August 22nd, 2007 — , , , , , , ,
I think most personal finance bloggers have heard of marketed as the peer to peer lending site where people act as banks. Well, I have been a member of Prosper for six months now and made a total of 6 loans with a total value of $300.64. One is already paid, and the rest are current. I didn’t dump my money all into high interest loans because I knew that renting money is risky business. Here are some of my lending criteria even though I am still a very novice lender:
1. I don’t lend to people that use the money to buy houses or are in trouble with their mortgage. Usually I just stay away from the real estate related listings like “help me save my house!”. The reason is very clear. If they’re in trouble with their mortgage, it’s very very hard for them to catch up, and if they’re borrowing on Prosper for their mortgage they’re just delaying the inevitable foreclosure. Not lending to distressed homeowners was just an instinct I had, but apparently other Prosper lenders have the statistics to back up that homeowners are
2. I don’t lend to people with credit ratings less than D because the default rate is just way too high when people have worse credit ratings. I prefer B and C because I am personally in that credit score range and it’s not because I don’t pay my bills.
3. I don’t like very high revolving debt percentages and delinquencies in the credit report. This is also very obvious. If they’re maxed out and has a history of not paying bills then they’re not very good candidates for paying my money back either.
4. I don’t lend to people who are “reinvesting on Prosper”. The reason is that I did an analysis early on on whether or not I could actually make money by borrowing money on Prosper and then reinvesting, and I found that I have got to be extremely lucky to do so. Apparently other people also did the same analysis as me and found that Also, now there are many stories of “blenders” who are defaulting on their own loans while they’re collecting funds from the loans that they funded. That’s extremely retarded in my book.
5. I don’t really like listings that say they will pay me back faster than the three year period because they are admitting they’re a prepayment risk. I like people who pay on time for the right amount.
6. I do like verified bank accounts and I like people who link up Prosper to their bank even more.
7. I do like some listings where people are trying to consolidate their credit cards or higher interest loans. The reason is that these borrowers are using Prosper the right way. If Prosper is giving them a lower rate than they’re currently paying then they’re saving money, and I am all for helping people save money.
I think even after six months, I am still not ready to pour in large amounts of money into Prosper because humans are unpredictable investments. Also, Prosper still has a lot of things it could improve to make it a better place for lenders. When you loan small amounts of money like me, Prosper is really good just for entertainment purposes. There is a certain level of voyeurism similar to reading personal finance blogs when you read other people’s . I think the financial transparency is what makes Prosper fun to personal finance addicts. Currently there is a pretty good bonus of $25 for being a new lender and funding a loan of at least $50. So if you want to try your hand at being a Bank of One or just check out other people’s debt, you can and I will get $25, too. Otherwise, if you’re a borrower, you really have the upper hand on Prosper and you can wipe out your credit card debt faster with a lower interest rate. Currently I am still adding bits of money to Prosper. Basically every month I add a few dollars to Prosper from my checking account so my account balance ends in zero. I know it’s silly, but I think Prosper.com has potential to be much more than what it is now.
August 17th, 2007 — , , , , ,
My fubby asked me why I am so concerned about the mortgage meltdown recently when I work in the tech industry which seemingly has nothing to do with mortgages. It actually already affected me because most companies that sell ads on the internet are hurt by the fiasco in some way. Internet outfits like LowerMyBills and LendingTree that thrive on mortgage leads are also hit heavily by the implosion of so many mortgage companies this year. A mortgage lead is basically a form that’s filled out by a consumer requesting a mortgage rate quote. As recent as last year, some of these leads were selling for more than $100 per pop to companies like New Century Financial, which operates mostly under the name on the internet. The selling of leads is still a viable business, but less mortgage companies are alive to bid on the leads, and thus the prices are falling.
In addition to mortgage leads, there are mortgage ads. “Mortgages” and similar terms were very expensive in the AdWords market place because of the flurry of mortgage lenders and lead generation companies that wanted to attract customers. With the implosion, the mortgage ads revenue will definitely have to go down. The July 2007 Nielsen rating of the top 5 internet advertisers based on estimated earnings are as follows:
- Low Rate Source — One of the largest mortgage leads companies.
- NexTag, Inc — One of the largest shopping comparison engines which has a mortgage leads service
- Experian Group Limited — One of the three credit rating bureaus that also happens to own LowerMyBills
- Countrywide Financial Corporation — I think we all know this one as the largest mortgage lender in the country.
- InterActiveCorp — The owner of LendingTree and other internet properties.
You have to take Nielsen’s estimated ad spending with a grain of salt since they don’t know exactly what amount of money each of these companies spend on ads, but these five companies do serve up a lot of ad impressions and ALL of them have revenues either partially or totally from mortgage related businesses. With the current market conditions, it would be prudent for them to cut down on mortgage related ads. Companies such as Countrywide might even need the advertising dollars to survive, to fund its operations. Lower advertising spending by these companies would mean less revenues for all advertisers carrying mortgage related ads.
