Mortgage Rates Edge Lower

Article courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
According to  E. Scott Reckard  of the LA Times,

Mortgage-rate trends were mixed early this week, Freddie Mac said, with lenders offering a 30-year fixed loan at an average of 4.19%, down from 4.2% a week earlier.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed loan was unchanged at 3.36%. Loans that become adjustable after five years of fixed payments saw the start rate drop to 3.06%, from 3.08%, Freddie Mac said Thursday in releasing its weekly report.
The survey asks lenders each Monday morning through midday Wednesday about the terms they are offering to solid borrowers on loans up to $417,000.

In addition to rates, the terms include how much the lenders would collect in fees and discount points to make the loans. Buyers can pay extra points to lower rates, or avoid paying lender fees and for services such as appraisals by accepting higher rates.

The lender charges typically averaged 0.7% or 0.8% of the loan amount in the past. More recently, lenders have reported lower figures, an example being 0.4% of the loan amount in the latest Freddie Mac survey.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for long-term fixed mortgage rates, has fallen this week, which puts downward pressure on rates.


Manhattan Beach in top 10 SoCal cities to raise a family

Manhattan Beach Ranks #2 in Best Cities in Southern Cali to Raise a Family

KPCC reports:

Poway, Manhattan Beach and South Pasadena are among the top ten cities to raise a family in SoCal, according to the financial site CreditDonkey .

The study only considered cities with a population of 25,000 or higher; it based the list on education levels, commute time, household type, residency and housing costs.

The study focused heavily on education, with rankings reflecting the cities with the highest percentage of adults who earned a high school diploma or better. Overall, the more educated residents are, the higher their quality of life, according to CreditDonkey.

In addition to education, the study placed an emphasis on commute time. In the study, only cities with the best average commute time were chosen.

Below is CreditDonkey’s list, based on their study, of the top ten cities to raise a family in Southern California.

1. Poway

2. Manhattan Beach

3. South Pasadena

4. Lake Forest

5. Moorpark

6. Rancho Santa Margarita

7. Rancho Palos Verdes

8. Cypress

9. Walnut

10. Santee

For more information on the study, such as a break down of the different cities’ stats, visit CreditDonkey’s post here.


A Home Designed with your Dog in Mind



photograph courtesy of Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A new breed of homes provides ‘pet suites’ for owners’ furry friends


Upstairs, the master bathroom has a spa built for him and her modeled after a five-star resort, with dual showers and porcelain tile. Downstairs, there’s another spa, but this one is strictly for paws and fur.

Each floor plan for the new homes being built in Brea, in a development known as Avignon at Blackstone, includes an optional 170-square-foot “pet suite.” The suite includes a tiled washing station with leash tie-downs and a hand-held sprayer, a pet dryer, a cabinet with built-in bedding, a stackable washer/dryer combo (separate from the human laundry room), a flat-screen TV and a patio door that opens to a dog run.

The developer, Irvine-based Standard Pacific Homes, says it’s building homes with the lap dog of luxury in mind.

“It comes back to enhancing the lives of our homeowners who are pet owners,” said Danielle Tocco, a spokeswoman for Standard Pacific.

Pet-friendly residential design is gaining popularity as owners become more sensitive to their pets’ needs, said Jennifer Wolch, dean of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley.

“Such inclusive designs range from apartment complexes with dog-washing facilities, cat-friendly interior design, dog runs, trails and parks, and entire communities oriented toward living with companion and other animals,” Wolch said.


Photograph courtesy of Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

But Michael Bianchi, managing broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, said that after polling his network of 150 agents about the pet suites, he thinks Standard Pacific has taken pet-friendly offerings to a new level.

“Standard Pacific is the only builder offering it as a package,” Bianchi said. “The reality is, the amount of money people are spending on their pets is going through the roof. So why wouldn’t they?”

The home builder is just one of many responding to a surge in pet ownership — nearly 70% of American households have pets — and spending, according to a pet industry survey. The companies are also capitalizing on a trend that experts call “pet humanization.” Owners now think of their furry friends as children, and have begun to redefine what they consider necessary supplies, services and treatments, economists and pet industry experts say.

Wealthy pet owners have long splurged on high-end offerings that in many ways mirror what’s available for humans — hotel-style kennel accommodations, fitness programs, expensive veterinary treatments and organic, gluten-free foods, some even prepared by private chefs.

Dogs at D Pet Hotels in Hollywood are boarded in “suites,” including some outfitted like human bedrooms. Grooming options include full-body massages and detoxifying thermal wraps, and a chauffeur service will pick up lucky dogs in a Bentley, Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini Gallardo. Owner Alissa Cruz said her clients want to provide such creature comforts for dogs that love them unconditionally, like children who never talk back.

