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La Canada Flintridge Fire August 29, 2009

I can see the San Gabriel Mountains from the upstairs window of my home; this was my vantage point yesterday evening as I witnessed the progress of the La Canada Flintridge fire.

This photo of a giant smoke cloud was taken at approximately 6:50PM PDT.


This photo was taken at approximately 7:30PM PDT.  The flames have now crossed the ridge.  (Note the shot is zoomed in closer - compare the size of the palm tree in the foreground.)


This photo was taken at approximately 7:50PM PDT, just an hour after the first photo:


Infomation on La Canada Flintridge here.

Map here

VA Jumbo Mortgages Help Finance Million-Dollar LA Properties

I stated at the beginning of the year that VA jumbo mortgages could very well be the product that helped stabilize the middle-market ($500,000- $1,000,000) in Los Angeles real estate.  Let me share with you how they work and give you some cases where we were able to fund loans this year.

The current zero-down VA jumbo mortgage limit is $737,500.  This means that a qualified veteran is eligible to purchase a a home, up to that limit, with no down payment required.  That's pretty straightforward.  Did you know that VA loans go up to $1,080,000 with a down payment?  The down payment requirement for a VA jumbo mortgage is essentially 25% of the difference between the purchase price and the county loan limit ($737,500 in Los Angeles County).  

Here are some examples of funded VA loans, in LA county, this year:

  • We funded a purchase for $1,080,000 in Rancho Palos Verdes.  The down payment requirement, combined with closing costs, was less than $100,000.  The rate was 6% (which is typical for jumbo mortgages). What made this transaction unique was that the loan amount was 92% of the purchase price and VA loans have no mortgage insurance.
  • We funded a three-unit transaction for about $700,000 with no down-payment requirement, in Los Angeles. That rate was 5.5% for a 30-year, fixed rate loan.
  • One veteran and his wife bought a townhouse in Redondo Beach for $800,000.  Their downpayment and closing costs were just under $40,000.  The rate was 5.75% for a 30-year fixed rate loan.

Most veterans who served after 1980 are eligible for the VA home loan benefit.  While eligibility doesn't guarantee approval, if the veteran's credit and income supports the loan, a VA jumbo mortgage might very well be the loan solution that allows for a low down payment for a seven-figure purchase price.

Many Californians are eligible for VA home loan benefits.  Some of the more famous veterans include Easy Rider Dennis Hopper, Kirk Douglas, Sidney Poitier, Chuck Norris, ER's Troy Evans, and Pat Sajac.  All are eligible for a VA home loan (although I doubt they need one).

Community Meeting Re 710 Freeway Extension Through Glassell Park

When:  Saturday August 29, 10:30AM

Where; Glassell Park Community Center, 3750 Verdugo Road, Glassell Park, 90065

On Saturday, August 29, 2009, the Glassell Park Improvement Association Land Use Committee is hosting an educational forum regarding the 710 Tunnel Feasibility Study.

The 710 Tunnel Feasibility Study currently being conducted by Cal Trans could result in a tunnel portal opening in our community. The feasibility study has been engaged in order to determine whether or not a tunnel could be constructed to complete the 710 gap closure for northbound traffic via a "route-neutral" plan.

The meeting is free to the public.

Here is the Caltrans web site:

Community Network and Resource Fair

Community Network and Resource Fair

Saturday, August 29, 2009, 10am – 4pm PDT

Court of Champions
The Rose Bowl
, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103

10a-2p Community Network and Resource Fair with information about Employment Health Financial Housing Education Youth Parenting Spiritual and More

Over 50 Resource Vendors

10a-4p Celebration Join us for Music Art Dance Drama Food

*All Ages


The Church of the City, Greater Pasadena

in conjunction with

The Employment Development Department of California and

The Foothill Workforce Investment Board



Tuesday is Old L A Farmer's Market Day in Highland Park

The Old L A Farmer's Market in Highland Park is held every Tuesday, rain or shine, from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

The Farmer's Market is held on Avenue 58 in between North Figueroa and Marmion Way, and on Marmion Way between Avenue 57 and Avenue 58.

