Exciting News if you are 62 years of age or older.  If you have paid off your mortgage or paid down a considerable amount of, your mortgage, and are currently living in your home, you may participate in an FHA Home Equity Conversion Program, referred Program to as a HECM. This program is an FHA reverse mortgage program that entitles you to withdraw a portion of your home’s equity. What is also exciting is that you may use this HECM  to purchase a primary residence. If you have a capacity to use cash on hand to pay the difference between the HECM proceeds and the sales Price plus closing costs for the property you are purchasing.

Borrowing Requirements”

62 years or older

Own the property outright or have the loan paid down considerable

Occupy the property as your personal residence

Not be delinquent on any federal debt

Have Financial resources to make timely payments on ongoing property charges, such as property taxes, insurance, HOA if applicable

You must participate in a consumer information session given by Hud approved HECM Counselor

Can you believe that adding Trees and Greenerey to you home, will bring down cost and increase the value of your home.

Planting a tree on the west side of a home can reduce a home’s energy bills 3 percent within five years and 12 percent within 15 years. Specifically, west-side trees can bring summertime electric bills down by an average of $25 a year and reduce air conditioning use by 30 percent, according to the Forest Service.

Trees and other landscaping can also lower the impact of damaging winds on a home, potentially reducing 35 mph winds to 10 mph, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. This also lessens the load on the furnace working to heat the home on those cold, windy days, which can bring energy bills down by 30 percent.

A  study found that landscaping has the potential to increase the value of homes by about 6 percent. Some of the most desired landscape trends among consumers include: rainwater harvesting, native plants and drought-resistant plants, permeable paving, and fire pits, according to the 2016 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

So when you are ready to buy or sell, consider this option for value and energy saving


Firpta Changes that Agents need to know

The provision increased the rate of withholding from 10% to 15% except in the case of sales of residences intended for personal use by the buyer, if the purchase price does not exceed $1 million.

Thus, if the previous exception for personal residences (where the purchase price does not exceed $300,000 – in which case no withholding is required) does not apply, the 10 percent withholding rate is retained so long as the purchase price does not exceed $1 million. If the price is higher than $1 million, the new 15 percent rate will apply.

Here are some easy guidelines:

  • If the amount realized (generally the sales price) is $300,000 or less, AND the property will be used by the buyer as a residence, no sums need be withheld or remitted.
  • If the amount realized exceeds $300,000 but does not exceed $1,000,000, AND the property will be used by the buyer as a residence, then the withholding rate is 10% on the full amount realized.
  • If the amount realized exceeds $1,000,000, then the withholding rate is 15% on the entire amount, regardless of use by the buyer.

When assisting high-end foreign sellers, it’s safe to anticipate their surprise when hearing about the increase in withholding rate, and you should be prepared to explain the basics of the change. If you are selling a home for a foreigner and the home is subject to FIRPTA, you will want to inform the buyer and buyer’s agent that your client is a foreigner and what withholding could apply. This is especially important since the buyer is responsible for withholding the funds and remitting them to the IRS.

The changes described above were enacted to help pay for two other FIRPTA provisions also included in the PATH Act. These provisions were designed to make the U.S. more attractive to foreign investors and buyers. Experts estimate that they will boost foreign investment in U.S. commercial real estate by $20-$30 billion per year. These changes include:

Making your Credit work for you


First, let’s discuss credit scores and how they are determined. Creditors use a statistical formula to review the data in your files and compare it to credit performance of consumers with similar profiles. A credit scoring system awards points for each factor. The total of your points determines your credit score and gives lenders a prediction of how you may repay your loan. The following factors are used to determine your credit score:

    • Do you pay your bills on time? If you have paid late, had an account sent to a collection agency or have declared bankruptcy, this will have a negative impact on your credit score.


    • What is your outstanding debt? Many scoring models compare the amount of debt you have with your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your limit, it is likely to have a negative impact.


    • How long is your credit history? A short history can have a negative impact, but can be offset by on-time payments and low balances.


    • Have you applied for new credit recently? Applying for too many accounts within a short time period can negatively affect your score.


  • How many and what types of credit accounts do you have? Many scoring models consider the number and type of accounts you have. A mix of installment loans and credit cards may improve your score. Too many finance company accounts or too many credit cards will likely hurt your score.

High prices hold back California home sales:

37,600 new and resale home transactions closed escrow in California during November 2016. Breaking from the seasonal sales cycle, this is 5% higher than a month earlier when 35,900 sales closed. More significantly, the number of homes sold in November 2016 was a substantial 23% above a year earlier, amounting to 7,000 more sales.

