Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Cleaning--Important for a Seller!

Spring cleaning? I'm writing about spring cleaning in a real estate blog?  Really? YES, Definitely! One of the most important things a seller can do for their house when it's time for selling is to have it as attractive as possible for buyers. In fact, the only thing that may be more important is staging, but that's for another post.
If you plan to put your home on the market over the next few months, you have some work ahead, starting today. As a seller, you’ll be competing for the attention of buyers, and nothing will catch their interest like a bright, inviting home that’s so clean it sparkles.
Of course you’ve been keeping your home clean and well-maintained all along, but take a look at this to-do list to make sure nothing has fallen by the wayside.
Wash all windows (and mirrors), and pull back the curtains or blinds to maximize sunshine. Scrub light-switch plates, bathroom and kitchen faucets, and the areas around cabinet handles to remove grime and fingerprints.
Paint walls and replace worn carpeting. Some real estate professionals say painting and new carpeting are the cheapest fixes with the biggest payback.
Get rid of clutter, particularly in the kitchen. Homebuyers love to open cabinets and closets, and sparsely filled storage spaces look bigger than those packed full of items. Consider renting a storage unit for items that aren’t essential to your daily life.
Take family photos off the walls and put them, along with other personal mementos and family heirlooms, in the storage unit you rented. Buyers want to imagine their own photos on the walls, and yours will just get in the way.
If your home needs repairs to the electrical system, or plumbing, heating, or air conditioning, do it now. Buyers will quickly lose interest — or make lowball offers — if your home needs additional work.
First impressions are hard to shake, and an overgrown yard can turn away buyers before they get to your front door. Rake the yard, trim back bushes and tree limbs, and remove leaves from gutters.
A manicured lawn tells buyers you pay attention to details. Edge the lawn along sidewalks, driveways, and walkways, and mow the lawn diagonally to make your yard appear larger.
No flowers in your front yard? Buy some container plants, or transplant tulips and daffodils for a quick springtime facelift.
If your real estate professional has scheduled an open house, help to make your home even more welcoming. Fill the kitchen sink with ice and several dozen bottles of water. Weary home shoppers will be grateful — and remember your courtesy.
If the weather outside is unpredictable, put a mat outside your door so visitors can wipe their feet before entering. And have space handy for umbrellas.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bay Area Price Gains Continue to be Large

As Marin is part of the Bay Area, take note of these numbers! You'll find them quite interesting.
The San Francisco metro area is just one of two U.S. regions where year-over-year home prices have increased by more than 20 percent for the 11th consecutive month, according to the January S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.house_money331
In the opening month of 2014, home prices in San Francisco were up 23.1 percent from the previous January. Meanwhile, sales prices in the region have grown by more than 20 percent since March 2013, the only metro area in the country besides Las Vegas to enjoy such a long stretch of increases.
San Francisco was one of seven metro areas included in Case-Shiller’s 20-city composite that showed positive month-over-month home price gains, increasing 0.5 percent from December to January.
Home prices across the U.S. were up 13.2 percent year over year in January but have declined 0.1 percent for the past three months. Despite the recent seasonal slips, S&P predicts continued price gains in the coming year, although they’ll likely be less dramatic than those seen in 2013.
“Expectations and recent data point to continued home price gains for 2014,” David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. “Although most analysts do not expect the same rapid increases we saw last year, the consensus is for moderating gains.”
A closer look at Bay Area prices reveals double-digit percentage increases from January 2013 in each of Pacific Union’s eight regions.
After two straight months of modest declines, Sonoma Valley single-family home prices roared back in January, posting year-over-year gains of 54 percent. In San Francisco the median home price surpassed the $1 million mark and was up 44 percent from last January.
Napa County saw year-over-year price hikes of 29 percent, followed by Contra Costa County (28.5 percent), Sonoma County (27 percent), the East Bay (20.5 percent), Marin County (18 percent), and Silicon Valley (11 percent).
So, if you're planning to sell or buy, it's definitely time to give us a call and let us help you get the best possible deal. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Unemployment Continues to Drop--Good for Housing!

