How to get your offer accepted in a crowded market

Our friends at JVM Lending shared a Redfin link recently that had a ton of great information on how to get an offer accepted. I currently have two homes on the market and the amount of offers on each are on opposite ends of the spectrum; I have one with 21 offers, and the other with 6. It’s funny to see that disparity between the two, and strategies to get an offer accepted and/or a house sold, can vary greatly because of it.

Here are some pro tips from the Redfin piece:

Nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%) homes that sold in 2017 went for over asking price, up from 21.8% in 2016. This means that buying a home has become more difficult and expensive in a hot, crowded market. You can’t simply offer the highest price and expect to be selected by the seller. Instead, try other strategies like offering all cash, waiving the inspection, or writing a personal cover letter to the homeowner. Above all, make sure you talk to your agent to create the right combination of strategies for the home you’re bidding on, or for the seller you’re trying to woo.

Here is some information from the Redfin article that breaks down data on thousands of offers written over the last two years, to see how effective these other strategies can be in improving a buyer’s chance at winning a bidding war:

Rank Strategy Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success by… Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success in the Luxury Market (Top 10% by List Price) by…
#1 All-Cash Offer 97% 438%
#2 Waived Financing Contingency 58% 76%
#3 Personal Cover Letter 52% No Significant Gain
#5 Pre-Inspection No Significant Gain No Significant Gain
#6 Waived Inspection Contingency No Significant Gain No Significant Gain

Cash is king, as you can see above. That’s because it allows for smooth, fast transactions without the hassle of loans or appraisals. If you don’t have the means to make an all-cash offer, you can always waive your financial contingency, which means you won’t have to wait for a loan approval. That will still increase your odds by 58%, according to Redfin! However, I find that the cash offers – especially if they are investors – will not be the highest price. On the home that had 21 offers, the key to the winning bid was who removed a portion of their appraisal contingency as the offer was so high we all knew it wouldn’t appraise, but that means the buyer has to have extra cash. That can be tough when it is an entry-level condo.

All this said, sometimes it just takes a personal touch to win over a seller. Writing a letter to the seller can be effective and increase your odds in a bidding war. Fortunately for most buyers, cash is not the only way into a seller’s heart.  Often these letters can forge a powerful connection between the buyer and seller, highlighting shared hobbies or interests, earning a seller’s compassion or trust, or ensuring that the home will be loved and cared for in the years to come.

So, whether you are offering all cash, waiving contingencies, writing a personal letter, or trying any number of other strategies to win the bidding war on the house of your dreams – especially in a saturated market like the Bay Area – always remember to consult your realtor first. He or she will have great insight into the market and what extra touches it might take to get the home, but at the end of the day the buyer has to be comfortble with the offer they are making!

Client Appreciation Party

After sending out invites, speaking with past clients and those who have referred me, coordinating with the venue, and designing the event, I am happy to share some pictures of a fun day with my wonderful clients and friends. I also want to give a big shout-out to Prima Ristorante, where we enjoyed appetizers, wine tasting of old and new-world wines, great company and friendship all in the cozy space of their room with a fireplace.

Frank, our sommelier, did a wonderful job of introducing us to the nuances of French vs. California wines, and we finished with a blind tasting of a white and red. We had to guess if it was a French or California wine based on the taste. We also had a seasoned waiter who served us some amazing appetizers of  calamari, shrimp, antipasto platters, rice balls and deep friend olives – yum!

We also gave away some door prizes: two $50 gift cards to Whole Foods donated by Lukasz Wilk of Wolf Construction, a certificate for house cleaning donated by my stager Heather Farry, and two bottles of wine from Prima as part of the day’s event.

Many may think the job of a realtor only involves buying and selling homes with my clients. But being a guide, friend and advocate for my clients is actually the biggest part of the job and celebrating them is my favorite part! I look forward to seeing new and old faces at future events!

Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018

As the first month of the new year closes, we are starting to see the 2018 market take shape, and getting a clear look back at the 2017 year. Last year was a strong one for sellers – interest rates remained low, but are now rising, and refinancing plummeted. So, what’s next for 2018?

