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Outdoor activities surround those living in Hawaii Kai.

Hawaii Kai is located on the southeastern part of Oahu outside of the busy lifestyle of Honolulu, but yet still close enough to get there quick.  This upscale community has amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hillside.

The area, which is actually a volcanic crater, was formed 32,000 years ago.  Residents live here to be secluded yet be able to take advantage of the nearby excitement very quickly.

Outdoor activities surround those living in Hawaii Kai.  A short drive down to Haunama Bay is a great chance to enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the state.  Makapu’u Beach is a great location to get in some bodysurfing, but beware the heavy currents and undertows.  Residents can also check out the sea turtles famous for appearing in the bay in vast numbers.

Those with children will be glad to know that they will get the chance to attend the award-winning Koko Head Elementary School.  It was a winner of the Hawaii Distinguished School award.

Hawaii Kai has numerous homes available for water lovers on their marina.  These have private boat docks and ocean access.  There are also many types of single-family homes available in different price ranges.  Someone seeking luxury real estate should check out Kalama Valley, Queen’s Gate, and Portlock.

The average price of  homes in Hawaii Kai is $910,000.  Someone interested in Koko Kai or Portlock should expect to pay well over a million.  First time buyers might consider looking for a home in the Koko Head Terrace area.

The Kihei real estate market

Skyline of Kihei, Hawaii
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The Kihei real estate market, which is a subsidiary of Maui’s larger housing market, may be a good place to look for investment properties. According to an October 11, 2010 article from Pacific Business News, Kihei has had a large amount of foreclosures and short sales in recent months. The report by Janis L. Magin noted that “REOs, the industry term for those houses and condos the banks now own after taking them back through foreclosure, that have been put back on the market for sale have kept prices down in a lot of areas on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Same goes for short sales, those transactions where the property sells for less than what the homeowner owes, which is usually less than what the market-priced home across the street sold for. What that means is the median-price home on Maui last month was $440,000, the same as it was in September of last year, but nearly $100,000 less than two years ago, and more than $150,000 less than September 2007, according to the numbers recently released by the Realtors Association of Maui. In 2006, that median-priced house went for $769,000. Some neighborhoods actually saw prices rise, but places like Kihei, which has seen a lot of foreclosure and short-sale activity, are still seeing lower median prices. For example, the median-priced home in Kihei that sold for $450,000 in September 2009 sold for $381,000 last month, a 15 percent discount.”

Among distressed sales, more Hawaii homes for sale and Kihei homes for sale were sent to short sale as opposed to foreclosure. A September 30, 2010 article in the Honolulu Star Advertiser stated that “More Hawaii homeowners are going the route of a short sale rather than foreclosure when they are unable to keep up payments on their homes. A new report from real estate research firm RealtyTrac shows that there were 298 short sales in the second quarter compared with 228 sales after lenders took back homes at auction. In a short sale, lenders approve selling the property to an interested buyer, often for less than the seller owes on the mortgage. It is a way for the owner to avoid foreclosure and the possible negative impact it could have on credit scores. The average price for all Hawaii home foreclosure sales was $383,292. RealtyTrac said that was 12.5 percent less than the average for all nonforeclosure home sales in the period in Hawaii.”

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Laguna Beach real estate market

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The Laguna Beach real estate market, a more expensive section of the larger Orange County housing market, showed signs of improvement, although not as strongly as the rest of the region. According to a June 14, 2010 article in the Orange County Register, “From a Laguna Beach perspective, the latest Orange County home inventory report from Steve Thomas at Altera Real Estate – as of June 10 – shows these conditions vs. countywide trends.” The piece went on to state that “The newest ‘market time’ of Laguna Beach – Thomas’ math that tracks [the] theoretical time it would take to sell all listed homes at the pace of new escrows opened – is 10.06 months. That is -27.6% (or roughly 115 days) in a year. Over two years, it’s -27% or 111 days. ‘Market time’ of Laguna Beach is +206 days vs. Orange County’s overall time to sell.”

