More apartments to come in WC Transit Village

As you may have noticed, the Walnut Creek BART station has taken on some renovations. There is now a new large 900 space parking structure along with a bus terminal at street level on the southwest side of the Bart station. Now, the loading zone is on the opposite side and getting there is trickier than it used to be as you can’t get in and out of area the way you could before.

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WCTransitVillage.com

This is all part of the transformation to the Walnut Creek Transit Village which is starting to taking shape. In addition to all the construction of apartments and condos on the side streets around Walnut Creek BART (see past blogs), they are building a mixed-use development with 360 apartment units, shops, restaurants and public plazas in the northwest lot next to Pringle Ave. It is supposed to have all the amenities you’d expect from a modern housing development (co-working space, pool and spa, rooftop deck, bike repair lounge, fitness center, etc.). Currently, there is a fence surrounding this old parking space and lots of weeds.

The second part of this project, on the corner of N. California Blvd. and Ygnacio Valley Rd. will have about 240 units and 12,000 square feet of retail space. That is expected to break ground next year. Combined with all the other new living areas around BART, the station really is being transformed into a living/shopping village.

The renderings look beautiful and the BART police station rendering turned out exactly like the finished product. As with any new development, the city requires some sort of art work to be installed and the most recent garage addition recently added their personal touch. We’ll discuss these pieces later in a separate blog post. My son visited me this weekend, hasn’t been in Walnut Creek since last August, and he feels it has really changed in nine short months. Our once sleepy town has grown up and continues to transform.

When appraised value is not market value

Sometimes, when the market is in a state of extremes, appraised value does not equal market value. Things are not appraising equally right now because the market stalled at the end of 2018, so homes sat and price reductions occurred. Now that the rates have dropped, buyers are back out, prices are up, but the comps are still off. Here is my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending with more:

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HomeLight

Because the market is heating up again, we have had several appraisal issues recently where there were simply no comparable sales available to support the contract price (despite multiple offers at that price). Because the agents involved in the transactions were frustrated, I thought it was necessary to repeat this blog.

Ten offers over $1 million; appraisal comes in at $850,000

We once had a transaction in Berkeley, CA involving a property that was listed for $850,000, and there were more than 10 offers for over $1 million. The market value for that property was clearly over $1 million because there were so many buyers willing to pay over $1 million in an open market. The appraised value, however, was much less because the highest priced comparable sale in the area was only $850,000. The appraiser knew about the other offers and he knew the market value was probably over $1 million, but he was constrained by appraisal guidelines.

The appraiser could only use comparable sales within one mile of the subject property that closed within the last three months. He could not correlate to the other offers or similar pending sales at all. So, the appraisal came in at $850,000 and this is clearly a case where the appraised value did not equal the market value. This happens all the time in “hot markets” where there are multiple offers and prices are increasing too fast for comparable sales data to keep up.

Why appraisers can’t “push” values

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Credit.com

Further, if appraisers push value too far in an attempt to support a contract price, other issues arise. An underwriter will likely call for a full review of the appraisal that will probably result in a significant cut in the value. Or worse, if the appraisal makes it past underwriting, investors may refuse to buy the loan on the secondary market because they are unfamiliar with Bay Area markets and the property appears overvalued on paper.

In any case, prior to the meltdown in 2008, appraisers could correlate to other offers and even pending sales to some extent, but nowadays they are not allowed. Appraising is all about closed sales and tight appraisal guidelines, and not always about estimating market value.

A survival guide for sellers living in a fully staged home

Nicole Solari, a broker in Northern California with The Solari Group, wrote a funny, interesting article recently that I wanted to share below. This version has been slightly edited for length, and includes my own commentary at the end. Enjoy!

Most of us are reasonably familiar with the litany of woes sellers and buyers typically experience. One of my agents, however, is getting an all-too-real refresher course in the twists and turns of selling a personal residence when it’s fully staged.

We accidentally created a manual on exactly how to pull of something spectacularly awful as living in a staged home while it’s actively being shown. So, if you find yourself advising sellers how they should cope with living in a staged house while it’s actively being shown, suggest these 10 survival skills to them:

Leave for the first few days the listing is active.

The best way to cope with living in a staged house is to put off doing it for as long as possible. Not everyone can afford this expense, but, at a minimum, a nice long weekend away seems to be worth the cost!

Stop thinking of staying in a staged house as living. It’s not. It’s camping.

Have realistic expectations to make the temporary inconvenience more bearable. Think of the extended stay as a camping trip, so it will be more tolerable. It’s a relatively accurate description of the “lifestyle” anyway.

Establish sensible advance-notice periods to insert in the showing instructions.

The agent needs to guide the discussion regarding how much advance notice sellers need to prep the property and vanish with kids and pets in tow. Giving two hours notice before a showing seems reasonable to most buyers and agents, and most often give more.

