Laura Houle Real Estate Services

Thoughts 0

Posted on June 05, 2013 by laura

I save things from time to time that are meaningful for me. Here are just a few:

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present.” Donald Trump

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Pablo Picasso

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. Sincerely… Lawrence E. Wikander, Curator, Calvin Coolidge Memorial Room, Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass.

First, Do No Harm…. 0

Posted on May 30, 2013 by laura

The above admonition has always been considered circumspect with the practice of medicine. Instead it comes from Socrates. Socrates was convinced that it was impossible to to do harm to others without harming ourselves.

I think our legislators should be paying attention to principle and all actions should be based on it. Only in that way will their actions be those of a responsible person and for the good of all.

How many times has a political figure flip flopped in their belief? Every decision should be based on the “do no harm” principle. The consequences of our actions has far reaching effects. It takes a little thinking, of which it appears that most, in the political arena do not do, or of which they are not capable.

The book that had the most profound  effect on my life was “Right and Reason” by Austin Fagothey, a Jesuit priest. I read it in the 50’s when I was taking philosophy classes at the University of San Diego, and I plan to read it again now, many years later than the first read. I recommend it to all.

A Timeshare Traveler in Puerto Penasco 0

Posted on October 28, 2012 by laura

We had banked our Manhattan Club week with SFX (San Francisco Exchange) and because it is such a desirable destination, we were offered a bonus week along with our exchange. Since we had never been to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) we chose the Mayan Palace there for our bonus week.

Puerto Penasco is like an Arizona beach. It’s only about 100 miles from the Arizona and Mexican border. A new coastal highway makes it even easier and a shorter trip for Californians by 100 miles. Unfortunately we didn’t know about this new toll road (and since it’s not on the map, though I did see a sign!) we flew past it on Highway 2, only to be brought up short by the massive road work that was going on. The ride was alternately pavement and dirt, seeming to be mostly dirt. Returning home to San Diego, we did take this coastal route which was free of traffic, shaving off quite a bit of time. If we ever go back, we’ll probably save even more time by entering Mexico at Algodones, rather than at San Luis. That highway (186) passes by the Quechan Casino, which is a great place for a meal and a rest stop going both ways.

Our one big disappointment with the Mayan Palace was that it didn’t have complimentary wi fi as most timeshares do, and it was rather expensive if you used it. That is why the question of going back is iffy. They need to recognize how important wi fi is. You’re kind of stuck out there (maybe 20 miles to town?) and wi fi is a necessity.I refused to pay them the $87.00 per access and turned roaming back on on my iphone. I used it sparingly because I wasn’t sure what the cost was going to be. I’m waiting for the bill!

Other than that, it’s a delightful spot, not the tourist trap that you may be accustomed to in other Mexican resorts. I saw no homeless people and was not besieged by hawkers of jewelry, hats and the like, that you usually encounter on the beaches and in town at the various other resorts.

Ordinarily I log my travels on a daily basis on Facebook, along with my photos. The lack of internet accessibility put the kibosh on that endeavor, so I am writing on my blog which will go on my Facebook, along with the photos.

Hopefully the Mayan Palace will wake up and catch up to the other resorts who offer this very important amenity!

Amazon and the Sales Tax 0

Posted on September 14, 2012 by laura

I just sent this off to the Union-Tribune, but not everyone takes the UT!

So Amazon is being forced to charge a sales tax? This could and should open a can of worms. The Board of Equalization collects this tax, but they say they have told vendors that it is not to be collected on the basis of zip codes. The city of El Cajon has one of the highest sales taxes in the San Diego area. For years taxes have been collected from individuals who share a zip code with them but actually do not live in the city. I fought this for years and tried my best to make others aware of it. The legislature is always passing laws of which they don’t know the consequences. This is yet another one. So should these people get some kind of a rebate? From the City of El Cajon? It’s certainly not going to be from the Board of Equalization. They’ll tell you it’s a problem, but not theirs. A rebate on your federal taxes?

Or is everybody just going to roll over and never question it?

So You Want to Refinance? 0

Posted on September 02, 2012 by laura

For some people it’s virtually an impossibility to refinance their home, despite an optimum FICO score and an absolute lack of negatives on their credit report for a substantial amount of time.. No late payments. no bankruptcies, no foreclosures. Nada.

There seem to be underwriting judgments out there that are totally unreasonable, that don’t take under consideration good money management at all. In fact, they actually are judging you on your life style, as effective as it might be.

