Real Estate Information Archive


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February 25 is deadline for discount registration for Lakewood Run

by The Apples Team

Register online at or download the PDF sign-up form for paying with a check or to sign up a team.

Registration is $35 through Thursday, February 25. After that, registration goes up to $40. You can register even on the day of the event, beginning at 6:30 a.m. The 5K and 10K runs start at 8:00 a.m. The Fun Run begins at 9:30 a.m.

The Lakewood Run happens on Saturday, March 5, 2016 when Sheriff’s deputies, recreational runners, families and kids will gather at the starting line in front of the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station to run the event’s 5K/10K course for time, or do the 1K “Fun Run” or a 5K walk.

Lakewood’s tree-lined residential streets provide the backdrop. The flat, “runner friendly” course is “fast” for practiced runners and comfortable for fitness fans and family members. Professional timing will be used.

Participants directly support Soroptimist International of Lakewood/Long Beach and Lakewood Sheriff’s Station charity efforts in this family-friendly event.

Soroptimists use funds from the run to support programs such as:

•           Scholarships for girls/women attending local schools
•           Dream It/Be It program for women re-entering the work force
•           Girl Scout Council of Greater Los Angeles
•           Su Casa Domestic Abuse Network
•           Pathways Volunteer Hospice
•           Long Beach Ronald McDonald House

The Lakewood Sheriff’s Station uses funds to support:
•           999 for Kids – a program benefiting foster children in L.A. County
•           The Sheriff’s Station Baker-to-Vegas Relay Challenge Team
•           The Sheriff’s Station Employee and Family Assistance Fund

In celebration of the run’s 25th anniversary, finisher medals will be awarded to all participants for the 5K/10K. Performance tech shirts, a new highlight of the race, will be given to all runners. Ronald McDonald will entertain children and count down the start of the Fun Run. There will also be a fitness expo, displays of public safety equipment and programs, and special giveaways from local businesses.

To inquire about group rate entries or get more event information, email

Major sponsors include L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, Lakewood Center, Kenny’s Auto Service, Back to Life Chiropractic, EDCO, CARE Ambulance, Lakewood Regional Medical Center, Piazza Family McDonald’s Restaurants, Willdan, and the City of Lakewood.

This article was originally posted on the City of Lakewood website.

Learning the Lingo: Escrow, EMD, Other Closing Terms Translated!

by The Apples Team

The moment has finally, truly, amazingly arrived: You’re closing on a home! And if you’re about to sign on the line that is dotted, you should be prepared to hear a whole lot of closing-related terminology that sounds a bit like “alphabet soup from another language,” warns Cara Ameer, a Realtor® in Ponte Vedra, FL.

Even though you will probably have your real estate attorney, a rep from your lender, and your trusted Realtor nearby to explain the things you don’t know, you don’t want to looktotally clueless, right? Which is why this installment of our Learning the Lingo series takes aim at all those confusing terms and acronyms you will hear when you close on a home. You’re welcome!


You might hear your lender or agent speaking to you about the COE, which stands for “close of escrow.” “They are simply discussing the date you will officially be the owner,” explains Rhonda Fee, a Realtor in Pleasanton, CA. But what exactly is escrow, you ask? Read on.


Think of this as a holding area for essential funds and important documents, maintained by an attorney or a representative from the title company (more on them below) as the details of the sale are ironed out. Once the sale is finalized, the escrow agent disburses the payments and documents accordingly. This is a good thing. There are many variations of escrow accounts, depending on the specifics of your deal. Let the pros explain the salient points of yours.


