The New Craigslist Rental Scam

We hear about rental scams on Craigslist quite often. They usually involve someone claiming to be out of the country, requesting your security deposit and possibly some rent, and then you never hear from them again. It is usually easy to spot these, as they are advertised way below market value.

Yesterday there was a post on Craigslist that offered a 2 bedroom condo at $1,100/month. If you responded to the post, the “landlord” would write back and tell you more about the condo, then ask for you to have a recent credit report before setting up an appointment. The e-mail included a link to a website that provided “free” credit reports.

The problem? There is only one website that the government endorses which allows you to receive your credit report for free annually,

The other websites, like the one that the “landlord” directed the potential tenant to, have a tendency to steal your personal and financial information. They can easily steal your identity, and spend your money, with this information.

How do you tell if you are being scammed?
1) The landlord doesn’t provide a phone number to reach them at.
2) The landlord asks you to provide a credit report, and includes the link in the e-mail. If the link is to any site other than, run!!
3) The landlord doesn’t provide you with the address of the property, even when directly asked.

If you get a response like this from someone you contacted on Craigslist, do a favor to others, and flag the post as spam!

ATM Skimmers

The Tribune reported that someone tried to install an ATM skimmer at the BofA in Los Osos but the machine detected tampering and shut down. I looked up what an ATM skimmer looked like and found the following. I had no idea that these were so elaborate.

Link that shows ATM Skimmers

It looks like I’m going to go to places where there are more than one ATM next to each other so I can look for any inconsistencies between the machines. Other than that, I don’ t have a clue how to spot one.

The Craigslist Scammers Won’t Quit

There seems to be an increase in Craiglist rental scams advertising really good rental deals on properties that are already listed in the MLS.  If you haven’t read my previous blogs, the typical scam uses a vacant home and when you contact them, they’ll give you some story about being out of town and having you go by and look inside the windows from the outside. Then if you’re interested, they’ll have you send $$$ as a deposit to hold it because “at that price, someone is going to rent it quick”.  After that, you can just say “bye bye” to the money you sent.

If you’re looking at home to rent, Google the address of the home. If it’s on the MLS, you’re going to see my site and others come up with the MLS listing.  I know of no one that puts their home for sale and rent at the same time. Realtors aren’t going to waste any time with the Listing if the owner is actively trying to rent it.

Home Sales Overestimate 14 Percent Over Previous 3 Years

Home sales revised 14 percent downward over last three years.

The National Association of Realtors overestimated sales for the past three years and made a downward revision of its already depressed sales numbers. Specifically, sales were about 14 percent worse than previously thought, which comes out to 3.5 million units that were “double counted”. You can read about the nuts and bolts of the mistake HERE, but the general explanation is that the numbers were “drifting” due to a big shift away from For Sale By Owner sales to Realtor sales. Homes sold by owners are not counted by the listing services tracked by the National Association of Realtors, so when a greater share of home sellers began using realtors (who use such listing services), that artificially increased home sale numbers.

CNBC’s Diana Olick reported on the revision, and made a number of good points about the “meaning” of the lower numbers.  She points out, rightly, that although fewer homes were in actuality sold, this doesn’t change all that much, including:

–         General sales rates were already low to begin with and at all-time lows.

–         The estimates of home prices and their drop since 2006 won’t change.

–         The inventory of unsold homes in month’s supply is still below average.

–         New homes built are not affected.

Even more important for the health of the housing market, the number doesn’t touch foreclosures or the number of borrowers behind on mortgage payments. Distressed borrowers and foreclosures are the main impediment to recovery.

All of this is a way of saying… don’t worry too much about the news. The number could hurt perceptions of the housing market, but doesn’t change the fundamentals of the crash, or the recovery we are starting to see today.

Jobless claims fall to a 3-year low.

Last week, unemployment claims dropped to the lowest level since April 2008. Claims fell by 4,000 to 364,000 for their third straight weekly drop. The number adds to the trend we have seen lately of positive job statistics.

A recovering economy?

Last week, the Associated Press ran an article detailing some of the positive economic metrics that suggest the probability of another recession is extremely low. The article stated that “most analysts now rule out another recession…” and that the “economy will grow at an annual rate of more than 3 percent from October through December.”  The article points to fewer unemployment benefit applications, more jobs added, more consumer spending, more consumer confidence, falling gas prices, and restocked inventories.

Interest rates continue to fall.

Last week, the 30-year fixed interest rate fell to 3.91 percent nationally, which is the lowest average rate for this fixed term since the 1950s. Many economists suggest that this rate could continue to fall. Central Coast Lending is able to beat this rate (we bring down the national average). We go as low as 3.5 percent for the 30 year fixed (3.612 percent APR) and 3 percent for the 15 year fixed (3.258 percent APR). Give us a call to discuss the points associated with those rates. Now that you are done with the shopping and gift giving of the holiday season, take advantage of these low rates to refinance and save on monthly payments.

Lesson for Poly Journalism Majors

Something isn’t right here….

1) Trib reports over a week ago that the Morro Bay PD took out a search warrant for SPFX Masks in Southern California, the manufacturer of realistic masks. The Morro Bay Police want the names of the people that purchased the “Elder Mask”

2) Huffington Posts posts article saying the Los Angeles Times reports that a warrant was served on a SLO Costume Shop. They can’t even spell Morro Bay correctly either!