The last time I tried to refinance, after a preliminary approval, I was asked if I owned any timeshares. Well yes, I do.  I then was asked what my assessments were. Bear in mind that these show up nowhere. The vacation ownerships that we own are absolutely free and clear. There are many ways to handle these travel weeks and I am quite proud of my ability in this respect.  I told the bank that this would be a killer if they were to add these to our expenses. After all, if you book a trip and pay $10,000, it shows nowhere. So why should it matter if you use another system that allows you to travel even more? Well, you guessed it. They added it to the debt and the  loan was denied.

Other harmful items are how you pay for things. I rarely use cash because I love points. These points play right into my travel plans. As a result I charge everything, even every day expenses, that normally would not show up anywhere.  I pay all my charge card bills monthly. Nothing is carried over so there are no interest charges. However, if you have high balances during  your qualification period, the underwriter adds that in too, to your overall debt, permanently. Never mind that the bill is paid monthly and automatically too! There really should be a revamping of underwriter’s guidelines and a little bit of common sense wouldn’t hurt either.  How about stellar credit over many years? Where’s the risk? I actually have paid extra principal monthly on the loan that I’m trying to refinance. Why not look at that history in conjunction with everything else? Why this cookie cutter mentality?

Hey, I tried to apply for loan modification with my bank, but they said there was no hardship and the modification was denied. I then attempted to refinance with this same bank, the one who currently holds my loan and they said my debt to income was too high. Never mind that I could save $800 to $1000 per month! They just want me to keep paying this exorbitant payment! Now, if I didn’t make my payments, maybe I could get a loan.

The HARP loan? Well, I could do that except that my loan is not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac so it doesn’t qualify. I’m sure there are many others in this situation.

I thought that I had finally found a bank that qualified me. It was ultimately denied because the owner occupancy at my condo project was at 57%. For other lenders, this is perfectly acceptable, as it is a principal residence and has been for over five years.

Again,  good FICO score, excellent  credit, etc. What’s wrong with this picture?

Land Use 0

Posted on May 30, 2011 by laura

“How great it is to have a third of our nation in public ownership so that anybody and everybody can come and utilize these lands.” Joan Friedlander, district ranger. (UT 5/30/11)
This is precisely why the Board of Supervisors should not vote for the back country down zoning. I bought land years ago, paid property taxes year after year. Now it is absolutely restricted by the new San Diego County General Plan Update.

Fluoridation 0

Posted on October 27, 2010 by laura

More on this subject, as I did make mention of it on Facebook. It is amazing to me the lack of knowledge people have on this substance. Yet, very soon, it is going to be put into our water system. According to Robert Carlton, Ph.D, former EPA scientist, 1992, “Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century”.

A substance is going to be added to San Diego drinking water under the guise of fluoride. Fluoride in its natural form is found in our foods: cereal, fruit, vegetables, even meats. But the kicker is that this “fluoride” that will be dumped into our drinking water is industrial waste that, by law, cannot be put anywhere else. As usual, someone found a loophole and with grant money has managed to find a place for this waste.

The type of fluoride added to public water (Hydrofluosilicic Acid) is a raw untreated waste from the phosphate fertilizer mining industry. (I believe it is also an aluminum waste.) The waste is straight from the pollution scrubber systems of the phosphate mines and is highly contaminated with arsenic, lead and a potpourri of other heavy metals. With this in mind, it is important that this is not forced on us.

The water authorities will tell you that they are merely following the state-mandated requirements, and the state will reply that it is purely optional for the local municipalities. And while the fingers are busy pointing, the toxic-waste trucks are pulling up to our water supply! I called the Metropolitan Water District because I wanted to know the date of the infusion of this toxic material into our water system. As could be expected, I was handed over to one person and then another.  I ended up with a “Mick Stuart”, I believe, whose answering service informed me that he was “busy”. I left my name and number and a brief message. More on this perhaps later!

As a topical application, fluoride (debatably) helps strengthen teeth enamel. But it is harmful to drink, and our skin absorbs it when bathing. Ingestion and absorption have nothing to do with your teeth! If you suffer from hypothyroidism or another immune disease, this is poison to you. So why is this forced on everyone when it is harmful? Anyone who really wants fluoride is free to get it. Eat foods high in fluoride (you can get a list of these foods on the Internet). It’s in toothpaste – but as it says on the label, don’t swallow it! And your dentist can always apply it topically. So go for it, if you want it. But do you really want something in our water system that’s been banned in other countries?!?

Contact your water district, write your congressman, and join the Fluoride Action Network!