Don’t do anything that spatters, like cooking. Or eating.

Sellers shouldn’t use the oven. They shouldn’t microwave anything potentially explosive. And, they most certainly shouldn’t fry anything unless they’re prepared to wash down the stove and everything surrounding it immediately after use. When dining in, the menu should be limited to salads (as long as dressing spatters are rigorously prevented), sandwiches and other things that aren’t messy, such as takeout. Ideally, they’d just eat at restaurants or directly over the kitchen sink.

Shower at the gym, and have a hairdresser on speed dial.

Sellers want to be clean and buyers want to see a flawless home. Having a shower in showing condition means cleaning and its surrounding glass relentlessly and hand drying it every time it’s used. However, the gym shower is much more simple!

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Keep necessities in easily hidden bags or covered containers in every spot necessary.

Although I would never look under the bed, my seller assures me, if I did, I would find the bathrooms scale, a box of makeup, a bag containing soap, toothpaste, and floss, dog toys, a bag of allergy medications, and a set of pajamas. All I can say is thank goodness (and our stagers!) for bed skirts.

Give in to an obsessive need to clean, tidy and touch-up paint.

There’s nothing like having to get a property ready to show multiple times to focus a seller’s attention on minute details, and that’s good because buyers see everything. Suggest sellers keep cleaning supplies, garden gloves and tools, trim and wall paint, and brushes together in an easily accessible – but hidden – spot.

Protect the stager’s furnishings against every weird mishap conceivable.

If a seller soils or damages a rug, piece of furniture, lamp or perfect accessory, the loss to the stager is more profound than most sellers realize. The cost to replace an item is often significant, plus it can be difficult to locate a replica of the spoiled item, especially if it’s a unique size or style. It pays to protect them! So, sellers should plan to live like monks. They should try not to walk on the rugs or eat or drink near anything that’s not theirs.

Do NOT change the dog’s diet or routine.

Even with the best coping skills, sellers are stressed. And their pets (as well as kids) are double so. Nothing is as it usually is. And sellers’ little ones are involuntary conscripts in this process. So, sellers need to keep as much of their routine intact as humanly possible. And, whatever they do, urge them NOT to try a new dog food while they’re living on someone else’s rugs!

Hire a cleaning service.

The constant wiping, cleaning, and tidying soon gets to every seller. If they can afford it, hiring a professional cleaning service to come in on a regular basis is respite care for stressed-out sellers. You’d be amazed at what a memorable and welcome gift that can be.

It might seem a little overboard, but their are agents out there that will suggest all these things. I am more of a middle of the road. Get the house looking stellar, take professional pictures and then keep it as tidy as possible. Having a caddy that goes under the sink with all your shower and morning routine items is just fine. Many people go away the first weekend of an Open House and if you have kids, that adds a whole different dimension of keeping a place tidy. Just picking up the toys and putting them in a basket may just suffice.

At what point is it the right time to make a change?

As we or our loved ones age, the inevitable question arises: when is it time to make a change? Owning and maintaining a home can become difficult as one gets older, and it eventually becomes more realistic for someone to move into a senior care facility.

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I was recently contacted by Janet Daly of Caring.com, who shared some helpful links for seniors that I want to pass along to you. Janet sent some links to free resources that provide a comprehensive look at senior care communities in the Walnut Creek area.

Everyone wants to maintain independence and quality of life, and you don’t have to move out of Walnut Creek to do so. Here are those links, which also include financial support information, laws and regulations, and more:

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On a personal note, my mom had Alzheimer’s and was living by herself in Reno. I had two small children in grade school and had to move her to a home that was certified to care for Alzheimer’s patients. It was in Reno because the difference in price between California and Nevada was more than $2,500 a month. It is not an easy choice to make even if one has the ability to choose. What was most difficult for me was knowing she would never move back home and having to sell her house and belongings that she would not need.

Two Condos, Two Sellers!

I recently closed on two homes with my clients, and wanted to share their stories. I helped Kevin (below) buy a condo before he got married, back in the downturn of the market in Roundtree. I sold his cousin’s house and helped them get into another home, so they referred me to Kevin.

Fast forward a few years Kevin and Katie married and had a baby girl who starts kindergarten in the fall, and they moved into grandma’s house (whose home I also helped with when she moved up from Southern California). They had been renting out their condo and decided it was time to sell. They had done some remodeling and we staged the home. It looked great, was listed at $350,000, was on the market for 11 days and sold for $360,000. I feel so grateful to have met this extended family.


I met Jill (below) through a referral from her goddaughter indirectly through another client I had helped last year. She also was renting out her condo in Martinez and realized it was time to sell. We did a few improvements (painted kitchen cabinets and added granite – see the before and after kitchen pictures below). Farm Lane was listed at $387,000 and sold for the list price after being on the market for 15 days.


