December/January housing market is stronger than you think

December and January are usually busy months with holidays, vacations and school breaks. But, contrary to popular belief, that does not mean the housing market slows down. On the contrary, actually!

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Based on 2015 numbers, listing your home in December and January actually give you a benefit. You can garner multiple offers and close above list price. In Spring, you get the price increase but also more houses listed, which lead to many more choices for buyers, making multiple offers rarer (or, you’ll get fewer offers at least, like 3 vs. 8 in Dec./Jan.).

If you’d like to take advantage of this market in December and January, reach out to me. I’d love to help you navigate the holiday season weather you are selling or buying a home or just consult with you on the best overall strategy for you!

East Bay housing market is shifting

housing-marketLately, we’ve started to see a “shift” in the Walnut Creek-area housing market. Price appreciation growth has slowed and we are now seeing more price reductions. Home price appreciation has generally declined to single-digit annual appreciation with estimates in the next year of 3-5 percent.

In the 24/680 corridor, homes are sitting on the market longer than they did in the Spring (20-26 days, as compared to 15-20 days). I am receiving 1-3 offers  with a final sales price of 4 percent over the asking price on most of my listings.

The Federal Reserve Bank will not increase interest rates this month. Currently, the best mortgage interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate is approximately 3.5 percent. In the big picture, global growth concerns remain the driving force behind the long-term trend toward lower rates.

Kitty Cole, who coaches many Bay Area agents, has noticed two distinct Bay Area markets. Many of them are side by side. Check out her insights:

Some of the market (still a seller’s market) is hot, with low DOM’s, high Sales Price to List Price ratios, low inventory, no contingencies, multiple offers and buyers aplenty. This market is going on in Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding cities.

It looks similar to the last 4 1/2 years. The only thing that is quite different is the number of offers that was 10-25 a few months ago, and is now 2-6 (and occasionally higher). This market requires savvy pricing and negotiating to get your seller the highest price. san-francisco

The other part of the market (a buyer’s market) has slowed with these factors in place: price reductions (up to 10 percent, and sometimes two before it brings an offer), contingent offers (contingent upon the sale of another property), high DOM’s, few offers (sometimes only one!), expired listings, cranky sellers and demanding buyers (because they can be!).

In the city, one client whose specialty is high-rise condos, literally slowed overnight and now the DOM’s for her listings are more than 30 days. Another San Francisco agent has had three listings expire in the past three months. One agent in the East Bay (Pleasant Hill) is stymied by her listings that sold within seven days and are now sitting for weeks. Many newer agents are not prepared to have the “I need a price adjustment to sell your property” conversation.  In three months, it will be different … how, I don’t know, wished I had that elusive crystal ball.

Why your credit score is important to your home purchase

Did you know your credit score can affect your home purchase? In Keith Loria’s BHG story recently, he discussed this idea.

credit score 2As he points out, “having a good credit score can be the difference between obtaining the mortgage you need to buy your dream home—or settling for less because you didn’t qualify for the money you need.”

This is important as many buyers don’t consider their credit score until they’re already involved in the process. At that point, it’s usually too late to fix anything that might be wrong with your score. So think ahead and monitor your credit score!

Don’t like your credit score?   Paying off debts is the fastest way to up your score, but if you are in the process of applying for a loan, check with the lender first. Missing deadlines on your credit payments are huge hits to your credit score!

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Image by www.CafeCredit.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafecredit/27321078025/

I also spoke with my local lender, Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending, about this, and he gave me a few benefits to having a high credit score :

  1. Borrowers with higher credit scores usually get lower interest rates (especially when loan-to-value ratios are higher)
  2. Borrowers are allowed to make smaller down payments, if necessary
  3. Underwriting requirements become less onerous because there are fewer conditions and requirements
  4. Second mortgage financing is easier to obtain, if necessary

If you have any questions about credit scores, purchasing a home, or the market in general, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help or guide you to the right person!

How to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase

5 steps 3If you’re planning on purchasing a home this year, you’ll will want a transaction as smooth as possible. That’s what us agents are for! We want to help you find the perfect home and then ensure the process becomes as pain-free as possible.  You don’t realize how important this is until you have the transaction from Hell!

Taken from a Better Homes and Garden’s article and repurposed with some of my insights, here are five tips for a smooth home purchase:

Tip 1: Communicate with Your Agent

You spend a lot of time with your agent in a finite window, so, you should work with a real estate agent you are comfortable with. They should be straight up and express everything you want and need in your new home. By communicating your desires from the beginning, your agent won’t waste time showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria. If you know you want an updated kitchen or two baths, make that clear. It is also a process; sometimes what you want and what your budget can afford creates a discovery process, but when it comes to finding that perfect home, clear communication is key. And if you run into any problems along the way, be sure to speak with your agent to iron out any issues.