That’s short for earnest money deposit—the funds buyers put down to prove to sellers that they’re making a serious offer (typically 3% to 5% of the cost of the house), proving they’re earnest about the deal, not just a tire-kicker. Earnest money is one of the more debated and misunderstood aspects of the home-purchase process. So what happens to this deposit? If all goes smoothly, it will be put toward the buyer’s down payment and closing costs. But if the buyer backs out for no good reason, the seller generally keeps the EMD as a consolation prize. But sometimes there are legitimate reasons to back out, which leads us to …


There are the valid justifications that enable buyers to walk away from the deal and take their EMD with them. Contingencies must be removed for the deal to go through. For instance, if the buyers placed a 10-day inspection contingency on the purchase, that means for that period they have a right to hire a home inspector to check the house top to bottom for any glaring flaws. Upon the 10th day, if nothing major is found, the buyers will be asked to remove this stipulation in writing. Once the buyers have removed all of their contingencies, they have to go through with the purchase or forfeit their EMD.

Title insurance

How do you know for sure that a home seller really owns the place free and clear—and that they can sell it without some long-lost heir coming out of the woodwork to stake a claim? Enter title insurance, which offers protection against any competing claims to the home. As part of the process, the insurer will run a title search of public records, seeking loose ends such as liens against the property or fraudulent signatures on ownership documents. Note that there is separate title insurance to cover lenders and buyers, and you would do well to get a policy for yourself. It establishes that you can truly “take title” to the property as the legal owner, which is entered in public records.


CDs aren’t just ancient music formats for playing your Motörhead collection. The term is short for “closing disclosure,” a document the buyer is required to receive three days before close. “It summarizes the buyer’s loan in terms of the breakdown of their mortgage payment and all fees that the buyer will need to bring,” Ameer says. Use this time wisely: The devil is often in the details, so if you see something that looks amiss, now is the time to ask your attorney or Realtor.

Cash to close

Cash to close includes the total amount of money buyers need on the big day to seal the deal. It’s typically 3% to 6% of the price of the home (that would be $2,539 on a $200,000 loan) and includes appraisal fees, title insurance, attorney fees, as well as the down payment and prepaid items such as any funds held in escrow.


Prorating is when certain fees or taxes are divided to align with the time of ownership between the buyer and seller. For example, if annual property taxes on a home are $3,000 and the seller moves out one-third of the way through the year on April 1, they’re responsible for paying one-third of the taxes, or $1,000. The buyer pays the rest.


Credits add wiggle room to those closing costs to help cash-strapped home buyers seal the deal. If the buyer can’t quite come up with enough cash to close, the seller can agree to pay credits that could add up to 6% of the home’s sale price. Sellers benefit as well, in that this contribution is tax deductible (but don’t count on sellers offering credits in a hot market). Conversely, sellers may offer the home at a lower price to entice buyers but then ask for credits to defray closing costs on their end. 

On record

“When you hear these words, it’s time to celebrate,” Fee says. “That means you officially own your new home.” Congratulations!

This article was originally posted on

So You Wanna Sell Your Home? Step 6: Strike the Right Deal

by The Apples Team


Once your home is finally on the market and listed, it’s showtime. Will you be deluged with offers, or will your home be pervaded by the lulling but ever-so-unnerving sound of crickets?

And if you do get just one or two offers, and they’re not as high as you’d hoped, what do you do? What do you do?

Never fear, dear sellers—that’s why we’re here! In this sixth installment of our weekly 2016 Home-Selling Guide, we’ll show you how to navigate the negotiation process and come to a deal that will make you happy. More than happy, even.

Getting those offers in

If you’re not in a rush to sell your house, it may make sense to see what offers roll in over a few months. But if you need to sell quickly (or just don’t want to wait), your agent might be able to push things along by setting a deadline—usually within a week or two of listing.

“When you expect multiple offers because your price is competitive or your home is in a popular neighborhood, you should always set a deadline,” says Cathy Baumbusch, a Realtor® with Re/Max Executives in Arlington, VA. But you’ll need to be confident that your home is priced right, relative to its appeal. If all goes well, you can sell for over asking.

Reviewing your first offer

Once you have an offer in hand, you’re probably scanning for one thing: the price.

