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If you drive around town at all on May 5, you are going to
see a lot of purple on buildings and even on people. What is going on? Well,
it’s the annual “Paint Our Town Purple Day!” This purple-fest is a celebration
to get the word out about the upcoming American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life
to be held June 16th and 17th at Liberty High School in Brentwood.


You’ll see flags flying, business
store fronts decorated, personal residences decorated and lots of purple
t-shirts. Feel free to join in! For more ideas about how you can join in, go to
www.relayforlife.org/brentwoodca. The website lists creative
ways you can display the color purple in support of Relay For Life.


While you are on that website, be sure to poke around to
learn more about Relay. While raising funds for cancer research is a big part
of Relay, it is also an important way for us to support those who are currently
fighting cancer, have survived cancer, or to honor those we have lost due to
cancer. I’ll bet that everyone reading this has been touched by cancer in some
way in your life through a close friend or relative, or even yourself.


If you’d like to donate money to support this event, you can
also do so at the website link I’ve given you above. You can even take it up a
step and form your own team to be a part of this great day. Or just plan on
coming out to Liberty
High School in June to
see what all the fuss is about! There were be events happening nearly every
hour of the day for 24 hours including vendors, bands, family-friendly movies
and more! Some families even camp out overnight. Check the website or contact
me if you have any questions.


Last week I told you about some of the things to be careful
of when renting a home. Now I’ll tell you how to FIND a home for rent. When you
want to find a home for SALE, it’s pretty easy. Nearly all homes for sale these
days wind up on the MLS system that agents check or Realtor.com somehow. If you
can get signed up on a website, or have an agent log a search for you into the
system, you’ll find out about almost all the homes for sale. It’s almost
universal. Not so with homes for rent, unfortunately. It’s more of a hodgepodge
of several places to check, with no one place having even a majority of the
homes for rent.

The first would be to have an agent run a search on the MLS.
But per my warning above, you are still going to be missing a LOT of the
available rentals. The next place to check would be CraigsList.com, BUT you
need to be very careful and watch out for scams where the “landlord” doesn’t
really own the home at all. For more info check out my article from last week,
or contact me for a copy of that article. A couple of other websites you can
check are rent.com, trulia.com and hotpads.com. You will also need to check the
classified section of the local newspapers and their websites, which would be
thepress.net and hotcoco.com. Next would be calling all the local property
managers and asking what properties they currently have available. And then on
top of all that, you need to just drive around and look for “for rent” signs
(and look at bulletin boards, too).

I know, I know…. This is a horribly inefficient way to do
it. But following all my advice above is the only way to find the majority of
homes for rent, and even then, you’ll still be missing some! Someday some
website will have the vast majority of the rentals, but it hasn’t happened yet.



If you are looking to rent a home from someone you don’t
know, you need to be very careful these days. Potential tenants need to be VERY
careful and they need to research their landlord like never before. First, to
make sure they won’t be foreclosed on during their rental term. Not only do you
have to move but you may lose your deposit. Second, that the landlord actually
OWNS the property, that they aren’t some scammer who just took over some vacant
property. Here are my tips for how to minimize your risk.

Meet the landlord in person at the property and ask them to
bring their mortgage statement. Look at the payment amount. If it is
substantially more than you will be paying in rent, that’s a red flag. Next see
if you can tell if it’s a fixed-rate loan or an ARM (it won’t always tell you
on the statement). If you can’t tell, ask the landlord. Next, look at the “next
due” and if it’s MORE than one payment, that means they are behind and that’s a
MAJOR red flag! Next ask them to pull out their driver’s license and make sure
it matches the name on the statement. If they can’t or won’t do any of the
above, think twice about renting it! Now, if you are dealing with a real estate
agent or property manager you know and trust, and they tell you they’ve
verified all the above that will give you a higher level of confidence. But it
still wouldn’t hurt to have them search the County records for any foreclosure
notices, or do it yourself! Leases signed after certain steps in the
foreclosure process can be deemed invalid by the foreclosing lender.

Be especially careful of rentals on CraigsList, especially
when the landlord says they got transferred out of the country suddenly and are
renting the home for less than market rent, but you never meet them in person.
Scammers would rather not use a property management company to list their home
for lease because it’s one more person that might discover the fraud.


This home has “split-screen” feature!

I thought “picture-in-a-picture” and “split-screen” were only for TVs!

You may think I edited this photo, but I did not. This is actually the photo that was loaded. I don’t know if this was a mistake (although I have no idea HOW one would do this by accident) or if the agent put two photos together on purpose to minimize the amount of clicking the viewer would have to do to see multiple rooms?

