Jeff’s Carlsbad Blog for First Time Home Buyers

Down Payment Assistance Programs in San Diego

First time home buyers can no longer take advantage of the Federal First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, but if you are in California you CAN take advantage of the first time home buyer tax credit of up to $10K that California has over a 3-year period.

Read more about the California 2010 First-Time Buyer Tax Credit

A number of first time home buyers in Southern California may also qualify for one of the down payment assistance programs in San Diego.

These programs have income (maximum) guidelines based on total household size, but they offer a pretty decent amount of money for down payments (and in some programs for closing costs). The cool thing is there are no payments until you sell the home.

Want to learn more?

Read the article I just posted on Down Payment Assistance Programs in San Diego.


How to Protect Your Home From Fires

Someone kindly sent along a link to a really useful article about protecting your home from fires. So I thought I would, and should, share it.

There are links to 10 different GUIDES, some interactive, as well as a list of ACTIONS TO CONTAIN FIRES and suggestions on FIRE PREVENTION TOOLS homeowners should have. Good reading and worth sharing with friends, neighbors and family.

25 Tips to Protect Your Home From Fires

Search for Homes Community Information Relocation Services and more How to get in touch with me

Visit my Real Estate Consumer Blog at Carlsbad Real Estate News for lots of information about the general area

All content copyright © 2010 Jeff Dowler “The California Relocation Dude”

Homeowner’s Insurance Questions

Posted in Financial,Homeownership,Insurance by Jeff Dowler on January 20, 2010
Tags: , , ,

When you are investigating home owner’s insurance for your new home purchase during the transaction, you may need to know several things for the potential insurance provider:

1. Where is the location of the nearest FIRE HYDRANT and how far is it from the house

2. What FIRE DEPARTMENT is responsible for the area

3. How far is the NEAREST FIRE STATION from the house

I highly recommend getting several quotes. I would check with your current insurance provider (there may be a discount for multiple insurance policies) as well as 1 or 2 others so you get the BEST RATE and the BEST COVERAGE.

Search for Homes Community Information First Time Home Buyers Relocation Services and more How to get in touch with me

All content copyright © 2010 Jeff Dowler “The California Relocation Dude”

More Thoughts on HOA Fees

Posted in Due Diligence,Financial,Homeownership by Jeff Dowler on February 12, 2009

Ya gotta love ’em if you are buying a condo, since you don’t have a choice.

AND they can sometimes be pretty hefty – so watch the MLS listings (or ask your Buyer Agent) so you are not too surprised. In our area here in Southern California HOA fees in condo associations typically range from perhaps the mid $100s to over $300 per month (and well in the $500s for higher-end complexes). These are not tax deductible so you need to factor these costs into your budget (and the bank doing your pre-approval and your loan will as well).

HOA fees can cover all sorts of things, although buyers often feel they are not getting a lot for the fees they are paying. And in some complexes that does appear to be the case. Usually exterior building maintenance is included, as is grounds maintenance. Perhaps also water and sewer, and the association will have a master insurance plan to cover the building exteriors and common areas. If the HOA is professionally managed the fees for those services are also part of the HOA fees you pay. If there is a pool, a garage, elevators, tennis courts, an electronic gate, and other amenties then you are paying for these as well.

Keep in mind these are not negotiable since they are set by the HOA not the seller. Also know that they will go up over time, and in some cases a special assessment may be needed for repairs if there is not enough money in the budget.

When doing your due diligence as the buyer once an offer is accepted, make sure you examine all the HOA documents including the meeting minutes, the budget and accounting, the rules and regulations, and the by-laws. And be sure to ask any questions so you are satisfied.


If I can provide more information about Carlsbad and surrounding areas, or the housing market in general, or otherwise assist you in your home search, please contact me by phone or text at (760) 840-1360 or email me at

Search for Homes Community Information
First Time Home Buyers Relocation Services and more How to get in touch with me

All content copyright © 2009 Jeff Dowler

Homebuying Disappointments

Buying a new home is very rewarding – the pride of ownership, and building wealth through real estate (e.g., equity), are two excellent reasons to buy. But there can be disappointments too, especially in this market.

As a first time home buyer, you should at least prepare yourself for the possibility of some of these issues, particularly if you are pursuing short sales, foreclosures and bank-owned properties (which may be most of what you are seeing in your price range).

Read also: Short sales, Foreclosures and Bank-owned Properties

1. The shattered dream – reality hits when you find that you cannot find, nor afford your dream home. And most, if not all, of the distressed properties are in really rough shape

2. Making what you believe to be a good offer and having it rejected. Just because it is a buyer market in many areas does not mean all offers will get accepted.

3. Making an offer on a short sale, foreclosure or REO and having to wait a long time for a response…or getting no response at all. Or getting beat out in the multiple offer bidding.