Tiny Houses & CB2

With the trend towards tiny homes (see my recent blog!), I found it interesting that Crate & Barrel has started marketing some lines of furniture to mini-living. This trend was reinforced from a coach, philosopher, and student of learning who built a tiny home with no electricity but did have running water and truly lived off the grid.

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Since the trend is turning towards more urban living (especially in bigger cities), and towards tiny homes, furniture needs to be on a smaller scale, too. To satisfy those trends and to play to the tiny home-loving millennial market, stores like Crate & Barrel (CB2) are making furniture for a smaller scale living space.

I find all this very intriguing and a smart way to live, especially as I get older, am an empty nester, and don’t need the expense of watering 1/3 acre or heating a 2,000-sq. ft. home.

The coach I mentioned is Michael Lorence. He lived in a tiny home in the woods and called his home the “Innermost House.” It was 12-by-12 feet in size, in a world lit only by fire. It served as a private meeting place of forest nature, fine traditional craft, fundamental thought culture, and cosmopolitan spirituality. In our class and various conversations, it got me thinking about how much space we really need and the importance of communing with nature.

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Another insight into tiny homes was when my friends the Lore’s, who are very handy at remodeling, helped their oldest son, Ryan, remodel a small 450-sq. ft. studio he bought in the city and created a very chic and modern living space that was featured in Houzz. It is a trend that I believe will become the norm as it has been in Europe and Asia. It also links to my past blog on the number of older people selling their McMansions and moving into small city condos.

Check out the links andI would love to hear your thoughts.

Seller and Lender credit guidelines

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending came through with another great topic recently, which I want to share with you below. It involves an oft-overlooked, but very important aspect of selling a home: credits to a buyer. Read on!

Here are a few quick reminders/guidelines for Seller and Lender Credits.

  1. If a credit is specified to be for a repair anywhere in a purchase contract, the repairs will have to be completed PRIOR to close of escrow. We will need to show proof they are complete with either an appraiser’s or a licensed contractor’s certification. Kristin: I handle it with a workaround by asking for a credit for closing costs on an addendum with no reference to the repair, see below.
  2. Credits for closing costs cannot exceed actual closing costs. Be sure to check with your lender to get an estimate for total closing costs. If there are significant transfer taxes and an impound account, the total closing cost figure can be substantial, creating much leeway for credits. Kristin: When the credit exceeds closing cost, I have combined it with a price reduction, usually credits are more desired, but this way you don’t lose any of the credit.
  3. Credits can be for non-recurring and recurring closing costs. There is no need to specify which. Credits can and should simply be for “closing costs.”
  4. Closing cost credits should be on a separate addendum, and not on a “Request for Repairs addendum. It is well known that Realtors substitute “closing cost” credits for “repair” credits, to avoid disclosing repair issues. But, this should not be made too obvious by putting closing cost credits on a “Request for Repairs” addendum (even if the Request for Repairs addendum does not specifically note any repairs).
  5. Make sure there are no large lender-credits in place already. We have had a few transactions grind to a halt because the selling agent negotiated a seller-credit for closing costs without knowing that we had already given the buyer a large lender-credit. As a result, the total credits exceeded closing costs, and we had to restructure entire transactions. Kristin: My recommendation is your agent should always be in conversation with your lender.
  6. Lenders need credits before they order loan documents. Many agents negotiate credits at the 11th hour when sellers are more willing to acquiesce. We, however, need to know about all credits before we order loan documents. If we learn about credits after loan documents are drawn, we have to formally re-draw loan documents. This both costs money and delays escrows. Kristin: The credit isn’t negotiated until it is time to remove the inspection contingency and if it is a shorter close, it pushes up on the docs having to be redrawn and then the buyer as 3 days review before they can sign loan docs which can push the closeout.

JVM Lending: Too busy for big houses!

I loved this blog from our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending. It covers the trend in real estate towards smaller homes. I have been thinking of doing a blog on tiny homes and this may be the impetus to sit down and write about that trend! With millennial buyers angling that way and boomers finally wising up and heading that way too, the market for large houses is changing. Read on:

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I hike for five or six miles every weekend in the hills around one of the Bay Area’s most high-end housing developments. The homes are huge, stunning, and fun to see, but the best part is the extremely elaborate backyards with vineyards, gazebos, massive pools, outdoor kitchens, terraces, fruit trees, play sets, sport courts, and immaculate landscaping.

The cost for those yards alone is often in excess of $1 million. And this is what I find most interesting – in over nine years of hiking, I have seen people in those backyards maybe five or six times; despite their beauty and allure, the yards are literally devoid of human beings.

I know several families who live in the development, and I know exactly why they are never in their backyards. With sports practices, games, private coaching, tutoring, volunteering, homework, social obligations, etc., they are far too busy to ever find time to venture into their outdoor paradises.

