Raymond Cruz Hired as the Next City Manager of Rolling Hills

by Donna Littlejohn |LA Times

A top Carson City Hall staffer has been named the new city manager in Rolling Hills. Raymond Cruz, community services director for the city of Carson will begin his new duties on Nov.18th. He was appointed Monday night at the Rolling Hills City Council meeting.

Cruz replaces Tony Dahlerbruch, who left in May to become city manager of the neighboring city of Palos Verdes Estates.

With fewer than 2,000 residents, Rolling Hills is a small, gated community at the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula known for its horse stables and ranch-like ambiance, view preservation battles and some of the priciest Real Estate in the Los Angeles Area.

Cruz has more than 26 years of city government experience, including stints as public services general manager for the city of Carson and assistant to the city manager for the city of Glendale.

He has a bachelors degree in political science and public service from UC Riverside and a masters in public administration from USC.

Cruz will be paid $165,000 a year.

We Wish you a Happy Halloween!

Ten Home Staging Cover Ups

Just about everyone is familiar with home staging.  Home staging is successfully used by many realtors and is a great tool in helping to sell just about any type of home.  However, what most people don’ t realize is that there are some sellers who utilize staging as a way to cover up the things they don’t want you to see.  Here are a few home staging cover ups that when seen, should make you stop and pay attention.  Not to what is right, but to what is wrong.

1.  It seems like just about every home has at least one small room that the homeowner doesn’t quite know what to do with.   If you see a small room that has small furniture in it, this generally means the seller is using small furniture to trick your eye and to make the room look bigger than it really is.

2.  Many homeowners use scent as a nice way to make a good first impression of their home.  However, some sellers use various scents to cover up or mask any lingering smells that may be in their home.  If you come across a home with air fresheners, pay close attention to anything your nose might detect other than the air freshener.  Do you smell pets or pet urine?  Do you smell mold or mildew?  Put your nose to the test.

3.  Often times music is used to distract you from hearing a noise problem.  When you hear music while viewing a home, you should turn off the music and listen.  What do you hear?  Does the neighbor have a dog that never stops barking?  Do you hear an excessive amount of street noise?  Are the airplanes flying overhead louder than you would expect?  Do the neighbors fight all of the time?

4.  If while touring a home you notice that all the blinds are closed or the window coverings are pulled, you should take a minute to open every window covering to see what might be hiding behind that curtain.  This is something that most people don’t do.  Not doing this one thing could cost you thousands of dollars if it isn’t discovered before you close on the home.  It may only be a broken window pane.  But it could be that all the window seals are broken and all of the windows are fogged so badly that you can’t see outside.  Or it may be that the neighbor is a hoarder and their home is in complete disrepair or perhaps they have an auto mechanic shop in their back yard.  Needless to say it’s very important to look through every window and check the view.

5.  Never assume that behind every door is a reasonable space.  You should open every door and cabinet as you tour the home.  Sometimes closed doors are closed for a reason.  Just think how you would feel if you moved in only to discover that none of the cabinets have shelves in them.  Or that the pantry you so desperately need was only a few inches deep.

6.  Area rugs are sometimes used to cover up carpet stains, a flaw in the flooring or some foundation cracks.  You should lift up every area rug and inspect what may be hiding underneath.

7.  Pay attention to each door of the home.  Are any of the doors missing?  Sometimes a seller will remove a door that doesn’t function properly.  A door that doesn’t open and close like it should may be an indication of foundation problems.  Or it may just be that the seller is trying to make the room look larger, etc.

8.  Look behind all the pictures.  Are the pictures covering up any holes in the walls?

9.  Check all the countertops.  Do you see any placemats or decor that could be an attempt at hiding a flaw?

10.  Look around, do you see anything that could potentially be covering up a flaw in the home?

Now you are aware that staging is sometimes used as a cover up.  You’re now better equipped to address any possible issues before you commit to buying a home.  You should also talk to your realtor about assisting you in identifying any additional staging cover ups that weren’t covered here.  Your realtor has multitudes of experience and can immediately spot a staging cover up that could cost you thousands of dollars if not caught before you actually purchase the home.  Your realtor truly is your best defense when it comes to buying a good quality home.

Creative Tips For Your Fall Decorating

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are turning into a brilliant array of colors and there is a slight chill in the air.  It’s fall – the time of year when we all begin preparing for the holidays.  Here are some creative fall decorating tips that should help give your home that warm holiday feeling.

