…The Light at the End of a Very Long Tunnel

CoreLogic® has just published their most recent Home Price Index showing a 3.8% rise in home prices for July marking the 5th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. They are forecasting an increase of 4.6% in August and are now anticipating that we will see a gain for the full year.

In this month’s Realtor® Report, you’ll find that housing  activity in Southwest California is running slightly ahead of these national numbers with year-over-year increases of 6% in both July and August putting us ahead of 2011 median price by 5% year to date. Temecula posted its 6th consecutive monthly median over $300,000 and its highest month since April 2008  ($347,985).

Sales were down somewhat in August, at least in part due to our increasingly severe inventory shortage. Demand activity remains strong and if we had more homes to sell, they would be selling. Year-to-date sales are 9% ahead of 2011 (4,963/5,454) and still running 4% ahead of 2010 (5,228/5,454) keeping us on pace to set a new high water mark for the region, but our inventory is down 62% since January.

Back in June, I updated you on a bill H.R. 5823. Authored by California Congressman Gary Miller, the “Saving Taxpayers from Unnecessary GSE Bulk Sales Act of 2012” follows months of direct lobbying to the FHFA and others to carve California out of their proposed pilot program to remove hundreds of homes from our inventory and convert them to rentals for 5 years in an ‘effort to stabilize the market’.

The bill is still languishing in committee. Meanwhile the FHFA has announced its intention to proceed with the program and remove 500 for-sale homes in LA and Riverside County to fire-sale to an investor as rentals by year-end. Even if we knew how they were selecting these homes, where they were located and who they were going to sell them to, this would still be a bad program. The fact that we don’t know any of those things only makes it worse.

I would like to thank the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the Southwest California Legislative Council and the Cities of Temecula and Murrieta (so far) for joining Realtors® in SUPPORTING H.R. 5823 and opposing this FHFA program. Simply stated, the goal of this program is to stabilize the market by removing  ‘excess inventory’. But our region has no excess inventory, there is strong demand for the properties we have and our prices have been stable for 3+ years and have recently started to appreciate. This program would make it even more difficult for qualified buyers to find a home in our communities while exposing our neighborhoods to numerous rentals owned by an absentee landlord (hedge fund) just waiting out their 5 years to dump them back onto the market.

To get all the numbers behind the local real estate market as well as more information on how you can join the coalition supporting HR 5823, visit: http://www.slideshare.net/genewunderlich/9-realtor-report


2010 Recap Realtor Report

If you click on that little red Realtor Report just above the chart, you’ll get to a slightly larger version of the report which will be easier for your old eyes to read. You’re welcome.

SRC Realtor & Affiliate Holiday Food Drive

Once again our thanks go out to our Affiliate group for organizing what has become one of the Valleys most successful holiday food drives. Thanks also to our Realtors who participate, who volunteer to collect the donations and deliver it to needy centers.

Special thanks to the hundreds of students in Valley grade, middle & high schools for bringing in non-perishable donations of food, toys & clothing to help their more needy neighbors. The need has exploded this year while donations have dropped – but even with that SRCAR collected nearly 11,000 food items so far this year with more to come.

Long overdue – Stonewood scam goes to trial

At long last the trial has begun for the perpetrators of the so-called Stonewood Scam in Southwest Riverside County. Long time readers are acquainted with the basics of this story from my years-long chronicle of events. Our local association tried to bring this to the attention of law enforcement beginning in late 2004 but were unsuccessful in catching anybody’s ear until the scam had nearly run its course and started to collapse under its own weight.

The real estate part of it consisted of representatives from Stonewood Financial buying homes at significant premiums over asking price. As this was at a time our housing market was appreciating 20% – 30% a year, the fact that someone would pay a 25% or 30% premium on a home purchase was not enough to warrant investigation by the authorities. Homes listed at $500,000 were routinely selling for $600,000 or more. Targeting specific neighborhoods, after the first two or three sales were obtained with fraudulent appraisals, it became a self-feeding scheme since subsequent appraisals were now based on actual sales, albeit fraudulent. Turns out many of the buyers were either made of straw, or people talked into buying multiple properties they couldn’t begin to afford. Naturally other buyers into those neighborhoods also became victims since selling prices became predicated on fraudulently inflated values. In addition to the 200+ documented cases, many more innocent victims lost their homes when prices tumbled by more than 2/3 in some cases.

How did they do it? Well, partially through affinity fraud – many of the buyers were either members of the same ethnicity as the perpetrators or were nurses at the same facility where one of the perpetrators worked. They were also promised that the properties could be rented, that any shortage between the rental income and the mortgage payment would be paid for them, and that the $100,000+ overage collected by Stonewood or a related entity, would be paid to an investment account with the promise of even greater dividends to come.