You can ride the Metro Gold Line and get off at the Avenue 57 Station.  Or you can park in the public parking lot north of North Figueroa.  Enter the parking lot from Avenue 57.

And the market has more than fruit and veggies!  You can buy hot, prepared food; you can buy arts, crafts, jewelry and apparel.

And there's live entertainment!


ESCROW SURVIVAL GUIDE - For Homebuyers In Northeast Los Angeles - PART ONE: What is Escrow?

ESCROW SURVIVAL GUIDE -For Homebuyers in Northeast Los AngelesPART ONE:  What is Escrow? 

Many eastern states use a settlement/closing process to effect a purchase of real estate.  California and several other western states use a process known as "escrow".

It's bad enough that the word "escrow" itself can be used is so many different ways.

"Escrow" can be a verb:  As in "We will escrow the money".

"Escrow" can be a company name:  As in "Arroyo Village Escrow".

"Escrow" can be a generic noun, a word for the process itself:  "We are in escrow".

And "escrow" as a process is not limited to real estate transactions.  You can escrow items you buy and sell on eBay.  eBay's one approved escrow service provider is describes the eBay escrow process this way (I am paraphrasing here):

1.  Buyer and Seller agree to terms

2.  Buyer submits money to

3. confirms receipt of money

4.  Seller ships item

5.  Buyer confirms receipt of item

6. forwards the money to the seller.

Substitute the idea of shipping the item with the idea of recording the transfer deed, add a few layers of complexity, a few additional steps, and a few zeros to the price of the item, and you will understand the process as it applies to a real estate transaction.

An escrow company is a neutral third party.  Buyers and sellers deposit documents and money with this neutral third party.  The neutral third party holds the money and the documents, until whatever conditions agreed upon by both buyer and seller are met, then the third party distributes the documents and the money.

In a California real estate transaction, the neutral third party (the escrow company) has some requirements to of their own to complete before the transaction can close.

So while the buyer is busy obtaining inspections and completing paperwork for final loan approval, and while the seller is busy making agreed upon repairs and making moving arrangements, the escrow company will: 

1,  Receive buyer's initial deposit and prepare escrow instructions. Obtain all signatures.

2,  Order a title search and receive the preliminary title report.

3.  Distribute copies of the preliminary title report to all parties and obtain approval.

4.  Request "demands" (that is, pay-off statements) from the seller's existing lenders.

5.  Obtain seller's signature on grant deed. Hold grant deed until all terms are meet, and all money is deposited.

6.  Calculate prorations on property taxes, rents, insurance, or other expenses as required.

7.  Coordinate with buyer's lender. Order and process buyer's loan documents.

8.  Receive buyer's down payment funds and request funds from buyer's lender.

9.  Order recording of grant deed to buyer and distribute all funds: Pay-off existing loans; pay required costs, such as termite completion; release net proceeds to seller.

Don't worry!  If you are working with one of the experienced real estate agents at Bob Taylor Properties, Inc., in Highland Park,  we will constantly monitor your escrow to make sure that all participants are performing their tasks correctly and on time; so that your escrow proceeds smoothly and closes successfully.

Old L A-Highland Park Farmer's Market Today!

 It's Tuesday! Come on over to the Old L.A. Farmers Market in Highland Park, from 3 to 7 pm, on Avenue 58 and Marmion Way.


Come for the entertainment and stay for the fresh produce, hot and prepared foods and arts and crafts.

The Old LA Farmers Market is every Tuesday from 3-8pm. Corner of North Figueroa and Ave. 58. Lots of free parking at Ave. 57. Adjacent to the Highland Park Metro Goldline.

Celebrating Diversity in Highland Park CA

Here in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park, we are a community of contrasts and diversity, where many different cultures and beliefs peacefully (for the most part) co-exist.

I enjoy this juxtaposition:

Palm Reading, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Fresh Flowers.