Saturday, January 23, 2016

Report from the trenches - The Silicon Valley & SF Peninsula real estate activity.

Our latest "report from the trenches", from the Coldwell Banker office managers all along the Peninsula:

SF Peninsula ...  In her decades of experience in this area, our Menlo Park manager has never seen the market so low on inventory – even for this time of year.  Buyers are out in droves yet after last week in the equity markets, they are a bit in a wait and see attitude.  Properties are still moving quickly but there are more buyers than actual ‘bidders’ right now, she says. Anything under $1.4 million is getting a lot of attention and selling quickly. $5-6 million homes are becoming more and more common in Menlo Park. Inventory is seasonally low in Palo Alto, but demand is still there. Amazingly there is still an incredible lack of inventory all over the Peninsula, says our Redwood City manager. Because of this almost all offers are multiple offers. There still are a lot of buyers with sufficient funds to purchase but due to the lack of inventory there is a tremendous amount of frustration. More inventory is hitting the San Mateo area market, our local manager says. Agents have a number of listings inked and ready to come on in the next couple of weeks. The market is “moribund” right now in the country offices, reports our Portola Valley-Woodside manager.  But she says that this area always seems slow to start the new year.

Silicon Valley – New inventory is slow to hit the Cupertino area market. The few new open houses our local agents held had 200-300 visitors in some cases. There are currently 25 homes for sale in Los Gatos, down 40% from the same time last year, reports our Los Gatos manager. The San Jose Almaden market has been more of the same with lower inventory than previous years, although it has increased since December.  Buyers aren’t waiting to write up offers.  Most of the listings are going into contract during the first weekend of open houses.  A 1,330 square foot SFR in Santa Clara (with Cupertino HS) that had a list price of $895,000 received 46 offers and sold for $1,330,000.  With the New Year underway the post-holiday local Willow Glen market is busy although it is still experiencing extremely low listing inventory. The year started with only 23 active listings and dropped to 21 in week two. Open houses are jammed, and multiple offers well over list price are the norm. Agents all have a bounty of buyers they are trying to get into something.

My personal experience has been a difficult market for buyers, even towards the end of the year, when buyers typically are given a break. The transactions I have had in the past two months have been tough, and buyers could not ask for much... 
Such is the market!

Thank you for reading,
Francis
Trends: Local prices and graphs.
A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Median Sales Price - Santa Clara Cnty - did not let up.

Piggy-backing on my September blog looking at the monthly median prices in the County of Santa Clara, I'd like to share what happened next.

At the time, I was speculating that prices may let up a bit, as is usually the case at the end of any given year.  Buyers looking during the last few months of the year could expect a break and have less competition.

My experience from the trenches, reflected in the updated graph below, is that there were a little fewer offerors on homes for sale, but prices certainly did not go down. The competition remained quite strong.  Overall prices stayed at the same level, at the minimum, and I mostly saw an increase in home values, especially in the entry-level category.

Often seen in the past 3 months were:
- Houses offered at a certain price, and if it did not sell for way over, their asking price changed upward,
- offers being shopped around, in some cases what felt like excessively,
- lower cash offers sometimes selected over higher offers needing a loan - (can make sense of course...),
- some of the latter cash contracts being cancelled  right before close of escrow - setting the clock back to zero on the sales process, and triggering plenty of legal questions marks for all.

Be sure to work with an experienced professional if you are thinking of selling, or buying a place in this tense environment.  It is sometimes hard to make sense of it and to navigate a prudent, legally safe line.
Thank you for reading,

Francis

Current mortgage rates

A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Offshore Buyers Continue to Invest in Bay Area Real Estate

From our Coldwell Banker desk:  
2015 was another very strong year for foreign investment in U.S. real estate, especially here in the Bay Area and particularly from Asian buyers. 

The dollar volume of all foreign investment in the U.S. reached $104 billion for the 12 months ended March 2015, up 13 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. More than half of that investment went to California and three other states – Florida, Arizona and Texas.

No one knows for sure exactly how much foreign investment there is in the Bay Area housing market, but anecdotal evidence from our agents and managers in the field tell me it is substantial. And it's probably not surprising, considering the fact that the Bay Area has long been one of the most sought after housing markets for Chinese investors and other offshore buyers.

International investors are attracted by the strength of our local economy, particularly the tech sector in Silicon Valley. They also favor the stability of the U.S. political and financial systems, our strong schools and world-class universities like Stanford and Cal, solid appreciation on homes in the Bay Area, and the relatively affordable prices - yes "affordable" - compared to many other major cities around the world.

If you have any doubt about just how fast Chinese and other Asian investment is growing in the U.S., consider a recent NAR study that found Chinese buyers were the number one international investors in U.S. real estate over the past year with $28.6 billion in sales volume, nearly three times the number two country, Canada. As recently as six years ago, Canadian investment in the U.S. market was more than double China's, which also ranked behind India and the U.K. and was at the same level as Mexico.



