Friday, February 05, 2016

Save on Home Insurance

One of the most expensive ongoing costs of home ownership is that of homeowners insurance.  AS is typical with anything these days, the premiums keep climbing, often with no regard to the fact that an individual may have had no claims against his own policy.  Other things in the wider world--floods, storms, wildfire and more, may have led to an increase in insurance costs. But never fear--there may be ways to minimize the resulting increases in your insurance costs.


Homeowner’s insurance costs can vary by hundreds of dollars a year, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from, but there are other ways you can lower the price, too. Here are a dozen tips from the Insurance Information Institute:
SHOP AROUND: It will take some time, but comparison shopping is worth the effort. Ask friends and check consumer guides and online insurance quote services. Price isn’t the only factor; consider an insurance company’s reputation for customer service. The California Department of Insurance’s website has several helpful resources, including an insurance-coverage comparison tool and a consumer-complaint summary.
RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE: The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on premiums. Most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500; if you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent.
UNDERSTAND REBUILDING COSTS: The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire, and the other disasters covered in your homeowner’s policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much insurance to buy to avoid higher premiums
MULTIPLE POLICIES, SAME INSURER: Some companies that sell homeowner, auto, and liability coverage will deduct 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy multiple policies. But do the research to confirm this is actually true.
MAKE YOUR HOME DISASTER-RESITANT: Find out from your insurance company how to make your home more resistant to windstorms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by retrofitting areas of your home such as the roof; foundation; and heating, plumbing, and electrical systems.
BOLSTER HOME SECURITY: You may get discounts of 5 percent or higher for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies will cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install modernized alarm and sprinkler systems.
ASK ABOUT DISCOUNTS: Companies offer several types of discounts, but that varies by firm and state. For example, since retired people stay at home more than working people they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.
KEEP YOUR CREDIT IN CHECK: Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied.
STICK IT OUT: If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But periodically compare this price with that of other insurers.
REVIEW THE VALUE OF YOUR POSSESSIONS YEARLY: You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home, but don’t spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners policies, such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers, and valuable art).
IN A GOVERNMENT PLAN? LOOK FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE: If you live in a high-risk area — say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms or wildfires — and have been buying your homeowner’s insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or contact the state Department of Insurance for other options. You may save some cash in the private market.
WHEN BUYING A HOME, CONSIDER THE INSURANCE COST: You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating, and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old.


Just as we're happy to be able to provide this helpful information, we are also available to advise on all of your real estate needs: selling or buying a home, investment property, and referrals to top service providers for anything to do with your real property! Just give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Rates Dropping in 2016

Believe it or don't, mortgage interest rates are dropping so far in 2016.  I know, I know--the Fed raised its rates a few weeks ago. Usually, mortgage rates would follow suit, but, so far in 2016, they have actually fallen every week in the new year. 
Mortgage rates have declined every week so far in 2016 and are currently at their lowest levels since the fall, a fact that could help motivate hesitant homebuyers who have been sitting on the fence.
That’s according to the most recent numbers from Freddie Mac, which said that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to 3.81 percent for the week ended Jan. 21, down from 3.92 percent from a week earlier and up from 3.63 percent a year ago. Fifteen-year mortgage rates displayed a similar pattern, dropping from 3.19 percent to 3.10 percent on a weekly basis but up from 2.93 percent year over year.
In a statement accompanying the report, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti attributed the declines to weak inflation in 2015 and global economic turmoil, which is driving investors to treasuries.
All this aside, most experts feel that the general trend going forward is likely to be a slow gradual increase.  How does this affect you? If you're a buyer, it means that the sooner, the better to get going!  If you're thinking of selling, the answer is similar.  The sooner your home is on the market, the sooner you can have buyers thinking about its purchase--before they get hit with even slightly higher borrowing costs.
How to prepare for either situation? Call us--we'd be glad to help! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Improving Economy Boosts Housing Market

Well, stock market activity of recent weeks aside, the overall economy continues to improve, and that fact is a major contribution to the overall housing market, including right here in the greater Bay Area in general and Marin in particular.  Take a look at the following stats.


