JVM Lending: If appraisal comes in low…

…a buyer is not overpaying! Appraisals and market value can be a tricky math problem for buyers to figure out, but that’s why my friend Jay Vorhees from JVM Lending has put together this handy-dandy blog to explain. Take a look below:

When Appraised Value Does Not Equal Market Value

We have a buyer who was convinced she was “overpaying” for her property because her appraisal came in low. But, there were multiple offers for her property that were very close in price to hers, and there are nearby pending sales that are also similar in price. The entire issue has to do with appraisal guidelines. We repeat this often in this blog because the issue comes up so often: appraised value often does not equal market value.

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If there are multiple buyers willing to pay $850,000 for a property in an open market, then that property’s market value is $850,000. But, appraisers cannot appraise properties (in most cases) above the highest closed comparable sale in the neighborhood. So, if there are no closed sales above $800,000, that property will usually not appraise for over $800,000.

But, again, that does not mean the above property is not “worth” $850,000. Once this was explained to our buyer, she was no longer concerned about her low appraisal. This is something every buyer needs to understand in a fast-appreciating market where contract prices are tough to support in an appraisal.

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This is something I deal with constantly with my own clients. Jay hits the nail on the head here: appraisals may come in lower than expected, but it is not equal to a diminishing value on the property. For more helpful information like this, give me a call! I can talk about real estate all day 😉

What can bring down house prices and rates?

What could bring house prices and rates down? According to my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending, it could be something called “monetary tightening,” or an experiment conducted by The Fed to infuse the economy with cash. Basically, what Jay is getting at, is that you’ll never know exactly when to buy or sell (or when a market dictates that decision), and that assuming you know the market intimately trying to time the market may be a mistake. Read on for more from our slightly-edited version of Jay’s blog:

Dude Sells Too Soon!

I was at a graduation party yesterday and the host told me how his law partner sold his Silicon Valley home two years ago because he was convinced the market had peaked.

It hadn’t. The poor guy’s former home has gone up another 20% since he sold, and so has his rent. The host made the further point that people should never try to time a market they are not intimately familiar with.

I like to remind everyone that nobody should ever try to time a market, no matter how much they know, because there are so many variables they have no control over – especially when those variables involve the Fed.

Elephant in Room: Monetary Tightening

There is a huge elephant in the room that nobody is talking about: Massive Monetary Tightening via Higher Rates and Quantitative Tightening.

After the meltdown, the Fed engaged in a massive experiment known as Quantitative Easing, where the Fed bought trillions of dollars of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. These bond purchases increased the money supply by flooding financial institutions with cash in an effort to increase lending and liquidity. The Fed also lowered the rates to unprecedently low levels.

The low rates and huge capital infusion pushed up asset prices, particularly with respect to stocks, bonds and real estate. This is what usually happens when the Fed increases the money supply, and this is partially why we see such high asset prices now. Many people believe high prices are just a function of too much demand chasing too little supply, but that is not always the case.

Excess demand is often driven by excess capital in an economy; people want to park their capital somewhere, as opposed to letting it sit in bank accounts, so they buy assets. In any case, the Fed created about $4 trillion of new money up through 2016, and in 2017 they reversed the policy! They are now not only pushing up rates but also selling bonds with the intention of vacuuming about $2 trillion out of the economy.

This will likely have an adverse effect on asset and housing prices at some point. Do I think real estate prices will tank? No. I still like real estate because the fundamentals are so strong in many areas. But, I don’t think we’ll continue to see such strong appreciation, and now might be a good time for Silicon Valley lawyers to sell their homes.

Fed Could Reverse Again

Nobody is more aware of this than the Fed, and they are watching closely. If Fed policymakers see the economy showing excessive signs of softening, they could very likely change course again – and lower rates. Again, nobody knows what will happen because we have never seen anything like this before! We are in the midst of one giant experiment, and we all get to be the lab rats.

The Cost of Waiting

I generally encourage all my clients to be patient in the home-buying process. You’re looking for your dream home, and a house to call your home where memories are created. You want to exercise patience and really find the right place. However, at some point, waiting too long or sitting on the fence can have consequences.

As you’ll see in the blog from my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending below, waiting too long on a home purchase can be costly. He highlights one particluar (anonymous) client who kept quibbling over small price differences and that stubbornness led to her not only missing out on her dream home, but settling for an entirely different town. To add insult to injury, the home she wanted has doubled in value since!

Read on to learn more:

COST OF WAITING IN 2012

In 2012 and 2013, we had a borrower looking to buy in Oakland and she was obsessed with getting the absolute lowest possible price.

As a result, she kept walking away from transactions, b/c of $5,000 to $10,000 price discrepancies, even though she was shopping in the $650,000 range in what was becoming the hottest market in the country.

