Marilyn Suber - Sacramento Area Real Estate AgentMerilyn Suber - Real Estate Associates - Experience, Knowledge, Integrity
Marilyn Suber, Sacramento area Real Estate

Marilyn Suber

Direct: (916) 456-3969

Mobile: (916) 947-7956



Five Star ProfessionalWinner of the 2014 and 2015 Sacramento Five Star Real Estate Agent Professionals representing less than 4 percent of real estate agents in the Sacramento area who delivered outstanding service and client satisfaction.

Sometimes, life just hands us the inevitable: just when everything seems right with your home, something happens and you have to sell. No matter what your reasons are for selling, remember that now is no time to dawdle, the process of preparing a home for sale can take a month or more. So, here’s how to start:

1. Take a Fresh Look at Your Home

Your home looks great to you, but a buyer wants to see it since he and his family will be living in it — so take fresh look at your dwelling. Hop in your car, drive around the block, and then scrutinize your home as a prospective buyer will see it for the first time. First, consider what’s called “curb appeal;” does it need washing or painting? Does the driveway need repair work? Is the landscaping in good shape? Remember, be very critical; your buyer will be.

Next, pull into the driveway and take a good, hard look. Is the yard neat and trimmed? What about the view from the front yard? Then, walk inside and size up the interior as though seeing it for the first time. Take a tour and imagine what your real estate agent might say about each room, look into cabinets, open doors, check out the bathroom.

Then, make a mental note of the things that might put off potential buyers, along with another list of the things that first attracted you to the dwelling. Remember, the home’s become a great place for you, but a new buyer will see things that you don’t.

2. Clean Out the Clutter Before You Start to Sell

Before putting your home on the market, get rid of clutter in every area — closets, attic storage, kitchen cabinets, drawers, bath vanities, and shelves — everywhere. Remember, this is no time to be sentimental: if you don’t use it, lose it. Potential buyers are seriously put off by clutter, and most of us drag a lot more things through life than we really need.

Also, don’t forget the furniture and fixtures when getting rid of clutter — most of us put too much in too little space, which makes a buying prospect, think your home is too small.

Then, have a great moving sale with all the stuff you’ve collected and use the proceeds for paint or whatever other materials you need for repair projects. If you just can’t bear to part with some possessions, store them in the attic or some other place that’s out of sight to a potential buyer.

3. To Sell, Sell, Sell — Clean, Clean, Clean

After you’ve cleared out the clutter, it’s time to really clean. Have the carpets professionally cleaned, strip and polish the floors, scour the bathrooms, go over the laundry room, polish the furniture, scour out the cabinets, wash the windows and window coverings, and spiff up the ceiling fans and kitchen appliances. In short, clean everything.

Don’t forget the exterior; paint or power-wash everything that needs the work. Remember, this is a ceiling-to-floor, roof-to-foundation clean-up project.

4. Get More for Your Home: Repairs Pay Off

After you’ve cleaned the place to within an inch of its life, the next project is making all the repairs necessary to attract a buyer.

So, patch up the roof, touch up all the paint, repair the screens, spruce up the porch framing, and make your entry area really shine. Don’t forget to water the lawn and landscape beds, and take the time to trim, mow, edge and get rid of sick or dying plants. Inside, fix the grout in the bathrooms and on tile floors, adjust any doors that need it, fix any scratches on the walls, cover any stains, and be sure to fix any plumbing problems. Remember, do what your home needs before the first buyer appears at your door.

Also, it’s a good idea to get all this done before getting the real estate broker to make the first listing — a good agent will advise you on what needs to be done. Also, if you have friends willing to be brutally honest about what your home needs to sell, invite them to assess the fix-up needs.

There is, however, an alternative to the sweat equity you get from a total fix-up –but it carries a price. An “as-is” sale keeps you from doing all this work, but a buyer will assess about twice the price you would have paid for the repairs. Then, the buyer will deduct that amount from your asking price before making an offer.

5. Putting Your Home on the Market: Show It to Sell It

After you have cleaned, shined, mowed, and generally whipped your property into shape, it’s time to attract a buyer.

Regardless of who markets your home, you or a broker, there are other, small things you must do to attract buyers. For example, even if it’s bright daylight, open the blinds and turn on the lights. Also, open all the interior doors to make the home appear roomier. Be sure to remove all your kids and pets — they’re cute, but a prospect wants to see your home, not your pride and joy. In addition, make sure your pet’s litter pan is clean so the home smells clean and fresh, not like air freshener. Remember, you need to make sure your home is available to be seen by a prospective buyer with as little notice as possible. That means less than an hour, or even five minutes, if possible.