“In our area, houses rarely sell for less than 90% to 95% of the asking price,” Baumbusch says. The offers on your home should fall in that range, but don’t rely on price alone. According to Baumbusch, every offer has five important components:

  • Price
  • Closing assistance
  • Closing date
  • Buyer financing
  • Contingencies


Some offers may seem great on the surface, but significantly less so once you dig in. For instance: Is the buyer asking for closing assistance? Often first-time buyers don’t have enough money to cover the down payment and the closing costs, so they’ll ask the seller to foot some of the bill—about 2% to 3% of the total closing costs is a common request. If you agree, any assistance you give will lower your bottom line, so factor this amount into the asking price.

The buyer’s time frame to close may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but it can actually matter a lot, especially if you give the buyer a long leash. If the deal falls through, you’ll have to put the house back on the market and wait for more offers. On the other hand, if the buyer wants to move in right away, you might be left scrambling (and, quite possibly, temporarily homeless). Make sure the timing works for you.

Good so far? Now make sure the buyer has financing. Hopefully, the buyer’s agent included a note verifying the buyer’s financing and how much the buyer will put toward the down payment and earnest money. The last thing you want is to accept an offer, only to find out afterward that the buyer can’t come up with the necessary cash.

Finally, look over contingencies, which give the buyer the option to back out of the deal if something goes wrong. The buyer may say the final sale is contingent on an inspection, or he may want to move in early. Both requests are fairly standard and acceptable. But keep an eye out for buyers asking for too much. For example, “it would be over the line for a buyer to ask a seller to wait more than 30 to 60 days for the property to go under contract,” Baumbusch says.

When to counter

You always have the option to return the buyer’s offer with a counteroffer of your own.

“You should always counter if the price is not what you are looking for, or if you can’t support the amount of closing cost help they are looking for,” Baumbusch says. But if you do, keep it reasonable. If the buyer was 15% below asking, he probably won’t go up to full asking amount. Consider being flexible with your price; you can always make it up in other ways. For example, submitting a counter with a slightly higher price and contingencies that may help you—like having the buyer waive an inspection to speed things along—might pay off in the end.

If you don’t agree with the buyer’s contingencies, consider your position first.

“If your home is in a popular area, [you] have an advantage,” Baumbusch says. Keep in mind, the buyer may not accept your counter outright. You can play Let’s Make a Deal, but always consider your bottom line. Is it worth it to keep countering for a small amount of money or single contingency? Don’t get trapped in a loop; consider the buyer’s side of things. These prospective buyers may be maxed out. To help you decide, ask your agent to call the buyer’s agent and hash it out it with them. Get some insight into the buyer’s state of mind, and whether he can budge.

Once you’ve accepted an offer, it’s time to close. Scary, we know! But we’ve got you covered in the next installment.


This article was originally posted on

What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Home?

by The Apples Team


Buying a home may no longer be the American dream (now people just want to get out of debt someday), but it’s still a huge goal for many. But if you don’t have a good credit score, that dream might go up in flames.

A lot of things factor into getting a mortgage, but it starts with your credit score. If your credit score isn’t good enough, nothing else matters. Depending on the loan program, lender, and applicant’s specific credit history, the minimum credit score necessary to buy a home varies. Heather McRae, a senior loan officer for Chicago Financial Services, says 580 is the lowest score she’s seen in recent loan approvals, and she hasn’t seen anything lower than that in a long time.

A 580 is a bad credit score (on the often-used scale of 300 to 850). A 600 credit score isn’t the best credit score, either, but that’s generally considered the minimum for an FHA-backed loan, says Scott Sheldon, a senior loan officer at Sonoma County Mortgages. FHA loans are popular among first-time home buyers and have a minimumdown payment of 3.5%. If you’re going for a conventional loan (one not backed by a government agency), the minimum credit score is 620, McRae and Sheldon say.

Those minimum scores are just that—they get your foot in the door. But mortgages are complicated and require a lot of paperwork, so if you’re barely squeaking in, you can expect a rough ride. Take that 600 minimum on a 30-year fixed-rate FHA loan.

“You’re going to have a lot—I mean, a lot—of hoops to jump through,” Sheldon says. “It’s going to be very unpleasant.”

