Owners have the largest mortgages in history!

It’s no secret that the housing market has been unbalanced over the past few years. Prices have been rising, and with them, so have average home loans.

mw-average mortgage size

According to The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the average home loan size is the largest its been in the history of its survey, which began in 1990.

Additionally, the median mortgage size was only about 3.3 times the median annual income in 1990 – now, it’s more than 5 times as big. This is likely due to the increase in housing prices, buyers getting bigger homes and lower interest rates over the years.

Here’s a look at some housing market characteristics for select years.

Housing market data points
Courtesy Realtor.com (link in text above)

According to Mike Ervin of Supreme Lending, people are just waiting and waiting for mortgage rates to go down. People who are using securitizers like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have to wait until the Fed buys up more mortgage bonds so that rates will go down. It is unknown if that will happen, but rates have dropped in 2017.

Multiple factors can affect the bond and mortgage markets. The most recent major event was the Trump election and presidency, which saw a large immediate increase in mortgage rates, which have since rebounded, even with the Fed raising rates.

In California, we are in the wealth-building business and real estate in the Bay Area is going to be a good investment for years to come. I am here to advise, provide insight and help you build wealth through real estate.

Vanessa’s Bistro has great drink specials and staying power

Restaurants in Walnut Creek don’t tend to stick around for a long time these days. It seems like every month we’re writing a blog about an old favorite closing down and a new, trendy spot taking its place.

Vanessa’s Bistro is an exception to that rule. They’ve been serving patrons in downtown Walnut Creek since 2009, which feels like an eternity at this point! I’ve stopped in there a few times. My favorite is their crispy garlic salt & pepper tofu with sautéed scallions and bell peppers. I also love their special cocktails.

Vanessa’s also has Happy Hour all day on Sunday, $6 margaritas on Monday (and $30 margarita pitchers, yikes!), 50% off tapas on Tuesdays and 50% off all wine and champagne on Wednesday. A big plus (especially in trendy Walnut Creek) is that they hold happy hour Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 PM until 11:30 PM, which consists of $5 specialty cocktails, $6 tapas and $3 and $6 select beer and wines. That is my kind of place!

They have pretty good food, too – Vietnamese tapas with a French fusion twist! They have a huge list of tapas, banh mi, seafood and vegetarian options. I think there’s a reason Vanessa’s has stuck around so long.

I give it 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

California getting snotty about their potties

Did you know California has put a new law in place that went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year? It’s causing quite a commode-tion.
It basically says that any home built after 1994 must flush away some money meeting the requirement of having water-conserving plumbing (WCP) fixtures in their bathrooms, whether it’s going on the market or not. What a stinker!
Additionally, the law calls for installation of WCP fixtures – and wiping away the old one – when the existing plumbing fixtures use more than the following:
  • Any toilet manufactured to use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
  • Any urinal manufactured to use more than one gallon of water per flush.
  • Any shower head manufactured to have a flow capacity of more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
  • Any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons of water per minute.

Now that the drought is over, I wonder if the regulations might go down the drain and on the sale side nobody is enforcing it. But either way, a very important question remains: who the heck has a urinal in their house?

Road Trips: Scenic Drives in Northern CA

Nothing can top the beauty of Northern California. From the ocean, to the mountains, to lakes, rivers and cities, the Bay Area is one of the most breathtaking places in the world.

California Redwood Road Trip

We have officially kicked off the summer season, the rain has stopped and given NorCals mild summer weather, it’s a perfect place to explore, especially during these upcoming months. I’m a big fan of road trips – there’s nothing like hopping in the car, rolling the windows down and going for a drive on a warm summer day.

With that in mind, I found a great article on OnlyInYourState.com listing 11 great scenic drives in Northern California. I’ll list a few of my favorites out below for reference, but take a look at the full list, and then take a trip!

1. Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway – Lassen National Park

2. Yuba Donner Scenic Byway – Tahoe National Forest

3. Emigrant Trail – Tahoe/Donner Area

4. Route 101 Redwood Highway – Del Norte Redwoods State Park

5. Carson Pass – CA/NV Border

Happy Trails and have a great summer!

 

Following Up: Honeybees!