6. Get a Sense of the Market

Before you put your home on the market, take a weekend day to check out the competition: homes with similar prices and in similar neighborhoods. Remember, you don’t have to go out and buy new furniture just to look like that beautiful new model in the new development — what you want is the feel of that new model — clean, uncluttered, and fresh.

Remember, after location, the most important item to a buyer is a well maintained home. Many flaws can be overlooked if the buyer knows he can move in without a lot of trouble and expense.


Don’t believe all the doom and gloom you read and hear about regarding the housing market.

True, there are many people losing their homes in short sales and foreclosures.  True, many people currently owe more than what their home is worth.  I have represented clients in the short sale process and have also sold my share of REO’s.  I have received that call from the frantic homeowner asking my advise when, often times, it is too late.  It’s emotionally upsetting for everyone and can suck you into that vortex of thinking the worst.

There is the other side of the coin, as well.  The side that is positive and that you don’t read or hear about – especially, lately.

The truth is – the buyers are out there, they are motivated and homes are selling.  Income properties are getting all cash offers – so are many of the “great deal” REO and short sale properties.  High priced homes are getting close to their asking price and selling within days of being listed.

I hosted an open house on Mother’s Day and was surprised at the number of people that came through.  These were not neighbors and looky loo’s – these were serious prospects.  Prospects smart enough to know that this is a good time to buy a home and sophisticated enough to know that you can’t always follow what you read and hear.


Emotionally, it is a meaningful and feel-good sensation to pay down a mortgage, but it’s always prudent to take a close look at the ramifications of any significant financial decision and compare them to available alternatives. If a homeowner has excess cash reserves beyond funds set aside for illness, education and other savings to provide certainty and to ensure he will realize his expectations for the future (read: as his insurance), he then has the money to pay down a mortgage and the luxury of erring on the side of emotions if he feels more secure by being debt-free. He has enough liquidity in his other assets to provide cash to absorb the shocks of loss, if and when they occur.

However, “feeling good” in being debt-free by paying down a mortgage does little to help someone who loses their job and has no reserves to pay bills. That person may lose their home anyway, if they are not able to quickly liquidate the equity in their property by selling. Owners of real estate must juggle a huge — almost unacceptable — risk of loss in their decision to pay down a mortgage (unless they are suffering from the enviable position of having too much excess money in reserve), as real estate, by nature, is a long-term endeavor. To offset that huge risk, and as long as the interest rate on his mortgage is not significantly higher than what he is able to earn elsewhere on investments, the homeowner must keep his reserves liquid and his 30-year, fixed rate mortgage intact.


In the current market with prices and interest rates at an all time low, I am finding more and more buyers that are unrealtistic about what they can get for the amount that they want to spend. The only source that I can attribute this to, would have to be the feds and the media… people a false promise of grabbing up a default or REO property for an incredible price. My intent is not to discuss short sales or REO’s – but to caution buyers about waiting for the perfect house in the best location and losing out on this great window of opportunity.

It’s very simple people. If you want a great location, you are not going to be able to buy the “perfect” home. The kitchen might need updating, the hardwood floors may need to be refinished, the floor plan might not be ideal, etc. – but even in the best of neighborhoods, the “deals” are priced accordingly. And if you want that little halfplex for under $150,000 in one of the most desitrable locations in the city – it’s not going to happen!!!! You’re qualified for $180,000 – pay the market value and get over it! In a few years when the market turns around, you will have instant equity and be glad you didn’t settle for easy street!


On January 13, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger outlined his proposal for a $10,000 California state housing tax credit as part of his California Jobs Initiative. The credit would provide $200 million worth of tax credits for the purchasers of newly-constructed or existing homes, twice the amount that was available to homebuyers under the last state housing tax credit. The governor has proposed this latest tax credit based on the high demand for the last round of state tax credits, and in hopes that the credit will keep providing a steady stream of buyers, thereby boosting employment in the construction industry.

Will it pass muster with the state legislature? The real estate and construction industries certainly have a vested interest in making home buying attractive. However, opponents of the new tax credit consider this proposed tax credit a waste of funds in light of the massive cuts being made to other business sectors, and the overall weakness of the state economy.