I am not sure what percentage of ad revenues internet giants like Google and Yahoo are losing due to this situation, but. Could less ad revenues spell new rounds of layoffs for the Valley? Only time will tell.
August 7th, 2007 — , , , , , ,
Countrywide is by far the largest mortgage lender in the country, and the is tracking the number of properties that went into foreclosure and got sent to back to Countrywide. The number of foreclosures nationwide has more than doubled since the beginning of the year. I looked into the Countrywide database last year and found no San Mateo properties, but when I looked today I found a few. This post will highlight those properties and give my personal assessment of their affordability. I tried to make sure that the data written here is accurate, but my comments on these properties are just personal opinions that need to be taken with a grain of salt.
cialis information: 1125 Hanover St.
cialis information: $639,900
cialis information: 05/30/2006
cialis information: $815,000
cialis information 940 sq ft
cialis information Very small 2 bedroom home built in 1914. Countrywide is taking more than 20% off the 2006 price but it’s still not down to its 2004 price of $575,000. Daly City isn’t exactly considered the prime section of San Mateo and at approximately $680/sqft, I expect this home to sit on the market for a while. Then again, I could be very wrong and it might be snatched up soon.
cialis information Still not worth it.
cialis information: 208 Gardenia Way
cialis information: $489,900
cialis information: 04/01/2005
cialis information: $592,000
cialis information 920 sq ft
cialis information Another old and small 2 bedroom home. It does have a good sized lot measuring about 6000 square feet, but it’s East Palo Alto and I’m not sure if more land is necessarily a good thing there. Even with a $100K+ hair cut from the 2005 price, we’re still at $532 per square foot.
cialis information: Don’t do it if you have kids and a family you care about.
cialis information: 1359 Hollyburne Ave.
cialis information: $549,900
cialis information: 03/17/2006
cialis information: $665,000
cialis information: 910 sq ft
cialis information If I were a real estate agent, I might say this: “An excellent cozy midcentury charmer! WOW! Priced lower than 2005 sale of $565,000! Amazing deal on this rarely available Menlo Park single family residence!!” Actually, it’s just another small, decrepit, and overpriced home. Even though Menlo Park is a more desirable neighborhood, this home would land you in jumbo loan territory even with a 20% downpayment.
cialis information: Jumbo loans are bad especially when lenders like Wells Fargo are raising rates on them. Don’t get stuck with a jumbo bag.
cialis information: 641 FOREST LAKE DR
cialis information: $589,900
cialis information: 12/30/2005
cialis information $660,000
cialis information: 1110 sq ft
cialis information Pacifica is a pretty quaint place perfect for those who love the outdoors and such. I guess if Countrywide sells 641 Forest Lake Dr for just the asking price, the property values of 637 Forest Lake Dr, 642 Foothill Dr, and 652 Foothill Dr will go down with the price. They’re all homes of the same size built in 1964 on similar sized lots. So maybe the neighbors should put in a higher bid for 641 Forest Lake Dr to preserve their home values?
cialis information: Not for the faint of heart.
cialis information 759 NORIEGA WAY
cialis information $619,900
cialis information 06/01/1988
cialis information $205,000
cialis information1040 sq ft
cialis information This is the only home not sold during the mania of 2005-2006, but it was purchased in 1988, the height of the last real estate bubble. It seems kind of odd for the homeowner to lose the home after almost 20 years, and I don’t know the detailed story here, but most likely the house was refinanced over and over again until more was owed on the home than the original mortgage.
cialis information Needs to be repriced lower.
cialis information162 CORONADO AVENUE
cialis information $828,900
cialis information 02/01/2006
cialis information1990 sq ft
cialis information I do love San Carlos. At $416 per square foot, this home might be a good deal if more research is done. The spacious 3 bedroom house is situated in the hills and might be pretty awesome if you had enough money to get a non-jumbo loan. Then again, the property may be in horrible condition so an on-site investigation is required.
cialis informationNot for me, but fairly good deal in San Carlos if nothing is really seriously wrong and you have loads of cash.
cialis information 930 MISSION RD #38
cialis information $507,900
cialis information: $550,000
cialis information 1060 sq ft
cialis information: This two bedroom condo is facing stiff competition from a neighboring unit priced at $499,000. The discount on this home isn’t as big as the others, but that might change after it sits on the market a few more months.
cialis information: More expensive than neighbor already, and still almost $500 per square foot. Not a good idea to buy right away.
