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Thank you to everyone that came out to enjoy the free pumpkins, refreshments and photos at our pumpkin patch this past Sunday. We had such a wonderful time meeting some of our neighbors here in the Santa Monica area and were glad to see everyone enjoying themselves.

We hope to see many of you soon at one of our events. Please bring the kids and grandkids to the Montana Ave. Halloween walk from 4-7pm on Halloween afternoon. WSA will be hosting a costume contest, so make sure the kids are dressed to impress!

 

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Over the summer WSA had the distinct pleasure of participating in Santa Monica’s annual Walk to Africa. Proceeds from the walk go to Lighthouse Medical Missions to help fund medical missions to other countries. This year they are organizing a trip to Kyrgyzstan with the funds from the walk. 

Our team looks forward to working with Dr. Bob and his team again next year to continue making the event a success. 

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If you have an event in Santa Monica or another local Los Angeles area that you would like to share with WSA, please feel free to contact us at 310.899.3510

With the summer quickly coming to an end, the weather and the real estate market remain hot. 

The first half of the year has shown positive activity here on the Westside. Well priced homes and condos are quickly being sold in multiple offers over the asking price and inventory remains low, making this a great time to consider putting your house up for sale. 

Currently the partners at WSA have been working closing with their sellers, many of which are closing escrows on properties that were sold very quickly after being put on the market. 

If you are interested in specifics on your neighborhood or more on what WSA can help you do to prepare and list your home for sale, please contact us. 

 

Home sales in California last month were off 4.2% from October but up 4% compared with November 2010. The median home price was $244,000, up 1.7% from October and down 4.3% from a year earlier.

By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles TimesDecember 15, 2011

California’s housing market showed some signs of luster in November with sales picking up over the same month a year earlier, but prices declined and foreclosures remained prevalent.

Sales fell 4.2% from the prior month, though a decline from October to November is common, and compared with November 2010 they were up 4%, according to real estate research firm DataQuick. A total of 32,669 homes sold last month, about 18% below the average going back to 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

The state’s median home price was $244,000, up 1.7% from October and down 4.3% from November 2010.

“These days, buyers and sellers have to contend with two sets of problems, which sometimes play into each other and sometimes conflict with each other,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement. “The first is the lousy economy and the opportunities it presents, for better or worse. The second is the dysfunctional mortgage finance system. Interest rates may be at record lows, but the types of mortgages that are available have been drastically reduced and qualifying is a true grind.”

The state’s median price — the point at which half the homes in the state sold for more and half for less — has declined year-over-year for 14 consecutive months.

The most recent low in the median price was hit in April 2009, at the height of the financial crisis. After that, the housing market began showing some strength as a tax credit mostly aimed at first-time buyers helped fuel a buying spree. The market has been weak ever since that credit expired in April 2010.

Foreclosures are a big part of that weakness, as those homes and other so-called distressed properties tend to sell at a discount. Of the previously owned homes that sold last month, about 1 in 3 were foreclosures and about 1 in 5 were short sales, in which the home is sold for less than the outstanding debt on the property.

In Southern California, sales rose 0.3% from October and 4.2% from November 2010, with 16,884 homes bought across the six-county region. The median home price for the region was $275,000 in November, up 1.9% from October but down 4.2% from November 2010.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s housing market picked up a bit of steam last month. A total of 6,317 homes were sold in the nine-county region, down 2% from October and up 3.4% from November 2010. The Bay Area’s median home price was $363,500, up 3.9% from October and down 4.3% from November 2010.

While discussions regarding finances don’t make their way to the top of the to-do list as often as they should, it’s more important than ever that couples take the time to sit down and discuss their finances and financial goals. Whether you already have a money management system in place-or you need help getting started-there’s no better time than the present. Not only will a well thought-out plan keep both of you moving in the same direction toward your goals, it will also help to open the lines of communication so that you and your partner can talk more freely about financial problems, concerns and decisions.

According to Jane Honeck, CPA and author of The Problem With Money? It’s Not About Money! offers the following money managing tips.

1. Talk, Talk, Talk. Money is still a taboo topic and we often don’t have a clear idea about how our partner thinks or feels when it comes to spending versus saving. Talking about your goals with your partner is a simple way to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your finances.

2. Find Balance: Balance power around money. One person making all the decisions and having all the control when it comes to finances is often a recipe for disaster. Find ways for you both to be equally engaged in all money decisions.

3. Define Your System: Have a clearly defined money management system that covers everything from who handles the mail to who sends out the checks. Without a well thought-out plan in place, it’s more likely that things will fall through the cracks.

4. Address Problems: When problems arise, address them immediately (no secrets allowed). Avoiding the issue only makes it more toxic and drives a wedge in the relationship.

5. Perform Checkups: Schedule an annual money checkup. Things change and just like our physical health, money management needs an annual checkup to keep it healthy and relevant. Set aside time to sit down with each other and evaluate what’s working, what needs to be fixed and address any questions or concerns that either of you may have.

6. Keep the Lines of Communication Open. The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with your finances is to continue to communicate with no blame or shame. We all have hang-ups around money, so it’s important to treat your partner with compassion when it comes to your finances.

