Friday, July 17, 2015

The Drought vs. Your Lawn

Fretting more and more about what the drought is doing to your precious manicured lawn, not to mention how it now looks? Well, pay attention! There may be a solution to our agony that doesn't gain the scorn of the neighbors who hate those watering their lawn.

Homeowners in drought-stricken California are nearly three times as likely to remove their lawn during an outdoor home-improvement job, say results from a survey that examines landscaping and gardening trends.patio
In its 2015 Landscaping & Garden Trends Study, home design and renovation content provider Houzz found that 46 percent of Golden State homeowners who are making or plan to make outdoor upgrades will remove the lawn entirely, compared with 16 percent of all poll respondents. Of those who plan to keep their lawn, 39 percent of Californians said they are reducing its size, compared with 36 percent nationwide.
An overwhelming majority of California homeowners – 77 percent – said they were removing or scaling back their lawns to help the environment during the state’s prolonged drought. Another 58 percent seek to reduce yard work, while 56 percent are after a new design motif. Forty-eight percent of Californians said they hope to save money on their water bills, double the U.S. rate.
Hardscape was the most popular natural-grass replacement, with 71 percent of the state’s homeowners opting for this material. Mulch was the next favorite option, planned by 55 percent of owners, followed by ground cover (52 percent), flowerbeds (46 percent), and outdoor structures (35 percent). A synthetic lawn was the least-popular reported replacement for natural grass, at 19 percent, although Golden State homeowners are more than twice as likely to take this approach than those in other parts of the country.
Other environmentally conscious consumers are taking additional home-improvement steps to help ease water usage. Surprisingly, Houzz says, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. homeowners – 17 percent – is installing a rainwater-harvesting system. The study says that nearly all respondents are making some sort of update to their greenery during outdoor renovation projects, and 42 percent are planning to buy drought-resistant plants, shrubs, and trees.
Californians have good reason for concern about the lengthy precipitation shortage; Houzz estimates that 70 percent of the state’s residents are affected by the drought. Their counterparts in Texas have the opposite problem, with 47 percent of homeowners making improvements to impede flooding.

So, there you have it--a lawn and water conservation all together! Need any other helpful info on your home and the current market? Give us a call! We'd be pleased to help: Peter: (415) 279-6466;Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Location, Location, Location!!

Well, no doubt at some point in time, you've heard the old expression "Location, location, location" as it relates to the relative value of real estate.  The following information, just out, appears to further validate this old canard at least as it relates to Bay Area locales.
Bay Area buyers aren’t shy about paying extra for homes located in top school districts and close to desirable urban amenities, says a new study of data from the Journal of Urban Economics.13855784355_447b9c3280_n
CityLab reports that behind residents of the Hawaii community of East Oahu, homebuyers in the Bay Area are more likely than those in nearly any other part of the country to pay extra money to purchase a property in a top-rated neighborhood. Although the article doesn’t provide exact numbers, it says that homebuyers in San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties are willing to pay nearly 25 percent more than the average American to live in the best neighborhoods. The article notes that buyers in San Jose, Oakland, and Santa Cruz are also willing to spend significant premiums to purchase a property in a top community.
CityLab includes a map of the Bay Area that shows that, unlike in New York, homebuyers in virtually all parts of San Francisco will spend more money for a great neighborhood.
“People are very willing to pay for most neighborhoods in the city itself, as well as the surrounding suburbs,” wrote Richard Florida. “Only a few sections of Oakland and Richmond, to the north of Berkeley, rank lower on the quality of life index, but these still do well relative to the rest of the country.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bay Area Prices Still Climbing!