The reason for the unexpected sales bump? CoreLogic attributes November 2016’s higher annual sales volume to a comparatively low sales volume last November, when sales were delayed due to the new mortgage disclosure rules. At the time, many sales which were to close in November 2015 were delayed, which caused a lower than usual November 2015 sales volume and December 2015’s sales volume to appear inflated. November 2016 also had an extra business day than normal.

The number of homes sold year-to-date is 2% higher than 2015 as of November 2016. With the exception of November, this percentage steadily decreased in recent months, and it’s likely 2016 sales volume will end roughly level with 2015. Further, following November’s high number of closings, CoreLogic forecasts a slower than usual sales volume for December 2016 due to the interest rate increase which began in November.

2015 ended with 450,700 home sales in California. This is 35,400, or 9%, more sales than took place in 2014 and just above 2013 sales volume. For perspective, the 450,700 homes sold in 2015 was still 40% below peak sales volume experienced in 2005.















What is Landlord Liability and Criminal activity

If you are a landlord you have responsibility for the maintenance and security of your properties that you rent or lease to a tenant.  But are landlord’s  responsible to protect their tenant from criminal activity?  Defining Reasonable foreseeability

To Keep tenants and visitors safe from harm, residential landlords are required to use ordinary care in managing the condition of the property. California Civil Code S1714(a). Landlords need to take safety precautions for unsafe conditions that are reasonable foreseeable. :

Their duty is to assure the safety of others, if prior  occurrence exists, such as a assault or robbery due to unsafe conditions. The unit lacks ordinary security installments, such as adequate door locks , lighting or housing and building codes that specify safety measures to be taken by the landlord.

Are agents qualified to provide tax advice to their clients?

The truth is: not only are licensees permitted to share their hard-earned tax knowledge, their agency relationship with their client may require them to do so depending on:

The scope of the agents knowledge, the type of transaction and the clients intended use of the sales proceeds. Further, a knowledgeable seller’s agent is able to go beyond disclosure of mere tax information. They are equipped to assist their client in structuring the sales arrangement to achieve the best tax consequences available.

Although, a statutory exception within the disclosure  exists on on one to four unit residential dwellings and commercial properties, a seller’s agent has no duty to disclose their knowledge of possible tax consequences, even though the tax consequences are known by the agent to affect the client’s decision on how to handle the sale of the property. California civil  code S2079.16

Southern California Real Estate Advice

Southern California Real Estate Advicebabsengenfbcover2If you’re looking for real estate in the High Desert of California, you really need a realtor who knows the area well and can assist you in making the most informed choices possible.  I specialize in real estate investment property and single-family homes in Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Spring Valley Lake (a private housing community in Victorville) the Lucerne Valley, Phelan, Palmdale, and Oak Hills just to name a few.  My real estate career began with working for my father, Frank Rametta, a successful real estate broker in the South Bay, California (Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach etc).  He taught me that real estate is a simple business: help people get the property that’s right for them.

Most people may buy a home or some other form of real estate once or twice in a lifetime; it’s such a large investment and yet most of us aren’t very experienced at all with the process of actually doing it!  This lack of real experience creates a lot of potential for unethical practices in my business.  4Similar to the car-business, salespeople take advantage of your ignorance of the product and of the process, and that’s why that business has a spotty reputation.  My father believed that, as a broker and real estate agent with experience buying and selling thousands of properties, it was our job to simply offer the benefit of that experience to the much less-experienced buyer (or seller). He said, “Do your best to be of actual help to them, make the process clear and simple and seek only a fair-deal.” He believed that in the long-run, this would produce a real and lasting success that would stand out against the self-interested competition.barbaraengensold2

If you’re exploring real estate opportunities in California, particularly the high desert and South Bay areas, give me a call or shoot me a text. I’d love to share my experience with you. Also, check out “My Territories” on this website for detailed information on each of the areas I cover!

Barbara Engen – Realtor
Southern California Real Estate
High Desert real estate
Victorville real estate
Apple Valley homes for sale
Spring Valley Lake real estate
Hesperia real estate



Barbara Engen
(760) 245-6392
(310) 594-7300 (cell)

Real Estate Branding – Force or Farce?


Real Estate Branding: Force or Farce?
When people are looking for homes for sale in the High Desert of California (Victorville, Apply Valley, Hesperia and surrounding areas), whether it be real estate investment property or property they intend to occupy, many of them go directly to the established real estate firms in the area. As a culture, we are conditioned to have brand loyalty: we assume these established, ultra-successful companies are successful because they’re doing something right, and I speculate most people feel that starting with a Century 21 or Berkshire Hathaway representative is the smartest, safest bet.  A great reputation can be a sign of superior service, or of superior marketing.

