Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tomato Time!

Well, usually you hear me talking about home values and the market here in Marin for home buyers and sellers. But today, for just once, I'm going (literally) afield. Tomatoes is the subject, and the fact that it's time to get them in and growing is what we'll chat about. As always, when spring calls around the Richmond household, two things pop into mind (at least for me): Baseball and Tomatoes. The former I can just sit back and enjoy, rooting my team along. The latter I get more deeply involved with. I spend a number of trips to nurseries and local farmers' markets searching for just the right plants to grow, followed by hours of planting tham and then regularly watering, trellising and feeding them so that in a few months, hopefully, I'll be buried in hundreds of tomatoes of all different sizes, colors and varieties.
Once frost is no longer a danger is when to plant. Here in southern Marin, we've had a fairly warm early spring, so all but the final two of my nine plants went in earlier in April, with the final pair hitting the turf last week. As far as varieties go, this can go either of two ways. If, like me, you've been planting tomatoes for a number of years, you likely have a few favorites that you get every year, possibly trying one or two new ones every so often. If, on the other hand, you're relatively new to the ritual, a brief education is in order. There are literally over 200 different varieties of tomato. Some are tiny, known as cherry tomatoes. Others are 'normal' size--between a half pound and a pound each, and are useful in any number of ways such as sauces and salads. Still others are much larger ranging from 2-4 pounds for each individual tomato.  You've likely seen some of these at farmers' markets or upscale supermarkets. If huge is your thing, Brandywine is one of the ones to choose. They're 3-4 pounds in size and cover a variety of color. The biggest issue with these is that they are huge plants once fully grown (think Beanstalk), and require quite a bit of strong support to keep them up. A small tomato cage or trellis won't do the job.
Othe large species that are slightly smaller (1-2 pounds each) and won't require engineering feats to support include Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter (there's a whole story behind the name, but not now), and one of my favorites, German Johnson. Another personal favorite is a red and yellow multicolored fruit called Pineapple. It, too, is between 1-2 pounds and delicious!
Tomatoes also come in a variety of colors: red, yellow, striped combos, green (that's when ripe), 'purple' and 'black'. The latter covers a whole group that have origins in eastern Europe and Russia, having been developed for locales with short cool summers. They're not truly black, for the most part, but a dark shade of red and black mixed on their skin. They range from cherry versions to dinner sized ones, and some of the leading ones are Black Krim ( a personal favorite--very sweet); Black Prince and Black Cherry. I'm trying the latter as an addition this year, along with another new selection to my garden, a black from Japan called Black Trifle.
Plant the plants when they're still 2-4 inches high, using amendment to prepare the soil before planting and a good fertilizer at planting. After they're in the ground, use a regular (at least once weekly) good tomato food. There are many out there. I prefer Miracle Gro. Another good one is Jobe's. I usually feed weekly, giving each plant a half gallon of the food solution, right through the season until it's over and no more tomatoes will be coming up.
My final words: good luck and ENJOY!

Prices At New Highs!

Well, you've been hearing it from us for several months now. If you're thinking of selling, NOW is definitely the time! We are seeing many homes going very rapidly once on the market. Even more important is the fact that many are going with multiple offers and at prices above the asking price. This situation is being driven by two factors: a continuing and increasing lack of enough inventory on the market, regardless of the price level; and continued low interest rates for mortgages. Add to this the fact that the latest Case Shiller report shows the rate of increase in home values to be at its highest in six years, and you have a market that you must take advantage of if you're even remotely considering selling your home. Unsure what your property is worth today? Not sure how much to ask if you did put it on the market? That's what we're here for--to help you get the highest amount for your home in the least possible time! Call us for a free valuation. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pacific Union -- The Cream Continues to Rise to the Top!

Those of you who have followed us for some time are already aware of Pacific Union's excellence in the sale of residential property. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our service to you, the people wanting to buy or sell a home. As a result, our position as compared against other real estate firms, both locally and across the country, continues to rise. Simply put, more and more experts across the nation are recognizing that if you want to have a quality firm represent you on what is likely your most valuable asset in the Bay Area, then you have only one choice to make: Pacific Union International!
Further proof of this position is the fact that RIS Media's Real Estate Magazine has named PUI as one of the nation's 'Power Brokers' for the second consecutive year. In a sign of our phenomenal growth over the past year, Pacific Union moved up in RISMedia’s rankings of the top 500 brokerages, placing 18th in the nation in total sales volume based on $3.9 billion in sales in 2012. That’s up from 23rd place last year.
When measured by the number of properties sold — 3,845 — Pacific Union ranked 125th, moving up from 170th the year before.
RISMedia released the rankings less than a week after the San Francisco Business Times listed Pacific Union as the third-largest residential real estate firm in the Bay Area, with sales growth more than double that of any other large firm in the region.
An article in the April issue of Real Estate Magazine noted that many real estate professionals had expected 2012 to be a transitional year as housing began the gradual process of recovery. However, ”these expectations were widely exceeded and many brokers closed the year in much better shape than they had anticipated,” the article said.
Want to work with the best? Then call the best! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

It's Time to SELL! The Latest Proof!

