Monday, June 8, 2015

Bay Area at Forefront of a National ‘Rental Crisis’

Bay Area at Forefront of a National ‘Rental Crisis’  - A Zillow report  followed by an in-depth view of the current market in the Bay Area, area by area.

There’s no doubt that Bay Area home prices have been climbing steadily since the recession, but as it turns out rental housing costs are going up even faster and it is creating what Zillow calls a national rental crisis.

Rents all across the country are going up faster than home prices, and they’re going up in our region faster than anywhere in the U.S., Zillow reported in its latest rent index.

In the five-county San Francisco metropolitan area, the Zillow Rent Index soared to $3,162, up 14.9 percent in April from a year ago, the fastest increase in the nation. And who was number two? The San Jose metro area, where the Zillow Rent Index rose to $3,287, up 12.9 percent.

Denver, Kansas City and Portland rounded out the top five rental markets with the greatest price increases. Nationally, the Zillow Rent Index rose 4 percent in April from a year ago to $1,364. The rent index is the median monthly rent “Zestimate” of all properties in a region, not just those for rent.

While home prices have moved up and down over the past decade, Zillow said that rents have been rising steadily during that time. In April, rent increases nationally outpaced home-price appreciation for the first time in years, accelerating what Zillow called a “rental crisis.”

In the San Francisco metro area, rents started rising faster than home values in July 2014, according to the report, and they have been growing faster ever since on an annual basis.

The report added that a slowdown in home-price appreciation will help renters looking to buy a home in much of the nation.
See the rest of the story there:  The "Coldwell Banker Market Watch".

Thank you for reading,


Trends: Local prices and graphs.
A noteworthy local non-profit event:  Community Services Agency

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fix small issues before you put your home on the market.

Fix Small Issues Before You Put Your Home on the Market.  

Thinking about selling a property? It is always better to prepare well, and part of the preparation involves doing some repairs in the house that will bring a good return on the investment.
One question that always comes up is whether it is better to do the repairs before or after doing the inspections.  You can do it either way, but I personally like to have the inspections done ahead of time.  There are 2 advantages:
1/ you have a list that you can give to a contractor, so this part is easier to deal with: you just highlight what you choose to address,
2/ you can annotate the inspections later, and show to the buyers what you have done to make it easier for them to move in.  I find that this is something that my clients buyers like a lot, and react well to (unless they do prefer to do the work themselves).

In general, and it depends on the market you are in, and the type of property you are selling, it is best to repair some of the following items, because it is often much less expensive than one thinks and will bring in a much higher sales price, by showing the house has been cared for:

-       Small plumbing items (leaky faucets, frozen valves, missing P traps …),
-       Painting, (which typically includes repairing cracks, and holes),
-       Small electrical items (broken GFCI outlets, broken cover plates…),
-       Small termite damage, and possibly larger ones depending on the cost and ease,
-       Hard to operate or broken locks,
-       Small roof repairs,
-       Window / door adjustments,
-       Ventilation screens,
-        And of course a large dose of cleaning (including windows and appliances).

As a seller, you also have to think hard about addressing safety items (think “gas, water, and electrical”) - anything that is currently noted as a safety hazard by the inspector.

In my experience this translates into a much higher final sales price.  Either because the buyers do feel better about the property and have fewer questions about its condition (hence a higher offer price) or because, more importantly, it brings another buyer to the table.  We all know that this simple "little" fact can add tens of thousands of dollars to the sales price.  

thank you for reading,


Trends: Local prices and graphs.
A noteworthy local non-profit event:  Community Services Agency

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How can your agent show you properties....

How can your agent show you properties…
When you are an agent, it makes sense to work with buyers as well as sellers: if you do your job right, the buyers of yesterday will be your clients sellers of tomorrow.

And to be sure your clients buyers will be as happy tomorrow as they are today following their new purchase, I believe that your job while showing properties is not so much to “sell” the house, but to “inform” the client about the house. 

What is important in my mind when I show a property is to point out to the client what he/she would otherwise not see, and to inform them about things they would not think about.  While I remind my client that I am not a negative person, I will most likely point out negatives that they otherwise would not notice.  The positives? I trust the client to see them, and know why they like the place.  The clients are the ones knowing best what is good for them, what they need or like in a property.  On the other hand, they may not notice some less desirable features in the house or the surroundings. 
I think the term “salesman” has been wrongly attached to the profession, and I do my best to counter that impression: I am here to help clients purchase the best house for them, not to sell them anything.
When I was a young agent, my mentor used to say: “a house is like a boat; as the captain, you just want to know there is a leak if there is one”. The leak in itself is not necessarily critical.

