Friday, June 27, 2014

Ways to Maintain Landscaping During the Drought

One constant issue in owning a home during a drought is how to maintain the quality of your landscaping and still conserve water.  California’s lengthening drought is focusing new attention on sustainable landscaping, as homeowners try to balance maintaining an attractive yard with the critical need to conserve water.
Landscaped yardSustainable landscaping is much more than simply choosing a desert motif and packing your yard with cacti and succulents. It includes lawn-care practices that are sensitive to the environment while delivering surprising health benefits.
Environmentally friendly landscapes can cool the area around homes and office buildings, reduce air pollution and dust, build healthy soil, reduce runoff and erosion, attract wildlife, and produce oxygen.
The University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources website offers urban-landscaping advice, including  gardening and irrigation tips, water-wise plants, and a lawn-care guide. Scroll down the Drought Information page and check out the links under its Landscape and Urban section.
Good advice also comes from Planet, a landscaper trade association, which offers the following tips to help homeowners build an outdoor space that can provide both beauty and peace of mind during the drought:
Test your soil: Check the pH level of the soil to ensure that you have a healthy yard. Either have a professional do it or get a test kit from your local agricultural extension office. Plants won’t grow well if the pH balance is off.
Put the right plants in the right places: Place shade plants in shady areas and those that need sun in bright locations. Doing so will create less stress on the plants and help to keep them disease-free.
Use less water: Look for plants and grasses that require less water. Also, water your lawn and garden either early in the morning or late in the day, and water less often but for a longer time.
Build healthy soil: Healthy soil is necessary to grow healthy plants, but it also supports microorganisms and results in plants that are less susceptible to disease and pests. Healthy soil also produces more oxygen, sequesters more carbon, and supports local  animals and insects that help keep the ecosystem healthy.
Protect wildlife: By offering animals and birds food, shelter, and water, homeowners can have a large impact in the survival and health of urban wildlife, which studies have shown is adversely affected by development.
Caution with pesticides: Misusing pesticides can harm both people and animals and can taint water supplies. Apply pesticides only as a last result and by follow the directions exactly.
Mow and prune the right way: Correct mowing and pruning can help minimize pesticide, water, and fertilizer use which in turn lessens the chance of polluting the water.
Cut down on stormwater runoff: By preventing stormwater from running off onto neighboring yards, homeowners can help stop flooding, erosion, and water pollution; restock groundwater supplies; and benefit wildlife habitats.

Marin County Is Safest in Country

Well, one thing everyone wants to have when they move to a new home and community is personal safety for them and their children. In a new survey, Marin tops the list nationally!
An April survey found Bay Area residents were among the nation’s happiest. Now, a new study by U.S. News & World Report shows that our local counties also rank as among the healthiest for children.
The publication awarded Marin County a perfect score of 100 and a No.1 ranking, based on a combination of factors including low birth weight and poverty levels. San Francisco also cracked the top 10, coming in with a score of 91.5 to place sixth.
Eight of nine Bay Area counties ranked on the 50-county list, including San Mateo (No. 11), Santa Clara (No. 16), Sonoma (No. 36), Napa (No. 42), Alameda (No. 45), and Contra Costa (No. 47).
Not only is such a rank important for your own peace of mind, but it also is one of those "intangibles" that helps your home maintain its value.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Things--No Bubble & How to Increase Value With Your Yard

