Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Real Estate: More tips on entering the home buying market after foreclosure

People who went through a foreclosure early in the recession are now qualifying for mortgage loans to buy houses in the Valley again.

Read my story, which appeared on Sunday’s Business page, about two Valley couples who repaired their credit and waited three years to jump back into the home buying market. There’s some information from loan officers too on what lenders are looking for.

But here’s a little more detail about qualifying for a loan from Academy Mortgage sales manager Lisa Sasaki:

  • The three-year waiting period starts from the date the lender takes the property back, not the date of the actual foreclosure. We all know foreclosures can be a lengthy process.
  • After three years, buyers can qualify for a mortgage loan that is backed by the Federal Housing Administration which only requires a 3.5% down payment. A traditional loan with a 20% down payment has a seven-year wait time after foreclosure.
  • Those who went through a short sale, however, and are looking to put a 20% down payment on a new house only have to wait two to three years, Sasaki said.

First Cal Mortgage branch manager Sean Connolly said it’s possible for people who went through a short sale to buy a new home almost immediately without waiting if they continued to pay their monthly mortgage on time up until the close of  escrow on the short sale.

“People were given bad advice on how to go about doing their short sale,” Connolly said. “Had they gone to a lender first, a mortgage banker and gotten the proper advice, they could have purchased a home after their short sale.”

These are just some things to keep in mind if you’re looking to buy again after suffering from a foreclosure or selling your home in a short sale. If you have questions or want more details, contact a real estate agent or a loan officer to discuss your specific situation.

McCaffrey and Lyles companies donate $5,000 to Madera VFW

The McCaffrey and Lyles companies have donated $5,000 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1981 in Madera to replace items that were stolen from its storage facility last month.

Missing from the facility was the veteran group’s honor guard supplies which are used in funeral services for veterans and at Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day events.

Boy Scout Troop 117 also lost its camping supplies which were stored at the facility.

“We were devastated when we lost our supplies and the Boy Scouts supplies and didn’t know how we were going to afford to replace them,” said Bob McCracken, a Vietnam veteran and post commander. “The generosity of the McCaffrey and Lyles companies and others in the community means a great deal because it allows us to continue our service to our fellow Veterans.”

The McCaffrey and Lyles groups are giving back to a community where they are planning to build Tesoro Viejo, a master planned development. The community will have 5,200 homes, 3 million square-feet of retail, office and commercial space, and 400 acres of open space for walking, hiking and biking.

“We have a strong belief in our community,” said Robert McCaffrey, chief executive officer of McCaffrey Homes, “and are indebted to our veterans who have given so much in service to our country as well as the Boy Scouts who are the very future of our community.”

Delta smelt will be in Fresno court this week

A three-inch minnow again will be briefly in a spotlight this week in Fresno. A U.S. District judge is considering a three-year delay on rewriting the plan to protect the threatened delta smelt.

Here in federal court, the fish has been at the center of a years-long legal argument pitting the protection plan against water pumping for cities and farms.

Federal authorities are seeking the delay so they can focus on a broader effort that will protect the place where the smelt live.

I’ve been following the smelt issue since 1991 when federal wildlife authorities proposed it as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. I’ll give you a short explanation of why you should care about the smelt case.

The fish lives only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California. The delta is where water pumping supplies millions of Californians with drinking water and 3 million acres of farmland with irrigation water.

When the smelt strays near the big pumps, it’s time to shut down pumping, which slows down the effort to fill San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir holds irrigation water for west San Joaquin Valley farming.

The pumps were shut down for a few weeks in December to protect the smelt. Farm water leaders here fear it will result in reduced irrigation deliveries this summer. That’s why you should care.

It’s just one corner of a story that has traveled through courts, fiery debates, scientific studies and grand political ideas to solve this clash. The process continues, and it’s a subject for another day.

The bigger point remains over the decades. California’s big rivers and fresh water are in the north. People are in the south. And a huge swath of lucrative farming is right in the middle.

It’s a statewide issue, and it affects the Valley’s biggest industry.


Supervisor Larson shows interest in another four years in office

It’s hard to get a straight answer from Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson when you ask him if he wants another term on the board.