What are red flags that may not be apparent to a new home buyer?
-       Cracks.  All cracks are not made equal  ;-)  Some are more worrisome than others. Although an agent cannot give an opinion on how serious cracks may be, unless he/she is also a contractor or a specialist, some things statistically will be more problematic than others.  Cracks like other defects need to be pointed out and referred to a professional inspector (who in the end is always the one to give a professional opinion to the buyer).
-       Puddles near the foundation.
-       Sticky doors or windows - probably a sign that the structure moves. 
-       Flickering lights,
-       Uneven floors,
-       Black stains on walls, floors, windows…
-       Missing or displaced shingles on a roof, etc…

 Any experience you’d want to share? I would love to hear your experience!

Thanks for reading,

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates
A place worth noting: Our Brother's Home in MountainView

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Real estate: the misunderstood "as is" clause.

Real estate: the “as is” clause.

In my experience, the iconic "As Is" term is largely misunderstood, by buyers and sellers equally.  This is where your (professional) agent may save you money, and hopefully some mistakes.

“As Is” merely means that the seller and the buyer accept the fact that the seller is not obligated to correct anything at all. The seller still has to fully disclose everything that could affect the value or the desirability of the property (any negative aspect of the property, past present or future - if known) - unless the seller is exempt. “As is” does not relieve the seller of his/her legal disclosure obligations.  Also, at a different level, in most contracts the property has to be, at close of escrow, in the same general condition as on the date of contract acceptance; so, if something is damaged after the contract has been signed, the seller would most likely be obligated to correct it, even if it is an "as is" transaction. - or the buyer may cancel, possibly.

In the past, when the market was different, I would often advise a seller to contractually limit any and all liability to a certain amount, after the buyers had done their inspections.  The buyers could ask for certain repairs, but at least this way the seller did not have to go over that limit if that had been negotiated in the contract.  Today, the "as is" clause would mean that the limit placed on the works possibly done to satisfy the buyers would be zero dollars.  That's as simple as that.  If the buyer has a contingency, the buyer can always ask for something to be corrected, repaired, replaced…. Depending on how the contract is written, the buyer then may be able to cancel the purchase if the answer is not what (s)he likes.  The sellers could always agree to some repairs, why not, if they otherwise are happy with the end result. But they don't have to.

New homebuyers are often scared by the term "as is", and they should not.  I have found that when something big pops up that was not known upfront, both buyers and sellers are willing to work together to address it.  Of course, market conditions will play a large role.
A contract is a living thing: things change during a transaction, new stuff is found, other inspections may happen, and items which were acceptable yesterday may not be acceptable today. “As is” is not the end of the story. It depends a lot also on the other terms and conditions negotiated in the contract.  Knowing the real estate contracts and their subtleties is one of the most important criteria in your choice of an agent to represent you.

And when you sell a property, disclosing as many things upfront as possible is a good strategy: it seeks to remove the majority of the unknowns, and makes it a lot more possible to go into an “as is” contract that is meaningful for both sides.

Thank you for reading,

Trends: Local prices and graphs.

A noteworthy local event coming up:
The French Fair, March 21, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

California State drought situation.

California is in a deep drought, as evidenced on this map of the state of drought in the US, from the NIDIS web site (National Integrated Drought Information System).  It is not going to go away.  Knowing where we waste water is useful:

Thanks for reading,

Trends: Local prices and graphs.
The total yearly stats, locally by City, for 2014.

RecycleNote: our next free E-Waste collection and shredding event will be on: Sat. 4/11/15, at our Coldwell Banker office at 161 S. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos. Times: E-Waste 9am to 3 pm. Shredding: 10 am to 2 pm (or until our truck is full).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Owning a home - the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Thinking about owning a home one of these days, even if it is not going to be very soon?

A good way to start is of course to talk to a Realtor® (not just a real estate agent).  A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors®; he adheres to a very strict code of ethics. Not all agents are Realtors®!

Some of us however like to do some research first, investigate and read about a subject, and be comfortable before making a move. 

