Living Trust

Should your home be held in a living trust?  Being in real estate, I am constantly being ask this question.  And yes, I do hold my personal residence in a living trust.  However, I cannot recommend that you hold your North County home in a trust.  Only your CPA or attorney can answer that question for you.

  • Why do people use living trust?  Some common reasons for holding San Diego property in a trust is to postpone or minimize death taxes, to shield the property from some creditors, or to help avoid time consuming probate.
  • What is a living trust?   A living trust is a trust created during your life time (inter-vivos trust) rather than being created by your will at death.
  • Who are the parties to a trust?  Typically a living trust is a Family Trust in which the Husband and Wife are the Trustees, and usually their children are the Beneficiaries.
  • Does the trust hold title to real estate?  No, title is held by the trustees on behalf of the trust.
  • What taxes can be avoided by putting my property in a living trust?  You should check with your attorney.  Married couples can usually exempt a large part of their assets from taxes by having their property in a living trust.
  • Can you cancel a living trust?  The trustees can cancel a living trust at anytime.

For answers to specific living trust questions contact your accountant or attorney.  For answers to San Diego North County real estate questions,  contact Gary Harmon your North County Realtor.

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Internet Marketing Gains Top Spot in North County Home Sales

87% of All San Diego Home Buyers Start on the Internet

The National Association of Realtors say that over 87% of all buyers start on the Internet.  Therefore, if you are a San Diego North County seller, you should select your real estate agent based on how well your agent can market your San Diego North County home on the Internet.   My website blog: and my website: excels in marketing clients homes on the Internet with over 100 key phrases on the first pages of Google Searches

How Does Your San Diego Agent Rank

Be an informed seller.  See how any agent you are considering performs on the Internet before you list your most important investment.  Log into  Put any agent’s website url address in the blank and click “Generate Report.”   This gives you an objective score of how any agent ranks on their ability to market your property on the internet.  My rank is listed below for you to compare.  Also,  YouTube is the # 3 largest search engine.  Go to and put “garywharmon” in the search blank.  Click “Search.”  Try that with other agents.  If you shop and compare, the results will be clear.

Gary Harmon Ranks in the Top 5%

See how Gary can customize an Internet marketing plan to get your San Diego North County home sold.   Contact Gary Harmon, today.


How San Diego Home Buyers Use the Internet

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How to Avoid Mello-Roos

If you are looking for a San Diego North County home, you have probably come across the term “Mello-Roos.” You don’t know what it is, but you see it is a cost you will have to pay on many newer North County homes. The only way to avoid Mello-Roos is to buy an older home or maybe a newer custom home that does not have Mello-Roos. I consider Mello-Roos just another cost of owning a home. Always consider the entire package before purchasing. The San Diego home that has the Mello-Roos tax just may be the best deal for you.

Here are a few things you should know about this term, Mello-Roos. Mello-Roos bonds provide financing for many new San Diego homes communities and their needs. These needs include construction and maintenance of public roads, sewers, water mains, fire stations, public libraries, recreational parks and of course, schools.
The Mello-Roos bond tax is usually added to the annual North County home property tax bills. Most of the bonds have a duration of 20-25 years and can increase up to 2% annually for the entire duration of the bond. Many Mello-Roos bonds can be paid off in full at the time of the originga purchase of the San Diego property . However, because the average San Diego home owner moves every 7 years, it is often prudent to spread the payments over time.
The amount of Mello-Roos Tax that is charged to North County home owner will vary from one CFD to another. Typically, the adopted formula is based on the size of the North County home. That means that the Mello-Roos Tax can be based on either the square footage or the lot size.

To learn more about Mello-Roos, contact Gary Harmon, your Real Living Lifestyles Realtor.

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What is a Short Sale?

Short Sale (definition) = A sale where your lender (or lenders) agree to accept less than they are due (total loans outstanding) on the sale of your San Diego North County home. In other words, the proceeds from the transaction will not generate enough money to payoff the existing loan and closing cost.  Short Sales usually occur in a real estate market where the actual value of your San Diego home has dropped below the outstanding loan balances against the North County home.  Convincing your lender to reduce its loan balance to close the sale is often challenging and requires the skills of a proven, seasoned San Diego North County real estate agent. 