A larger number of Laguna Beach homes were facing foreclosure or distressed sales in recent months. According to a June 15, 2010 article from the Orange County Register, “The distressed inventory continued its slow climb this year, adding an additional 89 homes in the prior two weeks and now totaling 3,080, a 3% increase. The inventory has not surpassed the 3,000 mark since June of last year.” The article, based heavily off the analysis of Steve Thomas and composed by Marilyn Kalfus, continued to state that “Last year at this time, there were 3,062 distressed homes on the market, representing 33% of the active inventory. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory dropped by three homes in the past two weeks from 533 to 530. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.45 months, an extremely hot seller’s market.”

The overall Orange County housing market, including the Laguna Beach real estate market, also improved substantially. According to a June 15, 2010 article in the OC Metro, “Orange County’s median home price and sales numbers got a welcome boost in May, partly due to government tax credits, low mortgage rates and more activity in higher-priced areas, according to a new report from MDA DataQuick.”

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The Irvine housing market

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The Irvine housing market, a small portion of the Orange County real estate market, may see an increase in median price in the next few years. According to a June 3, 2010 article from the Orange County Register, “Chapman U. professors are out with their semiannual economic forecast for Orange County! Here’s what they said about home prices: After price losses for Orange County single-family homes – by their mat that’s tied to resale medians – of 0.9% in 2007; 23.2% in 2008; and 12.3% in 2009…O.C. prices will rise 6% in 2010 and 5.3% in 2011. (Or a combined 11.6% gain in 2 years!)” The piece by Jon Lansner went on to state that “Future affordability will be lower as higher mortgage rates will overwhelm weak projected increases in median family income.”

The average price of an Irvine home for sale increased in the latest tracking period, according to a June 4, 2010 article from the Orange County Register. That piece said that “For the 22 business days ending May 18 – DataQuick’s latest real estate buying report – Orange County saw…$440,000 median selling price that is up 12.8% vs. a year ago yet -32% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000.” The article continued to state that “A median of $440,000 was last seen in Orange County in August 2008. The most recent median is 19% above the cyclical low hit in January 2009 at $370,000 – a current bottom that was 43% below the peak. The median selling price of an Orange County single-family home is 30% less than their peak pricing (June ’07) while condos sell 37% below their peak in 2006.”

The overall economic climate of Orange County should aid the eventual recovery of Irvine real estate. According to a June 3, 2010 article from the OC Metro, “Attendees got what they came for with news that an uptick in new jobs, consumer confidence and median home prices all point to a ‘weak but sustained recovery through 2011.’ The lagging construction industry, however, is expected to stall a more robust rebound. Typically, GDP growth is in the 6 percent range following a recession. Chapman’s forecast last December called for a mild recovery – around 3 percent.”

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Newport Beach real estate market

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The Newport Beach real estate market, a subsidiary of the larger Orange County real estate market, continued to show a mixture of strengths and weaknesses independently and general strength compared to some neighboring counties. According to a May 17, 2010 article in the OC Metro, “Foreclosures and housing demand in Orange County earned high marks in a recent report from Altera Real Estate President Steven Thomas, though the region’s active inventory and the short-sales picture didn’t fare so well.” The piece, written by Kristen Schott, went on to say that “Thomas, who released biweekly studies of the region’s residential real estate market, gave the state of foreclosures and A, and demand, or the number of new pending sales in the region, received a B+. However, the region’s active inventory garnered a C- and short sales, which Thomas said dominate the market, got an F+.”

