Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Forecast

Fasten your seat belts, because 2014 will outpace 2013 in the San Francisco Bay Area residential housing market. The calm of the past 60 days, when we saw multiple-offer situations dissipate, will ramp up toward the end of the first quarter to robustly outperform Q1 2013 in units sold.Image of arrows pointing up
In 2013, units sold experienced double-digit percent increases in all Bay Area markets. References to “lack of inventory” need to be shaped in the context of exceptionally high buyer demand. While inventory seems scares, vibrant demand and limited days on the market are creating these intense conditions.
A robust job market is driving our regionally unique housing demand: California generated more than 300,000 new jobs in 2013 and saw unemployment rates settle in at 8.5 percent by the end of November.
Technology, social-media, and professional-service firms — and now the retail sector — have consistently fueled the strength of the Northern California job market. In 2012 and 2013, three western Bay Area counties (San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin), all of which currently enjoy unemployment rates of about 5 percent, powered this job growth. And employment growth is now taking hold in the northern and eastern counties of Sonoma, Napa, Alameda, and Contra Costa, where unemployment rates range from 6.0 to 6.8 percent, also well below the state average.
Interest rates remain near historical lows, and multiple new lenders are returning to the jumbo-mortgage market. One dynamic we anticipated in 2013 that did not materialize in force was the mobilization of the “move-up buyer.”  If this segment of buyers engages the market this spring, we expect to see additional inventory in the form of sales and significant movement in the high-end and second-home markets.
As we noted back in October, we have a robust outlook for 2014 and 2015. We expect to see records set for units sold and near double-digit percent price appreciation throughout the Bay Area. Municipal building departments are seeing enormous activity in new-housing and major remodeling permits, an exceptional leading indicator of consumer confidence, buyer demand, and a vibrant real estate market.
Please remember that real estate is hyperlocal. While information is widely available and opinions on real estate markets are plentiful, there is generally only one set of facts. In a market that is experiencing record-setting velocity, it’s particularly important to find the best real estate professional to provide you with the keenest insight, knowledge, advice, and decision support.
So, with 2014 projected to be a great year , both in terms of number of homes sold and value increases, it's time to call your Realtor for advice in getting your home ready to sell for the highest price in the shortest time. This is something we specialize it. Give us a call: you'll be glad you did: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Technology Is Just as Important at Home!

OK, we all have our many varied tech devices at work, and, to some extent, at home. There's the home computer, or laptop, the 'smart' cell phone, iPad, tablet and a raft of other items. However, the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas indicates that the present is merely the crest of the wave.
The recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas offered a dizzying array of ridiculous new products for the home (unless, of course, you see real innovation in a Wi-Fi-enabled Crock-Pot or “smart” washing machines).
But behind the gadget one-upmanship were signs that real smart-home technology is advancing rapidly and may become an integral part of our daily lives in as soon as five years. Heating and air conditioning, lighting, security, and entertainment systems will be managed in ways that will save time, money, and environmental resources.
The missing component, so far, has been compatibility.
“With both applications and technology, most of the things that we need already exist,” Sanjay Sarma, director of digital learning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told NBC News. ”The challenge now is making them work together seamlessly, in a way that the user finds intuitive and convenient.”
Several companies, including Lowe’s and Staples, showed off home-automation controllers that enable smart-home devices from different manufacturers to link up and work together.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is reportedly interested in developing its Xbox gaming console as a home systems manager, and Google made headlines earlier this week with a blockbuster $3.2 billion deal to buy Nest Labs, a maker of smart thermostats and smoke alarms.
Homebuilders are wiring new homes for the latest technologies, but existing homes will also take advantage of smart-home automation through upgraded electrical outlets, home Wi-Fi networks, and smartphones doubling as controllers.
What do you want in your home--present or future? Just wait a moment--it's on its way!

Pacific Union Has Banner Year: Work with the BEST!!