He’s in his third term now. He’ll turn 81 before next year’s November election. And though he hasn’t publicly talked about his future, some think he’s ready to leave politics.

But in what might be his clearest admission yet, Larson has scheduled a fundraiser –- for what else other than a re-election campaign.

The event is Feb. 13.

“I’m the supervisor and I’m going to stay here, and I’m going to stay here a while,” he said.

Larson’s latest campaign filings show he has no debt to pay off and some $50,000 in the bank.

The Kerman resident has been a big supporter of agriculture and has been active in the Republican Party. He represents Fresno County’s rural west side.

Valley legislators cheer Brown’s State of State call for CEQA reform

As if it wasn’t clear to this point, Gov. Jerry Brown in his State Of The State address today once again talked of reforming the California Environmental Quality Act.

Name-checking the 43-year-old state law was cheered by three San Joaquin Valley legislators, two of them Republicans, the third a key Senate Democrat.

Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, has made it clear he wants serious reform to the law, and he is chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, which would hear any reform proposals.

Michael Rubio

The law, better known as CEQA, is a central tenant of California’s environmental protections. But is also under fire for slowing major projects and for stymieing infill development projects.Rubio specifically mentioned a proposed infill project at L and San Joaquin streets in downtown Fresno that has been halted by a CEQA lawsuit.

Brown — who has previously stated the need for CEQA reform — once again seemed to agree, this time using the annual gubernatorial address.

“We also need to rethink and streamline our regulatory procedures, particularly the California Environmental Quality Act,” according to Brown’s prepared speech. “Our approach needs to be based more on consistent standards that provide greater certainty and cut needless delays.”

Rubio said he was encouraged that Brown chose to not only to bring up CEQA in the speech, but also to add a bit of detail on providing certainty and cutting delays.

“Clearly, it is a priority for the governor and provides great momentum for a coalition that is forming to move forward in streamlining CEQA,” he said.

He said Brown’s support will help embolden the coalition. He said legislation is currently in the works, with plans to introduce it next month ahead of the Feb. 22 deadline for filing bills.

Assembly Member Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said she wanted “a more detailed plan for spurring job creation” from Brown, but was “pleased that he at least wants to reform CEQA and provide more certainty to businesses.”

Anthony Cannella

State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, dedicated a whole paragraph to CEQA reform in a written statement.“I believe that the goals of CEQA are valuable to our communities, but reform is needed so that special interests can no longer subvert the system by using it as a tool to unnecessarily delay development through litigation,” he said.

Now, all that remains is pushing that legislation through the Assembly and state Senate and then to Brown.

Many environmentalists will work to kill any such CEQA reform proposals, and might even find allies among the Valley’s agriculture community, some of whom have filed CEQA suits to stop the state’s proposed high-speed rail project.

Meet the Sablans, still doctoring in Firebaugh

Wednesday’s front page of the Los Angeles Times brought a familiar story of the Sablans, the husband-wife doctor team that serves Firebaugh. Read Anna Gorman’s profile of Drs. Oscar and Marcia Sablan here.

It’s always nice to see other media write about the central San Joaquin Valley. The Times’ story brought back memories of a profile of Marcia Sablan, written by Doug Hoagland for The Bee in 1999. Sablan was also the mayor of Firebaugh back then (she’s still a City Council member). Doug’s story was part of The Bee’s “Eye on the Valley” series profiling the region’s communities as we rolled toward the millennium.  We though we’d share Doug’s story with readers again:

Fresno Bee staff photographer John Walker’s 1999 photo of Dr. Marcia Sablan with one of her collages of photos of children she’s delivered to local patients.

Golden, late afternoon sunshine softens this town’s rough edges as Marcia Sablan, doctor and mayor, returns to her clinic on O Street after lingering along the river. That would be the San Joaquin. On the edge of town. Where there’s actually more than a dribble of water in the usually dry riverbed. Sablan has been to the San Joaquin to show off how Firebaugh carves pedestrian pathways and vista points — elements of a tranquil riverside park — out of the dirt and brush. The project beats back the small-minded notion that nothing ever changes here. Here being the northwestern lip of Fresno County, where the winter wind can blow hard. But not as hard as the big, billowy idealism that has carried Marcia Sablan across 53 years of life.