Americans are increasingly optimistic about housing market conditions, encouraged by a growing confidence in their personal financial outlook and the U.S. economy in general. That optimism was revealed in a recent survey by Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage firm, and it gives a boost to forecasts for real estate activity in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the months ahead.
Fannie Mae said its latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) rose 2.4 percentage points in December to 83.2, its highest level since the index was created in June 2010.
Four of the HPSI’s six components increased in December:
  • Survey respondents who said it is a good time to sell a house rose 4 percentage points to 8 percent.
  • Respondents who said that home prices will go up rose 2 percentage points to 40 percent.
  • Those who said they are not worried about losing their job rose 3 percentage points to 72 percent.
  • Those who said their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago rose 9 percentage points to 15 percent.
  • Respondents who said that it is a good time to buy a house remained flat at 35 percent.
  • Those who said mortgage interest rates will go down continued to decrease, dropping 4 percentage points to negative 52 percent.
“Consumers ended the year on an improved note with regard to their income, job security, and overall economic outlook,” Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. “This more-positive consumer sentiment brought the HPSI up a few points, moving the index up for all of 2015.
“Brightening economic prospects, if sustained, should stimulate demand for homeownership,” Duncan said. “However, continuing upward pressure on rental prices and constrained housing supply, particularly for starter homes, may mean prospective first-time homebuyers could face affordability constraints.”
The Home Purchase Sentiment Index was derived from Fannie Mae’s monthly National Housing Survey, which polled 1,000 Americans in early December, asking them about their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, home and rental price changes, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence.


Interested in the value of your home? Want to give more serious consideration to buying that new home you've been thinking about, or how about looking at purchasing real estate as an investment, either to begin building personal wealth or expanding your holdings?  Whatever your interests, let us help you! You can contact us at either of the following numbers: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091; or you can email us at: pjrichmond@pacunion.com .  Either way, we're here to assist you.

Friday, January 15, 2016

To Do in 2016!

Well, just as in life, real estate is a place to definitely make plans and resolutions for the New Year. Here are some ideas.
The year 2016 is already a week old, but it’s never too late to adopt a smart set of resolutions to help guide you through the year ahead. Whether you are a homebuyer or a seller — or might become one or the other over the course of the year — take a look at Pacific Union’s roundup of real estate resolutions for the new year.
RESOLUTIONS FOR ALL HOMEOWNERS
Making extra payments can dramatically shorten the time until your mortgage will be paid in full. Consider this: The monthly principal and interest on a $300,000 mortgage with a 30-year term and an interest rate of 4 percent totals $1,432. Paying an extra $300 each month would increase the payment to $1,732, but also shorten the term by eight years and five months and cut the interest expense by $67,393.
Do you have a second mortgage? Do everything you can to pay it off. It may not be easy, but the freedom from that added debt and interest expense can be worth the effort — especially if your second loan has a variable rate. Rates are low today, but if they rise in the future, you could face a painful payment hike.
Are you due a discount on your homeowner insurance? Major repairs or improvements that you made to your home last year may get you a discount or a lower quote on this year’s coverage. A new roof and updated electrical and plumbing systems make your home less likely to suffer damages requiring an insurance claim, which can save you money on your insurance. Talk with your insurance agent or carrier and make sure your file contains the latest information about your home.
RESOLUTIONS FOR SELLERS
What repairs or improvements will make your home more attractive — and valuable — to buyers? The sooner you start work on them, the sooner you can put your home up for sale. And schedule a home inspection to ensure there will be no last-minute surprises.
Talk with a real estate professional who is familiar with your community, and find out what your home is worth and what strategies will help it sell quickly. Become familiar with the home-selling process. Learn the basics of home staging, and if necessary, hire a professional stager.
Plan your exit strategy in advance. It’s hugely stressful to plan a purchase and a sale at the same time. Can you afford to close on your new home before selling? If so, for how long? Do you need to sell the property first? What about short-term housing? Ask your real estate professional about making the sale contingent on your next purchase. At the very least, it can buy you some extra time.
RESOLUTIONS FOR BUYERS
Get your financial house in order. Know your credit score and understand what your financial situation looks like from a lender’s perspective. If you have credit problems, identify the necessary steps to correct them. Sometimes, it can take six months to see your FICO score move up enough to get a better mortgage rate.
Save as much money as you can for a down payment. If your parents or another source can help with the down payment, it’s better to start that conversation early rather than later, so you understand your financial commitment. Similarly, look at your own finances and determine how much you can afford to spend.
Educate yourself on the real estate market where you hope to live. What neighborhoods and homes can you afford? What parks, retail districts, and other amenities are nearby? If you have children, learn as much as you can about the local schools.
Talk with a real estate professional who is familiar with your desired community. Learn the intricacies of buying a home — the paperwork, estimated timelines, making a bid, and closing a sale. You may think you only need to go to open houses once you’re ready to buy, but in reality, a buyer needs several months to understand home values, the prices per neighborhood, and the market in general. The homes you see and your experience feeling out the market will serve as the building blocks toward becoming an informed buyer.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Bay Area STILL A Very Hot Market!