In recent years, Coldwell Banker has deployed a very targeted marketing program to reach Asian consumers in a variety of media outlets, both print and digital. We are reaching out to buyers and marketing properties on many of the biggest Asian websites and publications. In addition, our strong international network of offices and agents – the most of any U.S. brokerage – has helped us attract more offshore buyers. Given the interest in the Bay Area housing market from Asian investors and others overseas, I don't see that trend changing anytime soon.

Thank you for reading!
Francis

Current mortgage rates

A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Neighbor's tree problems, etc...

What happens when a neighbor’s tree wreaks havoc on your property?
What can you do when a neighbor’s tree shades your solar panels?
What do you do if a neighbor’s large tree leans dangerously over your roof, and home?

Of course everybody loves trees and the local jurisdictions protect trees past a certain size.  So even offending trees can be protected…  You cannot do whatever you want with trees, whether they are on your property or on the neighbor’s property.  It turns out that the answers to those questions are not always straightforward or obvious.

A long time ago, in 1886, a legal case established the rule with regards to encroaching trees: tree branches overhanging on your side from a neighbor’s property were something that you could cut, right above your property line.  This was extended several years later to include the roots (because of the damage they could do on your side).  However, several other cases happening later on made it clear that you cannot do that indiscriminately: you cannot kill or otherwise endanger a neighbor’s tree.  Also, any cutting better be well on your side of the fence, lest you’d be accused of trespassing … hum… one can see that it is a good idea to get a legal opinion on the matter, should you have such a problem. 

In some cases it seems that past legal disputes have made it clear that it goes down in a certain way: in the instance of solar panels, often times the one who wins is the one who was there first: the solar panels, or the trees.  Also, when a neighbor’s tree branches invade your property, it is fairly accepted that you can cut off whatever is in your yard; -but be careful: you cannot endanger the neighbor’s tree in the process.  If a neighbor’s tree dumps tons of leaves on your property, what do you do? Do you have a recourse?  Yes, in certain cases where you can prove that it is a nuisance to you.  - however, proving a nuisance is not always so easy.

There are several ways such disputes can be approached, and hopefully resolved.
One of them is to find a mediator, and this service is often offered by the City in which you live, in cooperation with such non-profit organizations as Project Sentinel which deal with dispute resolutions.  As an example, in Mountain View, one would find such a resource through their City mediation page.

Also, here is an interesting blog on tree problems, by Simon Offord, from a local Real Estate Law Office (Peter N. Brewer); this article reviews various situations in careful terms, and they also have other blogs on neighbor issues which I found most interesting.

Bottom line, it is better to review the whole situation carefully before acting too fast when it comes to neighbors’ relations.

Thank you for reading,

 
Francis

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates
A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bay Area: A (long) Perspective On Prices.

Bay Area, Santa Clara County, California State, and the US:
A long perpective on prices, since 1968.

A picture is worth a thousand words... This graph that I have updated for several years now shows the evolution of the median price of a single family residence at the County level, the 9-County region of the Bay Area, and compares them with the median price at the California level, and at the US level.
 
It shows that really, only the great Crisis of 2008- 2009 had a significant impact on prices over a whole year period.  The earthquake of 1989 definitely stopped prices from going up (along with an economic slow-down), starting a long drawn-out period of time when prices were essentially flat.  The dot-com bubble collapse in 2000 and 2001, coupled with 9/11 also had a significant impact on the curve.  After 2 or 3 years, prices started to go up again at all levels, but more acutely in the Bay Area and in California.

Pls click on graph for a full size picture.

Thank you for reading!
Francis

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates
A worthy local non-profit organization: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home sale strategy: set a date for offers, or not?


Home sale strategy: set a date for offers, or not?

You have prepared carefully for the big day when your property goes on the market;  first it goes on MLS, then you have a Realtor tour, and an open house during the week end.  The critical “exposure” time has started, a full marketing campaign is in place, with paper advertising and internet advertising - the world is starting to learn about your house.

Should you hold off for offers until a certain date (hoping for multiple offers), or do you take offers as they come?


Holding off for offers is a good strategy, if the house is well priced: it ensures that the house has been seen enough, and that potential buyers have had the time to decide what they want to do, and look at all the disclosures and reports your agent carefully helped you prepare upfront.  When offers are reviewed, chances are they are well thought out, and you have a choice between solid offers.  Odds are higher the transaction will close without problems.

But the down side of this strategy is that some buyers are turned off by the process, and do not want to participate in a competition.  Also, if you hold off too long, other competing properties will come on the market and you will lose some potential buyers.  Finally, with this strategy comes the difficult choice to make if a “preemptive offer” is presented to you, often higher than the asking price.  If you take it you will never know what the other offers could have been (the ones that followed your instructions and waited for the “offer date”).  If you do not take it you could lose out on that high offer.