In figures just released by MAR, the median price for all of Marin, as of 31 March 2013, is up 31% over a year ago! It varies from town to town. For example, it rose 9% over the same period in Mill Valley, which is still a healthy increase. I mean how many other investments lately have been producing a 9% gain for you? Total sales are down, and that's simply because lots of folks, for whatever reason, haven't been taking advantage of the current market.  This is what I've been constantly yelling about! With lack of normal inventory, at all price points, we are seeing many multiple offers, frequently over asking price. When the continued low interest rates for mortgages in added into the equation, the buyers become even more frenzied and anxious to buy a home.  The result? Prices go up. Even with a small increase in inventory the past week or two, there still is way too little inventory to satisfy any appreciable portion of the buyers on the market. What do you do? Well, as I've said time and again, if you want to sell for the best price, NOW is the time! Not sure what your home is worth? Give us a call! We'll tell you not only what your home is likely to bring on the market, but also how our forty plus years of experience can help you achieve the maximum price for your home. Our numbers: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. Do it now!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prices Going Higher--No Inventory!

Well, as I have said previously a number of times here, now is the best time in at least 4-5 years to list your home for sale. Lack of inventory is driving prices upward, and there are plenty of buyers looking. In some cases, in fact, lack of inventory is even hindering sales as there's nothing to buy!

Bay Area home prices continued to climb higher in March, with the median price of all sales up 33 percent from a year earlier.
All nine Bay Area counties posted double-digit increases in year-over-year median sale prices, led by Alameda County (36.1 percent), San Mateo County (34.5 percent), and Marin County (32.2 percent), according to statistics the California Association of Realtors, or C.A.R., released Monday.
Meanwhile, a continued shortage of available homes cut into sales totals. March home sales were down an average 9 percent in the Bay Area, year over year, and ranged from a 24.9 percent decline in Solano County to a 6.1 percent rise in Marin County.
Statewide, median sale prices of single-family homes were up 28.2 percent in March from a year earlier, while overall sales were down 4.9 percent.
“No doubt the dearth of home listings is driving the upsurge in the median price, as is an increase in sales in the higher-priced segments,” C.A.R. chief economist Leslie Appleton-Young said in a statement. “Sales of homes priced $500,000 and higher are up more than 34 percent from last year, and have been on a rising trend since early 2012.
“Sales growth in the coastal regions – Marin, Orange, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo, in particular – helped push the statewide median price up to the highest level in more than four years.”
Chart of Bay Area March Home Sales
The C.A.R.’s monthly sales and price report showed that the available supply of homes for sale fell significantly in March, dropping to a 2.9-month supply, as measured by the association’s Unsold Inventory Index. That’s down from 3.6 months in February and 4.2 months in March 2012. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A six- to seven-month supply is considered normal.
The Realtors group also reported that homes continued to move off the market faster in March, with the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home decreasing to 29.4 in March, down from 34.2 days in February and 52.2 days for the same period a year ago.
So, if you have a question about your home's value, or want to discuss its listing, give us a call! We'd be happy to help! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Home Inspections--They're Very Important!

So you've found 'The House' and you're going to make an offer. Congratulations! But before you get too far along, there are some important things to consider. My father-in-law approached me when I bought my first home almost 39 years ago. His comment: "Be careful what you're buying. Have it inspected. Yo0u can't return it next week like you can a suit that doesn't fit." Inspections are one of the most important parts of the buying process. Like my father-in-law said, you can't return it.
So, what do you do? How do you inspect the home? What, more than physically looking at it, is necessary? How do you find someone to do the inspection(s)> Pay attention.

Home inspections are an essential part of the home buying process, but what constitutes a thorough inspection and how do you find the right professional to do the job?
A general inspection is meant to identify structural or systemic problems in a home:
Construction: Condition of walls, ceilings, floors, foundation, insulation, and roof.
Electrical: Wiring, grounding, main panel, circuit breakers, light fixtures, and exhaust and ceiling fans.
Plumbing:  Toilets, showers, sinks, faucets, and traps. Check condition and identify materials used for potable, drain, waste, and ventilation pipes.
Systems: Water heater, furnace, air conditioning, duct work, fireplace, chimney, and sprinklers.
Appliances: Dishwasher, range and oven, refrigerator, garbage disposal, washer, and dryer.
Garage: Slab, walls, ceiling, garage door, and firewall.
Exterior: Siding and trim, doors, windows, lights, gutters, driveways, fences, sidewalks, landscaping, and drainage.
Sometimes a general inspection may not be enough. Specialists may be called in to test for asbestos, lead paint, radon, or methane gas, as well as mold and wood-eating pest damage.
It’s always a good idea for buyers to be present during home inspections to get an up-close look at the condition of their new home, ask questions, and learn from the inspector’s comments. Plan on at least three hours, and perhaps five or more, for a thorough inspection.
How to find the best inspector for the job? Ask friends for their recommendations, and also the real estate professional who’s assisting you in your home search – he or she has probably dealt with dozens of inspectors and can steer you in the right direction.
Many skilled home inspectors do not belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, but such membership is often a plus. Organizations include the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and the California Real Estate Inspection Association.
And congratulations on your new home. Now that you've had it inspected, you truly know what you own.
Other questions about buying a home? Call Peter: (415) 279-6466; or Jane: (415) 531-4091.