Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Real Estate: Music group buys Bob Wills House from Granville

(Photo courtesy of Granville Homes. The Wills House ready for transport.)

The Central California Music Association has bought the Bob Wills house for $1 from Fresno homebuilder Granville Homes.

The group, a new nonprofit led by president Lance Tullis, plans to have the one-story wood-frame house moved from Clinton and Armstrong avenues in Fresno to a 20-acre property less than 15 miles away in Prather. The move is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6.

“Bob Wills was a major contributor to western country music,” Tullis said. “We’d like to open (the house) up as a museum of country music in the foothills.”

Granville wanted to raze the house, which is falling apart and has problems such as bee infestation, asbestos and lead paint, to build a housing project in its place.

But the city’s Historic Preservation Commission intervened to preserve the home where Wills — the King of western swing — and his family lived in the 1940s.

Granville in turn offered to sell the house if the buyer moves it at no expense to the developer.

Tullis answered the call by forming the association and then starting a campaign called “Raise the Roof” to raise the $75,000 needed to move the house and restore it.

The first fundraiser was on Saturday, and attended by Wills’ daughter, Carolyn, Tullis said. For more information or to help, visit

Appointed Fresno Co. clerk Orth says she’ll seek election to post

Brandi Orth has been around elected officials for a long time. Now, she’s going to try and become one herself.

Orth, 57, announced Wednesday that she will seek the post next year of Fresno County Clerk, a job best known for voter registration and overseeing county elections, but one that comes with other tasks as well, including conducting civil marriage ceremonies.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth

And, yes, it’s true: Orth already holds the job.

But she was appointed — and not elected — by a unanimous vote of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in January 2012. Her selection came a week after former Clerk Victor Salazar unexpectedly resigned.

At the time, Orth was a policy analyst who worked for the county administrative officer — a position that worked closely with the five elected supervisors. Before that, Orth worked for a decade in the clerk’s office.

“I realized all the work experience and career path had prepared me for this job,” she said Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno after being introduced by Supervisor Phil Larson.

So this will be Orth’s first run for elected office.

Still, she had to hit the ground running after her appointment, as 2012 was a presidential election year. This year — normally a quiet off year in the election cycle — has proved to be equally busy, with three unscheduled elections.

The big question in whether Orth will get face any challengers for the post, which currently pays $121,442 annually.

Like Orth, Salazar was appointed to the post to replace Susan Anderson, who left the office after winning a seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

That was in January 2001.

The next year, Salazar had an opponent — and beat him. But in 2006 and 2010 re-election bids, Salazar was unopposed.

Real Estate: Lennar Homes will unveil new Next Gen floor plans in NW Fresno

(Submitted photo. Lennar’s Omnilliant Next Gen floor plan.)

Lennar Homes plans to unveil two new Next Generation home floor plans during the grand opening of its latest development in northwest Fresno this weekend.

The Next Gen home offers multi-generational families a private suite that includes a bedroom, kitchenette and full bathroom. The suite has a separate front entrance and one into the main house.

It was first introduced to the Fresno market in October 2011 to fit the changing demographics of buyers and has quickly become a best selling product for the national builder.

There are now five Next Gen floor plans. The two newest models include the 2,600-square-foot Omnilliant, a single-story, four bedroom, three bathroom, three-car garage home. The second is the Revelation, the first model to have a two-bedroom suite in a 3,404-square-foot, two-story home with three to four bedrooms, three ½ bathrooms and a three-car garage.

“There are so many uses for this concept,” said Susan Wilke, vice president of sales and marketing. “Grandma can have her own space. Or maybe it’s your teenagers abode when he starts college or returns from college.”

The plans are available at Elderberry on the Bluffs which celebrates its grand opening from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Real Estate: Fresno County home prices inch up in September

The pace of Fresno County’s home price appreciation is slowing down, but the median home price of an existing single-family home still inched up higher in September compared to the month before, a monthly report said.

The median home price of a home in Fresno was $185,830 last month compared to $184,000 in August, the California Association of Realtors monthly housing report said.

In September 2012, the median home price was $159,130.

Madera and Tulare counties followed a similar trend with home prices increasing nearly 12% and 3.2% month-over-month respectively. Kings County, however, saw an 8.4% fall in home prices.

Real Estate: Investors make money flipping homes in Fresno

Real estate investors flipped more homes in the Fresno metropolitan area in the third quarter of this year compared to last year and made a sizable profit, according to a report released Thursday.

Investors bought, renovated and sold 182 homes in Fresno during the third quarter, a 47% increase from 124 properties at the same time last year, the quarterly home flipping report said.

RealtyTrac, an online housing data company, compiled the report showing a 13% drop nationally in home flipping, but an increase in the average gross profit of each home sold.

In Fresno, the average purchase price of a house was $141,908. Investors then renovated and sold the home for an average of $192,585 — a profit of $52,704, or 36%. That’s quite a jump from last year when investors made a profit of $29,977.

Nationally, home flips were down 13%. Investors made an average profit of $54,927 off each home — a 12% increase from last year.

As the inventory of cheap homes falls, investors are being driven to more high-end homes, which sell for $750,000 or more, allowing them to make a bigger profit, RealtyTrac said.