So the alternative is to “take offers as they come”.  But what do you do when one comes too fast, may be even higher than your asking price, and you have the feeling that “not enough people have seen the house”?  Could you have a higher offer by waiting for more people to have the time to see the property and work on an offer?  In real estate we say that the first offer is often the best one...  In a typical market it is often true (the subject of another blog), but the Bay Area market is not typical.

Several elements are in play here:

1/ the (pricing) strategy you prefer to use (low, average, high?)

2/ how active the market is at that precise moment.

3/ how easy it is to show your property,

4/ how desirable your property is (objectively),

5/ the quality of the information you get.  The tools your Realtor is using are going to be critically important, in order to assess the real interest your property generates.  You’ll want to know: - number of showings, - number of page views on the various web sites, - how many people are looking at the info online, - and what exactly they are looking at: some info, or all of the info available?

What I would like to stress here is that you must have this conversation with your Realtor ahead of time, and stick to your chosen course of action. One cannot really have it both ways.  If you set a date for offers, and take a pre-emptive offer, you may hurt yourself by never seeing the offers that played by the rule, and waited to come forth.  The thing is that you will never know - it is a gamble.  My experience has been that, in very active markets, it is better to hold off until about a week after the house has been in full marketing mode.  Taking an offer too fast may leave you with a lot of question marks about what other offers could have been a few days later.

Finally, it is critical that your Realtor follows closely any interested party, and answers questions as best as possible: better informed buyers, or agents, will bring you an offer, and one additional offer may mean a big difference in the final sales price.

Thank you for reading,

Francis

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
Detailed, local trends etc...
Current mortgage rates
A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

How sellers have changed over the past decade.

How sellers have changed over the past decade:
a Coldwell Banker Seller Survey - Nationwide.


According to a Coldwell Banker survey of home sellers, today's home seller is notably different than the seller of 10 years ago. The recession not only changed the housing market, but it also changed the way home sellers approach the sale of their home. The Coldwell Banker Seller Survey looks at approximately 1,500 home sellers and analyzes trends from before and through the recession, as well as the initial recovery years and today:

  • 2014-2015 - Recent Years (Sellers Today)
  • 2010-2013 - Initial Recovery Years
  • 2008-2009 - Recession
  • 2006-2007 - Pre-Recession
  • 2005 and Earlier
Notably, since 2014, more than 1 in 4 home sellers in the US sold their home in less than two weeks.
  Those sellers are twice as likely to choose an offer based on emotion rather than money alone, compared to sellers in pre-recession years.  “There is a notable difference in seller psychology today compared to 10 years ago” says Budge Huskey, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate.  “Home sellers often want to feel emotionally connected to the buyer.  These findings should give solace to buyers in highly competitive markets who may present a compelling story as to why they should be the next owners of the home”.   - hint:  think “the Bay Area housing market”…

You can see the whole survey on this Coldwell Banker article.

Thank you for reading,

Francis
Trends: Local prices and graphs.
A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View

Friday, October 9, 2015

Is it a condo, is it a townhouse?

Is it a condo, or a townhouse?

If you are wondering if you are looking at a condominium, or a townhouse, it may not always be so obvious: many condominiums do look like townhouses, with 2 stories and even a real enclosed garage attached (as it is the case in this complex: the Old Mill in Mountain View).

Old Mill ComplexA condominium is a unit inside of a larger complex, where the owner owns a small part of the whole
complex. It is also said that in a condominium, you own "from the paint on", meaning that the rest is owned in common.  For instance if there are 100 units, you would own 100th of the whole property; many times it includes several buildings, the land, the pools etc...  So in a way you do not really own where you live, you own a portion of a much larger property.  Of course you have exclusive use of your location, and also the exclusive use of a parking space, a balcony, a storage area.  The legal description (shown in the preliminary title report) indicates that it is a condominium.

In the case of a townhouse, you own the land you are on, and the house which is on it, and typically you are responsible for the maintenance of the whole place: you have to pay to repair or change your own roof, you have to paint the home, you take care of your own stucco, garden, fences etc...  If you have rules that limit what you can do, it would be because of the association that regroups all the townhomes around you, which might be responsible for the walkways, the access roads, the common facilities (pool, tennis etc...).  Those rules help keep a common look and living experience to all the homes inside the complex.

In many areas, especially where there is very little land to build on (think "the Bay Area"), the exact definitions get blurred, and you can have homes that may look like townhouses but are in fact condominiums.  So be careful and ask your agent to double check on that for you (in the preliminary title report).

Even though it is always good to "own your own land", lifestyles change, and many buyers prefer that an association take care of the roof, fences, pools, paint, and so on.  A condo can be better for that.  The "association dues" are meant to be used for those repairs, and often a management company takes care of them.

Also, if you are considering a purchase soon, be aware that the financing on condos will not be as easy or cheap as for townhouses, which are considered "houses" by most lenders.

I had written a blog in 2010 on the subject of condominiums, with some other detailed explanations, which you may be interested in checking out ....

Thank you for reading,
Francis
 
Trends: Local prices and graphs.
A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View