Naturally there was no investment account to produce income, after a month or two the promised rental offset payments dried up and houses started going into foreclosure by tens, then by hundreds. When we became aware that something smelled bad here, we documented about 60 homes and about $40 million dollars in potential scams. By the time authorities finally acted on it the result was over 200 homes with the perpetrators indicated for over $120 million dollars. Our local District Attorney did not see fit to take action until the SEC, FBI and US Attorneys Office had finally acted, then he stood up on the podium all puffed up taking the credit. I like to hope in some small way it was part of the reason he was soundly defeated in his recent re-election campaign by a relative unknown.

Anyway, in addition to our local real estate fraud task force, reporters Chris Bagley from the Californian and Leslie Berkman from the Press Enterprise payed significant roles in shining the spotlight on these nefarious activities and our own attorney John Giardinelli and an attorney for some of the plaintiffs Richard Ackerman were pivotal in keeping the focus on.

It took too damn long and cost too many people – not to mention the damage done to entire neighborhoods and our cities – but as they say – sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly. Let’s hope in this case they also grind exceedingly fine.

You can read the whole story and related elements here.

Press Enterprise – Fraud Trail Begins

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The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR,  or any local or state government or other mental institution.

SRCAR Publishes 11/2/10 Voter Guide

Make an Informed Choice at the Ballot Box. Your Association has chosen to support the following candidates for election on November 2 based on their past record and/or statements of support for Realtor®/ & property rights issues.

Your Vote Is Important!

Local, State and Federal Candidates
Candidate Office
City of Temecula

  • Maryann Edwards
  • Jeff Commerchero
  • Ron Roberts
City Council
City of Murrieta

  • Rick Gibbs
  • Kelly Bennett
  • Alan Long
City Council
City of Wildomar

  • Marsha Swanson, REALTOR®

  • Ben Benoit

City Council
City of Lake Elsinore

  • Thomas Buckley
  • Steve Manos, REALTOR®
City Council
City of Menifee

  • John Denver, REALTOR®
  • Scott Mann

City Council
  • Kim Cousins
Lake Elsinore Unified School District

  • Kevin Jeffries
66th State Assembly District
  • Brian Nestande
64th State Assembly District
  • Joel Anderson

36th State Senate District
  • Mary Bono Mack
  • Darrell Issa
45th Congressional District

49th Congressional District

CAR has chosen to take either neutral or not real estate related positions on statewide ballot propositions. The Southwest California Legislative Council, your local business advocacy partner, has also reviewed the ballot measures and makes the following recommendations:
State and Local Ballot Measures
Proposition SCLC  Position Recommendation
Proposition 19
  • NO
Regulation/Control of Cannabis
Proposition 20
  • YES
Congressional Districts by citizens
Proposition 21
  • NO
Vehicle license tax for parks
Proposition 22
  • YES
Public Safety & Transportation
Proposition 23
  • YES
Temporarily suspend air pollution laws
Proposition 24
  • NO
Repeal business tax breaks
Proposition 25
  • NO
Budget Voting Requirements
Proposition 26
  • YES
Voting Requirements for Tax Issues
Proposition 27
  • NO
Eliminate citizens redistricting commission

SRCAR is your association. Visit us online at SRCAR.org!

You are receiving this email because you are a valued member of the Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTORS®.
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CalREDD/MRMLS to merge into new statewide mls.

Dear C.A.R. Member,

Big news to report from our board of directors’ meeting in Sacramento: On Saturday, June 12, the C.A.R. board of directors voted to approve a new structure for the statewide MLS that will merge the efforts of calREDD® with the Multi-Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. (MRMLS).

This joint effort supports and is in line with the principles that have guided our efforts throughout the process of building a statewide MLS. The new structure will create one dynamic MLS provider serving more than 33,000 real estate professionals and 22 REALTOR® associations statewide.

It’s a huge stride forward for our members — combining our respective strengths and resources will significantly accelerate our shared vision and position the new entity to deliver even more expanded and efficient MLS services to you. You’ll have expanded access to MLS information, greater exposure for your listings, and eventually will be able to select either the calREDD® software system or the Tarasoft Matrix platform currently in use by MRMLS. You should expect to see even more choices and increased services over time.

Your Association will remain both a member and a fundamental part of the new entity, and will continue to have the right to approve actions such as merger, dissolution or sale of assets, changes in the purpose of the new entity, and changes in the board composition.

calREDD® and MRMLS will work closely during the transition to the new entity to ensure there are no disruptions in service, the needs of members continue to be met, and associations scheduled to join calREDD® are seamlessly added to the system. The Amador Association of REALTORS® is on schedule for a June 21 launch, followed by the Tehama Association of REALTORS® on June 28.

