Jul 28

Real Estate Roundup: First-Time Homebuyers Get Busy in June


Existing U.S. home sales reached their highest level in more than nine years in June, with first-time buyers helping to propel activity.

According to a report from the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales rose for the fourth consecutive month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million, the highest since February 2007. Sales were up 1.1 percent from May and 3.0 percent from June 2015. First-time buyers accounted for 33 percent of transactions, the highest since July 2012.

In a statement accompanying the report, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that low mortgage rates are likely motivating younger buyers, who are making the biggest impact in relatively affordable areas of the country.

“The odds of closing on a home are definitely higher right now for first-time buyers living in metro areas with tamer price growth and greater entry-level supply — particularly areas in the Midwest and parts of the South,” he said.


The iconic Eichler home is unique to California, and the majority of them are located right here in the Bay Area. And one more Sunnyvale neighborhood is ensuring that its oasis of Mid-Century modern architecture stays true to its original form.

The Mercury News reports that The Sunnyvale Planning Commission unanimously voted to rezone a small, 45-home pocket in the central part of the city to allow for single-story homes only. Given Silicon Valley’s rapid home price appreciation over the past few years, some owners have added second stories or rebuilt larger homes in neighborhoods where Eichlers dominate. Residents in these areas are concerned that two-story homes could block the natural light that the Eichler home sought to maximize and change the neighborhoods’ character.

Since 2001, five Sunnyvale neighborhoods have asked the city for a single-story rezone, the largest involving 116 Eichlers in 2007. A 36-home Eichler neighborhood in the city was rezoned in April of this year.


Rising prices have restored equity to many U.S. homeowners, which should push home-remodeling spend to near record levels by the middle of 2017.

Citing data from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, CNBC reports that Americans are expected to spend $321 billion in home improvements on an annual basis, just short of the 2006 peak. Homeowners are using their equity to finance these projects, with Americans gaining a collective $260 billion additional in home equity in the first quarter of this year.

Low mortgage rates are also allowing homeowners to refinance and use the proceeds to pretty-up their properties. According to a recent survey from Houzz, much of that remodeling spending will be funneled into the kitchen, which remains the most popular home improvement for the fifth year running. HomeAdvisor Chief Economist Brad Hunter told CNBC that homeowners seeking the biggest return on investment should consider a less-obvious upgrade: new insulation.


As the fallout from Brexit dies away, mortgage rates rose slightly last week but are still hovering near record lows.

Freddie Mac puts 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages at 3.45 percent for the week ended July 21, up from 3.42 percent the previous week. Fifteen-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose by an identical amount week over week to 2.75 percent. In a statement accompanying the numbers, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti said that he doesn’t expect mortgage rates to increase in the near term, creating opportunity for both buyers and owners.

“This summer remains an auspicious time to buy a home or to refinance an existing mortgage,” he said.

Source: blog.pacificunion.com

Jun 24

My Partner Has Bad Credit: Can We Still Buy A House?

Before running down this road, ensure that the monthly payments and other costs associated with homeownership are ones you can shoulder on your income alone. While no one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, it’s your name on the dotted line — and you’re the one responsible for paying the mortgage if the two of you ever split up.

Plead your case

Although mortgage lenders may seem like faceless entities incapable of deviating from their set processes, there is room for you to explain your situation and provide all the facts. If you can show your partner’s bad credit stems from factors that will not impact your reasonable ability to repay the home loan, the lender may approve a joint application despite a low score on one end. Ask if you can write a letter of explanationfor a low credit score. If the lender says they will consider your explanation, provide as much documentation to back up your reasons as possible. Consider including explanations and documents to show how, together, you and your love can reasonablymake your monthly payments on your potential loan.

Consider a co-signer

If none of the above solutions works for your situation, you can consider asking someone to co-sign the home loan with you. Another person with a good credit score, sufficient income, and a low debt-to-income ratio could help you qualify for the mortgage you want. But don’t consider this option lightly. That co-signer will be financially responsible for the loan if you default — and even if you have no intention of defaulting on a loan, unexpected emergencies or hardships can arise. To put it simply, co-signing can come with a lot of baggage. If co-signing makes sense for you, it’s an option — though you might want to pursue other options first.