Well, once again the Bay Area, with Marin, continues to show the way to the rest of the country on reducing unemployment figures. Even though Marin's figure edged up very slightly, it still leads the state in the lowest unemployment figure.
As we reported earlier this week, Freddie Mac recently issued a sunny 2014 forecast for the U.S. housing market but noted that job growth will play a key role in the ongoing recovery. California’s February unemployment report bolsters Freddie Mac’s optimistic outlook here in the Bay Area, with every one of our nine counties boasting lower jobless claims than the state average.helpwanted
California’s unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, down 0.1 percent from the previous month. In that same period, jobless claims across the country rose from 6.6 to 6.7 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
Although California’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average, the state has bounced back from the recession faster than the rest of the country.
“This is now clearly a solid and sustainable recovery led by sectors with good future growth prospects,” Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said in a statement. “After a long and deep recession, the state has outpaced the nation in recovery for four straight years and looks to build on that record in 2014.”
Job gains were particularly vigorous in the construction sector in February, with 14,100 new positions added. Since February 2013, the construction industry has seen employment upticks of 6.2 percent – the largest in the state – in what Levy calls a “triple winner.”
“Building activity creates job in other sectors as well as in construction, most construction jobs pay good wages, and building housing and infrastructure addresses two of California’s key economic competitiveness challenges,” Levy said.
While unemployment increased in some Bay Area regions in February, all nine counties still came in below statewide rate.
Jobless claims inched up by 0.1 percent in Marin, but the county still has the fewest number of unemployed workers in California, at 4.8 percent. Unemployment also grew 0.1 percent in San Mateo County to finish February at 5 percent, the second lowest in the state.
The unemployment rate improved from the previous month in San Francisco (5.2 percent), Napa (6.1 percent), and Solano (7.9 percent) counties.
Job growth was static in the rest of our local counties, where unemployment numbers remained unchanged from January. Santa Clara County closed February with a 6.1 percent jobless rate, trailed by Sonoma (6.2 percent), Alameda (6.7 percent), and Contra Costa counties (7 percent).
So, what does this mean for you if you're thinking of selling your home? Well, the most obvious thing is that more people are working, which means that more folks can qualify for a mortgage and thus have funds to purchase your home.  Add in the continued shortage of inventory, and you're in great shape to sell your home.
If you'd like to know more, call us! We can provide you with the latest data on the market and how things are going on the mortgage market as well. If you'd like a free valuation of your home to help in your decision, we'd be happy to provide one! Call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. We're here to help you make the best decisions.

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Spring--How to Get Your Home Ready for Market

Well, Spring officially arrived last week, although with the weather we've had here this winter, you'd be hard pressed to deny that it's been here for awhile now. Spring is officially the busiest season for selling homes in Marin.  It's also a great time to get out and handles any repairs or upgrade needs that may have cropped up since last fall.
Although the Bay Area enjoyed an unseasonably warm winter with fewer than average storms, that doesn’t necessarily mean your home emerged unscathed. Remember that many buyers initially judge a home based on its curb appeal, so those who plan to sell in the near future would do well to make sure their houses appear attractive and well-cared-for.
To help you spruce up your home and get it in tip-top selling condition, we asked our real estate professionals for spring home-maintenance tips that should be at the top of your list.
  • Check your home’s exterior walkways, sidewalks, stairways, and foot paths for possible trip hazards and cracks.
  • Look out for tree roots that can undermine foundations, driveways, and walkways, as well as vines that can damage siding and trim.
  • Clean gutters to remove debris caused by winds and rain. While you’re at it, check to ensure that gutters aren’t loose or leaky.
  • Trim overgrown tree branches and shrubs. Pay careful attention to areas around the chimney and roof, which will help reduce the chance of fire, roof damage, and buildup of debris in gutters and on roof surfaces.
  • Give decks, driveways, fences, and windows a good scrubbing – particularly if you’re planning to put your home on the market. You may want to use a pressure washer for these jobs.
  • Touch up any peeling or cracking paint – both indoors and outdoors.
  • Caulk bathroom tubs and shower stalls to prevent moisture from seeping behind the wall covering and under the flooring.
  • While you have the caulk out, look for any gaps around windows and doors. Fill up crevices that are wider than a nickel.
  • Check to make sure no water has leaked into the attic or seeped into the basement via cracks in the foundation – especially important after a rainy winter.
  • Winter rains also can cause your lawn to quickly become overgrown. Ensure that your lawn-care equipment is in good working order by sharpening your lawnmower’s blades and changing
If you need assistance is finding a top of the line, reliable contractor for any of these tasks, give us a call.  We maintain a list of professionals that we've recommended or used for our own properties or those of our clients that we'd be happy to refer you to.
Also, if you have any other questions, let us know. We are always glad to offer our assistance. Our #'s: Peter : (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Pace Picks UP!

