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!

Happy Veterans Day 11/11

Tomorrow is Veterans Day – a day to honor and celebrate the men and women who protect our country. I have a son who is currently serving and know many who are veterans of the military. I’d like to first and foremost thank them for their years of bravery, courage and selflessness in defending the United States of America.

One of my main focuses in real estate is helping veterans get into the crazy California housing market.  I believe those who have served our country deserve to own a home in that very same country.  The VA loan is the best loan going and I strive to educate other agents about the benefits to help them when there is more than one offer.  The VA loan allows our veterans to purchase with zero down, but the government backs 25% of the loan, thus it is like putting down 25%.

If you are a veteran or know anyone who is that may be looking for a new home, please contact me. For those of you who aren’t, but would like to make a difference for our veterans tomorrow, please visit serve.gov and search “veterans” to find volunteer opportunities.

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.

Will the Presidential race affect our mortgage rates?

I thought this might be interesting to share. Traditionally, there is very little on the market as we enter the holiday season. The last couple years, sellers listing in December and the beginning of January tended to have multiple offers because there isn’t much inventory (meaning, people don’t like to have Open Houses or showings during the holiday season as they are usually entertaining family or friends).

With the Presidential election around the corner, many agents are getting the feel the market has softened. It will be interesting to see how this year’s election will affect our market. Here are some insights from my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending:

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Trump = Lower Rates; Clinton = Same or Higher Rates

We have blogged several times about how rates are not held artificially low prior to major elections. It is a myth that they are. Presidents, in fact, like to see proof that the economy is getting stronger, and these signs usually push rates higher. Presidents hope for positive signs like GDP growth, job growth, lower unemployment, etc. These signs usually push investors into stocks and out of bonds, causing rates to go up.

(Quick reminder: When investors demand more stocks, rates go up; when investors demand more bonds, rates go down.)

With respect to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it is all about “stability.” Stock market investors like “stability” as much as they like growth. Worries about instability or shakeups send investors away from stocks and into the safety of bonds (pushing rates down).

Investors believe that Clinton will follow President Obama’s course, and this is perceived as “stability.” So, signs that Clinton might win will probably keep investors in stocks, which will ultimately keep rates largely the same.

Investors are not sure what Trump might do, so signs that Trump might win will probably push investors to the safety of bonds, pushing rates lower.

This is very similar to the uncertainty the Brexit vote created and its influence in pushing rates lower.

Mortgage Terminology 101

mortgage-1 Buying a home, even for those with experience, is already a tricky process to navigate. Add choosing a mortgage on top of that and things can get really stressful. Luckily, Keith Loria of BHG posted a great list of basic mortgage terminology to help guide buyers through this process. Check out our lightly edited version:

“Mortgage Lenders” – lenders make the loan and provide the money you’ll use to buy your home. You’ll need a lot of financial background information when you meet with a lender so he or she can set mortgage interest rates and other loan terms accordingly.

“Mortgage Brokers” –  brokers work with multiple lenders to find you the best loan. This can be confusing, but their jobs are essentially to get you the best rate and terms on your loan.

“Mortgage Bankers” – most lenders are bankers, which means they don’t actually lend their own money, but borrow funds at short-term rates from warehouse lender. Some larger mortgage bankers will originate their own loans and sell directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or investors.

“Portfolio Mortgage Lenders” – they originate and fund their own loans, offering more flexibility in loan products because they don’t have to adhere to secondary market buyer guidelines. Once these loans are serviced and paid for on time for at least one year, they’re “seasoned,” and can be sold more easily on the secondary market.

“Hard Money Lenders” – this may be your last resort if you’re having trouble getting a mortgage and working with a portfolio mortgage lender. They are private individuals with money to lend, though interest rates are usually higher.mortgage-2

“Wholesale Lenders” – they cater to mortgage brokers for loan origination but offer loans to brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. For you, the loan costs about the same if it were obtained directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.

“Correspondent Mortgage Lenders” – these lenders have agreements in place with one or more wholesale lenders to act as their retail representative. They lend directly to buyers and use wholesaler guidelines to approve and close loans with their own money. They will also buy back any loans they close that deviate from those guidelines.

“Direct Mortgage Lenders” – direct mortgage lenders are simply banks or lenders that work directly with a homeowner, with no need for a middleman or broker.