Love is blind, but mortgage lenders may not be so forgiving (or, well, blind to the realities of your financial situation). If you can find a workable solution, take action and make your homeowning dreams a reality. And if you both need to take some time to repair that bad credit score? Do that, and rest easier knowing your financial ducks will be in a row before you take on a mortgage.

Source: forbes.com ~ Contributor: Trulia.com

Jun 02

6 Insiders Reveal Secrets Every House Hunter Should Know

One of my favorite Disneyland experiences was the time I went with a neighbor who worked there. Although it was a crowded Fourth of July evening, my neighbor knew how to navigate around the park to avoid the crowds, and the best, secret spot for watching the fireworks. All because of his insider knowledge.

Insider advice can also be a huge plus when you’re house hunting. We asked a range of pros, from agents with experience selling homes in Austin, TX, to experts working in the Seattle, WA, real estate market, about their top real estate advice. Keep these tips in mind before you begin your search, and you’ll find yourself ahead of the game and in a great spot when it’s time to place an offer.

1. Look for flaws in the foundation

When I was recently looking for investment property, I lost count of how many houses I saw that had stunning kitchens with new appliances. But often, underfoot was a creaky, unleveled floor, cracks in the foundation walls, or backyards with water drainage issues. The kitchen remodel in these cases was, as the saying goes, “like putting lipstick on a pig.” Many sellers hope you’ll fall for this ploy by not looking past the shiny stuff. Be smart by hiring a home inspector to help you avoid possible costly repairs down the road. You can also do some screening on your own by looking for common problem areas. Structural engineer Adam Green, CEO of Crosstown Engineering, suggests looking for the following foundation flaws: cracks in the walls larger than 1/8 inch, doors and windows that stick, sloping or uneven floors, and noticeable damage to the exterior.

2. Think strategically to land a house in a hot market

Nothing can be more frustrating than looking for a house in a popular area during a seller’s market. But there are ways to gain an advantage over the competition. Austin, TX, has consistently been named one of the hottest markets in recent years, and according to Trulia’s market trends, the city is likely to hang on to that hot market status through 2016. Justine A. Smith, an Austin real estate agent, suggests two strategies to land your dream home. First, have your agent pull tax records of sellers to get information to use to write a personal note. And second, ask your agent to share your needs on social media and with other agents to get the scoop on properties that haven’t yet hit the market.

3. Get the inside scoop

It’s second nature for journalists and detectives to go below the surface to ferret out information. But even amateurs can discover some useful dirt. Kate Shields, a board member of MORe, a real estate organization in Illinois, says to go out in “stealth mode.” Look for a garage sale in your desired neighborhood and casually “ask the homeowner questions as you’re shopping.” No nearby garage sales to shop? Ryan J. Halset, a Seattle, WA, real estate agent, says you can often find “neighbors out watering their lawn justhoping you’ll come talk with them.” Halset has uncovered issues with a home just bystarting a conversation with a neighbor.

4. Use pricing psychology

Pricing strategy becomes important when you’re making an offer to a seller in a competitive market. You’ve probably heard that people are more likely to buy something that ends in a “9” instead of a “0,” such as being more willing to shell out for an item that costs $59 instead of $60. That’s house numerology at work. Brian Horan, a Los Angeles, CA, real estate broker, says not to “leave a ‘5’ or a ‘0’ at the end of a price.” If the property is listed at $325,000 and you know there are already three offers, you might be tempted to go about 3% higher and offer $335,000. “Don’t do it,” says Horan, who recommends an offer of $336,000, or even better, $341,000, instead. The important thing is to go one number over “5” or “0” to be the highest bid by just a little bit more.

