Feng Shui and Housing

Excerpted from the ocregister.com:

Ms. Feng Shui walks into a model home in Irvine and glances around the room.

“You want the front door to be solid, not glass,” she says, eyeing the position and color of the door, examining the stairs, checking out the bathroom and inspecting the picture frames.

A window in the front door, “it’s like a hole in your mouth,” she says.

Front doors should be blue (for water) or black (representing career).  And it should never be in alignment with the back door because “all the energy goes out the back.”

Stairs should turn sideways to the front, also to keep the home’s energy from rushing outside. A home’s energy, or chi, should linger.

“A home should be a place where you recharge,” she says. “It should be restful.”

Ms. Feng Shui — a.k.a., Hyun Jung “Jessie” Kim of Lake Forest – doesn’t just advise homeowners. Lately, she’s been hired by KB Home to advise its designers on two upcoming developments, Sage at Portola Springs and Garden Hill at Portola Springs.

Many of feng shui’s values are common sense.

For example, both Wong and Kim noted that it’s bad feng shui to place homes at the top of a T intersection, with car lights flooding into a home’s front windows. But that’s just plain bad from any standpoint.  Red front doors reflect bad energy for homes at the end of a road or alley that form a T intersection.

Other things are not so obvious.

Kim explained that the sink and the stove top in the kitchen can’t be aligned because water and fire shouldn’t be together.

Also, you don’t want family pictures framed in metal in the family area of the home because metal cuts wood.  “That’s considered the destructive cycle,” she explained.

Ceiling fans above beds are bad because they deflect energy away from you, she said.

Feng shui devotees like the number eight in an address – or numbers that add up to eight – because the word for eight sounds like “wealth” in Chinese and is good for money.

If a home has an unlucky address, the address can be “changed” by adding a hidden number or painting an invisible number on the wall using clear paint or the same color paint.

If an address can’t be changed, Wong advises builders to put a less popular model on that lot, saving the most popular models for lots with favorable addresses. It’s likely the lot with the unpopular address will sell to a non-Asian buyer “who doesn’t know it’s a bad number,” she said.



English Beat this Saturday in SB

Join me at the 33rd Annual Fiesta Del Sol this weekend in downtown Solana Beach!  I’ll be giving out t-shirts, pens, and coffee mugs, plus we’ll have the kids’ favorite game, the Baseball Challenge!


Our contest winners, Petra and george3, won the VIP tickets – catch me at the booth to pick up.

I will be at booth 33 (next to Fletcher Cove) both days from 9-5pm, and will stick around to catch the English Beat on Saturday night.  Those who are a little long in the tooth might remember them as one of the hottest bands on the planet back in the early 1980s. 

Here’s how they sounded a couple of years ago:

Gov Takes Foreclosure Money

Hat tip to Kingside for sending this in, from thebaycitizen.org:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to use more than $400 million from a national foreclosure settlement to help balance the state budget would put struggling homeowners at risk of criminal scams, California housing officials say.

“We are already hearing from three or four families a week who have been approached by scam artists,” said Javier Hernandez, a housing counselor at Neighborhood Housing Services of the East Bay, which is in the heart of Richmond’s hard-hit Iron Triangle.

Under the terms of the settlement – part of a national agreement to resolve allegations of wrongful foreclosures by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Ally Financial – troubled California borrowers are slated to receive about $17 billion in direct assistance over the next three years. That amount includes $12 billion in mortgage write-downs for borrowers who owe more on their homes than they are worth.

In addition to direct aid to homeowners, the state is slated to receive $410 million in direct payment from the banks. Attorney General Kamala Harris had slated that money for enforcement and assistance to local housing organizations, which would help borrowers navigate the often-complex procedures banks have set up to access the money.

Housing counselors said they had been counting on that pot of settlement money to confront the fraud.

“People are being told, ‘Oh, we can help you fill out the application to get you a principal reduction if you just give us a few thousand dollars,’ but there is no such thing,” said Josie Ramirez, executive director of HomeownershipSF, a coalition of organizations that provide housing counseling in San Francisco.

But when Brown announced his revision to the state budget earlier this month, he said he planned to redirect all of the state’s share toward reducing the deficit this year and next.

“The settlement money will really in effect replace some general fund money so we can use it for other things, but it will still be going for the purpose the lawsuit intended,” he told reporters.

The budget, Brown said, is “a pretzel palace of incredible complexity.”

A week later, Brown’s move was endorsed by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. With a $15.7 billion shortfall now projected for this year, the office urged lawmakers to ignore the possibility that shifting the money might be illegal.

“We believe the magnitude of the additional budget year savings justifies any legal risk associated with offsetting General Fund costs less directly related to the settlement,” its report said.

But not everyone in Sacramento has signed on to the change. In an interview, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, called Brown’s proposal “disturbing.”