For people with lower credit scores, a down payment plays a huge factor in approval. McRae says a 20% down payment and a 620 credit score should get you a loan, but a smaller down payment will tighten credit standards.

McRae adds, “680 is kind of like the unspoken minimum, but you can definitely get something done below that. If you’re under a 680 credit score, the mortgage insurance premiums get pretty steep.”

Loans with less than a 20% down payment require mortgage insurance, which you can sometimes get rid of later.

Sheldon also says 680 is the unofficial minimum: “680 would be the goal, the credit score to strive for if you want to have choice and flexibility.”

If you’re already close to a 680, he says to aim higher for even better loan terms. “You really want your score in the 740 range to get optimal pricing on any given day.”

There are home loans for people with a variety of credit scores, but with a financial decision of this size, it helps to set yourself up for the most affordable terms possible. If you’re thinking of buying a home at any point in the future, start preparing for the mortgage process now by building a good credit score. It can take a while, especially if you had credit problems in the past, but there are many ways to rebuild your credit and position yourself to buy a home someday.

As you work on improving your credit, you can see how you’re doing by looking at your two free credit scores every month on Make sure you’re looking at your free credit reports each year, too, at, because sometimes errors can be dragging your score down—and you need to find them to fix them.

This article was originally posted on


5 Things to Consider When You Move to a New City

by The Apples Team

Moving can be an exciting opportunity to experience new things, but it’s a good idea to look into some details about your potential new city before calling it home. Many cities have very different price tags—from international capitals such as Prague to London and even between those in the same state such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. So what does cost of living really mean? What else will affect your future if and when you move to a new place? Check out some of the factors you need to consider when comparing city experiences.

1. Cost of housing

Apartment and home costs can vary significantly, and some cities are friendlier to renters. If you are thinking about buying a home and getting a mortgage in your new location, it’s important to look at what other homes are going for and what they have to offer. (You can calculate how much house you can afford.) Your credit score is a major factor in the interest rate you’ll be approved for on the loan, so be sure to keep an eye on your credit in the months before applying. You can check your credit scores for free every month on

2. Basic needs

Housing is often the biggest, but not the only, expense you will face in your new city. The price of basic utilities, health care, and even groceries can vary greatly between places. Some goods are also more or less available depending on where you are located. Finally, it’s important to factor in the cost of transportation. Is there public transit? Can you walk to work? Do you need a car? This can make a big difference in your monthly costs.

3. Job market

If you are not relocating for work but for your own reasons, it’s probably important to look into job availability in your potential new city. Some cities are better for job seekers in terms of growth and unemployment rates, but it’s a good idea to take into account your industries of interest. Some cities are hubs for certain industries and may not have a lot of job diversity. It’s important to do your homework so you won’t be unemployed and struggling to adjust for too long.

4. Quality of life

One good way to start off thinking about your move and how your quality of life will change is by deciding what things you currently have that you would like to continue to have. For example, if you live in a city with a lot of sporting events and you enjoy going regularly, you may want to find a place that has similar options. From access to cultural activities, entertainment, parks, house of worship, gyms, and shopping options to demographics and proximity to friends or family, quality of life can make the difference from being happy in your new spot or not. Visiting and exploring the area (if possible) can be one of the best ways to get a feel for the city.

5. Neighborhood features

A thorough search of features likely should include quality of schools, crime rate, and community events. It’s important to make sure that your new city and, more specifically, your neighborhood make you feel safe and have what you need to make them really feel like home.

It’s important to do your research about the aspects of life most important to you before you decide on a move. You may be surprised by how much cities can differ in cost of living.


This article was originally posted on

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Contact Information

Apples Team
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties
11409 E. Carson Street
Lakewood CA 90715
562-884-1863 / 562-221-2794
Fax: 562-809-0841

Angie BRE# 01292393, Kathy BRE# 00853237, Cathy BRE# 01255708

 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - A member of the franchise system of BHH Affiliates, LLC