Well, as the following will attest, 2016 is shaping up to be another very hot year for real estate in the Bay Area, including Marin County. This is the way 2015 ended as well!
Like in previous months, more than half of the nation’s most in-demand real estate markets are located in California as December comes to a close, with Bay Area cities claiming the top three spots.baybridge
In a recurring monthly analysis, Realtor.com names the 20 hottest housing markets in the U.S. based on listing views on its website and where homes are selling the fastest. Eleven of those hot markets can be found in California, based on data from the first three weeks of December, and Golden State real estate should continue to command plenty of interest in the coming year.
“Pent-up demand and robust economic growth, combined with limited supply, will keep California tight in 2016, but more markets will challenge them as demand improves elsewhere,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said in a statement accompanying the report.
For the second straight month, San Francisco topped Realtor.com’s list of scorching markets, with a median list price of $748,000, the second highest of 20 cities and more than three times the national median list price of $228,000. San Jose, the nation’s second-hottest real estate market, is also the most expensive, with a median list price of $848,000. Vallejo ranks No. 3, down from No. 2 in November. With a median list price of $384,000, the Solano County city is about half as expensive as its larger neighbors to the west and south.
Sacramento landed in the No. 5 spot, followed by San Diego (No. 6), Santa Rosa (No. 8), Yuba City (No. 9), Stockton (No. 10), Los Angeles (No. 11), Oxnard (No. 12), and Modesto (No. 15). All 11 California cities were among the country’s 20 hottest in November, while Santa Cruz dropped off the list this month.
Realtor.com says that homes in cities on its hot list sell 29 to 51 days faster than the nationwide average of 93 days. Combined, these markets have seen average days on the market decline by 15 percent on an annual basis.
The Bay Area’s largest two real estate markets are moving nearly twice as fast as the rest of the country, with homes selling in 47 days in San Jose and 49 days in San Francisco. In the Central Valley, where demand for homes is growing as more buyers head inland to score bargains, the pace of sales is even quicker: 42 days in Stockton, 43 days in Modesto, and 44 days in Sacramento.


U.S. home sales should climb in 2016 to levels we haven’t seen since the last housing boom — with millennials leading the charge — as continued economic prosperity appears to be on the horizon.cb
In its 2016 Housing Forecast, Realtor.com projects that new and existing home sales will reach 6 million in 2016, the highest level since 2006. According to the report, home starts will see a 12 percent annual uptick, while sales of new homes will grow by 16 percent year over year. Home price appreciation will moderate to 3 percent next year, which Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke says signifies that the housing market is normalizing.
Millennials — defined here as those ages 25-34 — are expected to make up the largest percentage of homebuyers in 2016, spurred on in part by growing incomes. Generation Y buyers are most concerned with neighborhood safety and home-construction quality, and they also want a reasonable commute.
Having rebounded from the recession, Gen Xers on the younger side of the spectrum (ages 35-44) will account for the second-largest pool of buyers. Two-thirds of this demographic are move-up buyers and will be trading up for a larger property or a nicer neighborhood.
Older Americans ages 65-74, the third-largest projected buyer demographic, will look to do the exact opposite, selling their spacious homes for smaller, newly constructed ones. These homeowners are expected to put their properties on the market in March or April and will place an emphasis on customization when searching for their next home.
Realtor.com predicts the U.S. economy’s health to hold in 2016, with the GDP increasing by 2.5 percent, up from 2.1 percent growth in 2015. Unemployment will decline from 5 percent at the end of 2015 to 4.8 percent by the end of 2016, while the number of jobs created — 2.5 million — will remain roughly unchanged. The forecast warns that tougher access to credit and rising home prices could ultimately stifle demand for housing and temper the benefits of the thriving economy.
So, once again, the word here is, if you need assistance in looking at the market in general, or as it relates to your present home, give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. As always, we'd be happy to help!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holiday Safety

Well, with the passage of Thanksgiving and the subsequent arrival of December, the Holidays are well upon us! Unfortunately, sometimes amidst the festivity, safety gets overlooked even in the most obvious circumstances.  Here are a few tips to keep your holidays as safe as they are joyous.