Regardless of these two trouble spots, Newport Beach homes for sale fared much better than their neighbors outside of Orange County in the rest of Southern California. According to a May 18, 2010 article from OCLNN, “Orange County saw stronger gains in home sales and price compared to all other Southern California counties during April. The median home price in Orange County jumped 13.2 percent since April 2009, to $430,000, according to DataQuick, a San Diego-based real estate information service.” The article by Mike Reicher went on to note that “The coastal counties have been performing well in recent months, nudging up the region’s median home price to $285,000, according to DataQuick. That’s 15.4 percent higher than in April 2009. One reason for the higher prices is that most of the region’s deeply discounted foreclosures had been sold.”

Taken with the rest of the Southern California real estate market, Newport Beach real estate sales figures remained generally static, according to a May 18, 2010 article from Reuters. This article found that “Sales of new and resale homes totaled 20,299 in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties last month, down 0.9 percent from March and down 1.0 percent from a year earlier, the report from the real estate information service said.”

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Campbell real estate market

Seal of San Mateo County, California
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The Campbell real estate market, a portion of the larger Silicon Valley and Santa Clara County real estate markets, showed some limited signs of improvement in the most recent tracking period. According to a May 31, 2010 article in the San Jose Mercury News, “The local housing market continues to show improvement in sales and value of homes, though overall home sales in the nine-county Bay Area and the state as a whole, showed mixed results during the month of April, according to [the] latest real estate sales and price reports.” The piece, written by Rose Meily, continued to say that “MDA DataQuick reports sales for all new and resale homes and condos in Santa Clara in Santa Clara County rose 3.1 percent in April compared with the same period last year. A total of 1,656 homes sold in April, up from 1,606 sold in April 2009. The median home price for all homes jumped 20.7 percent from $405,000 in April of 2009 to $489,000 this year.”

The effect of foreclosures on Campbell homes for sale may be muted as that rate declines. According to a May 11, 2010 article in the Mercury News, “Default filings also declined in Santa Clara County, as well as statewide. In Santa Clara County, 32 percent fewer notices of default were filed last month than during April 2009, for a total of 923 notices. That figure represented a 15 percent decline from March 2010.” The piece, written by Sue McAllister, went on to say that “Despite the hopeful signs in the ForeclosureRadar report, about 1,600 homes in San Mateo County and nearly 4,800 homes in Santa Clara County remain in the pipeline for foreclosure, the company said. Owners of these homes have received at least a notice of default but have not received a notice that their property was sold at auction.”

Low interest rates in the Santa Clara region may potentially boost the Campbell real estate market, according to a Santa Clara County Association of Realtors press release. This report found that “Record-low interest rates continue to fuel the Santa Clara County housing market, boosting home prices and spurring brisk sales…Rock-bottom interest rates and lower housing prices make homes more affordable than they have been for years.”

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Folsom real estate market

Seal of Sacramento County, California
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The Folsom real estate market, a fairly small subsidiary market falling under the larger Sacramento region, continued to show weakness, contrary to the trend of the Sacramento area at large. According to a June 3, 2010 article from the Sacramento Business Journal, “Sacramento’s home prices have gone up by 11.7 percent on average over the past year, according to a report released Thursday from Clear Capital, a Truckee-based provider of real estate valuation and risk assessment or financial services companies. The price rebound was higher than that of Modesto’s, where prices have rebounded 9 percent over the past year, but lower than that of Stockton, where prices have gone up 13.6 percent on average during that time.” The piece, written by Michael Shaw, continued to note that “The number of bank-owned properties in the Sacramento metropolitan area, which includes Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo counties, has continued to decline, dropping approximately 2 percentage points over the past three years.”

This disconnect in the average price of a Folsom home for sale as compared with Sacramento properties is consistent with statistics mentioned earlier by a May 25, 2010 report from KXJZ News. This piece noted that “The California Association of Realtors says the median home price – meaning half the homes sold for more, the other half for less – increased to $188,000 in April. That’s about $20,000 more than what has been considered the bottom of the market. But the figure has created a bit of an unusual situation, since only Sacramento County enjoyed higher prices compared to April 2009.” The article, which was aired on All Things Considered, “El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties reported modest price declines in April compared to a year ago. But sales dropped 8 percent to 484,000 homes, that’s the fewest homes sold in 19 months.”