4. Learning about lots of problems in the home you want to buy during the home inspection – this is pretty common, and if you are buying a distressed home you can be sure there will be deferred maintenance and other issues to deal with.

5. Not qualifying for as much of a loan as you would like, or for a loan that will severely limit what you can buy. The financial realities of home buying can be a big source of frustration, especially with more stringent mortgage requirements, fees (PMI, HOA) and when living in expensive areas like Southern California.

Obviously other disappointments can occur, but these are pretty common, so don’t have unrealistic expectations. Many things can be overcome, and if you are realistic you will be less likely to feel so disappointed when the process does not go how you would like.


If I can provide more information about Carlsbad and surrounding areas, or the housing market in general, or otherwise assist you in your homes search, please contact me by phone or text at (760) 840-1360
or email me at

Search for Homes Community Information
First Time Home Buyers Relocation Services and more How to get in touch with me

All content copyright © 2007 Jeff Dowler Carlsbad Homes and Real Estate Tidbits

Things to Know About HOAs

Posted in Homeownership,Neighborhoods,What do I Buy? by Jeff Dowler on March 3, 2008
Tags: , ,

As a new home buyer, especially here in Carlsbad and other nearby communities, HOAs are a way of life. And they can, in some neighborhoods, have a significant impact on your lifestyle there. So there are some things to know.

shaking-hands.gifHOAs are generally responsible for the care and maintenance of the community – the grounds, buildings, parking, swimming pools, etc. They take care of paying the bills, such as the master insurance if there is such a thing (common in condo communities), arranging for care and maintenance providers, and so on. And they are responsible for preserving the way of life that has been established, and the appearance of the neighborhood.

But they also oversee the rules, regulations and by laws that have been approved, and which dictate what can and cannot be done in the community. Some rules are very strict and others are fairly loose.

  • Some times parking is not allowed on the street, or
  • RVs must be parked outside the community in a designated area
  • You may need permission to make certain improvements on your home, or may not even be able to choose a different exterior paint color, or install a new style of window without approval of a committee, or perhaps not at all
  • They may dictate how late you can host outdoor parties, how many guest parking spots you may use, and much more.

Understanding the rules and regulations beforehand is essential so you can decide if you are willing to live with the requirements of that community. In most cases they are fairly unobtrusive, but be sure to obtain copies of the By Laws and other rules so you know what you are dealing with.

thumbs-down.gifYou will also want to review the minutes from the HOA meetings. This will give you an idea of the sorts of things that are discussed, the concerns folks have, any on-going issues that could influence your decision to buy, and much more. And certainly if you have questions that arise during the due diligence process you should talk to someone who is a member of the HOA or perhaps the president.

People, in general I think, want to live in harmony with each other, and you should understand how that happens in the HOA where you are purchasing your new home.

What You Should Know About HOA Fees

Posted in Financial,Homeownership by Jeff Dowler on February 27, 2008
Tags: , , ,

 moneysign2.gif    moneysign2.gif   moneysign2.gif

Carlsbad home buyers often find themselves confronted with Home Owner Association  (H.O.A.) fees when looking at homes for sale. Fees can vary widely (from under $100/months to more than $400/month) and may add substantial costs to your monthly payments. Not all homes have them , but it is important as a buyer to watch for these fees, find out how much they are, and understand what you are getting for these costs since they impact your monthly budget.

HOA fees are not restricted to condominiums, although they tend to be more common because of the type of ownership. So don’t assume that a detached Carlsbad home will not have these fees; they are more common in the formal subdivisions, but there are exceptions.

Some things to know:

  • HOA fees are not negotiable – you must pay what the required fee is, and typically they are paid monthly. In some cases in this market a seller may offer to pay the HOA fees for a period of time, say 6 months, as an incentive
  • HOA fees, as far as I know, are not tax deductible. But I am not an accountant so check with a professional. If you are buying an investment property, however, these fees MAY be deductible as part of your operating expenses.
  • HOA fees can, and likely will, change over time, based on the needs of the association and approval by its members.  In addition, special assessment may be levied if the HOA’s funds are low and large expenses are going to be incurred (say, repaving the parking lot, redoing all roofs)
  • HOA fees may cover a variety of services, e.g., grounds and exterior maintenance, water, sewer, care of the parking lot, electronic gate, garage, elevators, tennis, pool, master insurance, hot water (not common), and more. You should know in advance what your fees are paying for; check on this before you buy as part of your due diligence process.
  • Some HOAs are self-managed (and consist of the residents) and others, usually the larger ones, have a management company to take care of billing, collecting fees, maintenance, and more. There is a cost for that too.