Unraveling the Home Loan Tangle 0

Posted on October 25, 1998 by laura
Laura Houle
Realtor’s Corner (The Daily Californian newspaper)
We have noted in previous articles that the most crucial part of a real estate transaction is the financing. Once you have been pre-qualified and have found the house of your dreams, if you are not paying all cash, you will have to obtain a loan.

Should you deal directly with the bank? Should you deal with a mortgage broker? We all know what banks are and what they do, but few of us know precisely what a mortgage broker does and what the differences might be.

The disadvantage of dealing with a bank is that you are dealing with one source only. If, for some reason, you do not qualify or the bank does not have a loan that suits your particular situation, you must start all over with another lender. The loan officer at a bank does not have to be licensed by the Department of Real Estate, as does a mortgage broker, because the bank is using its own money. For this reason banks do not broker loans, except from a wholesale division, dealing with mortgage brokers. The loan officer of a bank is also an employee of the bank and therefore represents the bank.

A mortgage broker has contacts with wholesale lenders and is licensed by the Department of Real Estate. The broker, in effect, buys the money from the wholesaler at discount prices and lends it to you. The broker must meet the rigid standards of the lender, both financially and in their work methods, in order to be approved by them. The mortgage broker is ultimately responsible for the loan should fraud be proven.

The mortgage broker actually represents the borrower by packaging the loan to highlight the borrower’s strengths and minimize the weaknesses. A wide array of programs is offered, with competitive rates, fixed and adjustable. The broker shops for the best rates and can move a “problem” loan from one lender to another. Mortgage brokers, or the loan

representatives that may work for them, usually have extended business hours. They are generally available evenings, weekends and make house calls.A mortgage broker is paid only a commission and is thus motivated to close loans. Payment to the mortgage broker is included in the cost quoted to you. The mortgage broker adds his or her cost to the wholesale price and that is where competitiveness enters.

You often see loans offered with no points, or no costs and no points. This means that the interest rate is lightly higher than the best available rate, and the broker is being paid a substantial amount by the lender. The broker can then pay some or all of your costs, depending on the amount the lender is paying for that particular rate.When you refinance, you are able to add the costs to the loan. With a purchase, you do not have this option. Today, however, there are loans available with no down and it is allowable to have someone else pay your non-recurring closing costs: A seller, parents in a gift form, etc. Non-recurring costs are just that — they are generated one time only. These fees would include processing, points, etc. Interest is an example of a recurring cost and it would be paid by the borrower.

Pricing is received daily by the mortgage broker, sometimes twice a day. This pricing is affected by what is happening in the nation and even the world. Employment numbers, the stock and bond market, retail sales, the Consumer Price Index, existing home sales, etc., all have an influence on interest rate pricing. You have a choice of locking in a rate or jumping in at a certain time, when it is felt that the pricing is particularly favorable. The length of time of the lock can also be reflected in the pricing.

How a loan is repackaged can determine whether or not the loan is approved. It is important to choose an experienced mortgage broker who comes highly recommended, is someone with whom you feel confident and who has a good track record. Good mortgage brokers want to build an ongoing relationship so that you will use their services again and recommend them to your friends.

Common Sense Land Use Touted 0

Posted on October 11, 1998 by laura
Laura Houle
Realtor’s Corner (The Daily Californian newspaper)
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
— Article XIV of the U.S. Constitution

I cannot believe anyone would propose such a law as Proposition B! This proposition proposes to limit the size of rural properties to 40 and 80 acres, regardless of the topography of any other factor that is currently considered when planning or building. This proposition does nothing short of rob landowners of their rights without any redeeming or apparent benefit to anyone. Proposition B does not lesson traffic in the cities, nor does it provide any water for the cities.

It has been said that voters, in general, really do no care about anyone’s property rights. In fact, landowners are perceived as wealthy people who do not deserve to be considered at all! When one invests in land, a lot of research goes into it. What is the zoning? What is the General Plan?

If the use of this land is taken away today, what about your house tomorrow? Do not forget that some of the parcels of land have houses on them and the passage of this proposition would limit that person’s right to do whta he had the right to do when he bought it! What if I decided I wanted five feet of the perimeter of your property and that of your neigbors’ so that I could make it into a horse trail for anyone who would want to use it? Does that sound preposterous? San Diego Country Estates was developed that way, but people knew it when they bought it. That’s fair! The first scenario is not.

Some proponents of Proposition B choose inappropriate and inciteful words when explaining their position; they say our beautiful back country will be overrun by “rampant growth” and “shopping malls” if we do not pass their proposal. This could never happen.