Tip 2: Be Reasonable with Expectations

If you’re searching for a three-bedroom home located in a certain neighborhood that has the right schools, and your agent shows you a property with a color you don’t like that only has 1.5 baths, don’t simply write off the home. When searching for the home of your dreams, you may have to give something up or make some changes once you move in. No home will be perfect and, again, it is a process to find that out.

Tip 3: Don’t be Discouraged

Don’t expect to find your dream home overnight. Buyers often get frustrated because nothing pops up in their price range for two weeks or they have written five offers and none of them were accepted, but remember, it is a process. And, this is the Bay Area! 5 steps 2Buyers usually course correct, change their expectations, get a quick education on the market and – voila! – the universe unfolds, the right house pops up and your offer is accepted! Woo-hoo! Now the rubber hits the road and you are in contract!

Tip 4: Play the Money Game

If you offer $375,000 on a home that’s listed at $400,000 and the seller refuses to budge, be prepared to negotiate. Wait!!! This is the Bay Area! When you offer $650,000 on a home listed for $620,000 and you are one of nine offers, you need to have some wiggle room for a counter offer. Before making an offer, discuss your strategy with your agent as he or she will be able to tell you whether your offer is fair or not. It’s also important to check out comps in the neighborhood so that you can make a reasonable offer from the get-go. Don’t forget how important a good lender is and the reputation they have with other agents. This may make the difference in your offer getting accepted over the other eight.

Tip 5: Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved

This could be the smartest thing you do all year. By having a mortgage approved before you even begin looking at houses, you’ll be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the home of your dreams. Not all lenders are equal, and a good lender may give you the upper hand over other buyers who may be interested in the same house. Can they closer faster than 30 days? Do they get all the paperwork upfront and desktop underwrite you so there are no surprises? Are they responsive to your calls?

If you have any interest in purchasing a home this summer, and are looking for an agent who can guide you through the process smoothly, I am at your service and I have a great lender or two to refer!

Hot Housing Market This Summer

It is unlikely the Federal Reserve will be increasing interest rates this month after a weak May job report (only 38,000 jobs created, 117,000 less than expected and the worst month for job creation in nearly six years). According to experts, the likelihood of a rate hike is down to a measly 4 percent, and that trend may carry over into July.

Thus, this summer could prove to be the hot time to buy or sell a home. In California – specifically the East Bay – selling season tends to be in the spring. Once we move into the middle of May, buyers and sellers become distracted with graduations, weddings, etc.

And once school is out everyone moves into vacation mode through mid-August, before families start getting ready for going back to school. Usually, we see an uptick in the number of homes that are on the market in the summer compared to the  the spring. With continued low rates, this summer might buck that trend with buyers out to purchase.Beautiful white, blue and beige living room.

To prepare, buyers should be pre-qualified for a mortgage before they start shopping and, ideally, desktop underwritten. It is best if buyers don’t make an offer contingent on the sale of their own home. For sellers, they should be ready to make themselves and their homes available for show. At minimum, have a staging consult done. Try to have your home staged before a showing.

 

Statistics show clean and pristine homes that are staged properly sell faster and for more money than ones that are not. Necessary improvements, such as new painting, replaced fixtures and refreshed house plants are huge for staging.

It is about getting it show and picture-worthy and keeping it neutral, not spending a lot of money on upgrades. As is the case with personal preferences, “What you think is a nice improvement is another man’s gold shag carpeting.”

The State of Convenience

The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) report that 69 percent of Americans are looking for ways to simplify their lives. Furthermore, they say, 74 percent of Americans will walk out of a store – even if they have exactly what that person is looking for – if the service is poor. And 45 percent of U.S. consumers say they are likely to pay for a service that provides extra convenience in their lives. See their graphic below:

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So, what’s the conclusion here? Consumers value time, and therefore convenience. This also translates to buying a home. Home buyers these days, especially millennials, want updated and move-in ready homes. They want properties conveniently located nearby public transportation or in an area with a high walking score.

As a seller, taking care of deferred maintenance, updates or remodeling will appeal to these convenience consumers.  Though you can’t change the location, you can highlight positive conveniences. As a buyer, know that living without some of these things may either get you a home or a better deal.

Market Commentary – Carol Rodini (Part 2)

As promised, I said I would write a couple of blogs from a Carol Rodini speaking event I attended. The first blog gives her thoughts on how China and Saudi Arabia may affect the real estate market in the coming months. Today, we’re discussing a general Bay Area real estate overview.

Carol said thatSF houses we (in the East Bay) are usually 6-8 months behind the other side of the Bay – meaning San Francisco and the Peninsula. What is currently happening there (and we may see this in the later part of the year) is that the media is reporting a growth of inventory. This type of news has adverse effects on real estate. In reality, there are two types of real estate: desirable and non-desirable. The media bundles them together, but Carol pointed out how they are different.