5. Be the likable buyer

A seller attached to a home is typically more inclined to accept an offer from a buyer they like. Ryan Halset says to look around the home for “a shared area of interest.” Your agent can then personalize the offer cover letter from you this way: “I noticed that you have several books on Ireland, and I just recently visited there for a family reunion.” “

Be genuine,” says Halset. “A small connection can go a long way.” In addition, Horan suggests that buyers have their picture taken in front of the house they wish to make an offer on. “When you submit a photo with you in front of the seller’s house, it psychologically allows the seller to picture you living there.”

6. Keep an open mind

Do as Jenelle Isaacson, owner of Living Room Realty in Portland, OR, suggests and don’t rule out a home just because its owner passed away. “If you see original wallpaper, pink Formica, and vinyl, pounce on it!” she says. Her logic? “Seniors usually take better care of their homes,” says Isaacson. “Quality finishes and maintaining the property always make a better home long term, even if you remodel after purchase.” Bonus? If other buyers aren’t giving the home a second look, in a hot market, being open-minded could give you a better chance at success!

Source: forbes.com ~ By: Trulia

Apr 20

Bay Area Earns High Marks for Home-Improvement Returns 

Here’s some good news for Bay Area homeowners who are planning a home-remodeling project this spring: Most of those jobs should recoup 100 percent of their costs, and some will turn a handsome profit.

In its 2016 Cost Versus Value Report, Remodeling magazine ranks 27 midrange and high-end home-renovation projects based on how much of the improvement’s cost can be recouped if the home is sold within the next year. Nationwide, those projects are expected to generate a 64.4 percent return on investment in 2016. Here on the West Coast, home-improvement jobs are projected to deliver larger paybacks than anywhere else in the country — an average of 77.5 percent.

The Bay Area shines when it comes to home-renovation returns, and Remodeling’s report says that is likely due to inventory constraints. In fact, of the 100 U.S. metropolitan areas included in the analysis, San Francisco was the only one where all 27 projects in aggregate generated a return of more than 100 percent.

San Francisco is also tied for first in the country for number of home-improvement jobs — 18 — that are projected to recoup 100 percent or more of their costs. The San Jose metro area ranks No. 3 in the country in that respect, with 15 jobs expected to return all of their costs or generate a profit.

For both midrange and upscale improvement projects, San Francisco homeowners will most likely get the biggest bang for their buck by replacing the garage door. With an average cost of $2,077, a new midrange garage door is expected to recoup 165.3 percent of its cost. A high-end, $3,353 garage door should return 141.3 percent of the money spent.

In San Jose, fiberglass attic insulation tops the list for midrange-project returns, with a $1,381 job recouping 151.5 percent of costs. For upscale projects, the garage door is again a winner, costing an average of $3,325 and returning 147.8 percent if the owner sells the home in the next 12 months.

No project in either Bay Area city is expected to recoup less than 70 percent of its costs. In San Francisco, the improvment with the smallest return is a backup power generator (74.6 percent); in San Jose, it’s adding a deck (74.4 percent). In both areas, the addition of a high-end master suite was the priciest improvement: about $270,000 in San Jose and $285,000 in San Francisco.

Source: PacificUnion.com

Mar 25

Ready To Sell? This Is Your Action Plan 

What do doctors, firefighters, accountants, computer engineers, and teachers all have in common? At one point or another during the course of their lives, they’ll all probably sell a home. But while some professions may give you great communication skills (which could come in handy with buyers) or make you a boss at crunching the numbers (all the better to compare mortgages), House Selling 101 probably isn’t a prerequisite for any of them. Of course, that’s why real estate agents are trained to list and sell your beloved San Francisco, CA, home for sale, but it doesn’t hurt to study up on some real estate basics.

Consider the following real estate sales strategy. Follow these five steps, and you’ll be well on your way to jump-starting your home sale.

1. Be vigilant with your belongings. Now is the time to tackle those organization and cleaning projects. The detritus of life tends to stack up in our living spaces, which may be fine for every day but isn’t great for selling. Make the adage “less is more” your mantra and divide your belongings into two piles: one to take to the new place, one to toss or give away. (Or try following a flow chat for decluttering tips.) And remember, packing items away doesn’t mean shoving them in the hallway closet. Buyers will very likely open every cabinet and drawer, so those spaces should be tidy too.

