time, inventory slowly receded, until towards the end of 2012 the average number of Active listings had dipped below 100 properties again. There were expectations that the number of listings would gradually increase in the spring of 2013, as is common seasonally -- but that year it didn't happen, and prices increased in Orange approximately 27% -- lack of inventory, low interest rates, pent-up demand, and investor activity were all contributors.
Since that time, inventory has slowly crawled back up to approximately 200 properties (although it has been in the 170-180 range for the past few months).
So this morning's count of 210 properties indicates that we still do not have enough inventory to satisfy demand. Just a little perspective as you look at that number on the home page each morning.
I stand corrected on the City of Orange not putting the number of gallons per unit on the front of the bill -- I just received my latest bill and in the green margin (on the front of the bill) it clearly states 1 unit = 748 gallons. My bad!
I also noticed that my water usage for the current billing period isn't quite as voracious as I thought, as it covers almost 2 months (57 days to be exact).
So here's my stats:
At least I'm well shy of the 750,000 - 1M gallons/year that some of the elected officials noted in the recent OC Register article (click to view) are using. As I've adjusted my sprinklers per the new State of California guidelines, it will be interesting to see the impact on my next billing cycle (dead lawn aside, ha ha!). Let's hope the elected officials adjust their sprinklers as well!
While driving in the middle of a pounding rainstorm this afternoon, I pulled over to park and check my emails. There just happened to be a message from the City of Orange indicating that there was now mandatory water cutbacks in effect. The ironic part (other than the pouring rain outside of my window) was that the City had also sent another message, an hour prior, offering sandbags (and sand) should I have any flooding issues!
In any event, it appears that we'll all be forced to restrict watering our lawns from April-October to twice per week, no more than 10 minutes per station, and not during the day (between 9AM-5PM). In the winter months, only once/week. Also, no watering your lawn within 48 hours of a measureable rainfall -- which makes sense. I have a friend who is very good about reminding people, via FaceBook, to turn their sprinklers off each time it rains -- I think it's a great idea (and now it's the law!).
If you don't have a sprinkler timer with a rain delay feature, I would highly recommend purchasing one. A few years ago I replaced my timer with a much more user friendly model (click on photo attached to this article). I liked it so much I purchased one for a rental property of mine as well -- easier for the tenants to "drive" and I would know how to use it too if they ever had questions! It is much more intuitive than my old unit. The current unit allows you to delay the sprinklers coming back on for up to 72 hours -- it will come in handy during our current drought season. And if I notice that my neighbor's lawns are a lot greener than mine in the upcoming months, I'm going to be very suspicious, ha ha!
Tony Trabucco is a real estate Broker who lives in Old Towne Orange, CA