In the latest Case-Shiller report, Bay Area prices jumped by the largest margin from January to February, 2015 of any of the 20 regions covered in the report nationally. This bodes well for sellers, and also sends a message to buyers--the time is NOW!
Home prices in the San Francisco metro area recently jumped month over month, according to the latest numbers from a prominent real estate index. And on an annual basis, the region saw the second-largest price gains in the country.perk_up
According to the most recent S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, single-family home prices in the San Francisco metro area grew by 2.0 percent on a nonseasonally adjusted basis from January to February, the largest monthly increase of the 20 U.S. regions included in the report. Month-over-month price growth was four times higher than the index’s 20-city composite of 0.5 percent and 20 times the national average of 0.1 percent.
On an annual basis, San Francisco home prices were up by 9.8 percent in February, second only to Denver. San Francisco topped the S&P Case-Shiller index for annual home price appreciation in November and December before dropping to No. 4 in January. Across the 20-city-composte, home prices grew by 5.0 percent year over year while increasing 4.2 percent nationwide.
U.S. home prices have grown on an annual basis for 34 consecutive months, and all 20 cities have seen year-over-year gains since the end of 2012. In a statement accompanying the report, David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that home prices are outstripping both inflation and wage growth and that construction of single-family homes remains slow.
Despite the price gains, only two U.S. metro areas – Dallas and Denver – have eclipsed their housing boom price peaks as measured by the index. “If a complete recovery means new highs all around,” Blitzer said “we’re not there yet.
“A better sense of where home prices are can be seen by starting in January 2000, before the housing boom accelerated, and looking at real or inflation-adjusted numbers. Based on the S&P/Case Shiller National Home Price Index, prices rose 66.8% before adjusting for inflation from January 2000 to February 2015; adjusted for inflation, this is 27.9 percent or a 1.7 percent annual rate.”
So, if you've been debating whether or not to sell, as the report indicates, this may be the perfect time! Similarly, while prices continue on their upward path, buyers may want to get in on the market to buy before prices get much higher.
Whatever the question, give us a call and you'll get the answers! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Fake Grass Keeps Curb Appeal, Saves Water

So you've finally got a lawn to envy, but you feel guilty about the water necessary to maintain it.  Well, read on because there's a way that more and more homeowners are 'having their cake and eating it' too--artificial turf.
As Californians come to grips with the severity of the current drought, it may be time to explore options that even a year ago would have been unthinkable. Maybe even … artificial grass?
Artificial grassWith Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for mandatory water restrictions, utilities across the state are imposing limits on the amount of water available for nonessential purposes such as lawn care, which accounts for more than one-third of urban water use.
Southern California communities face the most rigorous restrictions, but several in the Bay Area could be forced to cut water consumption by 28 to 36 percent, including Sonoma, Benicia, Antioch, and Hillsborough, to name just a few.
With the possibility of even more heavy-handed measures in the future, artificial grass has already started to appear outside homes across the Bay Area, and The New York Times reported last week that business is booming for synthetic turf suppliers and installers.
The Times quoted a Folsom resident, Michelle Kwek, whose family spent $4,000 to lay down 600 square feet of artificial grass in their backyard. “I’m not embarrassed to say I have a fake lawn, although a few years ago I might not have wanted to say it,” Kwek told the publication. “Everyone wants to do their part and be more water conscious.”
Artificial grass doesn’t come cheap; it can cost $8 to $15 per square foot. But subtract the cost of water and maintenance and the price becomes more competitive. And industry representatives say artificial grass has made huge advances from the prickly AstroTurf of previous generations.
Homeowners should check with local authorities and homeowner associations, however, before replacing their natural lawn. Some communities may prohibit artificial grass for aesthetic reasons or because it can be harmful to the environment — the material is not easily recycled, may not absorb rainwater, and does nothing to improve the soil underneath.
Still, artificial grass, even in limited uses, can offer new landscaping options to homeowners trying to conserve water. A number of companies are active in the Bay Area; an Internet search for “artificial grass Bay Area” will reveal more than a dozen such firms.

Interested in more helpful hints at making your home create a better first impression? Give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. We'd be happy to help--on this or any other question you may have!