As part of the due diligence process once you have made an offer, you will want to check out the HOA documents (By-Laws, Rules and Regulations) as well as the budget and the HOA meeting minutes for the last year (or whatever is available). You want to make sure the association is financially stable (and not involved in a lawsuit) and has money in the budget for expenses, and that they are not planning a large assessment for which you, the new owner may need to pay (of course if you find this out and still want the property, go ahead). The ore you can learn about the association up front, the better.

Fees, Fees, Fees – Where Does it Stop?

Posted in Financial,Homeownership,Taxes by Jeff Dowler on February 14, 2008
Tags: , , , , , ,

question-mark.gifBuying your first home can be a daunting experience. Just the thought of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and having a monthly payment of $2500 or more is scary. Some folks decide to keep renting rather than have a higher payment – understandable, although the trade off is NOT having the tax advantage, building your credit or adding to your wealth by building equity.

New buyers are often NOT aware of some of the fees to expect on top of paying a monthly mortgage payment. better to know in advance so you are prepared, and can effectively manage your personal budget.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Here are some additional fees you MAY have to pay:

  1. Home owner association fees (HOA) – these can range from perhaps $60 per month to $300+ per month. Not tax deductible but check with an accountant
  2. Home owner’s insurance – may be escrowed (collected monthly as part of your mortgage payment or paid separately – varies with the lender. This could be $500 – $1000 annually, maybe more.
  3. Utilities – you probably pay most or all of this already if you are renting but don’t forget them. And in a condo or house they could be more (gas, electric, water, sewer, trash)
  4. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – if you are financing more than 80% of your purchase (i.e., your down-payment is LESS than 20%), you likely will be required by your lender to have PMI, which protects the lender in the case of a default. I am not advocating a particular bank but here is a good informational piece on PMI.
  5. Property taxes – you can’t avoid them and they can really add up. Find out how much they are (but a ROUGH estimate here in California is 1% of the purchase price – they vary widely by community). These are normally part of your monthly payment (escrow) so the bank can pay the taxes when they are due. YOU are responsible for getting the tax bill to your bank in time to make the payments.
  6. Mello Roos – some areas (especially new subdivisions) will levy additional fees called Mello Roos. Again, not avoidable and they can last for years. Check with an accountant regarding tax deductibility.

Carlsbad Buyers and the Homeowner’s Property Tax Exemption

Posted in Financial,Homeownership,Taxes by Jeff Dowler on September 3, 2007

If you are buying a new home in Carlsbad, or other areas in San Diego County, you should know about the property taxes and the Homeowner’s Tax Exemption.

Read more about this tax reduction here.

The Responsibility of Home Ownership

Posted in Homeownership by Jeff Dowler on June 23, 2007

Buying a home is a huge responsibility. I expect you know that, having gone through the process of deciding IF you want to buy, and WHEN. Plus having made that decision you are already well on your way to becoming a new homeowner.

Owning a home is lots of fun. But with that comes responsibility. Lots of it.

1. Financial responsibility – unless you paid cash, you have a responsibility to pay your mortgage and associated fees (interest, property taxes, HOA fees, etc.) every month – you have to pay the fees even if you are a cash buyer, of course. This impacts your credit in a positive way if you are timely, but can really mess up your credit quickly if you are not responsible.

2. Home Maintenance – part of the responsibility of maintaining your home is, simply, that you are required to do so by the mortgage company. They can, if you do not maintain the property, call for payment of the note in full. Why? Well, the property is the colateral for the money the bank has loaned you. The other part of home maintenance is simply to better enjoy what you have purchased. And keeping your home in good working condition helps it last longer. If you are in an HOA or condo association you are also required to maintain the property in good working order, and they CAN come after you if you don’t.

3. Insurance – you have a responsibility to maintain insurance on your home…again a requirement of your loan (read the loan docs!). This is for your protection, but more so for the bank. And it’s possible that if you do not maintain the home properly and something happens the insurance company will rule it was negligence and not pay the claim.

4. You also have a responsibility to your neighbors, and the neighborhood in general, to keep your home looking in reasonably good shape and to not allow it to deteriorate into an eyesore. This allows for more pleasant and comfortable surroundings for all to enjoy. Isn’t that part of what attracted YOU to the neighborhood and the house?

5. Increased home value – this is, to a certain extent, a by-product of owning your home over time. But the better you maintain it the more likely the value will increase, perhaps more so than your neighbors. You no doubt noticed differences in similar homes when you were looking as a buyer, in part due to how they were cared for.

6. Pride of Ownership – your own personal satisfaction from owning, and caring for, a home is a big piece of why you bought one, isn’t it? You will be proud to show it off, and will better enjoy it yourself, if you take the responsibility of owneship seriously.

Owning a home is a big responsibility. I hope you take it seriously.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Next Page »