Gary is a seasoned agent that can help you with a Short Sale.  Contact Gary Harmon, your short sale expert  today!   Get a summary of  “Short Sale Basics.”  Find out  “How to Qualify for a Short Sale.”  Find, “What are the Advantages of a Short Sale.”  And see “Short Sale Supporting Documentation” a lender may need.

Pricing Your Carlsbad Home to Sell

Listing  Carlsbad homes for sale at the right price is crucial to their eventual sale.  Follow the tips below to maximize the chances of selling your Carlsbad propery.

If you want to sell quickly, your asking price should be very near the correct fair market value.

If your Carlsbad home is listed at a price that is above market value, you will miss out on prospective San Diego North County buyers who would otherwise be prime candidates to purchase your Carlsbad home. If you list at a price that is below fair market value, you will ultimately sell for a price that is not the optimum value for your North County home.

By pricing your Carlsbad property at market value, you expose it to a much greater percentage of prospective San Diego buyers. This increases your chances for a sale while ensuring a final sale price that properly reflects the market value of your North County home.  Generally, the price should not exceed the value by more than 5% or potential buyers may not even make offers.

For example, if you price your Carlsbad home at fair market value you will get 60% of Carlsbad buyers looking at your home.  If you price your Carlsbad home 15% below fair market value, you would get a potential of 90% of potential Carlsbad buyers look at your property.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about pricing:

  • Realistic pricing your Carlsbad home will achieve maximum price in a reasonable time.
  • Your cost or profit desire is irrelevant; the San Diego North County real estate market determines the price.
  • The cost of improvements are almost always more than the added value.
  • Carlsbad houses that remain on the market for a long time do not get shown.
  • A Carlsbad house that is priced right from the beginning achieves the highest proceeds.

To price your Carlsbad home correctly you need professional real estate help.  Contact Gary Harmon, your Carlsbad Real Living Lifestyles Realtor.  Gary will provide you with a comparative market analysis of your home.  You will no longer need to guess.  With proper pricing, your Carlsbad home will sell fast and for the most money.


In this tough economic atmosphere, the prospects of getting a great deal may lure your San Diego clients toward buying a short sale or REO.  But while up-front costs may seem lower on an REO or short-sale, Carlsbad and Oceanside buyers often end up paying in other ways.  Below the photo are five advantages of buying a new Carlsbad home, Oceanside home, or other San Diego North County home:

Elise Nicole

1. NO REPAIRS. With a short sale or REO, the previous owner may have stopped maintaining their Oceanside or Carlsbad property. That means your client could end up with expensive repair bills. But new Carlsbad home purchases often include builder warranties for workmanship, materials, and structural problems to help protect your client against large out-of-pocket repair expenses.

2. NO SURPRISES. With a new Carlsbad or Oceanside home, what you see is what you get. With an REO or short sale, what you might not see is what you get. New San Diego North County home purchases often come with many disclosures from the seller, though in reality, very little may actually need to be disclosed. For REO transactions, not only is the bank exempt from some of the disclosure requirements for sellers under California law, but the previous homeowner may be long gone.

3. GUARANTEED QUALITY. New San Diego North County homes are usually built with modern conveniences and energy-efficient technology. They may also come with warranties for craftsmanship, appliances and more, to give the buyer peace of mind. Short sale and REO properties may not come with warranties or upgrades and may not be available for inspection prior to purchase, so your client could be in for some expensive surprises after purchase.

4. FRIENDLIER FINANCING San Diego homebuilders often have relationships with lenders that help North County buyers obtain financing for new Carlsbad homes or Oceanside homes with relative ease. For short sales and REOs, the property may have a lower price tag, but some buyers may run into difficulty getting financing.

5. SHORTER PURCHASE PROCESS. North County homebuilders usually have homes available for immediate occupancy or on a move-in schedule that’s convenient for your clients. Negotiating a short sale can take several months — and there’s no guarantee your client’s offer will be approved.  Tips courtesy of CAR.

Your North County Realtor, Gary Harmon, can help find the right San Diego, new home for you.  Contact Gary Harmon, for a personal tour of new San Diego North County homes today.