Friday, May 01, 2015

PacUnion Grows; Economic Facts Show Improvement

Pacific Union is continuing to show off its explosive growth of recent months, this time opening its new headquarters location at 199 Van Ness Avenue. 
Pacific Union is pleased to announce that we’ve officially opened our new headquarters in San Francisco. The move consolidates our firm’s three offices in the city under one roof and allows our real estate professionals to better collaborate so that we can continue to offer our clients an extraordinary level of service.1699vanness
Located at 1699 Van Ness Ave. at the corner of Sacramento Street, Pacific Union’s highly visible new headquarters is housed in a historic building that was the original home of the Studebaker automobile showroom. The former Auto Row space has been extensively renovated by local architectural firm Studio TMT, which chose a ultramodern design motif for the interior office space.
“This move underscores Pacific Union’s leadership position in the San Francisco Bay Area and the city,” Pacific Union President Patrick Barber says. “We’ll be able to deliver an even more extraordinary level of client service, and our team will have more opportunities to support each other and collaborate.”
The 40,000-square-foot space has more than 100 private and open offices, a large living room with a two-story atrium, multiple conference rooms, two kitchens, and four copy centers. Our headquarters offers visiting clients complimentary valet parking and employs a full-time concierge.
Pacific Union formerly operated San Francisco offices in the Presidio, Opera Plaza, and South Beach. Our company currently operates 28 offices across nine Bay Area regions and the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area. So, no matter where your real property interests may lie, geographically, we're poised to help you realize your goals and live your dreams.  Give us a call--we'll give you a hand! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.
Separately, one indicator of property values is the employment market and the local industrial growth in a particular geographical area.  In the case of wages ad jobs, not to mention Initial Public Offerings, the local Bay Area economy shows continued overall growth.
The Bay Area’s high-flying economy showed little sign of cooling as the first quarter of 2015 wound down, with both jobs and wages projected to grow across the region. Local initial public offering (IPO) activity, on the other hand, has gotten off to a relatively slow start after a busy 2014.ticker_symbol
According to data from John Burns Real Estate Consulting (JBREC), there were 35 Bay Area-based IPOs in 2014, which generated about $5 billion in raised proceeds. Last year’s notable offerings included San Francisco-based Lending Club, which as of February had raised $870 million since its December debut on the New York Stock Exchange. San Mateo’s GoPro, makers of the mountable video camera, also had a healthy IPO: $427 million in proceeds.
In the first quarter of 2015, there were five Bay Area-based IPOs, with Los Altos-based file-sharing service provider Box, the tech sector’s sole representative, raising $175 million. The other companies that went public last quarter are biotech or medical firms: San Francisco’s INVITAE ($102 million raised), Redwood City’s Avinger ($65 million raised), Fremont’s Zosana Pharma Corporation ($50 million raised), and San Ramon’s SteadyMed Therapeutics ($40 million raised).
Brenon Daly, 451 Research‘s research director based in San Francisco, finds the somewhat sluggish pace – at least in the tech sector– a bit of a surprise given last year’s activity. “I would characterize it as unexpectedly and disappointingly slow,” he says.
Funding Availability Increases Incentive to Stay Private
So what’s behind the drop-off in activity at a time when many well-known local tech companies — including Uber Technologies, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Pinterest – appear to be likely IPO candidates? Daly cites two likely culprits.
As in real estate, IPO activity follows seasonal patterns, with the early months of the year typically a quiet period. A business not only wants a solid year of earnings behind it before going public but also an exceptional first quarter.
More importantly, perhaps, is the large amounts of money venture capital firms are currently willing to funnel into local companies. According to JBREC, Bay Area-based companies took in a total of $23.4 billion in funding last year – the most since 2000. Investor interest in tech darlings does not appear to be waning; in February, San Francisco-based Uber raised an addition $1 billion in funding, bringing the company’s total to about $5 billion since its foundation in 2009, according to The New York Times.
Given that an IPO can be a long, complicated affair due to laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Daly thinks that many companies are staying private for as long as possible since late-stage, private capital is readily available.
“There’s no real reason to go through the hassles of an IPO when there is someone ready and willing to cut you a huge check that day,” he says.
Bay Area Jobs, Incomes Poised for Growth in 2015
Even if 2015 doesn’t turn out to be a banner year for Bay Area IPOs, steady wage and job growth should keep demand for real estate running strong. According to JBREC, about two-thirds of the 127 public companies based in the Bay Area were up on a year-over-year basis in March, a sign that local companies should continue to hire.
“Job growth is the No. 1 driver of home demand,” says Pete Reeb, one of JBREC’s principals.
JBREC projects that the Wine Country will lead local job growth in 2015, with employment growing by 4.4 percent in Napa County and 3.2 percent in Sonoma County. Employment is projected rise by 2.5 percent in Santa Clara County; 2.4 percent in Alameda and Contra Costa counties combined; and 2.3 percent in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties combined.
Employment levels are either at or above peak levels across most of the Bay Area, JBREC says, most notably in Napa County, where both payroll and labor force totals were 104 percent of their 2008 highs. Bucking this trend was Santa Clara County, where the employment rate was 96 to 97 percent of its dot-com era peak.
Bay Area wages should see even bigger spikes in 2015, which will help local homebuyers unlock more purchasing power. JBREC projects that median incomes will grow from 3.8 to 4.5 percent across the region in 2015 – compared with 0.3 to 1.9 percent last year.
So, everyone, Buyer or Seller, has encouraging news as the year continues to move into Spring and from there onto Summer.  Remember--increased salaries and job growth bode well for sellers in that there will be more potential buyers with good incomes able to buy property as the year rolls on.  It also means that buyers will be better positioned to jump into the Bay Area real estate market and buy due to their increased incomes.
In either case, as noted above, give us a call to help you in your purchase or sale.  If you're still undecided and want to chat about details, we'd be pleased to provide you with the latest information or leads so that you can make the best informed decision as to buying or selling that wonderful home you are looking for or preparing to put on the market as your needs change.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drought Tolerant Landscaping Important