Well, the numbers are out. Everyone likes to brag about being the best or doing the best.  However, when you actually look at the numbers, the question as to who's the best becomes quite clear--in this case, it's Pacific Union. The following information covers all of PacUnion's varied areas of activity from Napa and Sonoma counties in the north to Silicon Valley in the south, where the firm opened its newest office in 2013. Additionally, this continued success hasn't been limited to California. As we show below, the company has made strong inroads into China, which is expected in the very near future, to have major property interests in California.
Take a closer look at what we've achieved--for your benefit!
In 2013, Pacific Union posted sales volumes of $5.5 billion, the second consecutive year we’ve increased sales volume by more than 40 percent. The company has doubled its sales volume in two years, growing more than twice as fast as the overall market in 2013. We also increased our revenue to nearly $130 million, up 41 percent from 2012.
Pacific Union enjoyed sales growth at every price point but shined brightest in the high end of the luxury-home market. We lead the market in sales volume in the $1 million-to-$3 million range in the six-county region consisting of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties.
And in the final quarter of 2013, Pacific Union moved up to the No. 1 sales-volume slot in the $3 million-plus range, closing out the year with $750 million in total sales above that price point.
Growth also came in the form of market-share gains. The company continued its upward trajectory in the key Marin County region, moving into the top position with an 18.2 percent share of the market. Market share also increased in Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties. In Alameda County we have the second largest market share, and in Napa County, we rank No. 3.
Across those six counties, Pacific Union is now second in sales volume despite working with only about half the number of real estate professionals as the market leader. And there’s a simple reason for that: Our elite real estate professionals are the Bay Area’s most productive.
In 2013 Pacific Union real estate professionals ranked No. 1 in sales volume per capita in the six-county Bay Area region. Our real estate professionals also placed first in the quantity of total transactions closed per professional.
According to Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin, the company’s dedication to recruiting only Northern California’s best and brightest real estate professionals has been instrumental in driving its exceptional growth over the past three years.
“Our organization is built on our principle of ‘managing to the top,’” McLaughlin says. “Our recruiting efforts are by invitation, not application. We cater to the finest professionals in the market and invest daily in programs, technology, and resources to enhance their efficiencies and separate them from the ordinary. Our results in the marketplace continue to support our vision.”
The year 2013 also saw the company launch its presence in Silicon Valley via a Menlo Park office. And in November, Pacific Union expanded in Sonoma County by opening an office in Petaluma and recruiting 18 of the region’s top real estate professionals.
The industry has taken note of McLaughlin’s role in leading the company to such robust growth. Recently, he made the Swanepoel SP200, a list that recognizes 200 of the residential real estate industry’s most powerful people. In November 2013, McLaughlin received RISMedia’s Real Estate Leadership Award, which honors the country’s top CEO for extraordinary leadership and innovation.
Pacific Union itself also earned accolades from both the real estate industry and media in 2013. In October we were named one of the 100 fastest-growing companies in the Bay Area, just two months after making the prestigious Inc. 5000 list.
Earlier in the year, the San Francisco Business Times ranked us third largest residential real estate company in Northern California; RISMedia named us to its PowerBroker list; and REAL Trends ranked us third in the U.S. for average home sales price.
The crowning achievement in Pacific Union’s extraordinary year came in December, when McLaughlin received an invitation from the U.S. ambassador to China to attend an exclusive meeting at the ambassador’s residence in Beijing. There, McLaughlin met with 10 of China’s wealthiest individuals about potential investments in U.S. real estate.
So, what does all of this mean for you? Well, clearly it shows the quality of service that we can provide to you, our clientele. Selling or buying, it makes no difference. We can, and will, get it done for you! Questions or assistance? Call us: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. Also, for more local information on all areas of Marin, go to our website:  .

Friday, January 17, 2014

You Can Make the Mortgage Process Easier!