This week, there are a pair of items of interest for owners and buyers to consider. The first is the persistent question as to whether recent price increases constitute a bubble.  The second is ways to increase your home's value by better use and/or improvement of your yard.
In the first case, we've even added in the factor of a rush of Chinese buyers entering the market locally. Even with this, experts have determined that there is no bubble to be concerned over.
All-cash purchases and international investors are helping drive Bay Area real estate prices to stratospheric levels, but current conditions don’t indicate a looming bubble, Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin said in a recently televised interview.MarkMcLaughlin_small
“This is not a bubble,” McLaughlin told San Francisco TV station KPIX in a June 1 interview. “I think that the dynamics of the San Francisco Bay Area are very, very solid.” McLaughlin pointed to the Bay Area’s “fantastic job market” as a major factor driving price appreciation.
Although liquidity created by the current tech-industry boom — particularly in San Francisco and Silicon Valley – is certainly pushing Bay Area home prices higher, international buyers and a pronounced lack of inventory are also propelling our local real estate markets.
McLaughlin told KPIX that Chinese buyers have been especially active in the Bay Area of late, citing educational opportunities and lifestyle change as two reasons the demographic targets the region. He estimates that about half of Chinese buyers are currently living in the Bay Area and noted that their investments will likely continue to push prices upward.
“It’s added a demographic of buyers who generally take a long-term view,” McLaughlin said. “They’re not sellers in the next five to seven years. So it is going to drive housing prices up.”
According to the Hurun Global Rich List 2014, China is home to 358 billionaires, second only to the U.S. In response to demand from Chinese investors, Pacific Union has launched a unique China Concierge program, which offers clients in mainland China a single point of contact to help them buy investment properties in Northern California and parts of Nevada. The initiative includes a Mandarin-language website hosted in China.
In December, McLaughlin was just one of 10 American executives to receive an exclusive invite to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he met with some of China’s wealthiest individuals to discuss U.S. real estate investment opportunities.
While Chinese investors are helping to drive up Bay Area real estate appreciation, a slim supply of inventory is also causing prices to rise.
“Demand has just completely outstripped supply of inventory in many of our markets,” McLaughlin said.
So what can hopeful local buyers do to compete in a market increasingly populated with wealthy foreign investors flush with cash? McLaughlin suggests buyers get their financing approved as early as possible and be ready to act as soon as they see a home that interests them.
Wealthy foreign investors aside, McLaughlin believes that the Bay Area’s natural beauty and inherent attractiveness are perhaps the main reason home prices here are skyrocketing.
“It’s not specifically driven by foreign capital,” he said. “It’s driven by [the fact that this is] a very desirable place to live.”

As regards the second subject on our collective plate this morning, there are a number of ways to step up the value of your property through better use and improvement to your yard. Many are based on the idea of turning the yard into an entertainment center. Follow the link for more info.

If you have any other questions about your home and its value, or what the market is doing, if you're thinking of buying, give us a call. Peter: (415) 279-6466 ; Jane: (415) 531-4091. We'd be happy to answer all of your questions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Prices Keep Climbing

Although in some cases, prices in the Bay Area, or specifically in Marin haven't quite reached their all time highs, they continue to climb like a rocket. Yet, most economists agree there is not, unlike in 2008, a bubble. This is because lenders are acting like lenders should, and not making ridiculous unsupported loans as happened previously. This has a slight tamping effect and lessens the chances of a true overpriced bubble from expanding.
Real estate analysts expect the rise in home prices to slow down over the next two years as U.S. housing markets return to a state of equilibrium, but the Bay Area may prove to be an exception.
Gold coinsIn a recent survey by Reuters, real estate analysts predicted that U.S. home prices would rise 7.5 percent this year and then slow to 4 percent gains by 2016 — a sharp decline from the double-digit increases reported last year.
The 31 analysts surveyed by Reuters said price increases would slow in the coming months because of strict lending standards, slow wage growth, and a lack of first-time buyers. But while lending standards have indeed tightened in the Bay Area in recent years, income growth remains strong and first-time buyers continue to keep our real estate markets active.
While the rest of the country struggles with a lackluster economic recovery, the Bay Area is charging ahead with explosive growth in tech-related jobs and continued expansion of tourism and export-related businesses. In fact, three counties in the region are, statistically, at full employment, with others close behind.
Tech-industry hiring, meanwhile, has raised the average take-home pay in the region and encouraged a steady stream of young first-time buyers, helping to push home prices even higher.
California home prices jumped 15.6 percent in April year over year, according to a CoreLogic report released earlier this week, while other regions of the country saw more moderate growth. And the forecast calls for more of the same.
The U.S. housing market “is improving slowly, which is good,” Mark Goldman, a real estate expert at San Diego State University, told Reuters. “It should be measured. We don’t want to go back to stupid money,”  Goldman said, a reference to the beginning of the Great Recession, when subprime lending helped push home prices to unsustainable heights.
Now, he said, “we are seeing a state of equilibrium. I don’t see any symptoms that would cause housing prices to go up or down significantly.”
In addition to all of the foregoing, in today's (6-13-14) Marin Independent Journal, statistics were released showing that Marin County now has the highest median price for homes of any county in the Bay Area. The number is slightly over $1 million, and barely exceeds that of San Francisco. As we approach the traditional summer slowdown, the market is showing few signs of slowing the pace.
This is both a good time to sell or buy! If you're thinking of selling, today's market is showing many overbids and, in some cases, multiple offers. These results come from proper preparation of the home before the sale, which is one of the many services we always provide our selling clients. Considering a sale? Call us; we'd be happy to help!
If you're buying, you could use expertise in getting the right deal for the best price possible and get into a new home before the prices rise any further. We can help you do so. A quick call to us, then call your mover and give them the new address.
Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.