Take a look at the summaries of Summit Funding’s Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018, with commentary from yours truly:

  1. A rise in cash-out refinance

Low-interest rates have fueled buying, kept inventory low, and likely even helped speed up housing recovery in Miami and Houston after their 2017 hurricanes. Interest rates will continue to rise in 2018, but not high enough to deter interested homebuyers. We should, however, keep an eye on a potential rise in cash-out refinance, as Americans’ home equity wealth is at an all-time high. We are also seeing the rise of all-cash purchases, a high rate of home purchase co-borrowers, and increased buying assistance from family. As home prices become even higher — and overvalued, according to CoreLogic — expect to see more parents cash out their home equity to help their adult children begin building their own housing wealth.

  1. Return to services

With higher home prices come great risks and more compromises for homebuyers, who will become ever more reliant on experienced and informed housing professionals to make buying and mortgage decisions. Mortgage rates will continue to become a commodity; homebuyers have access to rates on their devices and know mortgage brokers are quoting from the same rate sheets. As homebuyers evaluate their partners, they should look for realtors and mortgage professionals who offer value that protects the clients’ bottom line. Housing professionals who deliver this will be the ones who can truly stand out and have longevity in this crowded market. A great lender and agent can make all the difference in the world. Be careful you are comparing apples to apples when getting rate quotes, as it can’t be locked in until you get an accepted offer so lenders can you give varying rates as they know they will be different the day you get an offer accepted.

  1. Advancement in housing Fintech

Expect technology to continue to make breakthroughs in housing. The proliferation of information has made everyday consumers more demanding of progress and fairness, which is a good thing. They demand more competition for their business and stronger customer empowerment. New housing financial technology will not just be about faster search results or more photos, it will be expected to serve up more home buyer protection. In 2018, homebuyers will increasingly question why they could sell a home at a loss when realtors still collect their brokerage fees. When they see a pre-closing statement listing fee paid to protect their lenders, they would demand to see the calculation of risks and returns designed to protect their purchase. Getting ahead of these questions and demands will become table stakes in the advancement of housing financial technology.  This may be a ways off.  There is a lot of buyer protection now as a result of the downturn.

  1. Millennials may continue to prolong homeownership

Americans — including millennials — want to own homes; we knew this already. However, millennials may want other things in life more than homeownership, or they don’t want to be “house poor.” Affordability is definitely the top barrier to home buying, no doubt. However, there are increasing indications that millennials are not pulling out all the stops to buy a home even if they could afford one. In ValueInsured’s latest Modern Homebuyer Survey, 36% of millennials who want to buy a home say they are delaying buying in order to keep their options open. Nearly half (47%) of millennials also say they worry their job future is uncertain and want to figure that out first. Instead of paying high home prices, millennials have proven unafraid to give up buying and go back to renting. A generation known for defying conventions and expectations may change the housing market forever in 2018 if they say “enough” to high home prices and decide to do their own thing.

  1. The next Seattle or San Jose

In the future, scorching-hot real estate markets will give rise to more calm and cool emerging markets. Places like Provo, UT, Athens, OH and Aberdeen, SD may be hot spots in 2018. More Americans will telecommute to their jobs or shop from their devices instead of at malls. This is simply a fact of life. So, as real estate prices and commercial rents increase, more Asian fusion restaurants, CrossFit studios and organic micro-breweries will open in previously ‘B’ or ‘C’ designated counties. Once upon a time, Portland, OR and Chattanooga, TN were seen as hidden real estate gems, and now they are cities millennials are leaving behind in search of more affordable homes. Millennials’ tendencies to be nomadic and to reject established institutions (or markets), and their sophistication in forming their own community, could prove to be very interesting in challenging traditional housing cycles and expectations.

Stay tuned for December to see if these things panned out or were just a pie in the sky.

New year, new kitchen?