Need or want a mortgage for your next home? Are all of the different rules and regulations from various lenders and/or mortgage brokers driving you absolutely crazy? Well, the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CPFB) wants to hear from you!
Have you ever been frustrated with the mortgage closing process? Perhaps it was the pace of the process, or the paperwork, or the confusing terms.Pile of papers
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is asking for help identifying the most stressful and confusing areas for consumers when it comes to the closing process in a home purchase. The agency is hoping to identify the main consumer “pain points” at closings as part of its “Know Before You Owe” initiative, which is aimed at improving the mortgage process through market innovations and new technologies such as electronic signatures and paperless processes.
“Buying a home is often a consumer’s single largest financial purchase,” said the CFPB in a statement on its website.
“However, closing can be stressful and confusing for consumers. The CFPB plans to conduct several initiatives in order to test and study various ways in which the closing process might be improved. This information will help inform those initiatives.”
The CFPB is collecting comments not just from homebuyers but also real estate professionals, settlement agents, mortgage lenders, and others with a stake in the closing process.
The public is encouraged to comment on the common problems consumers face at closing, where to turn for advice during closing, and what documents and terms are the most confusing during the process.
The agency is also looking for  answers to 17 specific questions about closings and consumer preparation, common errors, and the role of other parties in the process.
Responses must be submitted by Feb. 7.
The CFPB is an independent federal agency responsible for regulating consumer protection with regard to financial products and services. The agency was created in 2011 as part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
And if you’re planning to enter the Bay Area homebuying market this year and need to secure a loan, Pacific Union’s mortgage partner Mortgage Service Professionals can offer the advice and consultation to make your purchase a success.
Here's your chance to possibly help make the whole process a lot easier and less stressful!
Meanwhile, if you have any questions about buying your next home, give us a call! We'd be happy to help! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mortgage Rates: Where Will They Go & How Far?

Well, as we move into the New Year, one factor that, as always, will have an affect on the housing market is mortgage interest rates. Some lenders are indicating addition of new fees, while others are not. The Fed's market activity will have some affect no matter what it ultimately is. Confusing? Well, perhaps the following details will make any such confusion go away. 

The final days of 2013 saw a flurry of real estate news involving interest rates and mortgages. Some news offered relief for homebuyers, while other announcements made it all but certain that interest rates will climb noticeably higher in the new year.
Home prices risingIn mid-December, federal home-loan guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they would soon boost the fees they charge lenders, with the added cost passed on to homebuyers as higher mortgage rates. The fees would hit homebuyers with small down payments and less-than-perfect credit scores the hardest.
The fee hikes could still be rolled back, however, after they were questioned by the incoming director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, scheduled to take over the FHFA on Jan. 6, said recently that he would put the fees on hold until he has time “to evaluate fully the rationale for the plan” and how it would affect the availability of credit. Critics in the mortgage and housing industry had argued that the fees are too high and would ultimately hurt homebuyers and the housing recovery.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve  announced Dec. 18 that it would begin winding down its bond-buying stimulus program in January and end the program entirely by the end of 2014.
The stimulus program has been widely credited with keeping mortgage rates down. The Fed said it would reverse course if the economy weakens, but housing market analysts said mortgage rates will almost certainly rise.
Within a week of the Fed’s announcement, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said mortgage rates increased and refinancing applications decreased.
Thankfully, mortgage rates showed little change by the end of the year, according to the weekly mortgage market survey by Freddie Mac.
In its last survey of 2013, Freddie Mac reported that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.48 percent, up from 4.47 percent a week earlier. Last year at this time, 30-year mortgages averaged 3.35 percent.
Also, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.52 percent, up from last week’s 3.51 percent and from 2.65 percent a year ago. One-year adjustable-rate mortgages, meanwhile, averaged 2.56 percent, down from last week’s 2.57 percent but exactly the same as the rate one year ago.
Earlier this year, the MBA predicted that mortgage rates would rise above 5 percent in 2014 and average 5.5 percent by the end of 2015.
The likelihood of rising interest rates offers clear guidance to move-up buyers and first-time homebuyers: Delays in financing could add thousands of dollars to a home purchase. Potential extra costs in the first year alone could top $35,000, according to an analysis we published two months ago.

Obviously, all of this is important regardless of whether you are a buyer or seller. If you're selling, that means that potential buyers will have to use a larger part of their budgets to afford your home, or not afford it at all.  If, on the hand, you are a buyer, it means that you have to pay more for the same sized mortgage than you did just a few short months ago.  In other words, it may limit what you can afford to buy.

In either case, we can help. Call us and we can give you some helpful suggestions: to attract the right buyer if you're selling, or how to better afford and locate just the right home if you're a buyer. Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.