Monday, March 31, 2008

It's Not Broke, Please Don't Fix It

For the last couple weeks the MSM has been noting that the major presidential candidates haven’t really put together a plan to address the housing crisis, which has now spread to a broader economic crisis. I’m not exactly sure why the MSM was clamoring for this, perhaps to give commentators something to gnaw on. Because anyone who is really paying attention to the housing bust knows that by the time the next president is sworn in much of the drama will have already played out.

Last week MSM got its wish, all three candidates discussed their economic platform. Unfortunately, wsing the housing market as an economic platform, while perhaps telling about their general approach to the economy, is not all that informative since the crisis will be in very different phase, needing very different solutions, by the time the next president takes office.

So that brings us to the Bush administration, whose approach I more or less agree with (yes you heard that right…I am agreeing with the Bush administration). Last Wednesday U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said policy-makers should not interfere with an "inevitable" drop in housing prices but should work to minimize the impact on the economy.

According to last week’s NAR report (ironically caught off guard that sales were slightly up, but prices down) as well as local anecdotes (that there is considerable demand at the 200k level), the market appears to be in fine economic working order. The more prices drop, the more demand is stimulated. The market is not broke. Its working just as it should. The more affordable homes become, the more first time buyers will be able to enter the market, thus repairing the broken links of the housing food chain.

This is not to say that the government should do nothing. In fact there is a lot the government can do that doesn’t involve messing with the necessary market correction. The first and foremost is to modify/regulate the financial and RE industries to keep this from happening again. And it sounds like Paulson is leading the charge on this as well. (He is really starting to grow on me. Initially I was disgusted by his appointment, figuring he was there to do Wall Street’s bidding, but as this crisis has unfolded, it appears that he has the inside knowledge to know what type of regulation is likely to be the most effective, and is actually leading the charge.)

The second thing the government, particularly local governments, can do, is to provide assistance to those going through the foreclosure or short sale process so they don’t get taken advantage of. Local agencies can provide lists of suitable rentals homes or apartments, negotiate agreements with local landlords to take families whose credit may be damaged by a foreclosure etc.

In general I think this situation is very similar to open trade policy. The theory goes that open trade benefits the broader market by lowering prices. Government sets requirements to ensure safe products, and healthy working and environmental conditions. In exchange for lower priced goods coming from overseas, pockets of domestic workers are dislocated. Thus part of domestic trade policy is to address those dislocations and minimize their impact on the broader market.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This time, it really is different.

Each time I hear that statement about a financial market (including real estate), I cringe. As the real estate market went up, the pundits all had reasons why "this time it was different" and we were not in a real estate bubble. We heard it during the bubble. I am guessing folks heard it during the Dutch tulip mania, although I wasn't around then.

I monitor Radarlogic for Sacramento MSA average price per square foot, along with local sales statistics (actual non-seasonal adjusted closings as reported by MLS). Looking at Radarlogic and sales levels for the most recent years (2006 and2007), during the first 3-4 months of each year, there is a modest increase in average price/foot and a modest increase in sales, then the price/foot free fall resumes and the sales activity continues its downward spiral. This trend will not last forever. At some time, and I don't know when, we will start to return to historical pricing and sales patterns. Is this time really different? Is this the year? Has the price/foot free fall ended? Will we actually see an increase in sales (month over month) through the spring and summer selling season?


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Sign of the Times

Went to do my normal screen scrape today on the site, and found some very interesting changes. In the "status" column which used to just tell if it was pending, or if there was a release clause.......we now have an expanded list of terminology:

  • AR indicating the property is Active w/Release Clause ,
  • AS indicating the property is Active and a Short Sale,
  • ASC indicating the property is Active and a Short Sale with a Contingency,
  • AC indicating the property is Active with a Court Approval requirement and
  • ACC indicating the property is Active with a Court Approval requirement with a Contingency.
  • PSB indicating the property is Pending and accepting back-up offers.

One other positive development, they have stopped indicating that someone is using a discount agent. (Really, why should it matter to a prospective buyer what agent a seller is using. I think its was just the Realtors way of discriminating against those who threatened their lucrative business model).

Another note on the screen scrape.....I have stopped tracking all but the basic statistics these days. With over 150 listings, I don't have the time or desire to keept track of the details anymore.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A tragic 401k reminder from Bear Stearns ...