A very good place to start, which is not very well known, is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which was created right after the 2008 financial meltdown.  Their “Owning a Home” page is really comprehensive, full of essential information about the whole process.  It touches on the financial aspect of the journey to owning a home (loan options, rates etc…) to the actual procedures of closing such a transaction.  By the way, these procedures include new documents and disclosures  that will be taking effect on August 1 of 2015.  The old closing documents and forms will be shelved.

In the financial part, you will see that no one can quote you a rate right off the bat, without knowing a good deal about your personal situation.  So, when you read about that fabulous rate in the paper or in an ad, you’d better be careful, - it is probably for the cleanest, richest, ideal top-credit-rating person   My advice is rather to choose a loan agent whom you know will look out for the best loan for you when the time comes (not necessarily the cheapest).  You will also see that depending on the type of loan, you can borrow more or less…
that walked on the surface of this earth.

As far as the details on the procedures, paperwork, customs and uses, and the most efficient ways to go about doing your search and purchase, I’d go back to your Realtor® of choice - the one whom you know will look out for your best interest.

Thanks for reading!
Trends: Local prices and graphs.
The total yearly stats, locally by City, for 2014.

RecycleNote: our next free E-Waste collection and shredding event will be on: Sat. 4/11/15, at our Coldwell Banker office at 161 S. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos. Times: E-Waste 9am to 3 pm. Shredding: 10 am to 2 pm (or until our truck is full).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Properties off MLS...

Properties off MLS…. controversial.

 A lot has been said and written on the subject of properties selling “off MLS”, meaning they have not been on the Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service and were sold before making it to that database, common to all Realtors.

 Coming from a country where a common database of properties for sale is nearly non-existent, I can definitely vouch for the huge benefits that such a common database offers, both to buyers and to sellers. We could go on and on describing those benefits, but let’s just say that it pretty much ensures that a property for sale, by virtue of being exposed to all the agents around, will sell for its real, highest market value (low, high, but the most accurate result of supply and demand).  Also, a buyer will find all that is available for sale in one place, which means more choice and less wasted time going from one provider of information to another provider of information.

 So, why sell a property “off MLS”?  There are some unique situations where the sellers do not want the whole public to know that they are selling, and that is understandable.  There will always be special circumstances (i.e. very high price range, specific sellers’ needs or preferences, etc..).  But these exceptions aside, I see mostly downsides to not offering a property for sale through the MLS:

-          Less information for buyers and sellers about current sales activity, and "comparables". How do you price a property if you don’t know how, and how much similar homes sold for? This information is easily accessible (and reliable!) in the MLS.

-          A situation where both the seller and the buyer are “gambling”; one gambles that he/she bought for a lower price than if the house had been offered to all potential buyers, the other one gambles that he/she sold for the best, highest price.

-          A lack of confidence by the clients-buyers that they are being treated fairly: after looking for a home for several months and missing out on several offers, a buyer is not happy to learn that “that” house was for sale, but (s)he did not know about it,

-          The creation of smaller entities, or “channels”, where such properties are “known” or “available” to select agents and their clients; again, this is going back to a system without a reliable common database for all, and in my opinion does not serve the public well. Indeed, even those agents may be unaware of some other offerings in a different channel, and their clients will miss out on those opportunities.

 The practice of selling real estate through an MLS is not perfect, but it is the result of an evolution, and it is immensely practical and fair, and someone coming from a system where it does not exist sees it right away.  As an agent, I keep close tabs on all channels showing properties available for sale, even “off MLS”.  But using “alternative channels” excessively undermines the MLS, and I am afraid this will make it more difficult and unpredictable for the public to find or sell real estate – and a lot less efficient.

Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading,


Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Property sales price is public.

Up until the end of 2014, property sales prices could be withheld from public records.

If someone selling a property did not want the sales price to be disclosed, they just instructed the escrow officer to show the transfer tax amount on a separate page from the Grant Deed (the Grant Deed is public record).

Since January 1 of 2015, this is not going to be possible any longer: the hidden tax form will no longer be accepted by the County Recorder, regardless of when the documents were executed.  The tax amount will have to be shown on the Deed.

What newspapers do when they publish the recent real estate activity is this: they calculate the sales price from the Transfer Tax (when shown on the public document), and show the final sales price.  So from now on, it will not be possible to hide the sales price...

Thank for reading!

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates
A place worth noting: Our Brother's Home in MountainView