Beverly Hills Caviar offers a line of caviar for dogs and cats. It began in 2009 as a kind of a joke, owner Kelly Stern said. But she now has about 100 regular customers for the stuff — salmon roe for dogs and trout eggs for cats — which runs about $7 per ounce.

“Some dogs, you know, they’re just born into luxury,” Stern said. Her customers include celebrities and private chefs who cater to the rich — and their pets.


Photograph courtesy of Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

But now even those who aren’t millionaires are pampering their pets.

America’s pet spending is up across the board, not just among the jet set, and is expected to reach about $60 billion in 2014, according to some estimates. That’s an increase of 70% over what it was a decade ago.

More than half the pet market — about $31 billion — is made up of owners who earn more than $70,000 a year, said Michael Dillon, president of Dillon Media, which publishes an annual report on the pet industry. But pet spending is skewing toward even higher income levels, he said.

“The long-term trends show consumers, households making over $100,000 a year have really ramped up spending,” Dillon said.

Pet suites in a range of sizes are offered at 27 of Standard Pacific’s communities throughout the country with prices beginning at $1,500, but typically around $8,000 or more, spokeswoman Tocco said.

The Avignon community features the largest layout, which adds about $35,000 to home prices that start at $1.3 million. A buyer from China has already ordered a house with a pet suite even though construction has yet to begin on the new homes, Standard Pacific said.

Melanie Dean lives in a Standard Pacific home near Dallas with her husband and two young sons. She said the pet suite was one of many things they loved about the house when they first saw it, though they had no pets at the time. They’ve since adopted a boxer named Lola.


Photograph courtesy of Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

“She’s a part of the family,” Dean said. “Everybody else has a room — so does she.”

Dean said she thought it was a unique idea, but didn’t realize how convenient the suite would be. It has helped her keep Lola’s things organized, she said, and has saved her the hassle and expense of taking the puppy to a groomer.

“If we were to move again, now that I’ve had this space for Lola, I would want it again,” Dean said. “It’s hard to go backward.”

Dean said she didn’t know anyone else with a pet suite when they moved in last spring. Now Standard Pacific is building a home for her parents down the street. It’ll have a pet suite too.

Twitter: @chadgarland

Terranea Resort Has Birds of Prey

photograph courtesy of Terranea Resort
photograph courtesy of Terranea Resort

Thanks to Discover Los Angeles, we discovered that there are birds of prey at Terranea Resort!  Here is the article in full:

Situated on 102 acres that overlook the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, Terranea Resort is a spectacular coastal property that features 582 guestrooms and suites, including spacious bungalows, casitas and villas. Terranea’s coastal setting offers incredible views throughout the property, from the lobby and outdoor gardens to private terraces and inviting courtyards with outdoor fireplaces.

The skies above Terranea are clear and free of pesky seagulls, thanks to a non-lethal birds of prey program introduced by Aerial Solutions, a bird control service. As a result of the eco-friendly abatement program, the oceanfront resort is rid of a large, indigenous seagull population, while the majestic birds of prey – aka raptors – have become a popular and unique attraction at the luxury resort. Terranea’s program includes falcons, Harris hawks and Eurasian eagle owls.

The falconers typically fly the falcons and hawks, while the owl only has to make an appearance to have the desired effect of scaring off certain birds. The birds fly at different times each day to help prevent a “routine” from being established. Other birds – especially crows – are very smart, therefore the falconer uses changing flight times and locations to help with the abatement.


Photo courtesy of Tarranea Resort

The raptor program has been part of Terranea Resort since its opening in 2009. “Matt Morreau was the founder of Aerial Solutions, and it was his dedication to education and commitment to growing the art of falconry that really created a ‘teachable moment’ versus traditional bird abatement,” says Marissa Edwards, the Director of All Things Fun at Terranea. “His philosophy of being hands-on with our guests and bringing the art of falconry to life really helped define Aerial Solutions’ recreation programs as fun with a purpose. Matt’s partners and master falconers, Scott Timmons and Joe Roy work hard to continue that tradition and expand the learning opportunities with guests, the local community and everyone interested.”

Thursday through Sunday, the falconers and a variety of their birds of prey are at Terranea’s Pointe Discovery activity center at 11:00am. The resort’s expert team of falconers teaches guests about the natural history of the birds of prey, the important role they play in the environment and at Terranea, the ecological benefits of falconry, and how the birds are fed and launched. Guests can also schedule private tours with the falconer for a more in-depth experience.

Photo courtesy of Tarranea Resort

Photo courtesy of Tarranea Resort

Pointe Discovery is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located on Terranea’s main drive. Call 310.265.2851 for more information and reservations. To learn more about the falconry program and other unique Pointe Discovery activities, visit