There are not enough people in those areas, nor would there ever be, to support any such development. There is no sewer or city water. The cost to bring those improvements in would preclude significant development.

There is very little flat land. Some of it, especially the land bordering the Cleveland National Forest, is extremely steep. It will not support commercial farming. It is suitable for 20-acre parcels, which a person might farm for their own use and enjoyment.

Much of this land is so remote it is not even seen by the public, yet the owners — who will be expected to continue paying taxes on the land — would see its value depreciated by this proposition that hides under the beautiful words of “Save Our Rural Heritage and Watershed.”

Proponents bemoan the loss of the orange groves of the 1940s that subsequently gave way to development. Well, where would our people be living today if the orange groves I remember on Pepper Drive in El Cajon were still there? Some of you would not be in your current homes.

If you look around, you will find that there are new orange groves springing up in various areas. Actually, the marketplace is the determining factor of growth and of type of growth. Housing growth will continue, but it will not be in our mountain area, which is the area singled out in this proposition. We must focus our energies on transportation and building the highways to support the populace.

I find it ironic that Duncan McFeteridge, the man behind Prop. B, enjoys living on a 2-acre plot in Descanso. The truth of it is, many years have passed since anyone could live on a 2-acre parcel in his area. Each rural community has a planning group and its input is given to the county. These groups also develop community plans that can override zoning.

Land use planning should be based on common sense, not emotion. Protero, Tecate, Campo, etc. could develop into nice little communities under our present planning structure, but under this initiative, forget it!

Why should our people be forced to move to Idaho or Wyoming to enjoy a 10-, 20- or 30-acre site? By the way, you should all venture out to those other states to appreciate the planning that we have here.

Leave land use planning to our Department of Planning and Land Use and the small, affected communities that have always been in the best position to protect their own interests. Please be guided by common sense when you go to the polls. Should this proposition pass, it will certainly be challenged in the courts on constitutional grounds.

Credit Scoring May Affect Loan Qualification 0

Posted on September 27, 1998 by laura
Laura Houle
Realtor’s Corner (The Daily Californian newspaper)
One of the most crucial requirements of buying a home is the availability of financing. While we live in a country where it is comparatively easy to obtain financing, there are still those who will not qualify. Many consumers have been careless in the repayment of all their obligations.

It is difficult to understand why individuals think lenders will give them credit or a decent interest rate even though they have a history of late payments, collections, charge offs (debts written off by the debtor) and even bankruptcy.

Many lenders these days rely on a credit score (FICO) when evaluating applications. Scores may be based only on information in your file at the credit bureaus or on a combination of credit bureau data and information you supply on a credit application. The way you have handled credit in the past gives a strong indication as to how you will manage credit in the future. While credit scores cannot predict with certainty how a person will act, they do provide a quick, accurate and objective estimate as to how likely you are to repay according to the terms of a loan.

Scoring programs are: Beacon at Equifax, Empirica at Trans Union and the TRW/Fair, Isaac Model at TRW. The Fair, Isaac Bureau scores range from approximately 450 to 850 points, and one needs at least 660 to qualify for a loan covering 97 to 100 percent of value.

Scoring has been around since the 1950s and credit bureau scores based solely on credit bureau data became available in the 1980s. Not all loans require FICO scoring.

Elements of a scoring model:

  • Recent payment history
  • The amount of credit you have access to and are using
  • How long a credit history you have
  • Whether you have been shopping for credit and
  • Notification of collection and public record items such as liens and bankruptcies
By law, discriminating factors such as race, religion, gender, marital status and birthplace are prohibited.

If you have been turned down for credit, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Even if you have not been turned down, it is a good idea to know your credit status and to correct any erroneous information. Your request for a copy of the report will not affect your score in any way and if there is an error, the credit bureau will investigate and respond to you within 30 days. Telephone numbers are:

  • Equifax: 800-685-1111
  • Trans Union: 610-690-4909
  • Experian (formerly TRW): 800-682-7654

Credit items are updated frequently, so new items can pop up since a previous report. Unfortunately, repeated requests for credit reports may cause the score to drop.

Over time you may improve the information on your credit report by paying all your bills on time and using credit wisely. As derogatory data in a credit report gets older, the score will be affected less. A missed payment four years ago will not affect the score the same as a missed payment six months ago.

It is important to remember that the scoring is not done to calculate a debt ratio but is simply an indication of the consumer’s historical credit use habits.

Scores by themselves do not identify individuals as “acceptable ” or “unacceptable” customers. They are just one of the factors lenders use when deciding to make the loan. The final decision depends on the individual lender.

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