Every year, just like in the fashion industry, there are new styles and trends to consider in real estate design. As told by foodandwine.com, there are going to be some flashy changes to kitchens in 2018. While I personally wouldn’t do some of these things to my kitchen, I can’t deny most look good! Check out a summary of their story below:

Trend #1: “Unicorn” colors

Apparently, white, glossy kitchen units were paired with gentle tones of pale pink and blue, with gold accents and a little glitter in late 2017. I don’t get this one, and not sure why it is popular!

Trend #2: Two-tone cabinets

This one I can get behind. While cabinetry is typically a light or dark shade, it seems more and more people are opting for colorful options in their kitchens. And doing two different, complementary tones is a style gaining in popularity. I  like the look of a dark blue against a light blue or a bright red against a standard neutral.

Trend #3: Morocco themes?

Consumers are playing with colorful, mosaic backsplashes, pendant lanterns, and other Moroccan-style decors to warm up their kitchens. I think if done properly and in moderation, this trend can look fantastic, but it might only be for people who really like that style.

Trend #4: Statement patterns

Some people are starting to add cabinetry, doors or islands with intricate designs and patterns on them. I don’t personally like the look – it feels like a stretch – but you may be seeing more of this in 2018.  For example, you may see zig-zagged cabinet doors or a herringbone pattern on the wall of islands.

Trend #5: Matching living room furniture

This trend is gaining momentum because having an open concept is now so popular. If you have a kitchen that opens up into a family room or dining room, you may see homeowners trying to mesh the two looks in the connected rooms. For example, a TV stand might have colors and patterns that match the kitchen, while also being a storage area for extra dishes.

Trend #6: Eco is in

More people are starting to consider environmentally-friendly options when creating their kitchens. More organic materials are being used, including plywood cabinetry, cork flooring, concrete tiles, walnut worktops and bamboo lighting.

Trend #7: Gold & copper

Even with all the eco-friendliness and experimentation, kitchens can still look glamorous. That may be the case, considering foodandwine.com expects there to be more shimmery metallics this year, especially with gold and copper. From handles to tiles to lighting to small appliances, expect more flash this year!

Trend #8: Water & wine

Hot water taps are quickly overtaking the use of kettles as they become more affordable and more practical to install. Similarly, wine coolers are cheaper and cheaper, as well as smaller, so finding a good, usable model is becoming easier. You’ll see more wine coolers in kitchens and fewer kettles in 2018.  (Side note: still love my hot pot!)

Applying for a Home Loan? See JVM Lending’s “Don’t” List!

Once you’re pre-approved, the last thing you want to do is knock yourself out of qualifying range. My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending is a great source on this issue, as he’s seen hundreds of borrowers in this situation. Now, he sends them a list of “actions to avoid” with every pre-approval letter. Heeding his advice will help you at least prevent delays and extra paperwork. Take a look!

1. Do not make large deposits that can’t be explained. When you are trying to qualify, any large deposit – think $500 for a new mattress, or all-cash payments – must be explained. Otherwise, an entire account can become invalid and unusable for qualifying. Always keep a paper trail to make large deposit explanations easier!

2. Do not take on new debt. If you increase your credit card balances, finance a vehicle, or take on debt in another way, your ratios will be impacted and it will reduce your maximum purchase price.

3. Do not take vacation days if you’re paid hourly. A single day off work can push you out of qualifying range if your debt ratios are high and approaching your limit.

4. Do not spend liquid assets. Pre-approval software relies on specific liquid asset levels. So, pre-approval amounts can change if liquid assets are significantly reduced.

5. Do not miss payments on any debts reporting on a credit report. This one is pretty obvious, and you should avoid missing payments anyway, but missing monthly payments that reduce your credit score may also reduce your qualification amount!

6. Do not co-sign for someone else’s debts. That’s a dangerous maneuver anyway, but even if you’re just a co-signer, the debt will show up on your credit report. That makes you responsible for the debt and the payments.

7. Do not file taxes with a tax liability owing, or with less income than in previous years. This mostly applies to self-employed borrowers (especially during tax season). The most recently filed tax returns will be what the qualifying income is based on, and all tax liabilities must be proven paid. JVM recommends that borrowers file an extension when possible if they are making offers during tax season.