The Time to Buy a San Diego North County Home is Now

The San Diego housing downturn will reverse itself one day, will you have missed out?   While economists and consumers may be uncertain when the bottom will come, there are growing signs that it’s already here or extremely close. The best time to buy a home is now — and here’s why.

It’s hard to tell if the San Diego North County housing market has reached bottom until prices and sales volume start to rise again. So the best time to buy is when market conditions are indicating the approach of a bottom.  To take advantage of near-record low mortgage interest rates and home prices as low as they were a decade ago, home buyers may have to take some risks, such as riding out another short-term dip in property values.
But the rewards may be well worth it. A number of factors point to a small window of opportunity to buy “at the bottom” before the market turns more favorable.  Here are the six greatest reasons to buy a home right now:

  1. The economy is growing
  2. More jobs are available
  3. Houses are a hedge against inflation
  4. Mortgage interest rates are near record lows
  5. Pent-up demand is ready to release
  6. Buy-versus-rent ratios favor home ownership

Advice for buyers: A San Diego North County housing recovery doesn’t proceed in a straight line. The question is, how deep are the dips? San Diego buyers could wait for even better conditions, but the current alignment of falling mortgage interest rates, lower home prices, and wider selection is unlikely to happen again. Prices may go lower, but mortgage interest rates may go higher. If this isn’t the bottom, it’s very close. Act now.

Need help ?  Contact Gary Harmon, and find your San Diego North County  home now.  See Current Listings of ALL San Diego homes.

San Diego County Market Summary – December 2010

It’s been so long since the San Diego North County housing market was “normal,” it may be hard to believe it will ever get there again. But according to the latest news and economists’ outlooks, it’s on the way back now.  That means this is the best time to invest in a San Diego North County home, while housing supplies remain high and interest rates and prices are still low.  

San Diego housing supplies are at about eight months on hand, comfortably drifting down from posttax credit surges during the summer.  Actual annual sales are at about 4.5 million, seasonally adjusted. It would take about 5.2 million in transactions to be considered “normal,” says the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).  If that seems like a lot of homes to sell, consider that in 2005 transaction volume reached $7.1 million.

Smart investors don’t wait for the bottom to pass them by. While it may seem that North County buyers have plenty of time, small shifts in sales, prices, consumer sentiment and other market conditions can produce big changes very fast.  Nationally, sales volume and prices are flat, but that won’t last long in a post-recession economy.

Time to buy in California

Nationally, the road to normal has begun, but the outlook is even more exciting for California.   

  • California median house payments were $1,747 in Q2 2010, down from $3,583 in Q2 2007.  
  • California median home prices were $375,000 in November 2010, up from $290,000 in January 2010, and $225,000 in January 2000.
  •  California median rents were $1,484 in Q2 2010, up from $1,046 in Q2 2000. 
  •  The gap between the average rental payment and the average mortgage payment has not been this close in the last ten years. If you can buy, now is the time. 

UCLA Anderson Forecast Senior Economist Jerry Nickelsburg forecasts that “all the evidence suggests that California is ever so slowly coming out of the recession … but, slow growth means that while the groundwork for faster growth is being put down, there is not a lot of perceptible change.” 

 The California Association of REALTORS® expects housing sales to end 2010 with a 10% decline in transaction volume from 2009, but the trade organization projects a 2% increase in sales in 2011.

 However, softer transaction volume has not resulted in lower home prices. The trade organization anticipates that 2010 will end with an 11.5% increase in median home prices to $306,500, and that prices will further increase to $312,500 in 2011. 

“As the U.S. economy continues its tepid recovery, we’ll see some improvement in California’s economy,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young in September. “We expect a  net jobs increase of approximately 1.4 million jobs in California for the year to come and an improvement in unemployment figures.”  As the housing market stands now, sales are brisk under $500,000, causing prices to rise.  Upscale home prices may soften further, affording a terrific opportunity for home buyers taking advantage of a three-year price decline in certain price ranges, especially now that jumbo loans are more available. 

To take advantage of this great San Diego North County housing market, contact Gary Harmon, your top North County Realtor.  