“Following the FBI’s announcement that the “Geezer Bandit” may be more youthful than he lets on, the Los Angeles Times reports that authorities have served a search warrant to a costume store in San Luis Obispo. The warrant is for people who bought “The Elder,” a mask that transforms its wearer into a wizened old man. San Luis Obispo is near Moro Bay, where the Geezer Bandit’s most recent bank robbery took place.”

Here’s the link to the article.

Foreclosures bringing down prices

Finally someone wrote an article talking about the impact of foreclosures on prices and even included median home prices of non-foreclosures, REOs, and Short Sales (at a national level). Article is here.

Here’s the last sentence…

Since distressed properties sell for so much less, using them as comparables drags the appraised values of regular homes way down.

“It’s the No. 1 reason why transactions fall through,” said Cecala. “If you can’t get an appraisal to support the price, the deal will won’t close.


Homeowners to Pay For Payroll Tax Cut Extension [UPDATE]

Happy holidays! We thought we would try a slightly different format this week. Let us know if you like the presentation.

Senate pays for payroll tax cut on the back of homeowners

[UPDATE: The House voted against this bill, so we are back to the drawing board. The following information will not apply, but is still an interesting proposal that may continue to come up in discussion.]

Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing quite a bit about the expiration of the payroll tax cut.  The Senate renewed the lower rate, but it came with a price tag for homeowners. To pay for the $33 billion 2-percent payroll tax cut over the next two months, the Senate approved an increase in fees for mortgages backed by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

The fee increase amounts to $15 a month more for a $200,000 mortgage ($180 a year) and $30 more for a $400,000 mortgage ($360 a year) and is built into the loan.

In addition to paying for the tax break, the fee is used to incentivize homeowners to get into the private market. Nearly nine in 10 mortgages are backed by a government sponsored finance organizations.

The two month savings for the cut is estimated to be $165 for someone making $50,000.


European debt trouble alarms markets
And now for your weekly “Europe debt issues” update – Fitch ratings announced it was considering cuts to the credit scores of Italy, Spain, Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland and Slovenia. Additionally, we received news that Ireland’s economy shrunk, France faces a recession next year, Spain struggles to cut its debt, and bankers and hedge funds are balking at forgiving Greek debt for the purpose of a bailout.  The market responded in kind with drops and general volatility.


Generally positive jobs statistics
California’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.3 percent last month, which is its lowest since May 2009. The number is somewhat misleading, however, as the state only added 6,600 jobs. Much of the drop can be attributed to the unemployed leaving the workforce, and so are no longer counted under the metric.

Nationally, the jobs outlook is a bit better. We added 100,000 jobs for a five-month stretch from July through November for the first time since 2006, and more companies are planning to add jobs since 2008. Jobless claims dropped by 19,000 to 366,000 in the week ending on December 10 for the lowest level in 3 years.


SEC announces lawsuit of ex-Freddie and Fannie executives
The Securities and Exchange Commission decided to bring a lawsuit against six former top Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae executives for misleading investors about exposure to subprime loans. The action amounts to fraud charges for authorizing misleading statements about balance sheets.


Refinance activity increases
Last fall, interest rates took a plunge to some of the lowest ever and then shot up by Christmas time. This year, rates once again hit new lows, but with Christmas just under two weeks away, we are bucking the seasonal trend and still seeing historically low rates. Accordingly, refinance activity increased 9 percent last week.


Interest rates remain low for the holiday season

30 Year Fixed 3.750 percent (3.884 percent APR), 15 Year Fixed 3.250 percent (3.489 percent APR), 30 Year High Balance 3.750 percent (3.968 percent APR), 30 Year FHA 3.5 percent (4.543 percent APR), 30 Year VA 3.5 percent (3.736 percent APR).


Techie Gift

If you’re looking for a gift for a gadget person, I have a recommendation.

The Logitech Revue is a Google TV device that hooks to your TV via a HDMI cable and is also connected to the Internet. You can surf sites (like do home searches on with an included wireless keyboard with mouse pad. Logitech isn’t going to be offering these devices after what’s on the shelves is sold. So why am I recommending it? Well, Google stepped in and helped with development to get the latest Google TV on the Logitech Revue (aka. the Honeycomb release). I just updated mine and what it’s added is the ability to go to the Android Marketplace and download apps. I downloaded Flixster (which plays movie trailers), Zenga Poker and played some online Texas Hold Em, and a couple other video-related apps.

The reason why I recommend the Revue is because of the keyboard. I also have an Apple TV but the interface is horrible. You have a small remote and if you want to enter a login, you have to choose the letter, one at a time, using this remote (like a TIVO). Apple does some cool things but they’ve fallen way short on their Apple TV controller. If Apple came out with a good IPAD/Iphone app to remote control the Apple TV, then maybe it will improve it.

Other apps I use the Revue for is Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Video on Demand, and MLB games.

The Logitech Revue is $99 at Best Buy. You can get other products that have Google TV, but they don’t have the wireless keyboard.

Blast from the Past

I was going through some old photos and found this one. This is me at a Las Vegas tradeshow when I was VP of Marketing for a startup focused on technologies that built the Internet. It was 1996 and right around the time when they cloned the first sheep. We were announcing a new product that enabled replicated DHCP servers to be installed on a network. I hired 3 sets of twins and had the slogan “We Support DHCP Server Cloning” put on the back of the shirts. It was a lot of fun and we got a lot of attention at the show from it. Ah…those were the days. Check out those state-of-the art monitors!

Me with the twins.twins-1024x743