Fire damage

MLS description says, “Home has fire damage.”

You don’t say…

Sorry, didn’t have my camera with me…

We have a running argument in my office whether this is the worst ever, the “no photo available” with the red “X”. You could argue no picture is better than a picture that casts the home in a negative light HOWEVER there are many search engines for homes for sale that allow you to skip homes that don’t have pictures. So in that case I think no picture is the absolute WORST!

C’mon, EVERYTHING has a camera on it nowadays… I tried to buy a melon the other day and it came with an address book and a camera!


Need a laugh? I’ve been collecting bad or funny photos from the MLS for years. Have a look and enjoy!

If you come across one that’s worthy of inclusion in this list, email it to me at Brian@SharpHomesOnline.com.


I will NEVER post anything that identifies the listing agent or listing broker. This is NOT meant to degrade of publicly humiliate anyone in my industry. Just trying to have a little fun…


If you bought a home between 2008 and 2010 and claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, or you know someone that did, you need to read this. You may be required to start repaying that credit, and the IRS is no longer mailing out reminder notices.

The credit of 2008 was really more like a no-interest loan than a true tax credit. There were other tax credits that came the following years that WERE true tax credits, but the 2008 vintage needs to be paid back in 15 equal installments, starting with your 2010 return. This will be on line 59b of your 1040 form.

If you sold the home you claimed a tax credit for, or even if you stopped using it as a principal residence, you have may to repay the credit, and this may apply whether you bought the home in 2008, 2009 or 2010. If that describes you, you should be attaching form 5405 to your return to repay the credit.

This is a very complicated issue as there were many different types of homebuyer tax credits, and the rules changed every year, and even during some years. For more info, got to www.irs.gov and search for “First-Time Homebuyer Credit.” They even have a webpage where you can look up your account to see if you are supposed to be paying your credit back, and what your balance is: https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/irfof-fthb/

I AM NOT A TAX EXPERT. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR OWN TAX EXPERT FOR SPECIFICS TO YOUR SITUATION. If you have questions on any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty


Hey, is that a pig I see flying by? Lots of news the last few weeks in regards to things that many people told me would NEVER happen. First it is HARPII letting people refinance their homes even if they are upside down. Then BofA announces they are going to be dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars off the principal for some lucky homeowners. And now, I’ve heard that investors that are under-water on their rental properties may be getting some help from the federal government. Investors may be able to get up to four loans modified starting in May under the new HAMP rules. The Treasury Department will be giving incentives to banks to lower interest rates, extend the terms, or even cut the principal balance. The investor must promise to rent the homes out if not rented already.

For a long time there has been intense resistance to help investors because many people believe investors helped drive the bubble up further than it should have. There is also the idea that the investors were taking a calculated risk in order to get a financial gain, so they should bear any of the downside risk. But those thoughts are now being overruled by other concerns. First there is the plight of innocent tenants getting evicted after the investor defaults, or the row after row of vacant homes dragging property values down. It’s to the point where now the government is thinking that vacant, blighted homes are a problem, no matter HOW they got to that point. They are thinking that cleaning up the mess will be good for everyone in the long run.

At the peak of the bubble, in some parts of California 30-40% of all home sales were investment purchases. Right now a little more than 20% of homes in foreclosure are to investors.

If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty


I’ve written about www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.com a couple of times, but looks like I’ll need to do it one more time… The US Treasury came out with the “Hardest Hit Fund” a few years ago to help those states hit the hardest by the mortgage crisis. They earmarked almost $2 billion for California. As of the end of last year only about $40 million had been spent helping California homeowners. That means that less than 5,000 California homeowners have received any help under this program.

70% of Keep Your Home California funds are to be used to help unemployed borrowers stay current on their payments, or to helping working homeowners who are struggling to catch up on missed payments. The remaining 30% of the funds is for principal reductions and relocation costs to move to a new home.

One of the main reason for the lack of success is that at first many lenders weren’t participating, but more are on board now. So if you tried in the past, try again and see if your lender is now involved. And of course, it could also be that Keep Your Home California is a government bureaucracy, so they tend to move pretty slowly. But I think the biggest reason is lack of awareness with homeowners. It seems like there is always a new “New Program of the Week” with some new acronym and fine print a mile long.

I have heard from people who say they called Keep Your Home California and didn’t qualify for whatever reason. BUT I’ve also had people call me and report they ARE getting some benefits from it. So check out their website at www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.com, or call them at 888-954-5337. They are open 7 am to 7 pm weekdays and 9 am to 3 pm Saturdays.

If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty

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