A clear pattern in these properties is that pretty much all of them are bought at the peak of real estate cycles. Most of the smaller homes are probably more attractive to buyers who want a starter home, and for they’re still very unaffordable to young first time buyers even after huge price buts. Another thing to notice is that there are no properties available in the extremely affluent cities of Palo Alto, Woodside, Atherton, Burlingame, and Hillsborough. Foreclosure is still on the rise in all of California, so I will check the Countrywide database again in a month and see what’s available in San Mateo. Judging by the prices in San Mateo, I wouldn’t say that the housing bubble has burst spectacularly here, but it’s hissing slowly as the air seeps out.
August 3rd, 2007 — , , , , ,
For the past year or so I’ve seen a set of condos being erected near my office in San Mateo. For a while my coworkers and I marveled at the ugly paint color they chose for the exterior. The property is the Stonegate community developed by Syme Properties. The plan is for 40 luxury condominiums and five single family homes. The model homes are finally showing so I went in for a quick look.
From the Outside:
The exteriors give you no indication of luxury since there is still a lot of concrete and dust around the property. The front entrance is on 20 Madison about half a block from El Camino Real, and it’s a very small street next to a six floor office building. So the view you will get from the top floor is the parking lot of the office building or El Camino. Or if you choose just to look inside the property, there is a little garden in the middle.
Onto the Sales Office:
When you walk in, you will be greeted with very nice brochures with an artist’s rendition of the property. I must say the picture looks much nicer than the real thing. The place is very dark, and the sales office is right on the left. When I walked into the sales office, a middle aged Asian sales person seemed to be yelling at a prospective customer. Then the salesperson turned to me and said, “ARE YOU WITH HIM?” That sort of scared me for a bit and I said, “no”. Then the other customer said to the salesman, “did you have a bit too much caffeine this morning?” The salesman replied, “you don’t have your agent with you!” The other man sounded a little perturbed and said, “I am here, and it says open house, and I want to see the homes. That’s all.” I was a bit freaked out right there and wanted to walk out, but I just took the pricelists from the table and went onto the model homes on the right.
The prices are what I call barfalicious (extremely high). Here’s a rundown of the currently available units:
1 bedroom 1 bath condo:
Plan D – 770 square feet – $535,000 & $552,000 -$706/sqft on average
2 bedrooms 2 baths condo:
Plan C1 – 1107 square feet – $773,000 – $698/sqft
Plan E1 – 992 square feet – $699,000 – $705/sqft
Plan F – 1176 square feet – $775,000 – $659/sqft
Plan H1 – 1251 square feet – $855,000 – $683/sqft
Plan I1 – 1175 square feet – $788,000 – $670/sqft
Plan M2 – 1152 square feet – $889,000 – $771/sqft
Single Family Homes on Hobart:
21 Hobart – 3 bedrooms plus den, 3 baths – 2583 square feet – $1,498,000 – $580/sqft
23 Hobart – 3 bedrooms plus den, 2.5 baths – 2,265 square feet – $1,426,000 – $630/sqft
25 Hobart – 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths – 1,991 square feet – $1,298,000 – $652/sqft
27 Hobart – 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths – 1,991 square feet – $1,298,000 – $652/sqft
29 Hobart – 4 bedrooms, 3 baths – 2,639 square feet – $1,478,000 – $560/sqft
Inside the Model Home:
I went into unit 111, which is a 2 bedroom 2 bath unit that’s supposedly already sold. I thought the floor plan was a bit odd since the master bath was almost bigger than the second bedroom. The kitchen was a bit small and the floor was covered with a dark wood which I don’t like. The master bathroom was my favorite room, because it was huge, and covered with marble. Other than that, the entire place felt very small. There are two other models, but one is a one bedroom unit, which felt even smaller. I didn’t go to the single family homes because I wasn’t sure if they were done. There was no helpful salespeople since I kind of got scared away.
Final Review Summary
Price — very high and scary, probably unwarranted even for new luxury condos. Though the price list did say that Syme Properties may change the price without notice and liability. So the prices on the condos might go down if not enough people order them. The prices on the single family homes are comparably not so horrible for this area. For example, take a look at that sold for more than 1.2 million dollars. Anyway, none of the homes are affordable for the average San Matean, but I guess they’re going for a richer demographic.
Salespeople — As I mentioned, the man in the sales office was a bit scary and rude. After I read the documents about their loan policies, I figured out what they were arguing about. Apparently Syme Properties only accept pre-approved buyers who can put 20% down and are non-contingent. I guess they’re trying to protect themselves in this market.
Location — It’s very close to Aragon High and Central Park and about a mile from San Mateo downtown. So overall not a bad area, though the properties themselves are a bit too close to El Camino Real.
Overall Rating — Not the worst I have seen, and definitely not the best. The price is way too high for the condos and amenities and the entire place feels very dark and cramped. So I give it a C-.