Leno said he would be working with other members of the budget committee to find ways to restore the funding, but added that with such a large deficit, “our choices are few and difficult, but I’m going to be doing what I can to see if we can’t keep the money for its intended purpose.”


Turn In the Tan Man?

Hat tip to AL for sending this on, from Reuters:

A former home appraiser will receive $14.5 million as part of a whistleblower lawsuit that accused subprime lender Countrywide Financial of inflating appraisals on government-insured loans, his attorneys said Tuesday.

Kyle Lagow’s lawsuit sparked an investigation that culminated in a $1 billion settlement announced in February between Bank of America Corp and the U.S. Justice Department over allegations of mortgage fraud at Countrywide, his attorneys said in a news release. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

Lagow’s suit was one of five whistleblower complaints that were folded into the $25 billion national mortgage settlement that state and federal officials reached with Bank of America and four other lenders this year. His suit was unsealed in February, but the amount of his settlement had not been disclosed.

Gregory Mackler, a whistleblower who challenged Bank of America’s handling of the government’s HAMP mortgage modification program, has also finalized a settlement, said Shayne Stevenson, an attorney with the Hagens Berman law firm, which represented both whistleblowers. Stevenson declined to comment on Mackler’s settlement amount.

The complaints were brought under a whistleblower provision in the U.S. False Claims Act, which allows private individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to bring suits on behalf of the government and share in the proceeds of any settlement.

Both Lagow and Mackler lost their jobs after raising concerns about practices at their companies and faced difficult times awaiting settlements, Stevenson said. Lagow, who worked in a Countrywide appraisal unit, filed his suit in 2009; Mackler, who worked at a firm called Urban Lending Solutions, brought his case in 2011.

“These guys are inspirational,” Stevenson said. “They both did the right thing. They should inspire other people to come forward.”

Bank of America declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which handled the Bank of America settlement, also declined to comment.

Case-Shiller San Diego March ’12

Reader JRB left this comment:

Jim – with inventory this tight and plenty of buyers, wouldn’t you expect prices to start going up? Do you think more stringent appraisals are keeping a lid on prices?

The other day I said that I thought the pricing trend for detached homes around NSDCC has been slightly downward, but it really depends on how you slice it.  Whether you look at the average $/sf or median $/sf, the year-over-year prices are either +1% or -1%, and then if you take out Carlsbad, they improve a tick or two as well.

But there is more variance depending on the sample  – see the Redfin charts in the right column for three different local zip codes.  You really can’t make a general statement that accurately applies to all areas.

If you want today’s sound bite, the San Diego Case-Shiller Index for March is slightly UP:

CSI-SD Non-Seasonally Adjusted

Feb. 2012: 149.07

Mar. 2012: 149.68

CSI-SD Seasonally-Adjusted

Feb. 2012: 151.47

Mar. 2012: 151.65

It is quite a phenomenon that society is so obsessed with the direction of “prices”.  We are so addicted to the sound bite that we only want or need to hear that prices are ‘up’ or ‘down’, and any further explanation gets ignored.

But I’ll try anyway.

I think prices will be trending upward, but at a slower pace than during the frenzy era:

1. Buyers have all the recent sales at their fingertips, and are using them very cautiously. 

Back in the frenzy era, buyers didn’t have the easy access to sales history, and were much more dependent upon realtors when determining values.  When Zillow began in 2005, it kicked the doors open for the do-it-yourself appraisals, and today there is little respect, and even some disdain for the realtor’s opinion, especially if it doesn’t concur with the buyer’s lower opinion.

Buyers don’t mind paying a little more today, because the lower-rates-plus-the-end-the-frustration combo seems to compensate.  But a few higher sales here and there aren’t enough to create a trend.

2.  For there to be steady appreciation, there would need to be additional higher-priced sales to cause pricing momentum.  Expect that appreciation rates will coincide with the number of sales, and today’s NSDCC sales are 30% to 40% below those in the peak appreciation years of 2002 and 2003.

3. I haven’t had any trouble with appraisals.  There are always going to be an occasional appraiser with a big ego who delights in squashing a sale.  But as long as appraisers are told the sales price in advance and only need to hit it, appraisals won’t be keeping a lid on prices.  Same with mortgage underwriting; it isn’t going to get any tougher (and could get a little easier in areas that were previously declining), so we’ll be fine there too.

4. The number of short sales (and thus, the number of fraudulent short sales) are subsiding.  The biggest purveyor of fraudulent short sales in NSDCC has had his production clipped substantially.

The media will continue their drubbing of real estate (see today’s C-S headlines) so that will thwart some momentum.  But the trend in your local area is what will most likely prevail.

Memorial Day

A tribute to the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan in defense of our great country. And, to their family and friends who bear the pain and sorrow of their loss. We cannot forget them…

Pin It on Pinterest