I’ve been buying and selling real estate for over 30 years.  My husband of 33 years was a very talented builder, back in a time when custom homes were “in vogue” and you didn’t see these huge track projects with their cookie-cutter designs dominatinCentury_21_logo.svg_g the landscape like you do today. I’ve worked for the “premier offices” (Century 21, Remax etc), and what really matters is the agent’s quality of character, not the familiarity of the brand.  These premier names in real estate are simply franchises that brokers can pay to essentially use logos and letterhead, but have no quality assurance regulations or standards to meet and/or maintain in order to be part of the franchise.top-real-estate-memes-2015-11

For most people, buying or selling real estate is a fairly uncommon experience. According to a recent article by Teresa Mears of US News, “buying or selling a house is not something most of us do every day. You may do it once a decade, or even once in a lifetime.”  She goes on to describe 9 common real estate myths that I agree with and feel my members should check out. So if you’re in the market for a short, interesting read — click here to view the article by Teresa Mears.


The Rams Are Back – Good News for Real Estate


Sports Teams and Gentrification

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Rams coming back to Los Angeles… I remember back when we had the Raiders and the Rams here and, though it generated a considerable amount of revenue for the city (among others) it certainly had its drawbacks.  Fortunately, I live in Spring Valley Lake, California now so I won’t have to deal with the traffic and the mischief that follows in the wake of professional sports ;). What I am excited about, however, is the gentrification that’s going to take place in Inglewood, California and the surrounding areas!ramsback

Now would be a great time to look at property in Inglewood, Lawndale, Gardena, and Hawthorne, California because of the huge potential for gentrification to these areas as a result of the new stadium being built and the countless new businesses that will want to set up shop there for all the tens of thousands of sports fans.

If downtown Los Angeles is any indication, property values could double by the time the stadium is completed.  When the Staples Center was built in the late 1990’s, property values in the surrounding areas were at an all-time low.  That project ultimately led to a significant remodel of the entire (well, nearly) downtown area and today, it remains as a buzzingentrificationg hub of new development.  When big money comes into previously poor neighborhoods and builds something huge, like a stadium, it’s a signal for other businesses to buy up adjacent land and start building.  This gentrification process transforms neighborhoods and turns formerly run-down, crime-ridden areas into clean, new, trendy social centers.  The surrounding residential property values go up of course and that attracts a new class of buyers to the area.  According to a recent article by Bianca Barragan of Curbed:Los Angeles, “the stadium is  one more huge addition to a budding destination and entertainment district in Inglewood…and “investor interest in commercial real estate surrounding the Rams’ future home is newly booming.”inglewoodstadium

As it is right now, Inglewood, Lawndale, Hawthorne, Gardena; These areas have the greatest potential for transformation and fortunately, this is my old stomping ground! If you’re interested in a great real estate investment opportunity in California, don’t hesitate to contact me!

– Barb

California Real Estate – Urban Sprawl Predictions

The California High Desert is a smart choice for developers and investors to consider.  As urban sprawl creeps east / northeast and transportation systems are innovated over time, the tri-city area of Victorville, Apple Valley and Hesperia effectively moves closer to the city.  As it is, it’s only a little over an hour drive into Los Angeles / Pasadena, but I believe in twenty years there will be more sophisticated transportation systems in place to shorten that commute.


Corner of Western Ave and PCH in the 1950’s – photo courtesy of The Daily Breeze (dailybreeze.com)


Corner of Western Ave and PCH present day (photo courtesy of Google Maps)

It amazes me when I look at how much property values have gone up in the South Bay of Los Angeles where I grew up in just the last twenty years! Twenty years ago, a 3 bedroom 2 bath house in Torrance could sell for $200,000-$300,000 – now that same property is worth just under a million dollars.  Even more surprising is how much property values have gone up in my lifetime: a client of mine grew up in Lomita and still lives in the same house his father bought in 1955 for $5000.  That house is worth $779,000 today! oldeconomysteve

It’s unlikely that this exponential growth trend could continue indefinitely as it seems to have for the last 50+ years – markets tend to stabilize and then fluctuate within a somewhat predictable range, but the key to successful real estate investment is finding those “new areas” that, under the right circumstances, have the potential for the kind of growth that I’m talking about.  I believe the High Desert of California is one of those areas, but it’s going to take a bit of time to see if my prediction comes true.

If you’re interested in investment property, development property, securing mineral & water rights, prospecting and the future of California real estate, give me a call or send me an email and let me assist you in finding the right piece of property!barbara-engen-real-estate-agent

– Barb