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BUSINESS
January 10, 2013 | By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times
What mortgage meltdown? While millions of Americans have suffered the angst of lost homes, equity and pride, nearly a third of the nation's homeowners have no mortgage at all, according to an estimate released Thursday by real estate website Zillow. The free-and-clear class includes, predictably, retirees who have chipped away at their debts for decades, but also a surprisingly high percentage of young people and those who live in relatively affordable regions. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, only 20.7% of homeowners owned their properties outright, reflecting the region's pricey real estate.
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BUSINESS
April 23, 2014 | By Shan Li
Google Inc. is partnering with solar panel maker SunPower Corp. to invest up to $250 million in leasing solar systems to homeowners. The Mountain View technology giant is contributing up to $100 million, and San Jose-based SunPower will invest $150 million, Google said in a blog post . The goal is to make "it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar. " "Using the fund ... we buy the solar panel systems," Google said. "Then we lease them to homeowners at a cost that's typically lower than their normal electricity bill.
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BUSINESS
July 10, 2012 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO -- Homeowners who default on refinanced mortgages won't be liable for debts that exceed the market value of their lost properties. Late Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation to close a legal loophole that could make defaulting borrowers responsible for paying back money they took out of previously more valuable homes when they refinanced their loans. The lingering debt, said the author of the bill, Sen. Ellen M. Corbett (D-San Leandro) adds a second punishment to people who already have lost their biggest possession.
BUSINESS
April 20, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our homeowner association's president explained to our board how the budget process actually works. She said: "You start by working out how much you can get out of the homeowners, then you go to the Budget and Reserve Study to figure out how to get that result. The reserve study company will work with us by doing a couple of go-arounds to get us to the result we want. " Am I being naive to think the job of a reserve study company is to come up with realistic numbers, instead of numbers that fit the board's agenda?
OPINION
October 27, 2012
Re "Faces of subprime lending's legacy," Business, Oct. 23 In February, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development said that the states would be using much of the $25 billion in settlement money from the nation's largest mortgage servicers to provide "immediate relief to homeowners. " Gov. Jerry Brown used California's share of the settlement money - about $410 million - to help close the state's budget deficit. Those facing foreclosure should file a class-action suit against the governor to require that all of the $410 million go toward providing immediate relief to homeowners.
BUSINESS
January 31, 2012 | By David Lazarus
    Is Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage company, betting against homeowners? The Treasury Department has launched an investigation into that very question. The probe comes after a report from ProPublica and NPR showing that Freddie has invested billions of dollars betting that U.S. homeowners won't be able to refinance their mortgages at today's lower rates. In essence, Freddie has been hedging its risk by purchasing what's known as "inverse floater" securities -- an investment in homeowners' interest payments.
BUSINESS
September 28, 2013 | By Lauren Beale
Flexible spaces, tech-savvy features and outdoor-oriented living are popular with well-to-do U.S. homeowners, a pair of recent surveys show. Among the 300 wealthy consumers polled, open floor plans, full automation/wiring and swimming pools topped the list of important amenities, a study by Coldwell Banker Previews International and the Luxury Institute found. Lower priorities for households earning at least $250,000 annually were staff quarters, tennis/sports courts and catering kitchens.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 7, 2014 | By Patrick McGreevy
SACRAMENTO -- The state Senate took action to protect condominium and mobile home owners from fines from their homeowners associations for not maintaining yards at times when they face government water conservation orders because of a drought. State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said his urgency measure is needed because some residents of common-interest developments face conflicting mandates when the governor has declared a drought. "It gives some comfort to the homeowners in homeowners associations right now who might be subjected to this double penalty," Nielsen told his colleagues.
BUSINESS
August 8, 2012 | By E. Scott Reckard
Citigroup Inc. is testing a program that would allow distressed homeowners to sign over title to their property and stay on as renters paying less than they did on their mortgages. The effort is similar to a larger ongoing Bank of America pilot offering up to 2,500 customers the option of avoiding foreclosure by trading their mortgages for leases. Citigroup's offer is to be extended to about 500 borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth and who are 120 days or more past due on their home loans.
BUSINESS
January 10, 2010 | By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian
Question: I sent my homeowners association board the following request: "According to Civil Code Section 1365.2 board members (not the management company) are supposed to make available the association's books and records upon the request of homeowners. Please provide the association books and records from 1/1/09 to the present. I understand there may be a nominal charge for the photocopies and this request may take a few more days to assemble." The board president explained that the majority of the documents will have to be requested from the management company because they work for the association and keep our records.
