Why It’s Finally Easier to Get a New Mortgage

By: Ian Salisbury @iansalisbury

Courtesy of Money Magazine

April 19, 2016

Rates are again low and banks are loosening up, but sterling credit still pays.

After the housing crisis, mortgage lending standards became unreasonably tight for many. In 2014, only 51% of refi applications went through, according to mortgage-software company Ellie Mae, and one that didn’t gained notoriety: That year Ben Bernanke said he was turned down when he tried to refinance the mortgage on his Washington, D.C., home shortly after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve. While he didn’t say why, one theory was that his post-Fed income as a consultant was irregular.

Today, 66% of refis are approved, and that’s not the only good sign for borrowers in search of a plain-vanilla mortgage—that is, a 20% down fixed- or adjustable-rate loan guaranteed by the government-sponsored agencies Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. As the graphic below shows, the average FICO credit score on a 30-year loan to buy a home has dropped from a high of 765 in 2010 to a recent 755, the real estate data firm CoreLogic reports. Borrowers with the average score of 695 might be able to get a conforming mortgage (loans for less than $417,000 in most of the country) for the first time in years, says Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin.

Get off the bubble

The very best rates are still reserved for borrowers with top scores of 800-plus. The good news is that the difference between the rate you’ll get with an excellent score of 800 and what you’ll get with a very good score between 750 and 800 has narrowed to almost zero, says McLaughlin. “The big gap is between people in the 750 range and those in the low 700s and high 600s,” he says. With weaker credit, you could pay nearly a quarter of a point more. On a $200,000 mortgage, that’s $10,000 more over the 30-year life of the loan.


While you should be able to get a top rate with a 740 credit score, lenders don’t follow uniform cutoffs. That score might get you lumped in with borrowers in the 700 to 750 range at one bank but the 740 to 800 range at another. The more quotes you get, the more likely you are to land the best rate you can.

Revisit your refi

Banks have gotten even more relaxed about refinancing. Once you have a record of paying your mortgage, banks typically assume you’ll pay it in the future.

Even if you already hit the refi table—say when rates fell well below 5% in 2010—check back. The Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates in December, raising worries of higher consumer loan rates, and it may do so again in June. But mortgages typically track 10-year Treasury bond rates. Investors, uneasy about the economy’s long-term prospects, have been snapping up these bonds, pushing prices up and rates down. The upshot: The average rate on a 30-year mortgage is 3.9%, lower than at almost any time since early 2013. But with the Fed still committed to raising rates in 2016, that low rate will eventually rise. Don’t dally.

Calculator: Should I refinance my mortgage?

One way to profit now: Switch from a 30-year to a 15-year loan. If you last refinanced in 2010, your rate is probably around 4.7%, the average that year. On a $200,000 mortgage, that monthly bill is $1,036. By swapping your mortgage for a 15-year loan, you should be able to lock in 3.1%. That will bump your payment to $1,229 but let you retire the loan nearly a decade sooner and save $77,000 in interest.

Let yourself go big

In some high-cost areas, home prices have surged: Median home prices in San Jose have doubled off their housing-crisis lows. Prices are up 60% in Seattle and 45% in Washington, D.C. That can be a problem. Loans for more than $625,500 in high-cost areas and $417,000 in the rest of the country don’t qualify for guarantees from Fannie or Freddie, making them harder to get.

While overall caps haven’t changed in more than a decade, limits in 39 counties across the country, including areas near Boston and Seattle, were raised last year. If your home failed to qualify for a Fannie- and Freddie-eligible loan before, check again. (For limits by county, go to the data section of fhfa.gov.)

What’s more, banks are starting to warm to customers who need these bigger loans, known as jumbos, though they are still skittish when it comes to credit. The average FICO score on a jumbo loan is 770 for purchases and only slightly lower for refinancings. But if you can meet that criteria, you’ll pay a rate of just 3.8%.

Read Next: How to Master Shopping for a Mortgage Online

Finally, there’s one jumbo option to be leery of. You may be offered an interest-only loan, which is initially more affordable because you don’t pay principal until years later. Stay away: “These are one of the products that led to the downturn,” says HSH‘s Tim Manni. “Now we are starting to see them surface. It’s risky business.”

L.A. County’s hottest ZIP Codes . . . . including Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Playa del Rey!


By Andrew Khouri

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2016

If you were a seller, the Southern California housing market was a good one last year.

The economy improved. Sales jumped after a lethargic 2014. And prices climbed even higher, making an already expensive region even more so. By the end of November, the median home price for the six-county market was $438,000, up 6.8% from the same month a year earlier, according to the data from CoreLogic.

Still, the real estate frenzy cooled through late summer and fall. To what extent the slowdown could be blamed on the typical seasonality of home sales or to the price hikes that have made housing increasingly unaffordable is unclear. A better picture of the market’s health should emerge during the busy spring buying season.