The $10,000 differences she quibbled over worked out to be less than $50 per month in payment. What is most interesting is that she waited so long that she was ultimately unable to buy in her desired Rockridge neighborhood altogether, and she ended up buying in a suburb east of Oakland.

The houses she was bidding on are now worth twice what she was offering too. Her “cost of waiting,” or cost of not executing, was extremely high, to say the least. Unfortunately, her story is not unique.

RATES HIT 7 YEAR HIGH

According to this CNBC Report, “interest rates are surging to their highest level in seven years.”

And, it looks like they are going to continue to climb, based on continued strong economic reports and announcements by the Fed.

Despite the rate increases, the demand for housing remains very strong. In addition, property values continue to appreciate at a surprisingly fast pace.

COST OF WAITING IN 2018

These factors (increasing rates and appreciation) combined make the “cost of waiting” as high as ever.

In a recent National Real Estate Post Video, at about the 9-minute mark, Barry Habib uses a $500,000 Orange County purchase as an example.

At current appreciation rates, waiting even six months can cost a buyer an additional $200 per month, according to Mr. Habib.

Waiting a year can cost over $400 per month.

Real Estate is a GREAT investment!

Buying a house can be terrifying. Selling a house can be equally as difficult. The entire process is stressful, but the end result is often worth every second of the struggle. Bob Schwab, a mortgage lender in our office, often shares great information, and points out this is because investing in real estate is a solid decision!

For the fifth year in a row, a Gallup poll showed that real estate is the best long-term investment out there. This year, 34 percent of Americans chose real estate as the best long-term investment, followed by stocks (26 percent). You can see the chart, stolen from Bob’s blog, below:

Just five years ago, gold was the most sought-after long-term investment with 34 percent of votes. Even back then, real estate was in second place, though the economy was recovering from the economic crash that preceded it. Overall, the real estate market is in good shape and people seem to agree that it’s a stable, long-term investing option.  Rates are rising, so now may be a good time to buy check out this graph that shows how much buying power you lose as rates go up.
You can always give me a call to help you make that investment – it is, after all, my job!

Writing a love letter may help you win a bidding war

No, I don’t mean a bidding war over a guy or girl you love – I mean to buy a house! A love letter, traditionally, may be used for wooing a potential soulmate, but it has its place in the real estate world, too. Especially in the Bay Area, where house prices are absurdly high and most people sell their homes for a significant over-asking price, a letter to the homeowner with a personal touch can make all the difference.

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Take this article, for example, which details the story of a local business owner who “won” the rights to buying an adorable cottage against 10 other bidders, despite her offer not being the highest. Of the 11 offers the homeowner received, 8 sent personal letters, and she believed the subject of this article wrote the most touching one. She connected with the homeowner by writing about her dog, who she’d always promised a big yard too and who was nearing the end of its life when she bought.

The seller is quoted as saying that she felt like she knew the buyer before even meeting her, so it put her over the top, even for a slight discount on the final price. I think this is a really awesome, effective tool that can make all the difference in the world! I highly encourage any of my clients to do something similar and write a personal letter to a seller, in the hopes that connecting with them on a personal level will help get the offer accepted.

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It may be a bit of a corny strategy, but when you’re pursuing the house of your dreams, why wouldn’t you go all out to get it? It should be pretty easy to dig up a little information on the seller (favorite sports team, pets, etc.) and you can utilize that to your advantage. I know if I were selling my house and a buyer told me they also love skiing and had fostered Weimaraners, I’d probably put that person right at the top of my list!

How to survive a remodel in your relationship

I found this graphic from HomeAdvisor and the California Association of Realtors pretty funny. It says:

“More than half of couples who complete a remodeling project with a spouse or domestic partner admit to arguing during the process, and 3% even considered separation or divorce!”

While reaching that conclusion may be a little extreme (and maybe indicative of larger problems…), remodeling really is difficult on yourself and your relationship. Even just picking an agreeable paint color for the walls can be tricky.

As the graphic states, communicate more with whoever you’re doing the remodeling project with, and you’re bound to be better off. I know firsthand how difficult the buying, selling, remodeling, etc. processes can be, and the only way to survive them (even the easy ones!) is to be open and honest about everything you want to do.

Take my word for it, so you don’t end up looking like the characters in this little graphic! You can always call on a friendly realtor like myself for advice on how to best survive this daunting task.

Silicon Valley: Moving East?

I came across a very interesting article in The New York Times recently about Silicon Valley attempting to find fertile ground in the Midwest. It’s a fascinating look at how the real estate market in the United States is rapidly changing.

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For example, Amazon is looking for a city to place its second headquarters. That is going to lead to a massive shift in where large tech companies start looking at places to re-locate. It’s well known that California is in a real estate a bubble. Silicon Valley, especially, is one of the richest areas in the entire country – if not the world – and one move could shake up a local economy in a huge way.