Gary specializes in San Diego North County homes including:  Carlsbad homes, Oceanside homes for sale, Encinitas homes, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido real estate.  Gary Harmon also specializes in San Diego North County homes for over 55 seniors.  North County Homes for Over 55 (55+) covered on this blog include  Oceana homes, and Emerald Lake Village (all in Oceanside). Other homes included are Rancho Carlsbad homes (Carlsbad), Oaks North homes and Seven Oaks homes (both in Rancho Bernardo).Ocean Hills Country Club homes.

Moving in Prior to Close of Escrow

Just SoldDON’T DO IT!  This post is meant to educate North County buyers and sellers, as well as my fellow North County Realtors.  “Should a North County seller let a potential buyer move in prior to the closing?”  This question has come up at least once or twice a year in my 21 years of San Diego real estate experience.  It just recently came up on the purchase of an Oceanside home where I represented the buyer.  I was the buyers’ “hero” until I told them they could not move into the Oceanside home early. 
There is an array of horror stories about what could go wrong when you let a San Diego North County home buyer move in early.  You would be better off to put them up at your house, in a motel, or send them on a trip, but whatever you do, avoid allowing them to take possession of the North County home prior to closing. If a problem arises, resolving who is responsible can result in expensive and lengthy litigation. If there is absolutely no other option but to let the North County buyer move into the property prior to closing, here are some suggested steps I recently found which my help to protect all parties involved.

  1. Don’t let the San Diego North County buyer take possession without a separate lease agreement plus a security deposit.  It’s absolutely imperative that you draw up a separate lease agreement. Until the transaction closes, the North County buyer is a tenant. This means that you collect a separate security deposit (in addition to whatever amount the buyers put down as an earnest money deposit). Hopefully, this provision alone will discourage most buyers from attempting to occupy the North County property prior to closing.
  2.  Tenants can be evicted.  The most important distinction between a North County buyer in possession and a tenant in possession is that evicting a tenant is relatively easy. In contrast, getting rid of a North County buyer in possession often requires a lawsuit.
  3. This is not a “do-it-yourself” project.  It’s important to use a lease agreement that is either generated by an attorney, your local board of Realtors or your state association of Realtors.
  4. Make sure the appropriate insurance is in place on the San Diego North County real estate.  Many sellers mistakenly believe that their homeowners insurance provides adequate coverage for a North County buyer who moves into their property. The best way to handle this is to notify your insurance company.  Also be sure to advise the buyers that the lessor’s (seller’s) insurance does not cover their belongings. Furthermore, it normally doesn’t provide liability coverage for the buyers or their guests. The best way to protect buyers’ interests is to purchase a renters’ insurance policy. To provide extra protection, insist that a home warranty policy is in place on the property. That way, if there is an issue with a major system on the property, there won’t be a conflict about who is going to pay for the repair.
  5. Document the condition of the North County property.  The condition of the San Diego property is often a major source of contention if the buyer fails to close. Take extensive photos (and shoot a video if you can) prior to the time that the buyer/lessee takes possession. If there is a dispute, you have concrete proof about the condition of the San Diego North County property.

The bottom line is this: Do whatever you can to avoid having a buyer move into a property prior to closing.  If there is no other alternative but to have the North County buyer take possession early, make sure that you have taken the necessary steps to protect all parties involved. Otherwise, it might be your career that is going up in flames.

For more information on moving in early or to see North County homes, contact Gary Harmon, your North County Realtor.

Prudential California Realty – Highest Average Sales Price

Would you like to get the most money possible when selling your North County home?  Prudential Real Estate constantly averages the highest sales prices in the country.  Why would anyone want to list with someone else?  List with the best, not one of the rest.  In San Diego County, Prudential California has been ranked #1 by the San Diego Business Journal for over 13 years.  Nationally, JD Powers gives Prudential a thumbs up for the company best liked by its “sellers.”

Numbers in the graph below are based on US average, San Diego numbers are much higher.

Prudential California Realty - Gary Harmon

If you are thinking of selling your Carlsbad home, Encinitas home, Oceanside home, San Marcos home, or Escondido home, contact Gary Harmon, your top North County Realtor