Studio Arts in Atascadero

I have always wanted to indulge my artistic side but often don’t enjoy large classes with too many students and too many ability levels.  So a couple of friends and I discovered a wonderfully talented artist and instructor, Lauren Birkhahn.  Lauren is classicly schooled artist who gives a wide variety of lessons out of her charming studio and handmade arts boutique in Atascadero. Her calm, generous and playful nature put us all at ease and now we cant wait for the next adventure. We chose pastels as that was what struck us as a good medium but Lauren displays the range of her work on her website She has inspired me to pick up my sketch pad again but for now pastels have become a bit of an obsession.dudleya studio art 1  Contact Lauren at 805 610-2489…….time to indulge!dudleya studio art 2

Stocks Drop on Chinese Economy News, Mortgage Rates Dip

“Investors who forgot that the U.S. stock market is still tethered to global markets were rudely reminded that it’s a small world after all.” – Barron’s Online

Poor economic data from China caused a large selloff in the U.S. stock market last week. The major indexes – Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 – fell 3%, which was the “biggest weekly selloff” since mid-2012, according to Barron’s. On Friday alone, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell over 300 points.

In 2011 and 2012 U.S. markets felt shocks from issues pertaining to European sovereign debt. Investors reacted to uncertainty surrounding several European governments ability to borrow and repay debt, and the consequences this could have for long-term European Union stability.

To protect themselves from volatility, investors looked for a measure of “safety”, which was found in U.S. bond markets. Mortgage rates fell as demand for the “safe haven” of U.S. bonds increased.

Rate movement correlates to bond market activity (specifically, mortgage-backed security bonds). Periods of high demand in the bond market put downward pressure on rates, and vice versa: as bond prices drop and bond yields rise, mortgage rates jump.

This serves as a reminder that global issues – such as foreign debt default and the pace of Chinese economic growth – can have very real impacts on something as local as a home purchase.

Most recently, mortgage rates have dropped as stocks struggle. Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed national average fell to 4.39% last week, which was the lowest level since November of 2013. The data does not yet reflect Friday’s stock drop.

The next potential for mortgage rate movement comes on Wednesday, January 29, when the Federal Open Market Committee will adjourn its January meeting – the last of Chairman Ben Bernanke’s term.

Bernanke and the FOMC enacted the long-awaited “tapering” of its stimulus program “quantitative easing” after December’s meeting (2013).

Since the announcement, news of weak December employment and disappointing Chinese economic growth shook financial markets. Will Bernanke stay the course in his final meeting? Expectation currently seems to be that the FOMC will continue to “taper” QE slowly but surely.

Quantitative easing has directly impacted mortgage rates. Prior to its December “taper” decision, the Fed had been purchasing $85 billion per month in bonds ($40 billion in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in U.S. Treasuries).

As discussed above, demand in the bond market can push down mortgage rates. The Fed has been ensuring a particularly high level of demand with its bond purchases, and as it slowly leaves the market, mortgage rates will rise as they feel less downward pressure.

Should the Fed reduce the pace of tapering, expect rates to dip further. Should “tapering” continue at its current pace, rates may tick up slightly.

More housing market news:

– New home sales rose by a pace of 4.5% in 2013. Last year, an estimated 428,000 new homes were sold in the U.S. (Reuters via Yahoo Finance)

– Sales of “distressed” properties (foreclosure and short sales) ticked up as a percentage of total sales in 2013 (CNN) . Locally, this was not the case. Distressed listings accounted for just 17% of all activity in 2013 compared to 33% in 2012 (Keith Byrd).

– Zillow: home values to rise a projected 4.8% percent in 2014 (Zillow)

Central Coast Media Spotlights

This list was in an email I received from the Visit SLO folks.

  • San Luis Obispo County Ranked #4 on Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Places to Visit in 2014
  • Paso Robles Wine Country – Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast
  • Sunset Magazine names Avila Beach among the top 25 Winter Wonderland Places to Visit
  • San Luis Obispo’s Higuera Street Named Among America’s Best Main Street’s by Fodor’s Travel Guide
  • The Guardian, a UK publication – Names Paso Robles #15 Holiday Hotspot in the World for 2014
  • named the SLO Marathon on the Top 14 marathons to do in 2014 – SLO Marathon is #5
  • Amgen is Coming to Town – A Finish in Cambria and A Start in Pismo Beach
  • Peter Greenberg, Travel Correspondent for CBS TV features San Luis Obispo County on Hot Places to Hit in 2014

Day Off Adventure in Santa Margarita

zip line 004 zip line 025My latest afternoon outing started when a client-turned-friend wanted some ideas of what to do out-of-doors in our scenic but slow paced county. So we looked around and decided to visit charming Santa Margarita and try the Santa Margarita Adventures Zip Line.  Now I have done the zip line before in the Sierra and thought this might not be quite as exciting as I was in the mood for…….but I was so wrong!  The obvious highlight was 5 thrilling back to back rides on the well-designed and very scenic zip lines.  More than one person in the group was terrified at first only to change their expressions to a very BIG smile after the first zip.  A plus was the bus ride out to the ranch abd frisky tour guide, Gary, who gave us an outline of the rich history of the small ranch town and ranch back to the 1700’s. He also shared the dedication of the current owners to minimize the impact of the ranch and AG on the native wildlife and ancient oaks…..bears and bobcats reside here as always. The vistas and solitude are truly extraordinary on this beautiful expanse of unspoiled country… not miss this for the perfect day of fun!