1.  Buy some pumpkins and clean out their insides.  Then you can add some fall foliage or flowers and line your sidewalk or porches with them.

2. Warm Things Up Take a cue from designer Sarah Richardson and give an open, soaring space (even one as massive as her living room) a snug, welcoming feel by swapping out pillows in lightweight summer fabrics, like linen and cotton, for luxe velvet ones in rich, fall shades. Add a few coordinating throws and get ready to cozy up by the fire. 

  • Add Some Layers Fall’s crisp weather calls for layering up your wardrobe — put the same idea to work in your home and toss cozy wool, cotton, chenille or even luxurious cashmere throws over furniture in rooms where your family or guests gather.
  • Fire up the Fireplace


3.  Multi-tiered candy dishes make great accent pieces.  Take some acorns, pinecones, gourds, decorative corn, mini pumpkins and add a variety of them to each tier. Take a footed glass container and layer it with different types of candy.  This makes a great centerpiece for any table.

4.  The metallic look is big this season.  Get some plastic mini pumpkins and cover them in glue, roll them in metallic glitter and display them around your home.  These make great accent pieces. 

Elegant Halloween Decor

5.  White Pumpkins. Keep it simple with an elegant display of white, or ghost, pumpkins. For visual interest, stagger the heights by using stacks of old books or vintage scales as pedestals. Design by Beth Hunter.

  • Buy some different sized plastic pumpkins and build them up into a topiary.  Use a decorative base and then you can layer the pumpkins by size up into a nice looking topiary.  Add some nice fall foliage pieces to trim it out.
  • Painted Pumpkins, Faux pumpkins and gourds painted in a monochromatic color scheme adds understated elegance


6.  Take a window box and paint it a metallic color.  Then you can add some winter flowers and fall decor such as pinecones, gourds and decorative corn to give it that festive look.

7. Fill a wooden fruit bowl with apples.  Then add some holly leaves, cinnamon sticks, twigs with fall colored leaves, etc. and use as a table arrangement.

8.  Get several pieces of large decorative corn and glue them around the base of your potted plants and wrap them with a raffia ribbon bow.  This will give your home the feeling of fall.

9.  Buy some clear glass canisters and line them with kernels of corn.  Then you can add some small white candles.  You will then glue some decorative leaves to the front and sides and wrap them with a little raffia for that nice finishing touch.  

10.  Go to Pinterest.com and put “fall decorating” into the search box.  This will bring up a multitude of fantastic fall decorating ideas that you may have never thought of.  Additionally, it will show you pictures of what the finished piece should look like.  

11. Dress Up Any Space With a Wreath. An inexpensive wreath form, moss and our free printable templates are all you need to create this rustic fall wreath.

  • Add a Wreath to your front door

12. Faux-liage. Add an autumnal touch to an open bookcase with silk fall leaves, which you can find at your local craft store. Whether they’re pressed inside a picture frame or strategically placed along the shelves, autumn-colored leaves are sure to pump up the fall factor. Design by Layla Palmer

                                     Faux Fall Leaf Decor

13. Fall for Autumn’s Hues

With its rusty palette and laid-back look, chose the colors for your dining room to be dressed for casual fall entertaining. Designer Lauren Liess created the layered tablecloth by topping a linen drapery panel with a vintage russet and orange quilt. Gourds, candles, fresh herbs and a stoneware urn filled with vermilion branches create a fuss-free centerpiece that works equally well for Thanksgiving dinner or any fall get-together. Use colors like orange, brown, red, green, and earthy tones. 

14. Decorate the Front Porch

HGTV fan dezignrogue makes a good thing even better by adding an assortment of pumpkins, gourds and colorful mums to their Italiante villa’s front entry. A wrought-iron bench is a nice addition and gives the outdoor room a sit-a-spell feel.


Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets

Contemporary kitchen cabinets are generally composed of minimal ornamentation and flat surfaces. The cabinetry style is intentionally non-traditional, avoiding decorative moldings in favor of simplicity and function.

A Black and White Kitchen with Contemporary Cabinets
This black and white kitchen features contemporary cabinets by ALNO, AG. [+] More Pictures

Historic Influences: Contemporary kitchen designs date from the 1940s to the present, and trace many of their stylistic origins in Europe.

Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets    Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets     Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets

Elements of Style: For a clean and spacious look, contemporary kitchen design typically avoids excess ornamentation. Crown molding, wood carvings, and raised panel door styles are almost never used. Small spaces can be made to feel bigger if there is less visual stimulation. Therefore the relatively flat surfaces found in contemporary kitchens can be of benefit to smaller modern homes.

Materials: Most materials in contemporary kitchen designs are man-made, including metal, plastic, concrete, glass, and recycled goods. While these man-made materials can often feel cold and sterile, many designers like to incorporate natural elements such as wood veneer and natural stone to bring some warmth back into the room. Simple decorations such as a potted plant or a bowl of fruit can also give your kitchen a more natural ambiance.

Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets     Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets       Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets

Color Schemes: Many contemporary kitchens have monochromatic color schemes, featuring various combinations of black, white, and gray. These kitchens tend to look very modern and sharp. Some contemporary designs, however, incorporate unique colors or exotic wood in order to create a visual impact and showcase the homeowner’s favorite materials or hues.

Kitchen Design Photos: Below are some pictures of kitchens featuring contemporary cabinets.

Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets   Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets     Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets

Read more: http://www.kitchen-design-ideas.org/contemporary-kitchen-cabinets.html#ixzz2iaPib6pn

Foreclosure Filings Drop in California

Foreclosure rate

A foreclosure sign tops a for-sale sign outside a home. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press / August 29, 2007)

By Andrew Khouri, LA TIMES

New California foreclosure filings tumbled during the third quarter, as a stronger economy continued to heal the housing market.

Notices of default fell 21.1% from the second quarter and 58.6% from the same period last year, research firm DataQuick said Tuesday. Completed foreclosures dropped sharply as well, reaching the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Lenders filed 20,314 default notices from July to September, the lowest amount since the first quarter of this year when a new series of state laws — known as the Homeowner Bill of Rights — went into effect. The laws restrict how banks conduct foreclosures within the state.

Foreclosure starts peaked during the first three months of 2009 at 135,431.  The crisis — which wreaked havoc on families, neighborhoods and the economy — has now greatly subsided.

Sharply rising home values this year lifted many Californians from their negative equity positions — meaning they no longer owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.  That has helped reduce the number of homeowners vulnerable to foreclosure, DataQuick said, allowing them to more easily sell their homes or refinance if they get into financial trouble.

The state’s median home price rose to $360,000 in the third quarter, up 26.3% from a year earlier.

“Cleanup of the foreclosure mess is ongoing, but it’s difficult to imagine a huge new wave,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement, noting higher housing prices, an improved job market and the government efforts to stem foreclosures.

DataQuick said foreclosure activity plummeted temporarily after stricter laws went into effect.  Indeed, after plunging in the first quarter this year, notices of default jumped 39% a quarter later.But foreclosure starts started to decline again in the third quarter.  Excluding the first quarter, notices of default in the third quarter were the lowest since the first three months of 2006.

Default notices remain more prevalent in the state’s least expensive neighborhoods, where subprime lending was prevalent. ZIP codes with a median price below $200,000 recorded an average of 3.4 default notices for every 1,000 homes. For ZIP codes with medians of $200,000 to $800,000, an average of 2.2 foreclosure starts were filed. The ratio fell to 0.9  for ZIP codes priced above $800,000.

Loans were more likely to enter default in Riverside, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Kings and Yuba counties. Loans were least likely to default in San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties.

In Los Angeles County, new foreclosure filings dropped 20.5% from the second quarter, while completed foreclosures fell 21.5%.

Homeowners getting into financial trouble now are mostly those who purchased a house during last decade’s boom, when lending standards were much weaker. Most loans entering default were taken out from 2005 to 2007, with the median origination quarter for those loans being the fourth quarter of 2006.

Common Credit Myths You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Home

If you have good credit and think you won’t have any problem buying a house, you might need to think again.  Most people with good credit have many common misconceptions about their credit and how it could affect their likelihood of being approved for buying a home.  When in fact, having good credit, even extremely good credit, doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good risk in the eyes of a mortgage lender.  Keep reading to learn some of the most common credit myths that could cost you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage loan.

