Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking To the New Year

Well, in just over two days, 2012 will be a memory. For some of you, the memories will be happy ones; for others a little less so, but, hopefully, no-one reading this will think of 2012 as a bad memory. In real estate here in Marin, we have seen prices overall rise, the amount varying from town to town and property to property. Numbers of sales were also generally higher than in 2011, although a general scarcity of inventory in all locales and at all price points had something of a limit on the number of sales.

The coming year, 2013, looks initially at least to be a continuation of most of these trends. Interest rates are also expected to follow their recent levels, as the Federal Reserve has stated it wants to maintain current low rates at least through 2014 in hopes of continued stimulation of the economy.

So, what do we see coming up? As I indicated in my last post, things are overall showing positive directions for the new year. Without repeating the details of that post here, it is safe to say that, barring major economic or disaster caused events, housing prices should continue to rise, along with simultaneous availability of mortgage funds at near historic lows. As I have constantly stated here, these circumstances bode well for both buyers and sellers. Low rates allow buyers to either pay less in mortgage costs to buy their home, or, alternatively, buy a larger, more luxurious home for the same price they would previously have had to pay for a smaller one. Sellers benefit both from the rising values (you can get more for your home) and from the lower rates (allowing more buyers to be able to buy your home).

The, what to do? If you are thinking of buying--a personal residence, a second home or a piece of investment property--get pre-approved for your loan. If you do not have a mortgage lender in mind, call us. We can refer you to one who will provide you with the best terms and conditions for a loan. If you're looking to sell, also give a call. We'll be happy to provide a free valuation of your home--as well as recommend steps to take to obtain the best price in the shortest possible time for your home on the market.

With these thoughts in mind Jane & I want to thank you for your support and friendship in 2012, and wish you all the Happiest and most prosperous of New Years!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Looking Forward to 2013:
It's amazing how time flies! Seems like yesterday we were just entering the new millennium and then entering 2012, and here we are--just 18 days from the New Year--2013! Hope you all had a truly great year and more for the coming year!

Trends for real estate in 2013 are, at this point, optimistic--even in the face of the looming possible 'fiscal cliff'. As analyzed in The Fiscal Times ( ), a number of real estate economists were interviewed and came up with a list of ten trends for the coming year--the general indication that things are looking up.

A sampling shows:

HOME PRICES CLIMB HIGHER: New-home construction is far short of its pre-recession pace, failing to keep up with population growth or the rebounding housing market and thereby helping to push home prices higher. The National Association of Realtors forecasts average home prices to rise 5 percent next year.
MORE HOUSEHOLDS, RISING RENTS: Millions of young people who rode out the recession by moving back home with their parents are now getting jobs and looking for their own apartments. The pent-up demand for rentals is twice as big in percentage terms as the country has ever seen. Average rents have been rising in many metro areas by 7 to 9 percent a year, and a recent Zillow analysis found that buying beats renting in 59 percent of markets after three years or less.
EASIER CREDIT STANDARDS: Would-be borrowers now need a FICO credit score in the 760s to get a mortgage, much higher even than in the years before the easy-credit housing boom began, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. That should start changing next year — qualifying scores will drop as more qualified buyers come into the market and lenders compete to offer them loans, according to Luis Vergara of Mission Capital Advisers in New York City.
Other trends include fewer opportunities to buy bargain-priced foreclosures, a rising number of short sales, more first-time buyers, higher construction costs, new jobs for property managers, higher mortgage rates, and consolidation in the home-building industry.

For a closer look at the list of real estate trends in 2013, check out the report in The Fiscal Times.
Beyond the trends for 2013, interest rates continue to be worthy of note. This week, the Fed, in the person of Chairman Bernanke, stated that they plan to keep long term rates low at least through 2014, even if the unemployment rate continues to fall. This is to insure that once it reaches "acceptable" levels, it doesn't immediately start to rise due to the effects of higher rates on the economy. The Fed's comments in this regard were that it may take at least 3 years to reach these acceptable levels.

As I've said many times previously, this interest rate level is great for both buyers and sellers. Right now there are an army of buyers, low rate financing in hand, looking for homes to buy and a very low inventory to choose from. Put your home out there and you might very well receive a great price for it!

If you are one of these buyers, I don't need to tell you that with rates like these, it's a great time to be looking. Every reduction in rates can save you hundreds of dollars every month in your mortgage payments. That translates into either a lower payment than you might previously have expected, or the ability to buy a more substantial home than you had thought possible at former high rates. Either way, you win!
Questions? Call us for advice on buying or selling. If you wish, we would be happy to visit and give you a free valuation of your home's worth in the current market. Call: Peter: (415) 279-6466 or Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Latest from The Richmonds:
OK, folks--three items for your perusal this week. First, mortgage rates. This week they rose, but only by a negligible amount, to 3.34% for 30 year fixed rates. At these still almost record low levels, there's nothing like the present to either look for that new home you've been wishing for or putting your home on the market to take advantage of the very many buyers out there unable to find a home because there are too few on the market. Call us and we can give you good, reliable advice tailored to your specific situation.

Second, the so-called 'Fiscal Cliff'. There definitely is a cliff of sorts if Congress doesn't get its act together and work with the President to settle the financial issues confronting the country. If an agreement isn't reached by December 31, taxes across the board will rise, and the cutbacks on federal spending very likely could trigger another recession just as the nation appears to be getting out of the recent one. My recommendation: write to your Senator or Congressional representative and insist on whatever point of view you hold on this very important issue. Tell them to stop being ideologues and start working together!