For years I have been listening to financial pundits on tv tell us not to invest our 401k's in the company that we work for. For all of their claimed financial savvy, apparently many Bear Stearns employees failed to heed this advice and are now likely to lose not only their jobs (it has been reported that J. P. Morgan will can 50% of the Bear Stearns employees), but have also lost virtually all, if not all, of their retirement, and for some, life savings.

I don't profess to be a financial person, but those that I listen to are adamant about diversifying retirement and savings. That means never invest in the company you work, so that if it fails, you only lose your job, not your job and life savings. It also means investing outside the sector that you work in ... After all, how good of a plan would it have been for a Bear Stearns employee to invest all of his/her 401k stock in Thornburg Mortgage (now trading at less than $2/share)? Many of the pundits recommend investing across a minimum of 5-7 other sectors.

Even knowing the advice of the pundits, I am regularly guilty of being too invested in cash equivalents (which historically pay too little), or too invested in one sector. I wish I had the self-discipline to follow the advice of the pundits!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bottom's Up

There had been some speculation on the blogs and in the MSM that we may have hit a bottom for the lower end of the housing market. I thought I would do some homework to see if this trend applies to the two markets I track, Folsom (95630) and El Dorado Hills (95762), since my screen scrape (which is at the lower end) has been indicating a pick up in contract activity.

To some degree this theory is born out. The lower price brackets is where all the action is at in terms of pending sales (including release clause pendings). The data was gathered by quickly counting and bracketing info on, so it is not that accurate (for example I think I had some overlap...600k homes will show up in both the 450-600k search and the 600k - 800k search using the Metrolistmls queries).

For a reference, a ratio of 16% is approximately 6 months inventory if all the pendings were to close in one month...which is highly unlikely...but still a good reference number to know.

Monday, March 24, 2008

WWYD - What Would You Do?

Spent Easter in Santa Rosa with Mr. BTs family. When we arrived, we were heralded with the exciting story of how his brother had just put in an offer on a home (REO). They have been prequalified and have been at this for a couple weeks. The most recent offer, was on a bank REO for 299k.

He and his wife, and their 5yr old, aren't too hopeful because investors keep beating them out with all cash offers. Strangely enough, their reason for purchasing is because there aren't many rentals available (and their current rental has the sewage all backed up and the LL won't fix it).

Now I imagine Santa Rosa is more expensive than Sacramento. But I also know that as a county maintenance guy and an office worker, it will be rather tight making payments on a home for 299k.

Of course I think they should wait. But I held my tongue through all this, as the offer is already in........ so what is the point?

The part that confounded me was the fact that they speak of all these investors competing with them for the same homes. So how can there be no acceptably priced rentals? I suspect its a combination of their RE agent pumping them with slanted info, combined with their own interest in purchasing rather than continuing to rent (seeing what they want to see).

So what would you do? I'm certainly not implying I have all the answers. But neither of them have a college degree, and I am worried they could easily be taken advantage of. The overwhelming desire to "own" a home has gotten a lot of first-time-borrowers in over their heads. Most trust that their agents and lenders have their best interest at heart. Even Mr. BT and I learned the hard way, that this is rarely the case.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Weekly Screen Scrape - So Far

Since January 2008, the average price per square foot in my search criteria (in Folsom and El Dorado Hills) has dropped 5%. The number of homes avialable (not pending) that meet my criteria has risen by 16%.

The number of homes pending sale has increased significantly, but shows the exact same pattern as last March (which was the high for the year) and has not reached the same % high as it did last year. The ratio also went down by 3% compared to last week.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Increasingly Impatient

As some of you have aptly observed, I think my views on the housing market are overly optimistic. The correction cannot happen fast enough in my book. I am sooooo ready to settle down in a place I can call my own.

Have I mentioned lately how I resent waiting out this bubble? I have tried to contain the bitterness and complaints .....but for some reason I feel the need to lash out today.

Yes wishing it so, won't make it so.....and this makes me an increasingly bitter renter (financially content, but emotionally bitter).

At first the local Sacramento housing market was a kind of geeky curiosity.....wondering if and when the economic fundamentals would kick in. During that time we were fairly productive and checked out various local neighborhoods.

But now that I have been in this rental for well over a year, and have pinpointed where I want to live, the curiosity has lost all its charm...even to this uber geeky blogger.

Humble Pie

So here I thought Mr. BT and I have done pretty for ourselves. We put ourselves through college (and I went on to get my MBA as well) and now both of us have white collar professional jobs.

Then I read this.............according to the Sac Bee story
"The highest-paid 10 percent of state workers earn a median annual salary of $107,580, up almost 25 percent from November 2003." The raises they have received seem way out of line with what we have received in the private sector.