While the governor may have good intentions, he has entirely ignored the massive inventory of foreclosed properties in the pipeline. Whether it is allowed to trickle slowly onto the market or released in a flood, a shadow inventory of future foreclosures still exists. If this proposal becomes a bill, is passed by the legislature and causes the construction industry to start building anew, it will be a disaster for prices in an already volatile housing market.

What the state needs to do is fix its foreclosure problem before it looks to encourage the entry of new housing into the market. To do otherwise is tantamount to building on quicksand; it’s only a matter of time before the property is sucked under. Unfortunately, fixing the foreclosure problem can only be accomplished if the federal government gives cramdown authority back to bankruptcy judges.

In the meanwhile, brokers and agents in the know need to be aware this new housing tax credit is not the way to fix the housing market. It only serves to drag out what previous government interference has already structured as a lengthy recovery. The return to a stable, healthy market does not depend on artificial supports such as tax credits (which do not create ready, willing and able homebuyers), but rather on houses correctly priced in a market of sustainable buyers consisting of owner-occupants with stable incomes — jobs.


In a recent speech, Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) president and chief executive officer John Courson urged homeowners to make the responsible, moral decision and keep paying on their underwater mortgages. Like many interested parties (lenders) before him, he conveniently ignored the fact that banks often make similar decisions to walk away from their poor investments. For instance, the large brokerage firm Morgan Stanley recently decided to walk away from five bay area office buildings which were no longer holding their value. Nobody blinked an eye. It was just a matter of business: privatize the profit, socialize the losses. Since 1982, lenders have learned to do it so well, and it has only gotten better for them since this financial crisis hit.

Homeowners, on the other hand, are continually excoriated for failing to “live up to their promises to pay,” as if theirs was not a monetary decision but one inherently tied into their moral worth, a theological treatment of strictly legal obligations (which in California are not given recourse status when the obligations are purchase-assist home loans). Criticisms and veiled ethical threats similar to Courson’s have been shamefully made by the media, state and federal governments to homeowners in attempts to keep them in their place — paying on dead-end loans they have no legal obligation to pay. So continues the campaign to terrorize homeowners into keeping lenders solvent and suppressive government programs “effective.”

first tuesday take: The longer this down market continues, the more hollow these calls to moral order ring. Even (incorrectly) assuming that all struggling homeowners are in dire straits due to their own financial mismanagement, they were most certainly not the only party complicit in the housing bust. Lenders loaned billions of dollars using poor underwriting standards on overvalued assets, and federal regulators failed to address (except to condone by their silence) the increasingly risky behavior of these lenders and their bond-issuing Wall Street counterparts. [For more information about failed government regulation, see the April 2009 first tuesday article Lenders vs. owners in 2000-2010: the real estate interest of each]

Why then are the homeowners the only ones being strong-armed by these so-called moral pundits? It’s simple: individuals can be shamed into doing the “right” thing. Businesses and governments, on the other hand, wield too much power and wealth to be properly shamed into anything. But as the extend-and-pretend programs continue to falter and government subsidies expire, as both will, watch as more and more homeowners, bolstered by being better-informed, start to push past their emotional responses and play the same game as lenders by walking away. Maybe this, if nothing else, will force the lenders to own up to their part in this debacle and start making real modifications to reduce outstanding debt in alignment with the value of property, called a cramdown.

Brokers and agents need to play their part in this “rights” game to get the public better informed about California’s non-recourse rules against money judgments on purchase-assist home loans as they are the gatekeepers that negotiated on behalf of these homeowners and got them into their predicament – and profited from it. Brokers and agents would be wise to return the homeowner the favor by advising them on what their options are now in dealing with lenders. This assistance will be remembered by the homeowner when they decide to purchase again.


WASHINGTON – In an effort to stabilize home values and improve conditions in communities where foreclosure activity is high, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a temporary policy that will expand access to FHA mortgage insurance and allow for the quick resale of foreclosed properties. The announcement is part of the Obama administration commitment to addressing foreclosure. Just yesterday, Secretary Donovan announced $2 billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants to local communities and nonprofit housing developers to combat the effects of vacant and abandoned homes.

“As a result of the tightened credit market, FHA-insured mortgage financing is often the only means of financing available to potential homebuyers,” said Donovan. “FHA has an unprecedented opportunity to fulfill its mission by helping many homebuyers find affordable housing while contributing to neighborhood stabilization.”

With certain exceptions, FHA currently prohibits insuring a mortgage on a home owned by the seller for less than 90 days. This temporary waiver will give FHA borrowers access to a broader array of recently foreclosed properties.