Third, some very interesting information about Mill Valley. Hope you enjoy it. It's an interview and commentary by our Regional Vice President, Brent Thompson.

Not many suburban communities boast a vibrant downtown with loads of dining and entertainment, a rich artistic history, and extraordinary access to nature. But Mill Valley’s got all those things in spades, along with excellent schools and a tight-knit community.
“It’s beautiful, with a strong sense of community, and the downtown is very quaint,” said Brent Thomson, a senior vice president at Pacific Union International and branch executive of our Marin County region.
And ready “access to the outdoor life” draws hiking, running, and mountain-biking enthusiasts to the area, Thomson noted.
It’s easy to take in Mill Valley’s physical beauty almost anywhere in town, from your home’s deck to the many nearby trails, including Tennessee Valley, the Dipsea, and Matt Davis. In addition, both Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park are adjacent to the city of 14,050.
Mill Valley’s connection to the arts runs deep. Well-known residents have included musicians such as Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin and Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder.
In January, the Sweetwater Music Hall reopened with help from the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, paying homage to the original concert venue of the same name, which started hosting performances in 1972. Now in its 56th year, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival still attracts crowds, and the 46-year-old Marin Theatre Company puts on six shows a year.
Downtown, the 142 Throckmorton Theatre offers film, theater, and music in an intimate setting, and comedian Robin Williams sometimes drops in to practice new material in front of an audience. The California Film Institute’s Mill Valley Film Festival has been bringing independent and world cinema to the Bay Area for 35 years.
The punishing but beautiful Dipsea Race – the oldest trail race in the U.S. – takes place each year on the second Sunday in June.
A community gathering space, the Depot Bookstore & Cafe is located on the main plaza. Other popular businesses include restaurateur Tyler Florence’s El Paseo, Vasco, Piazza D’Angelo, and the Buckeye Roadhouse.
Dive bar the 2am Club has been around in one form or another since 1906.
The city continues to attract young families and professionals with its strong schools and proximity to San Francisco. In 2012 the Mill Valley School District earned an overall state Academic Performance Index score of 944 out of a possible 1,000. Tamalpais High School received an 864.
Mill Valley homes for sale vary in style, but many have a craftsman influence. Homes in the hills tend to offer decks with astonishing views, while those in flatter areas like Sycamore and Tamalpais parks and Strawberry may feature yards.
“Mill Valley homes make good use of indoor and outdoor space — that’s one of the draws here,” Thomson said.
In October the average sale price for a single-family home in Mill Valley increased 12 percent to $1.4 million, up from $1.2 million a year earlier, according to MLS data.
At the same time, buyer demand has been growing. The months’ supply of inventory plummeted 59 percent to 2.5 months in October, compared with 6.2 months in the year-earlier period.
“We’ve seen multiple offers and not nearly enough inventory — it’s a highly desirable area,” Thomson said.

Questions: Drop an email: , or call us: you know the numbers: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Rates & the 'Fiscal Cliff'
Two items this week--interest rates and the so-called Fiscal Cliff.
In the former, rates for the past week for 30 year fixed rate mortgages remained at almost historic lows, increasing from the prior week by only an infinitesimal 0.01% to 3.32%. Fifteen year fixed rates also remained near all time lows in the low 2.60's. All are good reasons for either buying or selling your home, the reasons for which those of you who are regular visitors here already are familiar with.

The latter item, the 'Fiscal Cliff'' is a bit more complex. The 'cliff' is what pre-established spending cuts and budget moves will create if an agreement for broader more specific changes in the budget is not reached by midnight on 31 December. The main sticking points appear to be the Republicans digging their heels in over proposed tax increases on the wealthiest in the nation, while the Democrats are fighting to avoid entitlement reductions in Social Security and Medicare, and, possibly, the mortgage interest deduction.
In Meet The Press appearances and press interviews, respectively, Sec. of the Treasury Geithner and House Speaker Boehner have very publicly continued to display their respective dug in positions, and, while an increasing number of Republicans have publicly come out expressing some give on the tax issue, both sides seem determined to stick to their guns, even in the face of a number of CEO's of major firms that have publicly stated that there must be increased taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers.

What does it all mean for us here in Marin? There are a number of economists and financial experts who have stated that it will hit our area as hard as the rest of the country. They feel this way because one of the major spending cuts that is mandated is defense spending, an area that has major beneficiaries in northern California. Given this type of effect (billions in lost spending locally), the experts feel that the resulting ripples will affect all areas of the economy in a negative way.

Conversely, there are a few economic experts who feel that our region should survive with relatively little economic damage. They feel this way because of the diversified local economy, defense, high tech, finance, energy development and food supply, to name an important few areas, coupled with the economic size of our area (Bay Area ranks in the top 20 among nations in GDP), we will be able to avoid most of the hit that the rest of the country could face.

Who's right? Well, hopefully, we won't have to find out. One thing everyone can do is to write/text/phone/email to our Congressional rep (Lynn Wolsey) and Senators (Boxer & Feinstein) and stress the need to get something settled before December 31. Meanwhile, as I come across any info, I'll post here for all of you faithful readers to see and hopefully benefit from it.