Economists generally expect further improvement in the market, though they predict that the price increases will slow as fewer families are able to buy into it — a trend that started in 2013.
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$475-million deal reflects Playa Vista’s rise as a tech hub


(Christina House / Christina House)

Photo courtesy of Christina House

By Andrew Khouri – Contract Reporter

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Business Section, February 10, 2016

A mixed-use project envisioned as Playa Vista’s downtown has been sold to a Dallas investment firm for a reported $475 million, cementing the master-planned community’s rise as a residential neighborhood and technology hub.

The steep price for Runway Playa Vista — a retail, residential and office development that cost about $300 million to develop — shows what can happen when tech giants like Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft come to town.

Investors are banking on those companies luring highly educated and highly paid workers to the burgeoning community as it nears completion.

“The tenant roster is kind of a who’s who of big technology and entertainment companies,” said Pete Cassiano, a managing director with buyer Invesco Real Estate, which bought the project from Lincoln Property Co. and two partners. He added that the Runway “is going to be a kind of a hub for the whole area going forward.”
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8 Delicious New Restaurants You Need To Try In The South Bay

8 Delicious New Restaurants You Need To Try In The South Bay

Article courtesy of laist.com

Over the past few years we’ve seen lots of excellent restaurants descend upon the South Bay, including Fishing With Dynamite, Dia Del Campo, Little Sister, and Abigaile. And now, adding to the areas already great mix of Strand-side fish tacos, izakaya pubs, and old-school Italian joints, we’re seeing a brand new wave of solid dining destinations hit the southwestern shore. From handmade pastas to reimagined steakhouses, and Japanese whiskies to wine bars, there are now plenty of brand new and delicious options for date nights and weeknights alike. Check out these awesome new places to eat in the South Bay.

The beach-y, modern dining room of Bettolino Kitchen (Photo via Bettolino Kitchen)

The beach-y, modern dining room of Bettolino Kitchen (Photo via Bettolino Kitchen)

Bettolino Kitchen

One of the newest additions to the South Bay dining scene, Bettolino Kitchen delivers strong with homemade pastas and fresh takes on Italian classics, including duck breast risotto and braised veal cheeks. While the pastas may run on the pricier side then your typical weeknight Italian destination, the quality ingredients and fresh cuts of pasta are worth the occasional splurge. Warm and airy, the Redondo Beach location offers rustic, neighborhood charm that balances modern design with plenty of salvaged wood. Brother-and-sister team Vince Gaetano and Andreanna Liguore opened the restaurant with the help of Michelin-starred Italian chef Fabio Ugoletti. The duo’s grandparent’s opened Giuliano’s Deli, while their parents started Gaetano’s—both Italian stalwarts of the South Bay. Currently they offer a thoughtful wine list, as well as beer, while a full liquor license is on the way soon.

Bettolino Kitchen is located at 211 Palos Verdes Blvd, Redondo Beach, (310) 375-0500

Orlando’s Pizzeria & Birreria (via Facebook)

Orlando’s Pizzeria & Birreria (via Facebook)

Orlando’s Pizzeria & Birreria

Orlando’s seemed to open under the radar of most people outside of the South Bay. It’s tucked in a Redondo mini-mall so it has likely even remained hidden from some neighbors, but that’s bound to change soon as word gets around. Gourmet pizzas and craft beers are well represented here, but it’s the Montreal-twist to the menu that you probably didn’t see coming. Unlike most Italian restaurants this far south of the Canadian border, Chef Orlando Mule serves up Montreal classics like smoked brisket and poutine. And true to the name, you’ll also find an array of reasonably-priced gourmet pizzas—about half with marinara the other half white—with classic and unexpected toppings like dandelion root or lamb. Orlando’s also offers substantial burgers, sandwiches and pastas, and let’s not forget about those 17 beers and 21 varieties of wine to round out your meal.

Orlando’s Pizzeria & Birreria is located at 1000 Torrance Blvd, Redondo Beach, (310) 792-9300.


Steak and whisky at Steak & Whisky (Photo via Lanewood Studio/Steak & Whisky)

Steak and whisky at Steak & Whisky (Photo via Lanewood Studio/Steak & Whisky)

Steak & Whisky

The featured offerings at this recently opened Hermosa Beach restaurant may not surprise you, but Steak & Whisky is not just another steakhouse. Chef Tin Vuong and executive chef John Shaw playfully tweak old school favorites with clever, Asian-inflected flair. You’ll find creative twists like steak tartare with pickled cucumber and red curry, as well as kurobuta pork short rib with a shoyu glaze, in addition to the more straightforward entrées like a 22-ounce 30-day dry-aged porterhouse. The whisky selection also skews heavily towards Japanese distillers. This is not the place for balling on a budget, but for celebratory dinners or out-to-impress date nights, you’ve got a solid new option. Distinguished sippers can even rent their own liquor locker if they wish to store their private pours. There’s also an extensive wine selection, rotating beer and a limited selection of craft cocktails like Bill the Butcher, an Earl Grey-infused whiskey stirred with Averna and Velvet Falernum. Steak & Whisky rounds out the already impressive offerings from BlackHouse Hospitality in the South Bay, which includes Little Sister, Abigaile, and Día de Campo, all of which opened in recent years.

