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Earlier this month, Utah’s Deseret News did a stellar job of capturing the seemingly contradictory jumble of signals emanating from the nation’s housing market. At first, K. McKellar’s commentary seemed to be about a 9% drop in Zillow’s stock price. Costa Mesa housing market observers might have leaped to a conclusion that such a falloff might have clear local implications—but that wasn’t the case. Rather than being due to any steep dive in activity, it was chalked up to “uncertainty” in the company forecast.

Like all investors, housing market investors don’t like uncertainty. Sometimes it reflects internal management strife—although that wasn’t the case in this instance. It was the contradictory signals from the market that made any forecast

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“You May Want to Invest in Real Estate While You Still Can” was Yahoo!finance’s doubletake-inducing lead article last Friday—although would-be Costa Mesa real estate investors weren’t immediately seen scrambling to closings in response. Local investors are a sophisticated bunch who tend to take high-pressure warnings with a grain of salt, anyway—and given the recent glut of dire prognostications on many fronts, Yahoo’s hint of an impending end for area real estate investment opportunities wasn’t likely to be taken very seriously.

Still…they did have a point.

There is renewed evidence that the incursion of large institutional players into the single-family and small multifamily realms is gaining steam. Their buying activity so far this year

Read Full Post »’s producers know how to get your attention—it’s ‘what they do.’ Last week, they found an angle certain to snag readers for an otherwise ho-hum technical article about preparations for buying Costa Mesa homes—promising one move that “can end up saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Most soon-to-be Costa Mesa homebuyers were probably skeptical that such a six-figure bonanza exists (it doesn’t). Even so, they’d probably have read on to be reminded of something they already knew: the identity of the potential savings bonanza. Individuals may be powerless to influence the forces that shape today’s marketplace, but one aspect remains “in their control”: their own credit score.

According to the article, the promised windfalls can be

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Realtor® Magazine says that history shows that this is the week when “Homeowners looking for the greatest price premiums may find the best opportunities.” That would certainly be edifying for area homeowners who have already listed their Costa Mesa properties. And for those who’ve been on the fence, the just-released report by the ATTOM analysts might well serve as a reason to join them sooner rather than later.

ATTOM is the self-described “leading curator of real estate data” from throughout the U.S. Their multi-sourced records cover 99% of the nation’s population. For readers who are familiar with spreadsheets, the scope is impressive—their 20 terabytes of data fill nearly 30 billion rows of transaction-level data, further broken out into 9,000

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The direction of Costa Mesa home loan interest rates has been spurring concern among this spring’s house hunters. Last week the trend continued as U.S. rates spawned headlines dotted with phrases like “highest in 13 years” and “Fed hits housing market.” Even for industry reporters at The Mortgage Reports—scribes who tend to emphasize the bright side—the best anyone could come up with on Thursday was, “Rates steady-ish today.” Fox Business struggled to find some positive spin, but settled for “Refinance Rates Plunge to 3-Week Low” (refi rates “plunged” from 5.37% to 5.125%).

Still, for those of us who choose to follow Louis Armstrong’s advice to “just direct your feet/to the sunny side of the street,” there were some optimism-tinged media reports:

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For homeowners preparing to add their own properties to the Costa Mesa listings, data from the most recent U.S. activity was heartening—although it might not have seemed so given the way it was presented in some news outlets. Examples:

  • From “Housing industry getting hit by ‘perfect storm,’ billionaire real estate developer warns” (but the ‘perfect storm’ turns out to be “a real estate boom like we haven’t seen in the past.”)
  • From “Is the U.S. housing market headed for a price correction?” (the pace of sales eased somewhat, but only because of the shortage of listings—while the latest analysis “suggested that around 54% of homes still sold above their list price.”)
  • From “The odds of a home price
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Second only to, MarketWatch is the most often-visited financial and business news site—pulling in more than 38 million unique readers a year. That beats out more prominent names like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Reuters. Such popularity can be interpreted as “highly trusted”—but given today’s heightened level of free-floating skepticism, that remains to be seen.

Last week MarketWatch’s “Picks” page presented four predictions for the housing market that might interest Costa Mesa readers—including owners of Costa Mesa luxury homes and those interested in acquiring Costa Mesa high-end properties. It dealt with residential real estate as a whole, but the writers—economists and real estate pros—placed a luxury market prediction

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It’s a tempting scenario: having accumulated a considerable amount of cash, you find your Costa Mesa dream house, agree that the asking price is within reason—and prepare to sit down to make an all-cash offer. By buying it outright with cash, the future looks like ultra-smooth sailing, financially speaking. No mortgage payment. No interest. No monthly insurance set-aside or property tax pre-payment impounded into some escrow account the mortgage company insists upon. And you really own the place yourself—with no strings attached!

Although there are undeniable plusses to buying your Costa Mesa dream house with cash, there are at least three opposing reasons why it would be prudent to at least think twice before writing that all-cash offer:

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Kudos to the editors at Forbes for this month’s thoughtful offering—a checklist that can clarify the advisability of buying Costa Mesa homes “in this hot real estate market.” The six questions combine to create a personal inventory that prospective Costa Mesa homebuyers can use to gauge the timeliness of a commitment to buy in this spring’s busy season.

While much of the rest of the real estate and financial press spent last week speculating over whether a U.S. residential “bubble” was either forming or about to burst (none of them thinks so), Forbes contributor David Rae’s questions were more valuable for homebuyers with legitimate concerns about the advantages of buying right now. Here are the questions—

  1. Will I be willing to live in this
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Our Costa Mesa real estate market’s surges of activity are next to impossible to forecast with any degree of precision. Since intervening events can negate even the most well-grounded projections, it’s wise to keep in mind how tentative any reading of the underlying tea leaves can be. Even so, last week’s disclosures provided a high level of confidence that a market change could be on the way.

Two disparate pieces of the national real estate jigsaw puzzle from two trustworthy sources provided the clues. The two:

  • From the Wall Street Journal, a finding that “The mood among sellers…shifted in recent weeks from apathy…to urgency.” Financial advisers and real estate agents are reporting that their clients are showing a new sense of readiness to
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