Well, this probably is not news to you, unless you've been off in the wilderness somewhere without any form of contact to civilization. The market for homes has picked up dramatically, and it continues to do so at a rapidly increasing pace.  The figures for the Marin market below show the specifics, but, as they only go through the end of February, they do not show the continuing rapid pickup in the market since then. However, I can assure you that this speedup is definitely continuing, just from what I see in the market on a daily basis.  In our own case, since the end of February, we have had three listings that all received multiple offers. One has closed, after at least ten offers, well above asking price.

For more info on this situation, read on.
The median sales price approached the $1 million milestone in Marin County, finishing February at $995,000. Marin prices surpassed the $1 million mark only once in 2013.MonthlyMarketUpdate_Feb14_Marin
Homes stayed on the market an average of 74 days, 10 days fewer than in January but still longer than last spring and summer. The MSI shrunk slightly from the previous month to 2.2.
Sellers in Marin County took home an average of 98 percent of original price, the most since October.
Defining Marin County: Our real estate markets in Marin County include the cities of Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, and Tiburon. Sales data in the adjoining chart includes single-family homes in these communities.

So, if you're thinking of selling, what do you do? Simple! Call us, and let us guide you as to what the market is doing, and how to price your home accordingly and receive the best solid offer. If you're out there trying to buy and are getting more and more frustrated or disappointed over the rapid move in the market, call us as well. We know what is going on right up to the latest listings and closings, and can advise you as to the factors that likely will affect the success or failure of an offer for a particular property. Take advantage of our knowledge of the market, and related factors, such as interest rates and recent changes in local demographics. Our numbers: Peter; (415) 279-6466; Jane; (415) 531-4091.  We'd like to hear from you, and help you work your way through whatever issues you may face in the current market.
Additionally, as the quarter end approaches, look for our latest issue of our regular quarterly newsletter of Mill Valley. If you're not on our mailing list, let us know, and we can add you to our readers!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Saving Energy Can Save Mortgage Money Too!

Like most homeowners, I'm certain that you periodically check out mortgage info to find new ways, be they lower interest rates or different loan maturities, to reduce your monthly savings when you pay your mortgage.  Now, there are some newer ideas that can help you not only save money, but also help protect the environment. These involve obtaining a new mortgage that also provides for the financing of the purchase and installation of power saving items.