“This change in policy is temporary and will have very strict conditions and guidelines to assure that predatory practices are not allowed,” Donovan said.

In today’s market, FHA research finds that acquiring, rehabilitating and the reselling these properties to prospective homeowners often takes less than 90 days. Prohibiting the use of FHA mortgage insurance for a subsequent resale within 90 days of acquisition adversely impacts the willingness of sellers to allow contracts from potential FHA buyers because they must consider holding costs and the risk of vandalism associated with allowing a property to sit vacant over a 90-day period of time.

The policy change will permit buyers to use FHA-insured financing to purchase HUD-owned properties, bank-owned properties, or properties resold through private sales. This will allow homes to resell as quickly as possible, helping to stabilize real estate prices and to revitalize neighborhoods and communities.

“FHA borrowers, because of the restrictions we are now lifting, have often been shut out from buying affordable properties,” said FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens. “This action will enable our borrowers, especially first-time buyers, to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The waiver will take effect on February 1, 2010 and is effective for one year, unless otherwise extended or withdrawn by the FHA Commissioner. To protect FHA borrowers against predatory practices of “flipping” where properties are quickly resold at inflated prices to unsuspecting borrowers, this waiver is limited to those sales meeting the following general conditions:

  • All transactions must be arms-length, with no identity of interest between the buyer and seller or other parties participating in the sales transaction.
  • In cases in which the sales price of the property is 20 percent or more above the seller’s acquisition cost, the waiver will only apply if the lender meets specific conditions.
  • The waiver is limited to forward mortgages, and does not apply to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) for purchase program.

Specific conditions and other details of this new temporary policy are in the text of the waiver, available on HUD’s website.


By Connor P. Wallmark • Dec 31st, 2009 • Category: first tuesday blogs the news
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The Federal Reserve (the Fed) has taken aggressive steps during 2009 to drive mortgage rates down in order to encourage more people to buy homes and revive the real estate industry. The Fed lowers interest rates by purchasing large quantities of mortgage-backed bonds (MBBs) packaged and sold as investments by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (themselves taken over by the federal government in September 2008). This program, started last year, immediately pulled interest rates well below 6% and made highly advantageous financing available to well-qualified borrowers, spurring real estate activity. The steps coincided with massive buyer, builder and mortgage lender subsidies from the Treasury to clear out new homes and real estate owned (REO) inventory.

However, the Fed will start winding down its MBB purchase program early in 2010 by purchasing fewer of these MBBs. For the MBB market to continue to sell off its bonds, more private investors will need to re-enter the market since they have been largely absent due to the low rates set by the Fed purchases during 2009. The reason: private investors generally require a higher yield on their MBBs than the Fed set during 2009, which will necessarily require mortgage lenders to raise the interest rates they charge homebuyers.

An increase in interest rates will eliminate many potential homebuyers, unless sellers and their listing agents are willing to reduce the prices they demand to reflect the reduced borrowing power caused by an increase in interest rates.

first tuesday take: A quick review covering how the Fed is able to lower interest rates by purchasing MBBs may be helpful. Typically, both the Fed and private investors purchase MMBs. As the Fed temporarily purchases larger quantities of MBBs at ever lower interest rate yields (artificially creating greater demand for lenders to obtain funds for mortgage lending), the price of MBBs increases. In lock-step response to the rise in the price paid by the Fed for MBBs, yields (reflected in the form of mortgage interest rates) fall. Thus, price and yield (interest rates) always move diametrically, much like the opposing sides of a teeter-totter.

The Fed’s program to lower interest rates has been nothing but successful. However, it cannot go on indefinitely and the Fed must start easing back before consumer and asset (real estate) price inflation become a real threat. While some may object to the personal impact of increased interest rates, they should also take solace in the fact that the Fed concludes the economy will soon be healthy enough to live without life support. [For more information regarding inflationary concerns in response to the Fed’s actions, see the November 2009 first tuesday blog, The Fed to the rescue – inflationary fears assuaged; see also the October 2009 first tuesday article, Fear mongers’ inflation prediction unjustifiable.]

A tip to first tuesday students: be sure to inform the buyers and prospective refinancers you represent that rates are expected to increase as soon as March 2010. Your clients would be wise to obtain financing now when rates are artificially low – before they begin their eventual upward ascent.

Re: “Freddie sees mortgage rates hitting 6% in 2010,” from the Washington Post


Borrowers, prepare to shop.