So, that is point #1 – families looking to buy their ultimate dream home might do well to remember that they may be far too busy to enjoy it. Point #2 was illuminated in a recent WSJ article called A Growing Problem In Real Estate – Too Many Big Houses.

It turns out that far too many baby boomers built monstrous dream homes that they no longer want or are able to take care of. According to the article, in February in Scottsdale, AZ alone, there were 390 homes on the market at prices in excess of $3 million. The market for large homes is dwindling because more and more boomers are wising up and moving to smaller homes with much less maintenance, and younger buyers aren’t interested in the large homes either.

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Another problem is that we old people like earth tones, crown moldings, and other styles that younger buyers hate, only making boomer homes that much less appealing to younger buyers (when my wife Heejin and I stay in modern AirBNBs, I drive her crazy with my non-stop complaining about the concrete floors, stark colors, and what seems like ridiculously cold decorating to me; and don’t even get me started about those silly little pedestal sinks…).

Anyway, if you have a client looking to build or buy their monstrous dream home, you might remind them that they either might be too busy or too old for a huge home.

Many of those boomers in the Walnut Creek area bought those big homes with big yards and as the kids grew up, they have sold and moved downtown to places like the Mercer on California where they can lock up for three months, not worry about a yard and travel or just walk downtown have dinner and a glass of wine and walk back home…more to come for that future blog!

Historical rates and the current market

The Kiplinger Letter is the most widely read business forecasting periodical in the world, and lender Bob Schwab sent a recent one that gave me a lot of interesting information. It says:

“We don’t think a recession is imminent, despite a recent warning sign from the bond market. But that doesn’t mean the economy is fine. A substantial slowdown is in the works. “

The letter also hints at the recent slowdown in the European economy, which we touched on in a recent blog. I recently mentioned the inverse yield curve and the Kiplinger Letter noted the rate on short term bills briefly topped long-term yields last month, a situation the presaged recessions in recent decades, though long term rates soon rose again. Bob also mentioned that it was the 1-year treasury note that had a higher yield than the 5-year. It is when the 1-year and 10-year inverse that has led to a recession in the past.

Suddenly, the U.S. doesn’t appear immune to a recession.

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Kiplinger

Here are the reasons for guarded optimism, as Kiplinger see them…facts about the underlying strength of the U.S. economy that ought not to be overlooked:

  • The jobless rate is low. Inflation is modest.
  • The housing market is starting to rebound. (I feel our area is rebounding, just not as robust as a year ago)
  • Consumers continue to feel fairly confident, though their mood varies as stock prices rise or fall.
  • A trade deal with China still appears likely to happen later this spring, which would give a badly needed boost to global trade.
  • The stock market isn’t pricing in a recession yet. Nor are corporate bonds, whose yields relative to safe Treasuries indicate investors aren’t afraid of defaults.

It is also interesting to look at in the context of historical rates, which for buyers is a key motivator to whether they will buy or not. At the end of the day, we still look great, as shown below:


Fed halts rate increases (JVM Lending)

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending shared an interesting blog recently about the Fed halting rate increases. We’ve posted about the Fed and how it affects the housing market many times in the past, so I wanted to break it down for you again. First, Jay’s blog:

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Yesterday, the Fed announced that there will be no more rate hikes in 2019. And many people in the mortgage and real estate industries cheered. But a lot of economists and Fed-watchers are more worried than ever.

Here is just one of many articles (from the WSJ) I read today illuminating serious concerns. The Fed has the toughest job in the world. It needs to build up enough ammo to fight the next recession without actually causing the next recession.

The problem for the Fed is that it needs to lower rates 4-5% to effectively help the economy when a recession hits. But, the Fed Funds rate is only 2.5% today, and if the Fed raises rates any more, they could cause a recession.

So, that leaves more Quantitative Easing as a likely option when the next recession hits. But that too may be less effective because the Fed still holds almost $4 trillion in MBS and Treasuries, down a little from, but still close to, its peak holdings of $4.5 trillion.

So, what does all this mean for those of us in the real estate and mortgage industries? It means the sun will shine a little brighter this year for all of us. But, the more the Fed artificially induces bright sunshine now, the longer the sun will be behind a cloud in the future.

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So, like the Portuguese biscuit maker who just keeps making buscuits no matter what the economy does, we should all do the same – as fast as possible. Because our current economically-sunny weather won’t last, and we need to be ready for the cloudy weather that is certain to come and that will likely now last even longer.

Okay, that’s a lot to take in, right? Here is my takeaway: cash is king and save your money to buy when the market dips. Europe is already in a slowdown, we are seeing the tech stocks take a hit, and this past week we now have an inverse yield curve, which in the past indicated a recession in the next year or so. Who knows what will happen (nobody has a crystal ball, but you can save)?