Frosty weather across the Bay Area is a clue. So are the colorful lights and decorations that materialized practically overnight at every single retail establishment as far as the eye can see. Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once more. Hanukkah starts on Sunday, and Christmas is only three weeks away.
If you’re preparing to deck your halls with boughs of holly — or maybe you’re ahead of the game and have already finished decorating — take a moment to make sure your holiday plans don’t put you or your loved ones at risk of accidental injuries, fires, or illness. Check out these holiday safety tips from the National Safety Council:
DECORATING SAFETY
  • Never use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with any potentially flammable item.
  • When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, be sure to follow directions carefully. These sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.
  • Small children may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat, but many plants may be poisonous or can cause severe stomach problems. Plants to watch out for include mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis. Keep all of these plants out of children’s reach.
  • When displaying a tree, cut off about two inches off the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.
  • Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.
  • Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower branches where small children or pets can reach them.
  • If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors (and outdoor lights only outdoors). Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
  • Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Unplug extension cords when not in use.
LADDER SAFETY
  • If you have to use a step ladder near a doorway, lock or barricade the door and post signs so no one will open it and topple you.
  • A straight or extension ladder should be placed one foot away from the surface it rests against for every four feet of ladder height.
  • When you climb, always face the ladder and grip the rungs to climb — not the side rails. Always keep three points of contact on the ladder, whether two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
  • When using ladders outdoors, get down immediately if high winds, rain, snow or other inclement weather begins. Winds can blow you off the ladder, and rain or snow can make both the rungs and the ground slippery.
HOSTING AND FOOD SAFETY
  • When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family, be sure to wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.
  • Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. They easily harbor and promote bacteria growth. Use clean paper towels instead.
  • Being a smart party host or guest should include being sensible about alcoholic drinks. Use designated drivers to get guests home after a holiday party — or encourage them to take a taxi.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
The holiday season can be a hectic time. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds you that children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parent or caregivers. Coping with stress successfully can help children learn how to handle  stress better, too.
The South San Francisco Police Department has produced a one-page document — easy to print — with holiday safety tips for the home, while driving, shopping, for children, and in the event strangers come to your door.
The San Francisco Fire Department offers concise tips for winter and holiday fire safety.
However you choose to mark these last weeks of 2015, please be safe — and healthy and happy. And join with your loved ones to welcome the new year!


And when you're done with the preparations, if you have any real estate questions we can help with, give us a call!  Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.


Have a joyous and healthy holiday season!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Housing Projections in 2016

As we go to the home stretch of 2015, it is time to begin looking at market projections for 2016. At this point, it appears that values will continue rising, although possibly at a more moderate pace. Sources predicting this growth include the National Association of Realtors and Moody's Analytics.


A strong job market helped propel the U.S. housing market to its best year since the recession, and activity is expected to further increase in 2016, although rising mortgage rates and tight supply conditions could affect the pace of sales. monopoly_houses_113015
At last month’s 2015 Realtors Conference & Expo in San Diego, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun projected that U.S. existing-home sales will total 5.3 million by the end of this year and will increase by 3 percent to 5.45 million in 2016. According to Yun, the modest uptick in sales will be due to more move-up buyers entering the picture.
“Sales activity in 2016 will once again be primarily driven by the ongoing release of more pent-up sellers finally realizing their equity gains and using it towards the down payment on their next home,” he said.
NAR also points to heightened consumer confidence and job growth — particularly in Western states — as additional drivers of 2016 home sales activity, but it cautioned that more inventory is needed to meet demand and keep prices from rising too high. Although Yun expects housing starts to increase from 1.1 million this year to 1.3 million in 2016, he says that 1.5 million new homes are necessary to meet current demand. Supply conditions have been a particular problem in the Bay Area as the economy has exploded; in October, six local counties had the smallest months’ supply of inventory in California.
Cris deRitis, senior director of credit analytics at Moody’s Analytics and one of Yun’s co-presenters, said that a spike in new-home construction could help attract more first-time buyers to the market, a demographic that is at its lowest level in nearly three decades. Besides a lack of affordable inventory, first-time buyers face competition from investors and are burdened by student loan debt. NAR says that 41 percent of successful first-time buyers are carrying an average debt of $25,000, which hampers efforts to save for a down payment.
A final factor that will impact next year’s sales volume is the interest-rate hike that was projected for 2015 but never happened. NAR expects that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates as early as this month and that they will reach 4.5 percent by the end of next year. For the week ended Nov. 25, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.95 percent according to Freddie Mac.


So, hopefully this info will help you plan your housing decisions for the coming year. If you need further assistance, give us a call! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. We'd be happy to help!