1.  Do you have a large amount of cash?  Do you have a fairly high income?  Do you have some reasonable equity in your home?  If you answered yes to those questions, you probably think your FICO score is not a factor.  That is false.  The fact is that your credit score is what determines whether or not you will be approved for a home loan.  It  will also determine what the interest rate will be for that loan.  There are only two exceptions to that rule.  If you pay cash or if you put down a great deal of money on the home.

2.  Are you debt free?  Do you pay all of your bills on time?  If you answered yes to those questions, you probably think you have what is considered good credit.  That is false.  Lenders look at your credit differently than you do.  A lender will look at your FICO score to see how well you manage your debt and your credit.  The lender will look to see if you’re at your limit on your credit cards, and if you are, but you continue to apply for more credit, a lender will consider that credit abuse.

However, if you have credit, but don’t carry any credit balances on the credit you have, that doesn’t mean you have good credit in the eyes of the lenders.  You may find this hard to believe, but you will get a higher FICO score if each month you carry a balance of 30% of your credit limit and you continually make your payments on time.  This is where most people are completely baffled, because common sense, in most people, would tell them that no debt is a good thing, when in reality it’s not.  Go figure!

3.  Have you experienced a short sale or a foreclosure in the past?  Many people believe that if they’ve had a short sale or a foreclosure in the past, they can’t qualify for another home.  That is false.  Remember what we’ve been talking about?  Your credit score is the number one factor in determining whether or not you will be approved for a loan.  So even though the short sale or foreclosure will stay on your Experian and Transunion credit reports for seven to ten years, that doesn’t mean you can’t work on improving your credit score enough to buy another home sooner rather than later.

In order to achieve this, you will need to start paying your bills on time.  It will also require that you have a reasonable amount of money to put down on your new home.  And if you had any extenuating circumstances that caused your short sale or foreclosure to occur in the first place, that should be explained.  This alone could help lead to a more likely approval and quite possibly a lower interest rate.

The bottom line is to save your money and use your credit accordingly.  Take all of these credit tips we’ve given you to get the most desirable loan you can.  Your best bet is to talk with your realtor about buying a new home.  He can then make the proper recommendations for your specific situation.

Your realtor has plenty of experience in dealing with mortgage lenders.  He will assist you in making the necessary corrections that could lead to a mortgage approval and quite possibly the lowest interest rate available for your new home.  Asking your realtor for assistance could ultimately save you thousands of dollars over the course of your loan.

Finding L.A. buildings with quake risk a challenge, official says

Soft story collapse
Crushed vehicles at the Northridge Meadows apartment complex on Jan. 17, 1994, the day of the Northridge earthquake. Sixteen residents were killed in the magnitude 6.7 temblor. (Roland Otero / Los Angeles Times / January 17, 1994)
By Rosanna Xia, LA TIMES
 Los Angeles city building officials have concluded that inspectors would most likely have to visit all of the city’s 29,000 older apartment buildings to determine which ones have a certain type of wood frame that is particularly vulnerable to collapse during a major earthquake.

City staffers are developing a plan to winnow out these so-called “soft” story wood-frame buildings among the 29,000 apartment buildings across the city that were built before 1978, Ifa Kashefi, chief of the engineering bureau at the building and safety department, told a group of structural engineers and stakeholders at the annual Buildings at Risk conference.

Officials have long known about the risk of soft-story buildings, particularly after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, when about 200 of these structures were seriously damaged or destroyed, and 16 people died in the Northridge Meadows apartment complex.

Soft-story structures often are built over carports and held up with slender columns, leaving the upper floors to crash into ground-floor apartments during shaking. No city data exist to easily identify which structures are wood-framed and are soft-story, Kashefi said.

The city’s housing department was able to provide addresses to the 29,000 apartment buildings in the city built before 1978, Kashefi said, and city inspectors would need to go to each address and determine whether a building should be included in this inventory.

A motion, introduced in July by City Councilman Tom LaBonge, asks building officials to present a proposal for how the city would be able to identify wood-frame soft-story residential buildings with at least two stories and at least five units and built before 1978.

“We have a choice. We can either be prepared, or not be prepared,” said LaBonge, who was also on Tuesday’s panel. “It’s about our safety.”

LaBonge’s motion came after San Francisco passed a landmark earthquake safety ordinance this year that requires about 3,000 wooden apartment buildings to be strengthened there. LaBonge said he expected a report from L.A.’s building and safety agency sometime in November.