This helps explain the demand for all these homes that seem ridiculously overpriced when compared to median salaries. Apparently salaries are much higher than I had realized. And yes I griped about this exact same thing last year as well, but it was related to federal pay.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are we There Yet?

We have certainly come a long way. But how much farther do we have to go?

Last year, it was easy to be confident about the future direction of home prices. Rents were crazy cheep compared to purchasing the same home. As a result, home prices had to come down (rents weren't going up because frustrated sellers were flooding the market).

However we are now entering a rather grey area. Depending on your assumptions (and especially your location) things can go either way. For example, the home we are looking at comes out fairly even with our rent (with costs fully loaded into both sides) except for maintenance. This is a big exception, because the home is older, and in need of extensive maintenance.

From my limited calculations, in El Dorado Hills, we have another 10-15% to go. At that point, we will hit the rent adjusted value as well as the inflation adjusted value. Homes that are priced around 10-15% below comps in my price range are also flying off the market around here. So I feel fairly confident about this estimate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

House of Cards

I know many felt it was just a matter of time before our consumer driven economy faltered. But lately it feels much more like a complete collapse than a falter.

Try as I might, I am having a hard time grasping what value these financial firms bring to our economy. I understand the concept of buying and selling stocks, since you are actually buying and selling ownership of something. I also understand margins, having money to back up your purchases. But the sophisticated financial “products” these firms sell, tend to be associated with a “position,” an “instrument”, or a “strategy.”

To be completely cynical about this....and I think the $2 share price of Bear Sterns might back me up, these companies don't produce anything of actual value. They seem to be middlemen that assist with transactions, or structure a deal, and take an enormous cut (hmmm...that sounds really familiar =) Even the WSJ theorized yesterday that the only real asset of BS may be the building that houses the employees.

Its not that I haven’t tried to understand, but the proliferation of these “products” have become mind numbing to your average suburban mom (hedge funds, EFTs, SIVs, CDOs, and the list goes on). According to my egocentric view of the world, if its so complicated that I can’t understand what purpose it serves, why should we use taxpayer money to bail them out?

All the headlines seem to emphasize the need for liquidity to conduct all these “transactions.” But these financial “innovations” and “transactions” all seem to be predicated on a house of cards. Once the rug is pulled out from under, the entire thing collapses.

What really gets me about this whole situation is the hypocrisy of it all. Many of these financial types are not in favor of safety nets for the American people, but yet they advocate them for their troubled financial firms and markets.

(And I am not so naïve to think all these products are completely without merit. In my industry, it was widely publicized how Southwest Airlines uses fuel hedges to stay ahead of its competition.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Recourse of Course

In a fit of procrastination, I did a little research on the whole "recourse" issue. From what I had gathered, California is a non-recourse state. Meaning, the bank can't go after all your stuff, if your house doesn't fully satisfy the debt you owe the bank in a foreclosure.

However there appears to be an interesting twist to all this. According to the CA Franchise Tax Board, loans can become recourse if they are not made with purchase money. In other words, if you refinance your home, it is now considered to be recourse debt. The bank can get a deficiency judgement against you and go after all the goodies you bought while you weren't paying your mortgage.

So now I am wondering if all this seemingly charitable activity the banks have been reporting, "working out the terms of the loan with the borrower" is just a ruse to make the loan a recourse loan. You refinance to a lower rate, and can now "manage your payments" for a bit, and unbeknown to you, the bank now has recourse to seize the hummer you bought while being foreclosed on.

Please keep in mind this is all purely uneducated speculation on my part. But if I were a bank with a non-recourse purchase loan in California, I would do what I could to get my borrower to refinance and turn it into a recourse loan (and what do you want to make a bet, this recourse info is buried on the back of page 12 in fine print).

If I am reading all this correctly, I don't think I want to purchase with the idea of refinancing later when rates go down.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Febuary March 2008 Month's Inventory

I have had many family obligations lately, so not much time to obsess about the sales data that came out. While month's inventory is down from last month, perhaps due to the quickened pace of sales, it is still firmly in buyer's territory for most zip codes (6 month mark is often cited as a balanced market). SFH inventory is from Zip Realty, and sales are courtesy of the Sac Bee via Data Quick.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Mighty Misleading Median

Initially, purchasing activity slowed, yet median prices kept rising. This enigma was oft attributed to the fact that only higher end homes were selling, raising the median. Now the roles are reversed and it appears that lower end homes are the primary drivers behind the sales numbers these days. With this reversal, the median home price has tumbled over the last year

This phenomenon makes home pricing look much more aggressive than it really has been because the distribution at the higher end has not changed much. The lower 50% of the market seems to be getting the hint, and that is where the sales have occurred (see stats provided by Agent Bubble below).