I’d like to thank our board, and the members of the calREDD® board of directors and its chairman, Mike Silvas, for their hard work and dedication to ensure that our members’ interests were front and center throughout the process. We’ll provide more information as our joint effort progresses.

Also at the Sacramento business meetings, your board of directors adopted a special purpose political assessment of $49 per member for 2011. This special assessment is for the California Real Estate Political Action Committee or, if the C.A.R. member chooses, to direct the funds to the C.A.R. general fund for non-candidate political purposes.

I can’t stress enough how valuable political involvement is. Whether it’s the legislature looking to tap REALTORS®, the transaction, or our industry for additional sources of funding, or placing restrictions on private property rights or on our right to conduct business, we must be continually vigilant in Sacramento to ensure that our interests are fairly represented. This is even truer in today’s fiscal environment, with politicians searching for every available means to cut the state’s ballooning deficits and produce a balanced budget.

Over the past few years, our coffers have dwindled, and while we still have a strong presence and a team of dedicated individuals working on our behalf at the capital, so has our influence. That’s why I contribute to C.A.R.’s political action funds, why I believe each member of the Association should support our efforts in this area, and why I wholeheartedly support your board of directors in their decision.

The special assessment takes effect for the 2011 dues bill cycle. Details on process and implementation now are being worked out; we’ll let you know additional information as it becomes available. I know I can count on you for your support.

Looking ahead, if you haven’t registered for CALIFORNIA REALTOR® EXPO 2010, taking place Oct. 5-7 at the Anaheim Convention Center, early-bird pricing has been extended through June 25, so take a few minutes to sign up today to take advantage of the savings. This year’s EXPO will feature exhibit booths, cutting-edge seminars, and other special events, while Tech Tuesday on Oct. 5 will offer a full day of technology training preceding CALIFORNIA REALTOR® EXPO. You can register online by visiting http://expo.car.org or calling toll-free (800) 242-2732.

C.A.R. also has negotiated a 25-percent discount off the registration fee for members to Inman Connect in San Francisco July 13-15; use promo code “CAR.” http://www.inman.com/conferences/real-estate-connect-san-francisco-2010/register. While you’re at Connect, don’t miss the Association’s four agent-focused sessions during Agent Reboot on July 12.  C.A.R.’s Agent Reboot sessions assist agents with “rebooting” their business and are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For a full list of program sessions, please visit http://www.agentreboot.com/.


Steve Goddard

2010 President


EVERY Realtor becomes an advocacy investor.

I’ve been at our mid-year CAR meetings in Sacramento this week so will have lots to post in the coming days. But I did want to share some phenomenal news with you that at this afternoons Board of Directors session we passed the motion which will have EVERY Realtor becoming an investor in our advocacy effort. The past few years that burden has increasingly been borne by about 20% of us while CAR’s lobbying stature has fallen from top 5 in the state to #33. This at a time when there are almost daily efforts to expand taxes on Realtors and homeowners, reduce mortgage interest deductions, encroach on the private property rights of our clients and worse.

Effective in 2011 the $49 basic cost of staying alive will now be shared by ALL Realtors in the state of California. If you are philosophically or religiously opposed to making political contributions, your investment will be channeled into a general CAR fund used for issues campaigns rather than direct candidate or party expenditures but if you’re a Realtor in California there’s no more free ride while others carry your political water. Welcome to the club!

Senator Hollingsworth to be Honored Guest at RAF Luncheon


The Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors is pleased to announce that Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) will be our honored guest at a June 18th luncheon. Senator Hollingsworth has been a champion of legislation to benefit Southwest California during his tenure as as Assemblyman and more recently as Senator. Over the years he has also carried several bills on behalf of Realtors® and for property rights issues.

Senator Hollingsworth has been a staunch anti-tax crusader, a position that elevated him to his current role as Minority Leader when his predecessor got a little too chummy with the tax-and-spend majority in Sacramento. As presented in numerous posts to this site, Hollingsworth has continued to rail against tax increases and the spending abuses that plague our state. Hollingsworth has led the Republican Caucus in advocating reduced spending and smaller government at a time when state government has expanded at a prodigious rate.

On a personal note, I have also credited Hollingsworth with helping Gov. Arnold find his balls late last year at a time when all seemed lost. Hollingsworth, who shares an affinity for cowboy boots and stogies with the Gov., was often spotted with Arnie in the Governors ‘smoking tent’ on the back lawn of the Capitol. It was during this time that Arnold experienced a brief resurgence of the vigor and focus that gave so many hope when he first ascended to the office.