Realtor Alex Villacorta noted that the median price level of Folsom real estate have remained drastically low compared to a few years ago. He said that “In fact, for the Sacramento market, prices have fallen 54% since the market peak back in late 2005. So even though we’ve seen a nice gain over the year, we are still very low compared to where prices were in the peak of the market.”

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Boston Real Estate

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Boston real estate seems to be showing signs of stabilization after the economic struggles faced over the past year as a result of the economic recession of 2008. Despite slight declines during the fourth quarter of 2009, the Boston real estate market fared much better that the national market and posted greater increases as well. Home sales have increased and housing values are on their way up, but real estate experts are also wary that Boston may not be out of the woods yet, given the inconsistent improvements. Nevertheless, many local realtors and experts expect the Boston real estate market to make a significant recovery in the coming months and activity begins to pick up and prices begin to rise again.

According to the Boston Globe, the Boston real estate market suffered from a slight decline in home values during the months of September and October 2009. However, the declines were very small and were to be expected since historical data trends have shown a dip in the Boston real estate during the beginning of the winter season. Furthermore, real estate experts believe that the declines were to small to suggest that the market would continue to decline. Many people believe that the real estate in Boston has hit bottom, so the only direction it can go in is up. Despite the slight decline, home values are still about 6 percent above that of March of 2009, when the home values reached the lowest levels seen since September of 2005. Many realtors are hopeful that the federal tax credit will play a major role in spurring the growth of the real estate market in Boston and promote a speedy recovery.

dBusiness News has also reported the strength and optimistic views of the Boston real estate market, given its performance above that of the national average. Boston has shown 17.2 percent increase in median sales prices from about $393,000 in December of 2008 to about $461,000 in December of 2009. Other positive signs seen in the Boston real estate are the 4 percent increase in year-over-year home sales, as well as an 18.7 percent decline in unsold home inventory, leaving it at only a 6 month supply. Many expect the market to show significant signs of recovery in the coming months.

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Free Things to Do on a Cruise

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Alaskan and Caribbean cruise rates are at a great value this year. The fares include accommodation, meals and on board activities and entertainment, you might have a little left in your pocket.
Those who have never been on a cruise might want to know what activities are available onboard. Many of the activities are free, such as using the pool, visiting the library, game room, or catching live entertainment, such as reggae bands to comedians and magicians. There are also a number of children’s programs that cater to different age groups. Many cruises leave a daily planner, or compass, that can help you map out your day’s activities. Activities vary by ship and cruise line, but you can generally see the following activities:
Many onboard parties are held, which include a Captain’s Welcome party, a Sail Away party, mix and mingles, theme parties, and more. There are also games like scavenger hunts, karaoke nights, and talent and game shows. You can also participant in tournaments of mini-golf, basketball, and even ping-pong.
Some ships have very creative free entertainment. The Princess Cruise Line ships, for example, offer Movies Under the Stars, with a 300 sq. foot screen set up around the pool. During the day, family movies and videos are shown, while at night, the cruise provides blankets and popcorn for you to enjoy. Newer Carnival ships and MSC ships also have these outdoor screens as well.
The Celebrity Solstice features glassblowers from New York’s Corning Museum of Glass giving free glass blowing lessons during their “Hot Glass Show.” On deck with this show is the “Lawn Club” with real grass that you can play bocce, croquet, and putt golf balls for free. The coming Eclipse (2009) and Equinox (2010) will offer the same activities as well.
Those who like to eat will definitely like the Culinary Arts Presentations Center that Holland America has. These cruises feature on-deck chefs offering food demonstrations, and throughout the year, famous guest chefs are featured. These demonstrations occur twice during a normal 7 day cruise, and when it’s done, audience members can sample some of the food cooked. Many other cruise lines offer cooking demonstrations, as well as ice carving and napkin folding among other things.
Royal Caribbean offers rock climbing on many of their ships, and the new ships have free ice-skating shows. Freedom Class ships have the Flow Rider, a surfing simulator that attracts many participants. The wavelike surface of the Flow Rider is perfect for surfers of all levels, and those who just want to watch can take a seat in the surrounding stadium. The Oasis of the Seas, the largest ship in the world, will be offering a Boardwalk and Central Park area with activities for everyone.
You will never run out of things to do on a cruise. Contact one of our agents to help you find the best value for your next vacation.