Well, here we are in the 4th consecutive year of an increasingly severe drought. Of course, this brings up the question of how does one responsibly conserve water and still maintain attractive landscaping. The answer is drought tolerant landscaping.
In real estate, properties featuring drought-tolerant landscaping will likely fetch a premium from homebuyers, particularly in the environmentally conscious Bay Area. Sellers, if they haven’t done so already, may want to take steps now to incorporate water-saving features in their landscaping.
Several weeks ago, Pacific Union discussed indoor improvements to conserve water, such as low-flow toilets, water-efficient appliances, and dripless faucets. Today’s discussion moves outdoors. Whether you are a homebuyer, a seller, or simply a Bay Area resident trying to cut back on water usage, check out the links below for smart ideas that can save you money and help the environment.
The California Institute for Water Resources has more than a dozen web pages offering advice on many aspects of landscaping and gardening. A few of the topics include “Keeping Landscape Plantings Alive under Drought or Water Restrictions,” “Growing food with less water,” and “Water-wise gardening tips for Marin County.”
The California Landscape Contractors Association offers smart, practical tips to help you survive this year’s drought and help you prepare for water shortages.
Sunset magazine, famous for its rich, color layouts of manicured lawns, does an equally fine job presenting “24 inspiring lawn-free yards.” One look at these outdoor scenes, and you may be tempted to tear out every blade of grass in your yard. Also check out the magazine’s Water-Wise Garden Design Guide and list of 12 great drought-tolerant plants.
Better Homes and Gardens, not to be outdone, offers detailed steps to create 11 lush outdoor environments with minimal water needs.
Southern California’s Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has posted a 60-page “California-Friendly Guide to Native and Drought-Tolerant Gardens” that’s every bit as useful in Northern California.
Digital First Media, which operates a half-dozen news websites in the Bay Area, including those of The San Jose Mercury News and the Marin Independent Journal, offers plenty of local advice for tending lawns and gardens without much moisture.
So, you can have a beautifully landscaped yard and still conserve on the use of water.

For this and other helpful hints, give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6366; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Prices Still Rise--Just More Slowly

Well, prices in the Bay Area continue to rise. However, the pace at which they rise has moderated a bit.
The San Francisco metro area has given up its claim as the home of the nation’s highest-rising housing prices.
The region posted the fourth-highest annual rise in home prices in the nation in January after two months at No. 1. That’s according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which are widely respected but run two months behind current results.Holding cash
January home prices in the San Francisco area increased 7.9 percent from a year earlier, trailing Denver (up 8.4 percent), Miami (8.3 percent), and Dallas (8.1 percent). Nationwide, home prices in January were 4.5 percent higher than they were one year ago.
The results show that annual home price gains in the region are easing off from the rapid pace of the past two years, when they reached as high as 25.7 percent in the fall of 2013. In December 2014, the San Francisco area led the nation in annual price growth at 9.3 percent. In November, prices were up 8.9 percent.
The latest Case-Shiller numbers also reveal that home prices in the San Francisco area slipped 0.9 percent from December to January — the biggest decline among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas —  after a 0.5 percent rise from November to December.
“Regional patterns in recent months continue,” David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement accompanying the results. “Strength in the west and southwest paced by Denver and Dallas, with results ahead of the national index in the California cities, the Pacific Northwest and Las Vegas. The northeast and Midwest are mostly weaker than the national index.
“Despite price gains, the housing market faces some difficulties,” he said. “Home prices are rising roughly twice as fast as wages, putting pressure on potential homebuyers and heightening the risk that any uptick in interest rates could be a major setback. Moreover, the new-home sector is weak; residential construction is still below its pre-crisis peak. Any time before 2008 that housing starts were as low as the current rate of one million, the economy was in a recession.”
Looking at more recent data for the Bay Area, the median single-family home price increased year over year in seven of Pacific Union’s nine regions, according to local MLS data.
The biggest increase was in our Silicon Valley region, where the median price rose by 21 percent to $2.8 million. At the other end of the spectrum, the median home price fell by 15 percent in our Sonoma Valley region to $540,000.
The chart below provides more information on annual Bay Area home price changes. Also, be sure to check out Pacific Union’s fourth-quarter 2014 real estate report for more in-depth sales data and information on how we define our regions.

Jan15CaseShiller
For a free valuation of your home, give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. Also, if you're seeking to purchase, be aware that rates are still near historic lows, with the past week's increase in mortgage rates being so small as to be virtually negligible.