“Increasing home prices over the past 18 months combined with decreasing foreclosures have created a market less favorable to the high quantity of middle- to low-end bread-and-butter flips,” said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s vice president.

“But the sharp rise in high-end flipping indicates there is still good money to be made for flippers willing and able to take on the additional risk of buying and rehabbing more expensive homes.”

Real Estate: Granville Home of Hope winner to be announced Saturday

(Courtesy of Granville Homes. Rendering of the Mia model, this year’s Home of Hope.)

Granville Homes will announce the winner of its eighth Home of Hope giveaway on Saturday.

There’s still time to grab your $100 ticket for a chance to win a two-story, 2,216-square-foot home valued at more than $270,000. The three bedroom, 2 ½ bathroom, two-car garage is located in the Sunnyside Grove community near Fowler and Church avenues in southeast Fresno.

If you don’t win the house, don’t worry. There’s a bunch of other prizes available including a helicopter ride, a tennis membership, use of the Save Mart Center Skybox for 16 Fresno State men’s basketball games, a massage package, a television and gift cards to spend on gas or at local businesses.

Granville has built and given away a house every year to raise money for eight charities since 2006. The builder has raised more than $2.4 million.

The charities are: Community Food Bank, Poverello House, Hinds Hospice, Assistance League, Renaissance Scholars at Fresno State and the foundations for Clovis, Sanger, and Central Unified schools. To buy a ticket, call (559) 440-8388.

In November, builder De Young Properties will also hold its drawing for the seventh annual St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. The winner will be announced on Nov. 10 during a live television special on KMPH (Channel 26.1).

De Young has raised more than $5.4 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The St. Jude home is a 3,298-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in the CountryCourt development at Gettysburg and Armstrong avenues in Clovis.

Banks working with furloughed federal employees to defer loan, mortgage payments

Bank of the West is giving furloughed federal employees a break on paying their loans and mortgages.

The bank, which has five offices in Fresno, is granting one month deferrals on consumer loan payments and one month forbearance on mortgage payments.

“We are committed to helping our customers succeed financially through the ups and downs of life,” said Paul Wible, head of the bank’s National Finance Group.

Bank customers with auto, recreational vehicle and boat loans, credit cards and home equity loans and lines of credit can call (800) 653-0362 to request help.

Other banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are working with customers on a case-by-case basis.

“Federal government employees and other workers whose jobs are directly impacted by the government shutdown may be eligible for forbearance programs or other mortgage payment assistance depending on their individual circumstances,” a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America customers, who are furloughed federal employees, are encouraged to contact their banks to work on a solution.

Town hall planned to talk about small-town drinking water

The public is invited to a town hall meeting about drinking water problems in small San Joaquin Valley communities where thousands of people have waited years for solutions.

The free event is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at  Fresno Convention Center, 2nd Floor, 848 M St. Latino USA on National Public Radio and Radio Bilingue are putting on the town hall.

Maria Hinojosa,  journalist and Latino USA executive producer, will moderate. Spanish translation will be available.

The town hall will feature a discussion of Lanare, a small Fresno County town with a history of water problems. Organizers say the discussion will focus on ways to speed up the process of getting healthy drinking water.

Veronica Garibay, co-director of the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, will speak at the event. She said the contamination of well water is expanding.

“We should have been doing something about this yesterday,” she said.

Speakers also will include John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, California State University, Fresno;  Susana De Anda, co-executive director of the Community Water Center in Visalia; Assemblymember Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and Isabel Solorio, president of Lanare United in Lanare.

Real Estate: ClearPoint merger creates large network of financial and housing counselors

Two nonprofit financial counseling agencies, including one with an office in Fresno, are merging to help more families in need of credit debt relief and housing education.

ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions and CredAbility have signed an agreement to merge effective Dec. 31, the companies announced on Tuesday. Both organizations will operate under the ClearPoint name.

The merger will create the second largest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country with 50 offices in 15 states from California to New York, the new company said.

ClearPoint, which has an office in Fresno, will combine its strength in debt management with CredAbility’s power in housing and bankruptcy counseling.

CredAbility is a national nonprofit credit counseling agency with offices throughout the southeastern United States.

The new organization will have more than 150 credit, housing and bankruptcy counselors and financial educators including a large staff of Spanish-speakers. Help will be provided seven days a week over the phone and Internet.

Real Estate: Will the government shutdown affect housing?

Questions are floating around on whether the federal government shutdown will affect the housing market which has made big gains on the road to recovery this year.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said at the end of last week that it would stop working on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration in the event of a shutdown.

Then the department changed its mind. Early this week, HUD said “the Office of Single Family Housing will endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market.”

So, for now, it seems like FHA loans and those administered by the Veteran’s Administration will be available to homebuyers.

“We’re in good shape,” said John Shamshoian, president of the Fresno Association of Realtors and owner of Realty Concepts in Fresno. “There is no effect.”

But the department has admitted that the response time for approving loans could be slower than normal because of a limited staff of underwriters. Most employees are on furlough.

“A shutdown lasting a few days should only slightly inconvenience our operation in processing loans,” said Lisa Sasaki, sales manager at Academy Mortgage in Fresno. “However, a longer delay would have more serious impacts.”

Have you had any problems closing a loan this week or applying for one?