Prices have gone down on high-end properties, and buyers are getting hesitant and willing to stand by and watch what happens. For example, a house in San Francisco that was listed for $1.5 million sent out 30 disclosure packages. One buyer submitted a pre-emptive offer of $1.75 million all cash and the seller didn’t take it because they thought they could get more and wanted to market it a bit longer. On the offer due date, none came in. So they went back to the cash buyer and that person said no.

A few takeaways:

1. You can’t be over-priced in this market.

2. Buyers in the city are no longer playing the competition game.

3. Sellers need to be aggressive with their pricing, by pricing it slightly under market. The reason? Millennials buy with their stock options. And with the market volatility and changes, this is making them a bit more hesitant.

The East Bay will have a great spring. We traditionally see a bit of a slow-down in the summer, and depending on what the stock market does, we may follow in the steps of the city. Our average price point is much lower and we are seeing a bunch of first-time home buyers that can’t afford San Francisco or the Peninsula who are looking at the East Bay – at least until the prices drop on the other side of the Bay.

Can China & Saudi Arabia Affect the Real Estate Market?

On January 11, I attended a speech by Carol Rodoni about the Bay Area real estate market with an emphasis on the East Bay. My blogs are going to spread out over a handful of posts to give bite-size tidbits of her speech, which I always find very entertaining:

3dp_china3dp_map_flagCarol started off by saying that 2015 was an extraordinary year in real estate and outlining a few global situations to keep in mind that may have an impact on our 2016 real estate market.

China devaluing their currency:

Carol sees this move as a growing pain and a way to try to support their economy. Every Nov. 11, China celebrates “Singles Day,” the biggest on-line shopping day of the year. Nov. 11, written out as “11/11,” represents four singles, which is also referred to as “Double Eleven.” This past November, Alibaba broke its own record and increased sales by 60 percent, or $14.3 billion. By comparison, American sales on Cyber Monday were $1.35 billion. I don’t think we need to worry about China.

Middle East and the price of oil:

Oil now costs less than $27 per barrel and is still dropping, when only a few years ago it was $109 per barrel. Saudia 4695206-Oil-prices-dropping-vector-illustration-of-fuel-barrels-with-currency-icons-and-a-down-arrow-signify-Stock-VectorArabia has refused to cut down production, perhaps in the hopes of pushing out a few competitors. Saudi Arabia has a tremendous advantage, as their technology to extract oil is inexpensive compared to other countries; this includes the U.S., where fracking has become a provider of jobs in the Midwest. Saudi Arabia may be okay with lowering prices to eliminate smaller competition, like Iran, now that oil sanctions have been lifted.

As a result of how chaotic the world is, Carol doesn’t believe the Fed will raise rates more than twice in the next year. She said she believes the next rate hike won’t happen until June, and felt the hike in December was at the wrong time.  All this still makes for a great time to purchase or refinance as rates are still hovering below 4%.

 

Can a Seller Reject a Full-Price Offer?

Concerned guyI was recently asked this question as sellers often have concerns if they list their home slightly lower then recent sales, what would happen if they got a list price offer?  I saw a recent article on this subject and thought I’d address this concern in my blog.

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In short, the answer is yes, a seller can reject an at or above listing price offer.  A listing is a solicitation of offers, not an offer to sell.  This means that an offer at or above asking price does not necessarily mean the offer will be accepted.

In order for there to be a contract between buyer and seller, there has to be a “meeting of the minds” on all the elements of the contract.  The seller must agree to all elements of the offer including price, financing, contingencies, and time for performance.  If the seller has a problem with any of these elements, they have the right to reject the offer
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In a sellers market, listings often receive multiple offers, sometimes much higher than asking price.  This means that a buyers offer can be rejected because another buyer had a more appealing offer in terms of price, financing or terms like no appraisal contingency.

The bottom line … until the buyer and seller agree to all the terms of the purchase, there is no contract.

Mortgage Rates

decision_imageInterest rates have been hovering in the mid to high 3s and Janet Yellen (Fed Chairman) stated that the Fed will not raise rates in the near-term.  It should be noted the Fed is not the only influence on rates, there are many factors in our global economy such as the prices of gas, problems in Greece and overseas investors hanging out in our bond market which affect the rates.
With rates so low, I have many clients looking into “80/10/10” financing, which stands for an 80% loan-to-value (LTV) first mortgage, a 10% LTV 2nd mortgage, and a 10% down payment.  The purpose of getting house_balancetwo mortgages with 80/10/10 financing as opposed to one mortgage to 90% LTV is twofold: (1) borrowers avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) by keeping their primary mortgage under 80% LTV; (2) borrowers get a much lower payment overall.   Overall payments are lower b/c borrowers have no PMI and because the 2nd mortgages are Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) with “Interest Only” payment options.   Almost all major banks offer HELOCs, but only a select few offer HELOCs that fund “concurrently” with a first mortgage.  If you are interested in knowing more, give me call (925) 899-7123 or send me a message.