Steak & Whisky is located at 117 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, (310) 318-5555


The drool-worthy cavatappi with bone marrow (Photo by Danny Jensen/LAist)

The drool-worthy cavatappi with bone marrow (Photo by Danny Jensen/LAist)

Love & Salt

Another formidable contender for fresh, Italian-inspired fare in the Beach Cities, Love & Salt disarms you with a chilled-out vibe then knocks you out with bold flavors. Vaulted ceilings and communal tables make for a great neighborhood setting to bring a share-friendly group and sip Italian and California wines or unfussy craft cocktails. Start strong with the homemade English muffins or cheese and salumi, then consider small plates like the black kale with soppressata or roasted cauliflower with salsa verde. Chef Michael Fiorelli then hits you with wood oven pizzas like the duck egg and pancetta or handmade pastas like the creamy cavatappi with bone marrow. And for the whole table or a really hungry duo, step up to the rich rabbit porchetta or the head-turning whole roasted pig head. Chances are you’ll be back for their newly added brunch, which features Nutella toast and Italian-style wood-oven baked eggs.

Love & Salt is located at 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5252


Journey back in time at Arthur J.’s (Photo by Stan Lee/Arthur J.)

Arthur J.

Unlike his surf-oriented menu at Fishing With Dynamite just down the street, Chef David LeFevre’s newest Manhattan Beach steakhouse is turf-heavy. Steak-lovers can choose from a selection of dry and wet-aged beef cuts prepared on a wood-fired grill, while opting for umami-packed toppings like black truffle butter and buttered blue crab. There are also plenty of hearty, non-steak options, including braised Wagyu short ribs, emmental popovers, and Swedish meatballs. Expect steak-friendly wines and reinvented cocktail classics like Brannigan’s Boots, an old fashioned with rye, sarsaparilla and bourbon cherry. You’re also likely to feel a bit of Mad Men-nostalgia with the mid-century modern design, which features lots of polished walnut and curved banquets.

Arthur J. is located at 903 Manhattan Ave in Manhattan Beach, (310) 878-9620

Bacari PDR

The South Bay’s answer to the USC-adjacent Bacaro LA, Bacari PDR is a sleek and approachable wine bar with a refreshing ocean breeze. In addition to a solid wine selection, you’ll also find sangria, beer and craft cocktails, along with some great happy hour specials. And if you convince your whole group to participate, you can go big for less with 90-minute bottomless pours of house wine, beers and sangria for $25 per person. Chef Lior Hillel’s cicchetti—Italian-inspired small plates— like the lamb-stuffed eggplant are also worth investigating, as are the grilled pizzas, which include a smoked mushroom and a spicy chorizo. Bacari PDR added a brunch service on the weekends earlier this year, so now you can enjoy bottomless mimosas, Bacari Marys and more with breakfast renditions of cicchetti.

Bacari PDR is located at 6805 S Vista Del Mar Ln, Playa Del Rey, (310) 439-2100


That Manhattan House burger though…(via Facebook)

Manhattan House

You may feel like the South Bay is already awash with gastropubs, but Manhattan House heralds a fresh variation on the theme. In addition to focusing on sustainable ingredients, Chef Diana Stavaridis has partnered with Growing Great, a local nonprofit organization that brings educational gardening programs to schools. Herbs and vegetables grown with the help of students at nearby Pacific Elementary School in Manhattan Beach will be featured prominently on the menu. The menu also features ingredients from local farms and fisheries, as well as a California-heavy selection of wine and beer.

Manhattan House is located at 1019 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310-574-2277

Black pepper pappardelle with heritage pork at Lou's On The Hill (via Facebook)

Black pepper pappardelle with heritage pork at Lou’s On The Hill (via Facebook)

Lou’s On The Hill

Lou’s On The Hill brings the now familiar themes of a modern Italian menu with local and seasonal ingredients to Torrance. Opened by husband and wife duo Lou and Grace Giovanetti—former owners of Manhattan Beach’s Side Door—the restaurant also offers live music Wednesday through Saturday. The performances lean heavy on the jazz, with Lou himself taking the stage to sing every other Thursday. Meanwhile, Chef Eric Mickle turns out wood-fired pizzas like the foraged mushroom or roasted pork belly, along with handmade pastas including pesto pumpkin ravioli or the black tagliatelle with sea urchin. There are also plenty of jazz-inspired craft cocktails and ‘tailored’ Negronis, as well as California and Italian wines. Lou’s currently offers weekday lunch, solid deals on a prix fixe happy hour, and limited late-night bites, perfect for budget-friendly date nights. There’s also the adjoining Rocco’s Room for private parties and special events.

Lou’s On The Hill is located at 24590 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 378-4288