That idealism propelled her from the Peace Corps to the urban core to the rural poor of Firebaugh. Sablan serves as one of this city’s two full-time doctors and its only mayor.

She practices a brand of medicinal politics that lets her knit together this community’s private and public moments. Moments that catch people at their most vulnerable, frustrated, appreciative, petty, confused. Times when they’re most human.

For example:

  • Sablan does the ultrasound and delivers the stunning news to city hall secretary Martha Castaneda that she and husband, Santiago, will be the very happy and tired parents of triplets. Sablan feels her own toes tingle with excitement, but then fear knots her stomach. Triplets can lead to medical complications. Happily, mom and babies do just fine.
  • Sablan sits through a City Council hearing where an irate and dramatic citizen says she’ll seek relief from a proposed water rate increase by relieving herself in a jar at home. That way she won’t have to flush her toilet. Questionable logic, Sablan thinks, but she doesn’t argue. Sometimes, people in politics just need to listen, she says later.
  • Sablan visits a bedridden Sara Gonzales, 97, who sometimes confuses Sablan’s husband — the other doctor in town — for the pope. But Gonzales never forgets to press her palms together in prayer-like reverence to bless Dr. Marcia — as some people call her. She feels honored.
  • Sablan casts her City Council vote and ends a simmering controversy that has split the council into two factions. The quarrelsome issue: what to name two new city streets. “An embarrassment, ” Sablan says succinctly.

Through the petty and the profound, Marcia Sablan projects a presence that’s both looming and laid back. She’s 5-foot-10 and stands for even bigger convictions. One of the biggest: helping Firebaugh’s Hispanic majority merge into the middle-class mainstream. In a California culture where new faces seek equality and power, some people feel uncomfortable, even threatened by this white doctor’s brand of politics, says Craig Harrison, a Catholic priest and friend. It’s one of the subtexts of a culture caught in change.

Continue reading →

State Senate approves Assemi’s appointment to transportation board

Granville Homes President Darius Assemi was confirmed Tuesday by the state Senate to another term on the California Transportation Commission.

And once again, he had to wait — nine months, this time. He was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to serve another term last March.

Assemi, a 52-year-old Fresno Republican, was first appointed to the commission in 2009 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But during his initial stint on the board — which distributes state money for highways, passenger rail and transit improvements — his confirmation languished.

Darius Assemi

The Schwarzenegger administration eventually had to withdraw Assemi’s name when it became clear the Senate was unlikely to act before the appointment’s year time limit was up.

That move preserved some of the time Assemi could serve on the commission without Senate approval. He was eventually confirmed by the Senate.

Despite the delay this time around, there didn’t appear to be the same drama. The Senate confirmed the appointment with a little less than two months to spare.

It might help that this time around, a Democratic Party governor appointed Assemi and the state Senate is solidly in Democrat hands.

In addition to Assemi, the appointment of Coto de Caza resident Lucy Dunn was also confirmed by the Senate. Dunn was also initially appointed by Schwarzenegger and then appointed last March by Brown.

Assemi’s initial term expired last Feb. 1. His new term expires on Feb. 1, 2016.

Real Estate: Fresno State students participate in community design project

Fresno State students are putting their real estate development and design skills to the test in a project that could help a local community agency develop plans to renovate its buildings.

About 30 students from the Lyles College of Engineering, the Craig School of Business, and the Department of Art and Design will participate in the second annual Community Facility Challenge. The project, organized by Fresno State and the Northern California Community Loan Fund, will begin on Wednesday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Smittcamp Alumni House.

In the challenge, students will split up into teams and create a real estate plan – including a financial analysis, preliminary design concept, engineering review, and construction schedule – for the Poverello House, a homeless social service agency in Fresno.

The agency is exploring the idea of renovating its existing buildings.

“This challenge encourages students to become involved with their local community,” says Mary A. Rogier, president of the loan fund.

The Poverello House will get an analysis of what a renovation project would cost or look like while the students will get a “real world” experience in development, organizers said.

The teams will present their plans along with a written proposal on April 24.