So while the median sales price has supposedly dropped 30% or so in Sacramento over the last year, I'm not sure its reflective of the entire market.

12/1/06 - 2/28/07
By Sales Price
0-100K - 21
100K-199K - 258
200K-299K - 856
300K-399K - 1417
400K-499K - 749
500K-599K - 376
600K-699K - 201
700K+ - 276

12/1/07 - 2/28/08
By Sales Price
0-100K - 106 (+405%)
100K-199K - 731 (+183%)
200K-299K - 1237 (+45%)
300K-399K - 958 (-32%)
400K-499K - 398 (-47%)
500K-599K - 187 (-50%)
600K-699K - 97 (-52%)
700K+ - 127 (-54%)

This trend was reinforced by my research yesterday. I checked out pendings in El Dorado Hills, since the bank is going to prepare comps for our short sale. The number of pending sales over 600k is anemic compared to the lower end.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stop the Presses - The Bee has a Blog

Lander always has the latest scoop. There is a new RE blog in town courtesy of the Sacramento Bee (by Jim Wasserman). Very exciting for me, cause it looks like he is posting advance info on the latest DQ data!

Personally, I have been rather pleased with Wasserman's RE coverage. He has discussed the price drops from the affordability angle more than once.

I just hope the comments on his blog are a little more civilized than the articles. The disrespect people display online never ceases to amaze me.

The Weekly Screen Scrape - Spring fling or flop?

In a mere 2 months, the average price per square foot has dropped 5% (for the homes I track that meet my criteria in Folsom and El Dorado Hills). There were some substantial price drops in the last two weeks, and I am now seeing several familiar listings coming back on the market after taking a winter break. Now that my sample size has grown significantly, I think these statistics can be interpreted as more indicative of the broader market (albeit the lower end).

On the flip side, there art a lot of homes in escrow right now. However to give a little context, last March was also the record for my pending to total ratio (34%, with 22 pending and 43 available). The main difference is that there are so many more homes that fit our criteria now. With 50 homes pending and 102 homes available, for a ratio of 33 pending%.

But here is the early May 2007 that ratio had dropped down to 18%, one of the lowest points of the year.

Separately, our home search is on hold for a month while we wait to hear from the bank on the short sale we submitted. I'm not too hopeful, as the seller thinks the offer is low (of course its all semantics, since I think the offer is very reasonable). We actually lowered our original offer once we agreed it would be a short sale, to cover the "as-is" factor as well as the fact that short sales take several months to work out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 2008 Asking Price Distribution

Below is the March 2008 update on Sacramento's progress toward affordable housing for your average family. We seem to be making some nice progress in the lower 50%. The upper 50% doesn't seem to be budging much, but I have a feeling their day will come. After all, a 10% decline on a $1,000,000 home is $100,000, compared to $20,000 on a $200,000 home. While the percent is the same, the actual $$ pain is more acute on the higher end.

Once again, this is a very unscientific data set, gathered from Zip Realty's website (the mapping function) for all home types (SFH, condo, multi family).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Taxing Debate

As an ENFP I tend to be very please forgive the rather naive discussion below. I must be missing some crucial piece of information because the "tax argument" for purchasing a home isn't very persuasive.

We just completed our taxes for this year. It was our first full year in California, and our first full year as married renters with two jobs (we had rented while married previously, but my husband was attending college full-time). We are now at a point where our income is such that we don't qualify for many deductions anymore (except for our two little munchkins of course). So needless to say our tax bill was larger than in past years (the state was what really got us).

Getting to the issue at hand......the "tax benefits" of owning a home are often cited as a reason to buy versus rent. But I have always felt this is a misconstrued argument. For one, you have to pay a lot more in taxes and mortgage interest than your actual deduction. So the "its tax deductible" argument only goes so far in my book.

In all honesty it seems like a big shell game to me. Instead of paying county property taxes, and lining shareholder pockets with the interest on your mortgage, you are paying higher federal and state taxes. I know some have a visceral reaction to paying anything that smacks of a tax, but is paying interest on your mortgage that much more appealing? At least with taxes, in theory the money is being put toward the common good.