Pro tip: Get a head start on packing and moving to your new home by renting a portable storage unit. Take a few days to pack the unit with displaced and off-season items, then call up the storage company to get it hauled away to the storage yard while you show your house. Once you’re settled in your new place, give them another call and have your stuff brought to your new home. Easy!

2. Find a real estate agent. As you’re getting your house in order, start the hunt for a real estate agent. You’re not looking for just any agent; you need a real star to get you to the finish line. Put the word out to your network and don’t feel like you have to work with someone because they are family. Once you have some referrals, take the time for aninterview and get to know their selling style. If said agent declines the interview request, they’re probably not for you — proceed to the next one on your list. If they seem almost right, keep looking until you find a great match. It’s worth the time investment to find the right agent.

3. Dig out all relevant paperwork. While you’re cleaning and scrubbing, keep an eye out for paperwork that’s been stashed in random places throughout the years. Warranties, installation invoices, mortgage records — pull together all the documents you need to sell a house. Buyers hope for an active, informed seller who is involved with the details of their home. The best practice is to have all the paperwork you need for the seller’s disclosure notice. If you can’t find the documents, you can always select “I don’t know” on the form (but keep in mind, your home sale may suffer from the lack of information).

4. Schedule a strategy session with your real estate agent. Purging and cleaning were the warm-up act. Now you’re ready for the main event. After you’ve signed on the dotted line with your real estate professional, schedule a walk-through before listing and take your agent’s feedback seriously. They know what color to paint that old maroon accent wall, how to stage the living room so it looks 20% bigger, and how to deal with outdated kitchen cabinets. They also know how to allocate your dollars to impress potential buyers.

5. Repair and remodel. Work your way through your agent’s list of recommended repair tasks. If they advise a couple of remodel projects, make these a priority so listing photos can be scheduled. Remember, your agent is plugged in to the local market and has insider knowledge that can help your home compete in a crowded market.

Pro tip: If it’s a buyer’s market, consider scheduling a prelisting inspection. Nothing gives buyers the warm fuzzies more than seeing a completed inspection with items already attended to and checked off.

Source: trulia.com ~ By: Robyn Woodman

Mar 18

It’s Tax Time! See Tax Breaks for Homeowners 

Source: zillow.com ~ By

It’s Tax Time! See Tax Breaks for HomeownersCalling all homeowners! With tax season rapidly approaching, it’s time to get your paperwork in order and consider all the ways to minimize your tax liability. Whether you’ve got a single-family home, a town house, condo, or even a floating home, there are various home-related expenses that you should be sure to deduct. We suggest starting with these:

Mortgage interest

The mortgage interest deduction has long been the most-beloved tax benefit of homeowners since it’s such a big money saver (especially in the early years of a home loan). In fact, Americans save around $100 million every year by claiming this deduction, which you can take on both your primary and secondary homes, providing your loan is less than a million dollars, and providing you itemize your return.

Mortgage points

The IRS sees points — percentage-based fees which a lender charges to originate a loan — as form of mortgage interest paid in advance. Assuming you meet certain requirements, you can therefore deduct these points, in full, in the year that they were paid. So, for example, if you paid two points on a $250,000 mortgage in 2013, you can write off $5,000 on your 2013 tax return. What if you refinanced a mortgage last year? Then, you would have to deduct the points over the life of the loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it’s a 30-year mortgage. Granted, that’s only $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid, but every little bit helps.

Property taxes

Once you see what you, (or the holder of your escrow account), paid in property taxes in 2013 — (find that number by looking at the annual statement you recently received from your lender; or if your taxes aren’t included in escrow payments made with your mortgage payments, then look at your cancelled checks) — enter that amount on your Federal form. Property taxes must be taken as an itemized expense. The tax you pay – each year – is deductible, for as long as you own the home. See Schedule A, line 6.