Things NOT to do when your house goes on the market

You’ve probably seen endless lists about how to sell your home. Everything from choosing the realtor, to the staging, to the deliberation is under the microscope. But how often do you get told how NOT to do things? RIS Media has put together a good four-step process for how to not get in your own way when selling a home.

First, don’t over-improve the house, the article says. This is good advice. While it’s important to clean up any holes and cracks in the wall, and make sure the lighting is fresh, etc., doing too much can be damaging to your case. But if you go out and make your dream changes to the house right before you sell it, you better hope your potential buyers see it as an awesome improvement, too, and not a large project to fix.

Next, don’t over-decorate. Simple, neutral colors and decorations will be just fine. Similarly to the first point, if you decorate your home with a bunch of lace, lavender and lemon scent because they are things you like, you’ve done too much. What if a buyer walks in and is immediately overwhelmed by it all? Keep it simple. Remember, the buyers are the ones who get to decorate when they move in. This is why I pay for a staging consult; because it tells you what to remove, and then I highly recommend doing some staging as it makes a huge difference in how your home is photographed. The online view of those photos will be the first impression a prospective buyer gets, and will help them decide if they want to see your home in person.

Third, and probably most important: do not BE THERE when the buyers arrive. If your realtor is going to show the house, try to get everyone (pets included) out for a couple hours. Go to a movie. Have lunch at the park. Find a way to get out of the potential buyers’ ways, so they aren’t attacked by a bunch of people upon walking in. Remember, they want to see themselves in the house. Not you!

Lastly, don’t take things too personally. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, money and memories into your home. When a buyer lowballs you or requests repairs, don’t be upset. They are trying to afford their newest home, too. And they might tell you the reason they have to offer low is because of something they think needs updating that you disagree with. Bite your tongue, and keep negotiating. Remember, it’s all a business!

What to know about the new tax bill limits in 2018

The GOP finally pushed through its tax package, and the reaction has been interesting to say the least. While some seem to love it (The Wall Street Journal said the bill is the best thing to ever happen to our economy), many others hate it. Regardless of how you feel about the bill, it is signed in now and it’s time to see how it affects you, as a homeowner, seller or buyer.
My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together a blog detailing some main points about the GOP tax bill and how it may affect real estate. Here are the main thoughts:
1. Current homeowners will be grandfathered in and still allowed to deduct interest against $1 million of mortgage debt. In 2018, buyers will be limited to $750,000 and interest against home equity lines will not be deductible.
2. State and local tax deductions will be capped at $10,000. This will be difficult for people in California.
3. Standard deductions are doubling to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for married filers, so many homeowners won’t have to deduct their interest and property taxes anymore.
4. We have no idea what exactly the bill will do for the market when all is said and done, but for now, we can expect the low-inventory, high-demand market to suffer in high-end areas down the road, while remaining neutral in the short term.
5. To fully understand the bill’s impact on you, see a CPA. Defer your commissions. And if you’re planning an out-of-state move, consider relocating to a low-tax state like Florida, Texas or Nevada.
I’d like to expand on #5 quickly – as Jay mentioned, there will be a new $10,000 cap on tax deductions starting in 2018. If you paid off your property taxes before January, you should be able to save thousands of dollars on that by avoiding the new rule for a year. And if you are planning a move out of the Bay Area to another part of California or another state, you should be consulting a realtor or a CPA to see what kind of savings you can get!

Pantone’s Color of the Year…Ultra Violet!

Another year, another color. The Pantone Color Institute has selected its 2018 “Color of the Year,” which it expects to influence design choices next year. According to the release, Pantone chose Ultra Violet because it conveys “originality and ingenuity.” They said they are fascinated and intrigued by the shade.

Pantone.com

I can’t disagree. It is a lovely shade of purple, which to me represents a majestic royalty – something or someone who is the best in their field. New apple watches are of a similar color, for example. It’s just a sheer coincidence that I like this color so much and also happen to color all my logos with a similar hue. Total coincidence. Objectivity at its finest!