I think trying to replicate another Silicon Valley would be difficult; it is like the perfect storm – top-notch universities, a port, three international airports, the gateway to the far west and great weather. However, companies will look for more affordable areas to do business and states that provide tax incentives (think Tesla in Nevada). It doesn’t mean they will ditch the Bay Area completely.

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You know things are crazy here when even the tech elites in San Francisco are tired of San Francisco. They say it’s “congested” and “expensive” in the Bay Area, and are apparently mesmerized by the affordable homes and real estate in the Midwest. If you live in the Midwest I wonder how many hip spots would there be, not to mention the possibility of snow…what are your thoughts?

Pre-Qual vs Pre-Approval

People don’t understand how knowing the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can make a huge difference in an offer being accepted, and how the right choice can make them a stronger buyer. It’s extremely important! Luckily, my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending broke it down for us:

Image: meyerpottsproperties.com

Panicked Borrower on Verge of Losing Deposit

We had a borrower in contract come to us a few weeks ago in panic mode. The reason? He was on the verge of losing his earnest money deposit b/c his loan had just blown up at America’s largest mortgage lender.

The loan officer had only done a “pre-qualification” and had missed a major issue with the borrower’s commision income. We were able to salvage the deal and still close on time, but the risk to the borrower was enormous.

Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

Most lenders only “pre-qualify” borrowers. Pre-qualifications consist only of a perfunctory glance at a credit report and a few income documents. Most lenders do not do full pre-approvals b/c they require so much more work.

Why Pre-Approvals?

We do full pre-approvals b/c they are absolutely necessary. Full pre-approvals (1) allow our borrowers to make non-contingent offers; (2) ensure there are no major issues missed; and (3) allow us to close in 14 days b/c we do all the work on the front end.

In other words, full pre-approvals make our clients’ offers far more competitive, and they eliminate stress for everyone – buyers, sellers, Realtors, escrow and us :).

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Image: Masonknowsmortgages.com

Full pre-approvals can take several hours, requiring us to review income, asset, employment and credit documents with a fine-toothed comb. But experience has shown that they are well worth the effort. 

Issues that can be missed with only a “pre-qualification” include the following:

  • missed 2106 expenses; 
  • unexplained and unusable deposits; 
  • side businesses with losses; 
  • K1 and partnership losses;
  • spousal and child support obligations;
  • lack of employment seasoning;
  • lack of bonus seasoning; 
  • lack of commission seasoning; 
  • debts not on credit reports

A major source of our business includes transactions that blow up at other lenders b/c the loan officers only did pre-qualifications. Realtors come to us b/c they know we can make the deals work and also b/c we can usually still close within the remaining contract time.

Weimaraners & Real Estate

As I’ve expressed here before, my best moments as a realtor come when a client buys their dream home with my help. That happened recently, and the backstory is almost as cool as the moment they shared getting the keys!

I met Wilbur and Aimee through NorCal Weim Rescue, where I got my dog Bodie and occasionally foster dogs for them. At the time, Wilbur was renting and had two Weimaraner puppies (Roxie & Daisy), but the landlord just landscaped the backyard and did not want two big dogs in addition to their small one.

So he surrendered them to NorCal Weim Rescue, who did not want to split the dogs up and I fostered them – see pics below. Roxie was very dominant over her sister and even when they were at a trial run at another home she would growl at the husband, so that didn’t work.  Then Wilbur’s landlord said he could have one dog back, he got Roxie the light Weimaraner pictured here and Daisy found her fur-ever home in Bishop. And they later got Jax, the Blue Weim

They knew I was an agent and I said if you ever decide to buy, let me know.  A few years later, their landlord wanted to sell his house and called me up! They realized they couldn’t buy the house they were renting, so off we went looking in Livermore.  After being in contract and finding the HOA only allowed two dogs, we were back in the hunt. Three offers later, lots of conversations with the lender, and perseverance by all is when Aimee and Wilbur landed a wonderful home and a great place for their fur babies!

Now, Wilbur, Aimee and Roxie (dog) (as well as Jax (dog #2) and Duke (dog #3 smallest with the biggest name) can happily call their Aspenwood house in Livermore home for many years to come!

The universe provides the right house

Don’t get me wrong – the right house for you won’t just magically appear out of thin air! People like me do a lot of work to find you your dream home and get it all properly situated. But there is a lesson in real estate that I believe is valuable: The universe always provides the right house in the end.

You can always look back with regrets, but there are reasons for everything. Even reasons for why getting your dream house took so long or why you didn’t get the first house you loved. The right one always comes along! Check out this graphic from the California Association of Realtors.


As you can see above, most homeowners didn’t find their home for at least 3 months. Whether it was price, location, aesthetics and amenities, or simply just being outbid, it is very common to not get the first house you offer.

That’s why you have me! I’ll be the one to help you attain your dream home by walking you through the process, preaching how important patience is, and making sure the whole, stressful process runs smoothly. In the end, the universe always brings you the right home!