Home improvements

In what may be considered a sign of market confidence about the long-term prospects for the recovery, homeowners took on all sorts of remodeling projects last year. Chances are, you did, too. Whether you added square footage, put on a new roof, or made other “capital improvements” to your home, know that the money you spent on these projects – which increase your home’s value (as opposed to non-eligible repairs which just return something to its original condition) – can help lower your tax bill when you sell your home. Try using a free tool like Zillow Digs to get a sense for how much a remodeling project will run you and whether it will be a good return on your investment.

And as always, save your receipts!

Feb 11

Home prices are showing signs of topping out


home prices topping outThe S&P/Case-Shiller index posted its first month-over-month decline in 10 months on Tuesday.

The annual measure of home prices still increased 13.7% in November, but that was only narrowly better than the rise posted in October.

The housing recovery was one of the stronger aspects of the economy last year, boosting household wealth and home construction.

But with mortgage rates climbing steadily since hitting record lows in May, it’s clear the housing recovery is starting to lose some steam.

“While housing will make further contributions to the economy in 2014, the pace of price gains is likely to slow during the year,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

But housing experts say that more modest price increases are probably a good thing for the housing market. The rapid increases of the last year are not sustainable, they said.

“Sellers used to seeing huge price gains month after month may feel some whiplash as that slows down,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for sales tracker Zillow. But more modest price increases mean “the housing market is still a long way from normal, but it’s getting there.”

First-time homebuyers squeezed

The Case-Shiller index chronicles prices across the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas. Fourteen of those markets posted double-digit percentage gains over the last year, but only nine posted any month-over-month gain.

The improvement in housing was driven by pent-up demand for home purchases, combined with lower unemployment and a drop in foreclosures. Mortgage rates have been climbing steadily of late but remain low by historical standards, making housing prices far more affordable than they were at the height of the bubble last decade.

National prices are still nearly 20% below peak levels reached in mid-2006, according to Case-Shiller.

Jan 23

5 Glass Houses That Could Change Your Point of View

No need to hang wallpaper or a landscape painting — walls of windows let nature do the decorating in these homes. To see why homeowners are ditching drywall for glass, check out these stunning modern gems currently on the market.

Aspen, CO 300 Eagle Pines Dr, Aspen For sale: $15.75 million

glass house Aspen-CO

This luxury mountain home in Aspen ski country truly embraces its surroundings with a magnificent great room framed by 25-foot-high walls of windows. “It is a dramatic space that is ideal for an intimate family gathering or an event of several hundred,” the listing description says. A scenic mountain view can be seen on either side of a striking stone fireplace.

Surfside, FL 1236 Biscaya Dr, Surfside, FL For sale: $6.75 million

glass house Surfside-FL

This Florida home takes advantage of its prime oceanfront location with walls of windows and glass doors facing the water. The home also has a private glass-edge pool, indoor and outdoor bars, a water moat and dock.

East Hampton, NY(undisclosed address), East Hampton, NY For sale: $6.4 million

glass house East-Hampton-NY

A minimalist design by the award-winning Bates Masi Architects, this 5-bedroom home overlooks a private bay stretching 125 feet. The home’s exterior was constructed in 2009 out of two rectangular structures integrating slate, wood and walls of glass.

Bloomfield Hills, MI 4600 Charing Cross Rd, Bloomfield Hills, MI For sale: $5.795 million

glass house Bloomfield-Hills-MI

The glory of this home can’t been seen from the driveway, but in the backyard a glowing pool is reflected off 2-story walls of windows. The cutting-edge design combines wood, steel, glass and stained concrete, “creating a symphony of warmth and interest,” according to the listing description.

Bainbridge Island, WA 12600 Madison Ave NE, Bainbridge Island, WA For sale: $748,000

glass house Bainbridge-Island-WA

Bringing in natural light and a pristine wooded landscape, walls of glass are a standout feature of this Bainbridge Island home. Inside, an open floor plan maximizes the modern living space, creating an airy, spacious feel.