As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I, along with my team, have a wealth of real estate and home ownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact our team any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

Homes in more walkable neighborhoods are worth more than similar homes in less-walkable neighborhoods, according to an analysis from CEOs for Cities. The report, prepared by Joseph Cortwright, is called “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities.” Cortwright analyzed data from 94,000 real estate transactions in 15 major markets, using data provided by ZipRealty.

According to Cortwright’s fi ndings, houses with above-average levels of walkability command a premium of about $4,000 to $34,000 over houses with just average levels of walkability in the typical metropolitan areas studied.  Just a one-point increase in walkability increased value from $700 to $3,000, depending on the market. Gains were larger in denser, urban areas such as Chicago and San Francisco and smaller in less dense markets such as Tucson and Fresno.

In 13 of the 15 markets, higher levels of walkability were directly linked to high home values. Those areas are: Arlington, Va.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, and Stockton, Calif; Jacksonville, Fla.; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz; and Seattle. The exceptions were Las Vegas, where walkability was correlated with lower housing values, and Bakersfi eld, Calif., where there was no statistically signifi cant connection between walkability and housing values.

Walk Score measures the number of typical consumer destinations within walking
distance of a house, with scores ranging from 0 (car dependent) to 100 (most walkable). By the Walk Score measure, walkability is a direct function of how many destinations are located within a short distance. The Walk Score algorithm then assigns a “walk score” from 0 to 100. Walk scores above 70 indicate neighborhoods where one can get by without a car.

Don’t forget to take your year-end tax benefits for charitable contributions and other miscellaneous deductions.  Consider these year-end deductions and see your CPA for details.

 

 

 

 

Charitable Contributions:

  • Cash contributions to Charitable Organizations. (Either canceled check, bank statement, credit card statement or acknowledgment is required for all donations up to $249 and written acknowledgment from the charity for contributions in excess of $249.)
  • Fair market value of clothing and other household items donated to charity. A qualified appraisal is generally required if the value of donated items exceeds $500.
  • Gifts of capital gains property, such as appreciated stock. The current-year deduction is limited to 30% of AGI. Any excess can be carried over for up to five years.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses incurred while engaged in volunteer activities.
  • Deductions for charitable contributions of used motor vehicles, boats and airplanes now are generally limited to the amount the charity receives upon the vehicle’s sale and not the fair market value on the date of donation; appraised value of the vehicle donation may be used when the charitable organization uses the donated item in its charitable activity.

Miscellaneous

  • Accountants’ fees; costs for job-related uniforms; fees paid for professional journals; investment management and custody fees for taxable investments; job-related education expenses.
  • Job-search expenses for a new job in your present occupation, including…
    • Travel to and from job interviews, including cab fare and/or auto expenses.
    • Costs for typing, printing and mailing résumés.
    • Legal expenses incurred for the production of income or the management, conservation or maintenance of income-producing property; legal expenses incurred in collecting alimony under a divorce decree are deductible.
    • Tax-preparation fees; union and professional dues.
    • Employees and self-employed individuals may deduct as an adjustment to gross income the reasonable expenses of moving themselves and their families if the move is related to starting work in a new location. Deductible expenses include (1) transportation of household goods and personal effects and (2) travel (lodging but not meals).
    • Tuition and fees for higher education up to $4,000 (income limits apply).

Medical Deductions:

Medical expenses are deductible to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Included…

  • Acupuncture, chiropractic care, contact lenses, cosmetic surgery necessary to ameliorate a deformity from a congenital abnormality, personal injury or disfiguring disease — not elective cosmetic surgery.
  • Dental fees and dentures — not for cosmetic procedures, such as tooth-whitening.
  • Insulin and prescription drugs; psychiatric treatment; telephone equipment for the deaf.
  • Nursing home care required because of a medical condition; premiums paid for long-term-care insurance subject to limitations depending on the age of the taxpayer.
  • Transportation to and from hospitals or doctors’ offices; wheelchairs or other special chairs for a disabled person.

TAXES

  • Co-op owners can deduct their proportionate share of the building’s taxes; personal property taxes; real property taxes paid during the year; state and local income taxes paid or applied during the year, including wage withholding, or state and local sales taxes.

INTEREST

Mortgage and investment interest expenses typically are deductible, subject to these limits…

  • Interest expense paid on loans held specifically to purchase taxable investments is deductible to the extent of net investment income. Excess interest expense is carried forward indefinitely.
  • Interest paid for a loan on a boat that has living, sleeping and eating quarters.
  • Mortgage interest expense incurred on as much as $1 million in home acquisition debt; mortgage insurance premiums for those with income below set levels; Mortgage interest expense incurred on home-equity loans of up to $100,000.
  • Points paid on your principal residence generally are deductible immediately, unless you choose otherwise; points paid on a refinance generally are amortized over the life of the loan.

CASUALTY AND THEFT LOSSES

  • Automobile accident if not caused by your willful act; loss of a bank account due to insolvency of the bank; fire, flood and storm damage, including hurricanes and tornadoes; repairs to home and appliances because of damage due to corrosive drywall (known as Chinese drywall); replacement cost of trees and shrubs damaged by storms or fires.

*Information is not guaranteed. Coldwell Banker and WSA Partners encourage efficient tax planning and suggest that you consult with a qualified tax planner.