Well, read on!
So you’re buying a home and are totally in love with the place, except that the doors and windows all but invite cold air inside, the exterior walls have no insulation, and the heating and air-conditioning systems were installed during the Harding administration.Rooftop solar panels
You need an energy-efficient mortgage.
Several federal agencies and many lenders now allow you to finance a wide range of energy-saving home improvements — from tankless water heaters and newer heating and air-conditioning systems to solar panels and geothermal heating – with your home loan.
Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Veterans Administration, for example, offer loan programs with special benefits for energy-efficient improvements. The cost of the improvements is added to the mortgage, but typically lower energy bills more than offset the higher monthly loan payments.
A report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cites, as an example, a California couple that added $2,300 in energy improvements to their home loan. The monthly mortgage payment increased by $17, but the couple saves $45 each month through lower utility bills.
Getting an energy-efficient mortgage begins with an energy-rating survey. A trained examiner will assess the home’s energy efficiency and generate a score using a Home Energy Rating System index. On the HERS scale from 0 to 150, the lower the score, the more energy efficient the home. Factors such as insulation, appliance efficiencies, window types, local climate, and utility rates are used to rate the home and calculate energy costs.
The survey helps determine which improvements are included in the loan. Once the loan is approved and the home is sold, work starts immediately to make the dwelling more energy efficient.
With conventional loans, funding for energy improvements is usually capped at 10 percent of the final appraised value of the property. FHA and VA loans typically have more stringent limits.
By the way, energy-efficient mortgages are also available to current owners — remodelers, as well as those making improvements before they put their home on the market.
Energy-efficient homes are especially attractive to buyers, according to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report. And more than two-thirds of builders and home remodelers report that their customers will pay more money for “green” homes, according to a study by McGraw Hill Construction. In addition, 81 percent of consumers say energy efficiency somewhat-to-very-much affects their homebuying decision, according to the Shelton Group. 
So, what are you waiting for? Need advice or market info, call us! We'd be pleased to help. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Best Improvements for Return on Your Dollar

Well, as you know doubt have heard time and again, you can increase the value of your home, as well as its enjoyability, by making home improvements and/or remodels.  This, overall, can be the case, although certain projects definitely have a higher rate of return on your Dollar invested than do others. The following will help you decide what can be most advantageous for you--now and when you decide to sell.

Remodeling activity is at its highest pace in nearly nine years, according to the National Association of Home Builders, as homeowners regain confidence in the economy and “upgrade their homes and make repairs or replacements that were deferred during tough times.”Front door
If you’re thinking of making improvements before putting your home on the market, the National Association of Realtors suggests you focus on outdoor projects first.
“A home’s curb appeal is always critical since it’s the first impression for potential buyers,” NAR President Steve Brown recently said. “That’s why exterior replacement projects offer the greatest bang for the buck. Projects such as entry door, siding and window replacements can recoup homeowners more than 78 percent of costs upon resale.”
Brown’s comments accompanied the release of a remodeling guide, “Best Bets for Adding Value to Your Home in 2014,” posted on the NAR’s HouseLogic website.
The HouseLogic guide is based on a comprehensive survey published by Remodeling magazine that presents costs for  home improvement projects in 101 cities across the United States.
Survey results for the San Francisco area show that homeowners making any one of 19 improvements would add more to the resale value of their home than the cost of the remodeling project — up to 177.6 percent!
Here is a list of remodeling projects to San Francisco area homes, ranked by their return on investment, by Remodeling magazine:
1. Deck addition (wood): 177.6 percent ROI
2. Entry door replacement (steel): 174.2 percent
3. Minor kitchen remodel: 146.6 percent
4. Garage door replacement: 144 percent
5. Bathroom remodel: 136.5 percent
6. Entry door replacement (fiberglass): 136.1 percent
7. Attic bedroom: 135.2 percent
8. Window replacement (wood): 133.8 percent
9. Deck addition (composite): 126.2 percent
10. Family room addition: 122.4 percent
11. Tie: Garage addition and window replacement (vinyl): 120.1 percent
13. Basement remodel: 117.8 percent
14. Two-story addition: 113.1 percent
15. Major kitchen remodel: 111.7 percent
16. Bathroom addition: 111.1 percent
17. Siding replacement (vinyl): 109.8 percent
18. Master suite addition: 105 percent
19. Roofing replacement: 100.2 percent.

So, now that you know, time to call the contractor! And if you're thinking of selling, it's time to call us! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.