Once home prices come down, we will find a middle ground between the two extremes. In theory we will pay less interest and property taxes (since our loan amount will be lower), but federal and state taxes will be higher since we will have less to deduct.

In any case, buying a home for the tax deductibility, seems to be a false argument because those tax benefits are offset with many other costs, such as homeowners insurance, property taxes and maintenance.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March 2008 Inventory - Inventory Takes an Unseasonal Dip

For some reason I have always hated the word "absorption." It conjures up images of paper towels and diapers. But based on anecdotal evidence, and my personal RE browsing obsession, I am assuming "absorption" now applies to the Sac RE market.

The unseasonal drop in inventory doesn't make sense, unless you attribute it to increased purchasing activity. In other words, inventory is being absorbed by buyers at a faster rate than new listings are coming on the market. If I were a strict doom an gloomer, I would attribute it to expired listings and frustrated sellers.

However I am sticking with the positive explanation because prices have a lot to do with sales activity, and there is sufficient evidence that prices are finally getting back to reasonable levels. Back in April of last year the median home price was $439,500. Fast forward one year, and that median has now dropped to $311,900 according to housing tracker. We have come a long way in a short while (almost a 30% drop).

Of course, this theory is largely driven by my gut. As an average move-up buyer, if I am seeing attractive properties in my price range, I assume others are as well. If we are antsy to become a homeowners once again, I assume others are as well (for instance, one of my favorite bloggers has recently taken the plunge).

Friday, March 7, 2008

All's Fair?

Just noticed that the Q4 update to the National City / Global Insight Housing Valuation Report has been released. According to their study, Sacramento is now considered to be fairly valued! How bout that. We have come down from our peak of 53% overvalued to just 7%.

With the credit markets in such disarray, the economy teetering on the edge, and no end to the onslaught of foreclosures and NODS, Sacramento is likely to overshoot the mark.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Weekly Screen Scrape - Mixed Signals

Well, its a very confusing time to be a buyer. Just finished the weekly screen scrape, and the pending sale ratio is at an all time high. Prices have dropped, and with interest rates lower, I think people are feeling more confident about the market.

On the other hand, NODs and foreclosures in El Dorado Hills and Folsom seem to be heating up as well, which would signal further price declines. According to this week, Folsom has 110 active NODs and 39 active foreclosures with only 292 SFH listings right now. El Dorado Hills has active 150 NODs, 34 active foreclosures and 403 SFH listings last I checked.

Last year, around this time was also saw the peak in my pending sale to inventory ratio, so it could just be a seasonal trend.

Originally our plan was to use the pending sale ratio to figure out if the market was heating up, and jump in before it began to appreciate again. Many fellow bloggers have surmised that this is just a dead cat bounce, but I also know of some who have decided to take the plunge.

What's an average buyer to do?

March 2008 Good Buys & Offers to Builders

Please post homes you think are a good buy or any offers you know of that were accepted, especially to builders. It will help give others negotiating leverage when they are ready to buy. Even just letting people know what type of builder incentives they can expect would be helpful since its hard to tell if they give everyone the same incentives.

Currently there are over 20 homes in my screen scrape that are listed below 165$ sqft (of course, at least half of them are pending sale and many have mello roos and HOA). Still, not too shabby.

Pieces of data to include: Zip Code, MLS or Development Name, List Price, Incentives, Offer (if any), house details (sq ft, garage size, lots size etc).

Feel free to post info for homes anywhere in the Sacramento Metro area. Just cause I tend to confine my search to the Gold River, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park areas doesn't mean others have to.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

While I am rather bearish on the economy right now, I feel the need to explore a couple issues that could affect how this whole economic meltdown plays out.

Bubble Bubble – With the advent of technology, transactions costs related to access and information have been substantially reduced in the last 2 decades. This has made it much easier for arm chair investors to jump onto every market bandwagon. One minute its tech stocks, the next its real estate, the next its gold, oil and commodities. Some of these markets can build and deflate quickly, and some will build and deflate slowly, depending on production lead times and the stickiness of the market. In any case, I think bubble psychology is here to stay. There is just too much money looking for a home (the next big thing). This would make a great PhD thesis: take a historical look at how long bubbles took to play out, compared to transparency (information) transaction costs, and asset production lead times.

Toil – Typically in recessions, unemployment rises. But lets not forget, just last month marks the first of the baby boomer retirements. This exodus from the workforce will mitigate some of the employment related issues we would otherwise see. Of course, if the stock and bond markets are performing poorly, this may delay the retirements.