As a former President of the Riverside County Farm Bureau, Hollingsworth has brought a unique knowledge and perspective to his position. He understands the need for conservation and the preservation of property rights. But he also understands the need to balance those needs with infrastructure requirements and job creation. He has lobbied the federal government on the Endangered Species Act and specifically, de-listing the Delta Smelt – the wee beastie that has wrought havoc on our state water supply. He has also led several efforts on behalf of Southwest County as well as the entire state, for more local control of funds, projects and power.

Senator Hollingsworth has also just been confirmed as the Keynote address during CAR’s Legislative Day on June 9th. Delegates from SRCAR and other associations will be meeting privately with the Senator in the afternoon. Attendance at our June 18th event will be limited to those members of our Realtor Action Fund Champions who have invested the ‘True Cost of Doing Business’ prior to June 1, 2010. If you would like to find out more about this event and how to get your name on the guest list for this exclusive opportunity to chat with our Senate Minority Leader, please contact me at GAD@SRCAR.org.

Big Money Talks – FPPC Releases PAC Investment $$

If you want to play with the Big Boys, this is the arena they play in. We didn’t make the top 15 but pulled in at #16. If you do the math, that $49 contribution from EVERY MEMBER only comes to $4.4 million. We invest just 16% of what the Teachers Union does, 31% of the SEIU, less than half of the Pechanga’s. We did edge out the Correctional Workers this year but they already got their big raise a couple years ago. That was money well spent and part of the reason the state budget is in the dumper now.

Any questions about why Arnold listens when the CTA speaks? Any questions on why the state continues to hire people and dole out raises while Riverside County unemployment hits 15%?

You’re either at the table or …

Over $1 Billion Spent by 15 Special Interest Groups on Political Campaigns and Lobbying Efforts

Today the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog agency, released a new report detailing how 15 wealthy special interests spent more than $1 billion throughout the last ten years in an attempt to shape public policy by influencing California’s voters and public officials.

The report, “Big Money Talks,” details the staggering amounts of money these interest groups spent on candidates, ballot measures and lobbying efforts, since electronic filing went into effect in 2000.  Included in this list are six corporations, three Indian tribes, two labor unions and four business associations.

“This tsunami of special interest spending drowns out the voices of average voters, and intimidates political opponents and elected officials alike,” said FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson.

These five interests are responsible for over half of the $1 billion spent by the top 15:

  • California Teachers Association—$211,849,298
  • California State Council of Service Employees—$107,467,272
  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America—$104,912,997
  • Morongo Band of Mission Indians—$83,600,438
  • Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians—$69,298,909

“The message from special interests is unmistakable—that they’re willing to spend millions of dollars to protect their narrow interests,” Johnson continued.  “The spending also serves as a warning to officeholders:  ‘Don’t forget, we can use our money to help or hurt you.  Think about it.’”

The complete report is available on the Commission’s website and the list follows.

The Top 15 That Spent $1 Billion to Influence California Voters and Public Officials

1)    California Teachers Association                                                         $   211,849,298

2)    California State Council of Service Employees                                 $   107,467,272

3)    Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America              $   104,912,997

4)    Morongo Band of Mission Indians                                                      $     83,600,438

5)    Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians                                                    $     69,298,909

6)    Pacific Gas & Electric Company                                                         $     69,240,759

7)    Chevron Corporation                                                                            $     66,257,132

8)    AT&T Inc.                                                                                               $     59,619,677

9)    Philip Morris USA Inc.                                                                          $     50,756,360

10)  Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians                                             $     49,078,448

11)  Southern California Edison                                                                 $     43,412,031

12)  California Hospital Association                                                           $     43,281,456

13)  California Chamber of Commerce                                                      $     39,065,861

14)  Western States Petroleum Association                                              $     35,214,325

15)  Aera Energy LLC                                                                                   $     34,671,163

Total of Top 15 $1,067,726,126

The Next Ten

16)  California Association of Realtors $     33,329,943

17)  California Correctional Peace Officers Association                         $     32,452,083

18)  California School Employees Association                                         $     31,861,749

19)  San Manuel Band of Mission Indians                                                 $     29,747,811

20)  Reynolds American Inc.                                                                       $     29,213,942

21)  Pala Band of Mission Indians                                                              $     24,021,356

22)  United Auburn Indian Community                                                      $     24,019,877

23)  California Medical Association                                                            $     23,064,218

24)  Anthem Blue Cross                                                                               $     21,993,466

25)  Consumer Attorneys of California                                                      $     21,294,921

Total of Next 10                                                                   $270,999,366

GRAND TOTAL OF ALL 25                                   $1,338,725,492