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.

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!

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!

7 home maintenance tasks sellers must do before listing

It is that time of year when the housing market starts to heat up. If you’re one of the homeowners who plan on selling this summer, there’s a lengthy list of must-dos to complete before you actually list. Take a look at the following ideas from Inman, with input from yours truly, on how to make your home more attractive.

1. Spruce up the exterior

This is the first thing your prospective buyers are going to see. They want something with literal curb appeal, and if you have overgrown bushes, peeling paint, dirty windows, or poor lighting, the first impression won’t be very good.

2. Service the heating/cooling system

Home inspectors have to check this anyway, so you might as well beat them to it. Waiting until a buyer makes an offer to service this system may cause issues, so get ahead on it!

3. Check your lightbulbs

Check every single one of them on both the interior and exterior. Make sure they are clean and bright. It is essential to have the home as bright as possible. In my experience, this is a tiny thing that is very noticeable if not addressed.

4. Check all smoke detectors

We’ve all pulled batteries out of our smoke detectors when cooking, but don’t forget to put them back in. Make sure all your detectors are working. A home inspector will ding you if you don’t.

5. Blue tape it

If there are nicks, chips, scratches, etc. in the walls of your house, blue tape it! No buyer wants wear and tear on the interior walls or molding, so make sure the rough areas are marked for repair before you list. My stager blue tapes what needs to be removed, painted or fixed at the staging consult I provide as part of my services.

6. Deep clean and declutter

And we mean deep. If you can, hire a cleaning crew to get a small army of people cleaning every corner and crevice (think baseboards, light switches, etc.) of the house before it goes on the market. And don’t forget to gather all your extra junk and either store elsewhere or donate.

7. Don’t forget the garage

This is often an overlooked space, but prospective buyers will want to see a clean, organized garage. Consider painting the floor or putting an epoxy down. And don’t forget to repair cracks in the ceiling of the garage!  Side note, in this area most people store all of the noted blue taped items, just make sure if you do a pest inspection, you do it before you store all your items in the garage.

BONUS! 8. Stage the property

This is my personal addition to the list. There are people who stage homes for a living. They are experts at making a house as attractive as possible to buyers. I can’t recommend having your property staged before listing highly enough!  You only get one opportunity to make a first impression!

Are home values really inflated?

For the 71st month in a row, the housing market experienced year-over-year gains. As of January, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $240,500, which was a 5.8 percent increase from January 2017 ($227,300). According to Bob Schwab from Finance of America, this may lead many to believe that home values are overinflated.

Schwab, and Zillow, disagree with that common opinion. Zillow says: “If the housing bubble and bust had not happened, and home values had instead appreciated at a steady pace, the median home value would be higher than its current value.”

I’ve pulled some information and graphs from Schwab’s article to help demonstrate why home prices are exactly where they should be. First, a graph showing actual median home sales prices from 2000 through 2017:

By itself, this graph shows home values rising early in the century, then tumbling down, and now climbing back up. This may give off the impression that a pattern is emerging, and another tumble is coming. But, if you look at this second chart, indicating where prices would naturally go with the market had there not been a boom and bust, you see something different:

The blue bars represent where prices would have been if they increased normally, at an annual appreciation rate of 3.6 percent. By adding that percentage to the actual 2000 price and repeating for each year, we can see that prices were overvalued during the boom, undervalued during the bust, and a little bit lower than where they should be right now!

All in all, thanks to Bob Schwab for pointing out that we should be comfortable with current home values, and understand that the market actually isn’t overinflated, based on historic appreciation levels.

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!

Open House Saturday 1-4 pm, Kirker Pass Rd. in Concord

Offers Due Monday 2/5 at noon!

Selling a home without an agent is risky!

When you sell a home, you don’t need a real estate agent, just like you don’t need a lawyer when facing criminal charges. You can, if you want to, represent yourself in a court of law, and you can always put your home up for sale by owner (FSBO).

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But, it’s an extremely risky proposition. As outlined in this Inman article, there are many things to consider when putting a home up FSBO. Here are eight things, summarized from said Inman article, that sellers risk when they don’t have a realtor representing them:

1. Knowledge

Realtors are professionals in this business. They have expansive knowledge of the complicated home-buying and selling processes, possess loads of helpful data, and have large networks of people who can help minimize the difficulties that arise.

2. Time

The non-realtor probably doesn’t realize how many hours are put into any given home, buy or sell. Real estate agents are available for clients around the clock, on a whim, and can confidently and smoothly quell any concerns by potential home buyers.

3. Presentation

Preparation is essential to selling a home – what buyers see when they walk through the door will determine if your home sells. Agents can prepare the finest details and have stagers, professional photographers and others who will help make the space beautiful.

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4. Marketing

Anyone can draw up a “For Sale” poster, but realtors will design, distribute and widely market the home to a huge number of potential buyers. Realtors can access predictive analysis and promote to those demographics on social media. Also, they know just what to write to draw interest.

5. Negotiation experience

If you’re doing FSBO, what do you do when you actually receive an offer? There’s a purchase agreement to be discussed, price negotiations to be had, and so on. Realtors will make sure you don’t get screwed by a buyer, and that you only incur costs you’re supposed to pay.

6. Inspection and repair know-how 

One of the most important parts of any real estate transaction is knowing which inspections to expect and how to get them done. This is where the realtor’s web of resources comes in handy again – he or she should be able to provide repair people to fix anything discovered in an inspection.

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7. Transaction management

Once a home is in contract with a buyer, there are more steps to close the deal. Realtors can make sure the right people are contacted to handle the closing, appraise the property, repair anything found in inspections and anything else to follow up on.

8. Closing finesse

There are expectations upon closing a property. Non-realtors probably don’t understand what the buyers expect, in terms of when move-in/move-out occurs, the condition one should leave their home in, or what to do if a last-minute issue arises. Realtors do know, and they are worth the time and money to ensure your sale is in good hands.

FSBO’s may be intriguing to the cheap and/or self-confident, but the small savings on a realtor’s commission is not worth the hassle that comes with navigating such a difficult process without professional help, and often a house sells for less than what it would have with an agent even after the commission has been paid.

On that note, there’s a reason I do what I do! I’d love to help you buy or sell a home. Please reach out any time for information regarding the current, local real estate market!