Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - February 18, 2011

This may be best time to refinance or buy, Realtor says

Median prices also rising, making purchase decisions more timely,

by Jeb Bing

Single-family homeowners here are faring much better than their counterparts in other Tri-Valley cities as the market continues to correct.

Todd Brebner, manager of the Pleasanton office of Mason-McDuffie Mortgage Corp., sees that evidence in the type of loans processed by his team. In contrast to many places where the vast majority of loans are federally guaranteed, about three-quarters of the loans originated from transactions involving Pleasanton properties are conventional.

It's also reflected in the relatively low percentage (one-quarter) of transactions involving short sales (where the home is worth less than the owner owes) and bank-owned foreclosed properties. This is based on data from the BayEast Realtors Association.

Looking ahead, Brebner expects mortgages rates to continue to edge up as the economy improves. That trend should be a call to action for people considering whether to buy now or wait to see if home prices continue to slip. BayEast statistics over the past three years show the median price falling to $654,000 in 2009 from a $798,500 in 2008. For 2010, it climbed to nearly $700,000.

"Particularly if a couple is looking to buy and stay in a home for a number of years, paying one-half or a full point of interest is going to be significantly costlier than waiting and hoping a price may drop another $20,000 or $30,000," said Brebner.

For the refinance market, he encouraged homeowners with adjustable rates that will reset in the next one or two years to visit with a mortgage professional to determine what option would best serve their needs.

"It may be a no-cost refinance into a five-year fixed or even a 30-year fixed or another adjustable," said Brebner. "Each situation is different and homeowners should carefully consider what choice will serve them best. It's the largest investment most of us will ever make. They deserve to know what they are signing and to understand it."

The Pleasanton manager, a veteran of 24 years in the mortgage banking business, has worked for both large national lenders and for privately-held firms such as Mason-McDuffie Mortgage. The challenges of the lending market and the greatly stiffened documentation requirements remind Brebner of the situation when he entered the business in the 1980s. Lenders now are requiring thorough documentation and explanations for bank deposits that aren't directly tied to employment or other forms of income not reported on tax returns.

Mason-McDuffie Mortgage is headquartered in San Ramon and the Pleasanton office is at 4301 Hacienda Drive, suite 100. The brand dates to its founding in 1887 in Oakland.

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