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Things to Do in Seattle Washington

Safeco Field in Seattle.
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Don’t let the rain mislead you, Seattle, Washington has a ton of great attractions, activities and events. Since this city rains more than most others, you should visit during the summer to get the most out of this great city. No matter what season you visit, you’ll always find something to do. The best part about Seattle is that many of its sites can be access by foot, especially if you’re staying in a downtown hotel. Before making plans, get a map to ensure you don’t miss anything while in Seattle.
1. Seattle Center / Space Needle – The Space Needle was constructed for the 1962 World Fair. Grab a bite to eat and head to the Space Needle to get a bird’s eye view of the city. The Seattle Center that surrounds the Space Needle is a fairground complete with concession stands and rides. It is also home to Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project. During the summer months, the Seattle Center hosts many outdoor events, so plan a day or two to see it all.
2. Pike Place – Pike Place Market is full of fish, restaurants and street entertainers. Almost 100 years old, it is a collection of small venders selling anything fresh you can think of, such as fish, fruit and produce. This is definitely one place you need to visit during your stay.
3. Ballard locks – The Hiram Chittenden Locks, called “Ballard Locks” by the locals, helps ships pass from Puget Sound to Lake Washington by raising and lowering the water levels. While here, you can visit the viewing room and look at the fish ladder. This shows salmon swimming upstream into Lake Washington. Because this place is beautiful and clean, you can just simply just eat here or watch the boats go by.
4. Seattle Pacific Science Center – Just south of the Seattle Center is the Pacific Science Center. You won’t run out of things to do, from watching movies in an IMAX Theater, to a butterfly house and a planetarium. Be sure to check out any exhibits that may occur during your vacation, as it has hosted some very interesting ones in the past, such as the Titanic’s Artifact exhibit. This is a must-see for vacationers with children.
5. Safeco Field / Quest Field – The Kingdome was demolished to make was for Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners and Quest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. These stadiums have great features with wonderful views of the fields. Also it has great food, and more than just the average hotdog and chili fries found at most stadiums.
6. Pioneer Square – Pioneer Square is a neighborhood that’s over 100 years old. While it still has historical significance, it is now the center of the city’s nightlife, with tons of nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries surrounding here. Pack comfortable shoes as everything is within walking distance.
7. Boeing Tours – 30 miles north of Seattle is Boeing’s Everett plant, the largest free standing building in the world. This plant offers daily tours that allow you to look at some of the largest aircraft ever built. Be sure to check tour times as well as the age and height requirements for children. If interested in more airplane information, check out the Museum of Flight south of Seattle.
8. Seattle Aquarium – Located on Pier 59 is the Seattle Aquarium, where adults and children can be fascinated by the sea and plant life on exhibit here. Once you’re done, be sure to visit one of the many amazing seafood restaurants in the Seattle Area.
9. Washington Ferries – These ferries are perhaps a staple of the Pacific Northwest. Once on board, you’ll be having a truly authentic Seattle experience, complete with seagulls and other wildlife. Also a ferry ride might actually be in your vacation plans, as some places as easier to access through the. Ferry rides are schedule often, especially in the downtown area.
10. Bill Gates Residence – While Bill Gates doesn’t offer tours of his home, you know you’re just a little curious about how he lives. You can drive by his home. If you’re lost, ask any resident of Medina, Washington for directions to his house.

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