The Housing Market in 2014: Predictions From Around the Web

The median sales price for single-family homes rose by about 14% in San Luis Obispo County over the past year, jumping from $395,000 to $450,000, according to the Keith Byrd price tracker.

The uptick in prices came for a number of reasons. Low home prices and record-low mortgage rates made real estate a more affordable investment, while declining foreclosures activity meant less of a downward drag on prices. As the year progressed, high demand and low supply pushed sales prices higher and higher.

As we enter 2014, the housing market landscape looks a bit different. Mortgage rates are higher now, and prices are no longer as affordable. Less foreclosure activity is positive, but it means less bargain-basement opportunities. Higher rates and higher prices will weigh negatively on demand.

In other words, the real estate market is finally starting to even out.

There are some signs of danger, according Fitch Ratings. As we enter the new year, the Fitch Sustainable Home Price Model shows national prices overvalued by about 15%, according to HousingWire.

Much of this over-valuation comes from California markets – especially the Bay Area. San Francisco prices, for example, rose 25% in 2013. The median price for a Bay Area home reached $548,500 in December of 2013, which is just a step down from the bubble-induced levels back in 2006 and 2007.

SLO County enjoyed a successful year of real estate, but not quite at the accelerated level in the Bay Area. Sales may slow as prices rise and mortgage rates tick up, but the fundamentals of the market are solid. Expect a solid – if somewhat slow – year of growth in 2014.

Here are a few additional pieces of housing market news released during the previous few weeks:

Why credit scores dropped on new mortgages in 2013 (Wall Street Journal: Developments Blog). The good news about reduced demand: lenders will be loosening standards a bit more to try to draw in business. We are already starting to see it. The average credit score for approved mortgages dipped to 727 in December of 2013, which was down from 748 the previous year.

California foreclosure starts dip to eight-year low (DataQuick).

Mortgage forecasts lowered for 2014 (CNBC). Refinance volume is expected to dip 60% in 2014 as rates move higher.

Construction up, but are we building too many houses? (CNBC).  Total housing construction jumped 18% in 2013 to meet rising demand for housing, but if prices continue to rise, builders will have a harder time finding buyers.

The Buy/Rent Balance Shifts (Bloomberg Businessweek). “For the first time since 2010, it was cheaper to rent a place to live in than to buy one…”

New Listing! 419 Santa Barbara, Morro Bay


One of the best locations in the park. Located at the end of the street and backing up to ranchland, this two bedroom, two full bath home features vaulted ceilings, an airy, open floor plan with lots of windows, a huge master suite with large soaking tub and separate shower. There is a separate laundry room, two decks (one in front, one in rear with a hot tub) and a bricked patio area. There is a bonus workshop that includes electricity. This home sits on a 52′ x 102′ lot that can be purchased separately through the park owner. He states he will finance lot for 30 years which should make payment similar to space rent. Great opportunity to own a piece of Heaven in Morro Bay.



Cayucos Lots to be Auctioned

This is from an email I received from the County. If you would like us to help you with the bid and providing other info about these lots, give us a call!

The County of San Luis Obispo owns property that will be auctioned to the highest bidder. The property consists of 2 vacant lots at 790 Cornwall Street, near the intersection of Hillcrest Street, measuring about 17,325 square feet in total and zoned Commercial Retail (APNs 022-123-003 and 022-123-022). The property currently has a water Intent to Serve Letter for 1.29 EDU’s valid through June 1, 2017. The previous owner had obtained a minor use permit (expired) for two commercial buildings of 2,992 and 3,172 square feet and associated parking on one of the parcels. The property is also subject to an irrevocable license agreement to provide parking for 5 cars on the property to serve a nearby property.

Written bids (USING THE ATTACHED FORM ONLY) are due at the address below by Monday, April 7, 2014 at 5:00 PM, and the auction will take place at the Board of Supervisors Meeting on April 8, 2014 (about 1:30 PM or as soon thereafter as possible). The minimum bid is $250,000, and bids less than the minimum will not be accepted. A cashier’s check in the amount of $10,000 payable to the County of San Luis Obispo must be submitted with the bid, which shall be nonrefundable upon acceptance of the highest bid.
Deposits submitted with bids that are not accepted will be returned. Oral bidding is allowed during the auction, but oral bids will not be heard if no written bids are submitted. Escrow must close within 45 days. The only acceptable condition of sale is the approval by the Cambria CSD of the assignment of 1.29 water EDU’s to the buyer, at the buyer’s cost.