A few weeks back, we did the Parkmead Garden Tour. I spoke to one resident who is a honeybee keeper. In addition to the Beekeeper who was there to speak, I learned a lot about honeybees.

For example, did you know that a honeybee has to travel more than 55,000 miles and has to visit about 2 million flowers just to produce one pound of honey? Or that they can fly 15 miles per hour? 

Beekeeping is a hobby that seems to be picking up popularity, especially around the Bay Area. Much like composting, its attraction is that it’s a sustainable, healthy way to provide for oneself and the community around us. It’s been common knowledge for years that the bee population is quickly dying off, and their extinction would have a horrific effect on the planet’s ecosystem.

So, I also snagged some basic information on beekeeping resources around the Bay Area! If you want to learn more about the Mt. Diablo Beekeepers Association (MDBA), visit this link! If you’re interested in starting beekeeping, you can find supplies at MarElla Honey B’s in Concord, Biofuel Oasis/Urban Farm Store in Berkeley, and many others around the Bay Area.

If you’d simply like to attract more bees to your garden to help increase the population and improve your pollination, plant flowers that they like! For example, blackberries and raspberries, fireweed, lavender, oregano, rosemary and sunflower are a few that really attract heavy pollination.  

Here are a few more fun facts for you to finish out our blog on honeybees:

  • A typical beehive makes more than 400 lbs of honey per year
  • A honeybee will flap its wings about 11,400 times per minute, creating the familiar “buzz” sound
  • Honeybees are responsible for approximately 80 percent of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.

So when you see a bee nearby, don’t run or swat at it, but think of the good they do and then briskly walk away!

The VA loan is the best loan going!

With Memorial Day around the corner and a time to honor and remember all the brave heroes who served to hold our flag high, I thought it would be a great time to mention the benefits of a VA loan and what is currently happening in that arena.

There’s a bill in Congress that eliminates loan limits for the VA. The current VA limit for Contra Costa is $636,150, so eliminating the limit will help our vets who qualify for more to still be able to purchase with their VA benefits. I specialize in working with VA buyers and sellers, and have a strong passion for it given my family’s history in service.

There is also a rebate available of up to $2,500 in Contra Costa County for qualified buyers with approved lenders. I can connect you with a qualified lender. The VA loan is the best loan around  –  low rates, nothing down, 25% of the loan is backed by the federal government, lowest loan foreclosure rate, plus many additional changes over the years to help make a VA offer be accepted such as the seller no longer has to pay for the pest inspection.

Did you also know, you are eligible for a VA loan after 90 days active duty in wartime (we are still considered in wartime which started with the Gulf War)? You are eligible after two years of service if no longer on active duty  and six years of service in the National Guard or Reserves.

If you’re a veteran looking to buy or sell in the Bay Area or know somebody who is, please give me a call so we can get the ball rolling on helping you land a rebate and get your VA loan accepted!

Art Town: Sculpture by BART

Have you ever noticed the big wooden sculpture across the street from the Walnut Creek BART back parking lot? It’s right between the big office buildings that engulf Caffe California. Funny enough, it’s just down the block from our Better Homes and Gardens offices!

I’ve walked past this a few times and never gave it a second glance, but I actually noticed it recently and I love the composition of the structure. It kind of looks like a bunch of different parts of a piano was disassembled and dropped in a heap on the concrete.

Make sure to take a look next time you’re on your way to or from BART. It’s pretty cool!

Pending home sales are down in CA – what does it mean?

According to the California Association of Realtors, pending home sales have dialed back and marked the weakest February in three years.

Courtesy mcar.com.

Low housing inventory, eroding affordability and rising interest rates made pending sales on a year-over-year basis for the month of February suffer after a good start to the year in closed escrow sales. Also, sellers simply aren’t selling.

They did see elevated market activity, but the Bay Area pending sales specifically were down year-to-year for the fifth straight month. According to the release, the Bay Area has been plagued by a shortage of homes on the market and poor affordability.

We have seen an increase in listings starting in April, but with pent-up demand, buyers are getting frustrated losing out in multiple-offer scenarios and with ever-increasing prices.

If you want to know more about the market, give me a call!