And, potentially, to save hundreds of dollars on your next home loan, thanks to a new federal government plan that would revamp how lenders disclose home-loan terms and costs.

The plan, proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, includes:

•A new standardized Good Faith Estimate (GFE) form that will explain the terms and estimated costs of your loan.

•Limits on how much your lender can increase some of your settlement costs, so you won’t be surprised by inflated costs at closing.

•Scripts that will be read to you at closing to help ensure that you understand the terms and costs of your loan before you sign off on all your paperwork.

•An improved settlement statement that will help you compare your final costs to your good-faith estimate.

A good-faith estimate already is required when you apply for a loan, but the forms that are used today aren’t standardized and can be difficult for borrowers to understand. Different lenders may not list the same costs in the same way and the form may not fully disclose all of the important terms of your loan.

The proposed standardized GFE will clearly detail the terms of your loan, including your interest rate and monthly payment, whether your rate and principal balance can increase, and if so, by how much, and whether your loan has a prepayment penalty or balloon payment. It also will consolidate your costs into categories and display a total of the estimated charges on the first page.

The plan is HUD’s response to a study that found many homeowners didn’t understand key terms of their own mortgage. The study concluded that clearer disclosures could help borrowers recognize loan costs, which would help them understand their loan and make better-informed decisions.

HUD’s consumer testing found that consumers were able to select the lowest cost loan more than 90 percent of the time when the proposed new form was used–a huge improvement over the typical situation. Consumers also said they liked the enhanced disclosures and scripts.

The new form won’t be official until after a comment period, and even then, it could be changed or abandoned. But if you think it might help you shop for a mortgage, you may want to print it out the new GFE form from HUD’s Web site and ask your lender to walk you through it.


Is China the future of real estate in California? A recent report in the International Property Journal anticipates a future surge in Chinese buyers. In Southern California, the report notes, Chinese language listings have already replaced Spanish as the most searched foreign language listings, and Chinese buyers made up 7.5% of international buyers in the United States in 2007. The reason for the anticipated rise? An increase in the value of China’s currency, and a rise in the number of wealthy Chinese citizens, coupled with a drop in home values in the US, makes good deals ever more available and tempting for international buyers.

first tuesday take: Brokers who want to court buyers from foreign markets would do best to find the foreign currencies that have gained the most value against the US dollar in the recent past. China’s treasury policies have deliberately kept the value of the Yuan Renminbi (RMB) artificially depressed, and it has gained literally nothing on the US dollar in years. On the other hand, Brazilian, Canadian, Europeans and many other international buyers have seen an increase in the value of their money, in that their currencies are now able to buy more US dollars than in the recent past. Brazil’s Real, for instance, has gone from four reais to the dollar to less than two to the dollar since 2002. With an appreciated foreign currency comes greater purchasing power for acquiring property in the United States than that of Americans holding US dollar. Thus, for those individuals holding Euros or any other strong currency, property in the USA is cheaper than comparable property in any other country with a strong currency.

For a foreigner using a strong currency to purchase real estate in California, the current Great Recession offers a double profit advantage that an American holding US dollars does not have. The Great Recession in the USA has further decreased the value of property in states like California. When a US dollar denominated property – such as California real estate – is acquired when its value is depressed, as is now being experienced in this recession, the buyer, whether an American using dollars he holds or a foreigner using dollars he has purchased, will take the same amount of profit on those dollars when they resell that property.

Now factor in the strengthening of the dollar in the foreign exchange markets, which will occur over the next several years as the US economy recovers from this recession (as appears to be happening as we write). On the resale of California property in a few years, the foreigner will convert his dollars from the sale (and pay the same profit taxes as an American) to the foreign currency he used to buy US dollars for the purchase of California real estate. The foreigner will then take an additional profit – the double profit advantage – on converting his then strong dollars into his weakened foreign currency. On the return of his US dollars to his foreign currency, after the adventure in California real estate, he will have profited both on the sale of the real estate and the sale of the US dollars. This would have been impossible if he had invested within his own country.

With a little research into currency exchange market activity, California brokers with contacts in countries with strong currencies compared to the US dollar can present their listings to foreign buyers as investments which will increase in value over the next several years in terms of their US dollar value. Then, as brokers should advise, foreign buyers may have the opportunity to take a further profit at the time of the eventual resale after the US dollar appreciates in the currency markets during the nation’s economic recovery. Curious and well-connected brokers and agents will reap the rewards.


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