HOME & GARDEN
April 18, 2014 | By Carol Crotta
"This is the irony," mused homeowner Richard Turner as he looked over the newly installed and remarkably realistic-looking artificial lawn in his mid-Wilshire frontyard. "We grow grass to make the illusion that we don't live in a desert. Here I am, enhancing the illusion of a lawn that is the illusion we don't live in a desert. " And there's the rub. The iconic lush, green lawn - part and parcel of a mystique deeply embedded in the Southern California psyche and its landscape - has reached a crossroads.
BUSINESS
April 15, 2014 | By Andrew Khouri
Most Californians can't afford their rent. The state's affordability crisis has worsened since the recession, as soaring home prices and rents outpace job and income growth. Meanwhile, government funds to combat the problem have evaporated. Local redevelopment agencies once generated roughly $1 billion annually for below-market housing across California, but the roughly 400 agencies closed in 2012 to ease a state budget crisis. In addition, almost $5 billion from state below-market housing bonds, approved by voters last decade, is nearly gone.
BUSINESS
April 13, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Thinking this would be cost-effective housing, I bought a condo in the Riverside County area. Since then I've asked the board to repair my unit's balcony railing numerous times to no avail. Six years later, I received a notification that the balconies on all 96 units must be repaired, costing each owner more than $3,000. I have no say in the way things are done around here. This homeowner association has wasted thousands of dollars on repeated cosmetic primping like painting, parking lot slurry seal, landscape and more.
BUSINESS
April 13, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - Renewal of important expired federal tax benefits for homeowners took a major step forward recently, but the route to final congressional approval is beginning to look longer - and potentially bumpier - than previously expected. Here's why. The Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved a package of tax code goodies that includes a two-year reauthorization of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, plus similar extensions for deductions of mortgage insurance premiums and energy-saving improvements to homes.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 7, 2014 | By Patrick McGreevy
SACRAMENTO -- The state Senate took action to protect condominium and mobile home owners from fines from their homeowners associations for not maintaining yards at times when they face government water conservation orders because of a drought. State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said his urgency measure is needed because some residents of common-interest developments face conflicting mandates when the governor has declared a drought. "It gives some comfort to the homeowners in homeowners associations right now who might be subjected to this double penalty," Nielsen told his colleagues.
BUSINESS
April 6, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our manager refuses owner requests for documents, causing our association to be sued several times a year. Each time she comes to court as a defendant, she brings her so-called evidence and answers, "Your honor, see Exhibit X. " She overloads on exhibits, most of which are contrived for the purpose of that hearing. Her main strategy includes putting on big exhibit head notes supposedly explaining what each exhibit consists of, but when the exhibits are scrutinized and read, they have little or nothing to do with what is head-noted.
BUSINESS
October 29, 2013 | By Michael Hiltzik
David Dayen spots  a new blow for underwater homeowners that thus far has flown under the radar: the coming expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, scheduled for Dec. 31. The act is a mouthful, but it's been a crucial factor in helping countless families get out from under bad mortgages. Simply put, the act relieves homeowners from having to pay taxes on any loan forgiveness they receive in a mortgage restructuring. (The maximum exemption is $2 million for a couple.)
BUSINESS
January 11, 2013 | By Alejandro Lazo, This post has been corrected. See note below for details.
Aren't those young, wealthy homeowners who own their fancy digs mortgage-free the envy of us all? The real estate website Zillow.com found that about 34.5% of American homeowners aged 20 to 24 owned those properties outright. Real estate agents, in interviews, said these youthful buyers are most likely young millionaires, those with trust funds or those who received help from their parents. Zillow found that about a third of all American homeowners owned their properties outright.
BUSINESS
April 5, 2014 | Tim Logan
The real estate market has long worked on a simple system: If you want to buy a new house, sell the old one and use the equity for a down payment. But the last few years of low ownership costs and rising rents have some move-up buyers trying a new approach: Buy the new house. Keep the old one. And rent it out. Real estate firm Redfin recently asked 1,900 prospective home buyers nationwide what they planned to do with their old house when they bought a new one. As you'd expect, the majority said they would sell.
BUSINESS
March 30, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I'm the president of our homeowner association mainly because no one else wants the job. We live in a prestigious area of Los Angeles and have fewer than 30 units. Because nobody wants to be on our board we hired a management company. They're not a California company. Their head office is out of state, and we've never seen or been to their California place of business and do not know where it is or that they even have a California office. A management representative came and picked up our files and documents, including owners' personal information and accounts, and gave us their P.O. box number.
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