In all seriousness, it is a really neat color, and I applaud Pantone for its choice. As for using it in a house? I have mixed emotions on that. It is pretty strong, and could freak people out to use such a deep, dark color on walls and other features of a home.

That said, this Houzz article includes some great shots of rooms redecorated with the Ultra Violet hue, and you can see that – if used properly – it would really make certain rooms pop.

From the Pantone website itself, they call the Ultra Violet color (PANTONE shade 18-3838) “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade.” Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman, says:

“We are living in a time that requires invetiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spirituatl reflection, ituitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.”

Purple shades are always associated with royalty and artistic excellence (so, again, if someone like, say, you’re real estate agent had a purple logo…just saying!), as made famous by icons like Prince, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.
Also according to the Pantone website: “Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets.

Historically, there has been a mystical or spiritual quality attached to Ultra Violet. The color is often associated with mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world. The use of purple-toned lighting in meditation spaces and other gathering places energizes the communities that gather there and inspire connection.”

Wow, that’s like a color horoscope, and makes me proud to have a similarly-shaded color scheme to my work!

Why rates went down after 4th Fed increase?

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote another interesting end-of-year blog recently, regarding rates. Despite the Fed increasing rates for the 4th time in 2017, they are still down. Why is that, and how does it affect you?

In Jay’s blog, he notes that 30-year fixed rates have fallen 1/4 percent over the last year even though the Fed has done four increases. On that note, he asks why the Fed’s rate increases don’t push up mortgage rates?

In response, Jay gives two main reasons:

  1. Short-term rates don’t always affect long-term rates
  2. Many factors (besides the Fed) influence rates

Inflation, geopolitical strife, economic news and demand for credit and bank loans are the other main factors named by Jay. Most of those are very relevant in today’s societal and political climate. Basically, the Fed helps influence rates, but isn’t the sole influencer – if investors are pushed out of stocks or bonds into the other, due to war, a poor week on the stock market, etc., rates will change just as rapidly.

So, what does this mean for you?   Rates are going to continue to fluctuate. They are still low, so if you are considering buying, it might be a good time to get off the fence and make a move in 2018!

Why it may be a really good time to be a borrower

You may have heard of the wild events at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently. My friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending had a few words to say about it on his blog, the main points of which are summarized below:

The departing director of the CFPB, Richard Condray, named his deputy, Leandra English, to be his successor. President Trump named his own acting director, Mick Mulvaney. Both claimed to be head of the CFPB, and English sued to nullify Trump’s appointment, but lost.

So, from a real estate perspective, this is what it means for the industry. The CFPB is extremely powerful and was created by the Dodd-Frank Legislation in 2010. It is funded by the Fed and mostly outside the control of Congress. So, the CFPB is well known for being aggressive in auditing and fining, even when offenses had no effect on borrowers.

On that note, Mulvaney – Trump’s appointment – has been openly anti-CFPB, and will likely try to roll back some of the agency’s enforcement efforts. If this holds true, there are two takeaways, or perspectives:

  1. A strong CFPB is necessary to keep the mortgage industry in check and avoid another meltdown like in 2008. It can be countered by pointing out that there are already other factors in place to prevent those abuses, including scrutiny from agencies such as HUD and state agencies.
  2. Lenders and loan officers spend an inordinate amount of time and money to make sure they never endure a CFPB investigation. These efforts often do little to help consumers, and only increase the overall costs of obtaining financing.

A weaker CFPB could result in more free time for lenders and loan officers, and lower borrowing costs for consumers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also announced their 2018 loan limits, which went up significantly. The “Low Balance” limit for a one-unit property jumped from $424,100 to $453,100 and the “High Balance” limit increased from $636,150 to $679,650.

These jumps allow more borrowers to take advantage of conforming loan guidelines when buying properties in areas with increasing home prices. Combine this with the CFPB appointment, and we may be looking at an incredibly good time to be a borrower!

Also, note the Fed is most likely going to raise interest rates on the 13th and then again in the first quarter of 2018. The market has already taken it into account, and we might see rates drop slightly after the 13th.

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