10 tips for adding value to your home before you sell

kitchenWhen you sell your home, it’s all about adding value before it goes on the market. There are some small tweaks you can make around the house to make sure you get top dollar for your house. Here is a whittled-down version of the top 10 tips from Houzz.com on how you can increase that value:

1. Add square footage: Move furniture around to fit the room better and make it feel larger. Perception is powerful, even if that true square footage won’t budge. You want prospective buyers to see a lot of space, and therefore, a lot of potential.

2. Traditional sells too: You don’t have to buy a bunch of new stuff to show off your home. Every buyer has his or her own style, so staying honest to the home’s roots can pay off.

3. Master bedroom closet upgrade: Add custom closets to the master bedroom. A large, walk-in closet will add value to any home and excites buyers. Finding an affordable way to do it isn’t terribly difficult with a little research.

4. Kitchen is king: If you do spend money on your home before it hits the market, put it towards your kitchen. Even updated light fixtures will add value to a space used for eating, drinking, gathering and storage by even the worst cooks.

5. Storage, storage, storage: There is no such thing as too much storage. It’s important to provide ample storage space, so utilize it as much as possible when selling!

6. Fresh paint is magical: Painting is the most cost-effective way to freshen up a space. Freshly painted rooms feel updated, clean and crisp and won’t break the bank. Try to avoid colors that are too bold and might scare off buyers. Traditional, neutral choices can do wonders!

7. Try to be energy-efficient: Buying a home involves closing costs, moving fees, energy bills and more on top of just the sale price. If you offer buyers energy-efficient options (CFL or LED lightbulbs, solar panels, etc.), they may find that long-term cost savings attractive. front-yard

8. Bathroom updates help: Behind the kitchen, bathrooms are going to be the most important part of your home to get updates in when selling. A little bit can go a long way in most bathrooms; replace outdated features or change light fixtures to start.

9. Hire a professional organizer: Don’t try to do everything yourself. This process is stressful enough! A professional organizer can help you de-clutter your home and help open up manageable space. That organization will impress buyers.

10. Add curb appeal: You only get one chance to make a first impression, right? Make sure your front yard is tidy and well-groomed. Don’t let peeling paint or cracks in the walls scare off buyers before they even make it in the door.

Does your front door impact your curb appeal?

front-door-1Yes, it does! When it comes to your front door, big decisions must be made. I’ve seen some of the prettiest houses ruined by the ugliest paint jobs on front doors.

For example, unless the rest of your house can really pull it off, please don’t paint your front door bright, neon pink!

From merging classic colors to considering nature tones and your home’s immediate surroundings, there are a lot more factors to consider than one would think when painting a front door.

When all is said and done, a good paint job can really tie a house together visually.

Check out Better Homes and Gardens’ guide to the “do’s and don’ts” of painting your front door.  I think you’ll find these tips helpful. I know I did, though my front door is in need or repair and really needs to be moved back to it’s original spot – remodeling is on the horizon!

You can also check out this free guide on how to paint your front door right here!

Another happy client!

Our newest seller! Congratulations to Todd, on selling your home on San Carlos Ave. in Concord. The home was listed at $400,000 and sold for $460,000. Todd chose to do a lot of things at once: get his home prepared for sale, get married, move out between friends’ weddings, and take a short trip to Palm Springs [I don’t recommend such a busy schedule when selling a home! ;-)]. Now he and his new bride search for their new home together! Wishing you many wonderful memories!

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Open House this weekend: 1326 San Carlos Ave. in Concord

Don’t miss this cozy, updated gem! Just a couple blocks from the Concord BART station and close to Todos Santos Plaza, you’ll feel right at home in this 2-bedroom, 1-bath (with an extra bedroom and bathroom in the converted garage) property.

Fresh paint, new bamboo floors, skylights, granite countertops and a big backyard with a spacious shed top the list of eye-catching features this property has to offer.

You can use that converted space as an AirBNB income-generating room that can be locked off from the rest of the house, and it even has its own little private side yard!

The open kitchen/dining room concept, complete with skylight and dark, beautiful cabinetry, flows into a separate living room with a fireplace and recessed lighting. Both main bedrooms open to the deck and backyard.

Speaking of, both main bedrooms open to the massive deck and backyard. You’ll have plenty of space to entertain friends and family. And you’ll love the huge tree in the front yard casting much-needed shade over the house in the summer.

Come see for yourself how so much can fit into such a beautiful space!

Visit our Open House this weekend from 1-4 p.m. both Saturday (7/30) and Sunday (7/31)!

You can see a virtual tour of 1326 San Carlos Avenue here.

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!