Trouble? –How much trouble ahead is anyone’s guess. But if the markets can get a better handle on recognizing bubbles before they get too advanced, then it should bring some stability to investments. If investments are perceived as fairly stable, it will mean that the Boomers will feel relatively comfortable retiring. This in turn will keep unemployment at a more reasonable level than it would be otherwise in times of economic turmoil.

How do I see this playing out? Markets won't be able to get a handle on the bubble psychology. Just not enough contrarian investors out there. This will continue to create and destroy wealth at an increasingly rapid pace as well as prevent stabilization of the financial markets and banking system (hopefully some additional government regulation will either curb the risks, or require more disclosure, so that the financial system is not constantly teetering on the brink with every new asset bubble). I think Boomer retirements will be what eventually pulls us out of this mess since companies will be able to downsize in a less costly manner.

Of course there are a gazzillion other things in play (such as the dollar's loss of status, I am hoping our thirst for foreign goods subsides a bit which would spur domestic growth. This situation would be helped considerably if China would begin to devalue its currency.)....But I haven't seen much coverage by the MSM on these two issues which will play a big role in the aftermath of the housing bubble.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Due Diligence

I like to know what I am getting into before I make an offer on a home I am interested in. And lately there have been some temptations.

The following is a list of items I checked on with the offer we made a couple weeks ago. I am sure there are more, so feel free to chime in. I will add to it and post it on the sidebar with the other home buying resources.
  • Check to see where the home falls on the El Dorado County asbestos mapping.
  • Look at the tax assessor’s website. Since I am new to the area, I also called to find out about the county tax rate (1.0364%), special impact assessments and the other district fees.
  • Verify the school district. Redistricting has occurred several times and I wanted to see how likely would we be to get redistricted…as well as ask about how impacted are the schools.
  • Get an estimate on water usage to see how it compares to what we pay now. El Dorado Irrigation District 530 642- 4000
  • Get an estimate on electricity and gas usage to see how it compares to what we pay now: PG&E 800-743-5000
  • Used the online form of my insurance company to get an estimate on Homeowners Insurance.
  • C.L.U.E. Report for previous insurance claims on the home
  • Googled the address to see what comes up.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A New Meaning to the Term Bedroom Community

Now I like to keep my posts clean, but this latest incident was just too amusing to not mention. So in true tabloid fashion I will report on a rather interesting development in the sleepy bedroom community of El Dorado Hills.

Apparently, Masque restaurant, and now the new Bistro 33 have attracted some promiscuous clientele lately. It a rather interesting mix ....and I won't go into all the gory details, but the clientele fall into two main categories (on Thursday nights in particular).

There are the hired hands (if you know what I mean) working the bar area patrons (I hear the manager is trying to crack down on the activity that is actually occurring at the restaurant). Some mom's from my group actually witnessed the deed one recent Thursday.

And then there are the swingers. It a very active group in the EDH area (they actually have a club?), and it is surprisingly pervasive (including several neighbors of another mom I know).

While at the park today I heard a hilarious story by one of my daughter's best friend's mom. She and her husband, who are both very attractive, were the target of affections at Masque recently. They had been drinking and it didn't really register until the advances became physically overt. Needless to say they won't be going back to Masque any time soon. Of course I couldn't stop laughing on hearing the story.....but more in a shock and awe kinda of way.

I find the whole situation very entertaining, EDH being such a bastion of conservative values and all.

Agent Inquiries Only

Hard to believe it in this market, but us buyers still get treated shabbily when inquiring on a home. Below is my most recent run-in with an agent who obviously hasn't gotten the message that some RE buyers are sophisticated enough to make decisions for themselves.

There is home in my favorite neighborhood that is now listed for rent (the same neighborhood where we made an offer two weeks ago). I kinda recognized the place as having been sold in the last 4 years (my agent sent me all the recent sales so I could do my homework on this neighborhood).

Well I called the number to find out how much it would rent for. The guy was nice enough. But the rent was way out of line, even for EDH. So I ventured to ask, if they would be willing to sell. He thought they might be, but refused to discuss it with me any further, insisting my agent needed to call him. Apparently it makes us 'serious buyers' if our agent calls. Surprisingly, he even held his ground after I mentioned we recently put in an offer right around the corner.

Of course, I was a bit insulted. But once again, I won't let a snobby RE agent get in the way of my dream home. So after doing some more homework on the place, it looks like they are speculators with almost 100% LTV.