Friday, March 27, 2015

Home Prices Rise; Water Conservation Begins at Home

This week we'll deal with two items affecting home owners here in the Bay Area: Rising prices and saving a valuable resources: WATER.

In the first, as hyou likely already know if you've been paying attention, home prices in our local area continued to rise like the proverbial skyrocket in February. 

Both home prices and sales increased from January to February in every Bay Area county, says a new report, though inventory constraints continue to frustrate many would-be buyers.Home prices rising
According to the California Association of Realtors’ latest home sales and price report, the median sales price for a single-family home across the nine-county Bay Area was $740,270 in February, a month-over-month gain of 10.7 percent. On an annual basis, home prices grew by 9.9 percent, nearly twice the rate of appreciation recorded statewide.
Monthly home price increases in the Bay Area ranged from 2 percent in Contra Costa County to 36 percent in Napa County. Six local counties topped the ranks as California’s most expensive places to purchase a home in February: San Mateo ($1,200,000), San Francisco ($1,154,670), Marin ($1,023,440), Santa Clara ($915,130), Contra Costa ($738,090), and Alameda ($697,160).
A limited supply of homes to choose from is one factor contributing to rising prices. In a statement accompany the report, CAR President Chris Kutzkey said that housing supply across the Bay Area was down by 10 percent from one year ago.
The report pegs February’s months’ supply of inventory (MSI) in the Bay Area at 3.2 – down from 3.3 in January — meaning that our local markets are still heavily tilted in favor of sellers. San Francisco County had the lowest MSI in the state, at 2.5, followed by Santa Clara (2.6) and San Mateo and Alameda (2.8) counties. According to CAR, an MSI of 6.0 to 7.0 is indicative of a market balanced evenly between buyers and sellers.
Tight inventory means that the Bay Area remains the only region in the state where the typical home seller could expect to pull in more than original price, an average of 104.2 percent in February.
After starting the year on a sluggish note, single-family home sales picked up in February, with the nine-county Bay Area recording an 11.6 percent gain from January. Sales volume was up in every local county from the previous month, ranging from 2.1 percent in Alameda County to 28.4 percent in San Francisco.
And speaking of San Francisco, the city and county now has the dubious distinction as the state’s highest-priced real estate market per square foot, with the average buyer shelling out $754. In San Mateo County, which had formerly topped California for largest square-footage costs, buyers paid an average of $689 per square foot.  For you fellow Marinites, you'll note the median is now over the magic $1 million mark.
What does this mean fo buyers and sellers?  For buyers, it is stimulating faster decisions on buying, the individuals not wanting to pay "too much" for a home.  For sellers, it means the recent trend of receiving more for your home does, overall, continue. Curious about what your home is worth? Call us; we'll be happy to advise you.
As regards water conservation, anyone who's lived here at any time in the past few years is aware of the worsening drought conditiond we live under.A few tips are worthwhile for ways to save water--and money--as the drought continues. Take note!  They're definitely worth it!
Worsening drought conditions demand the attention of all Californians. Whether you are a homebuyer or a seller, water conservation will increasingly be a part of your real estate discussions — and decisions.
Bathroom sink faucetIf you are a buyer, you will save money (and headaches down the road) by checking prospective homes for water-efficient appliances and low-flow toilets and making sure the plumbing is up to date and faucets don’t leak.
For sellers, water-conserving improvements are a sign to prospective buyers that your home has been well-maintained and kept up to date with modern housing standards.
Drought-resistant landscaping is another key factor in conservation efforts at home, and we will discuss the subject in future posts. Today, however, we focus on efforts inside the home to help all of us cope with the very real threat of shrinking water supplies in the Bay Area and across California.
Toilets are by far the main source of water use in homes, accounting for nearly 30 percent of indoor water usage. Older, inefficient toilets use as much as six gallons per flush, while newer models that meet current federal standards use 1.6 gallons per flush. The very latest models, however, use 1.28 gallons per flush or less while still providing equal or superior performance.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that replacing old, inefficient toilets with one of the newest models reduces water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent for the average family, saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water per home every year. That could add up to more than $110 per year in water costs.
These extremely efficient toilets carry the EPA’s WaterSense label, which identifies a wide range of high-performance, water-efficient appliances, fixtures, water systems, and accessories, including shower heads, faucets, and water softeners. Other energy- and water-efficient appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washers, and water heaters, can be identified by the EPA’s Energy Star label. For more information from the EPA on conserving water, visit the agency’s Green Homes website.
Did we mention that there are dozens of rebates and free products available to Californians to promote water conservation?
The incentives are sponsored by state and local agencies. The Santa Clara Valley Water District, for example, offers free shower heads and faucet aerators, as well as toilet flappers and shower timers. In Santa Rosa, homeowners can get a $25 rebate on a high-efficiency clothes washer and a $100 rebate on a recirculating hot-water pump. San Francisco residents can receive a $150 rebate on an Energy Star clothes washer.
The rebates and free products are scattered across two websites. To see what is available in your community, visit the EPA’s WaterSense Rebate Finder page, as well as the Find Your Local Water Agency page on the statewide Save Our Water website.

For more info on these, or any other housing subject or question you may have, you know the numbers to call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.  Let us help you!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Bay Area Remods Hit 8 Year High!

As in past housing boom years here, one factor contributing to price increases has been a dramatic increase in remodeling projects.  This phenomenon is not just local, but nationwide! 
As the U.S. housing stock increasingly shows its age, home-remodeling activity is nearing heights not seen since the previous housing boom. And homeowners who can handle the renovations themselves can realize significant costs savings.Kitcchen_Remod
Citing data from the Harvard Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, John Burns Real Estate Consulting’s Feb. 9 U.S. Housing Analysis and Forecast says that Americans spent nearly $150 billion on home remodeling and repairs in the fourth quarter of 2014, nearing peak levels recorded in 2007. And given that the average U.S. home is about 40 years old, spending on renovations is likely to increase in the coming years, says the National Association of Realtors.
In a recent blog post, NAR said 40 percent of homes in the country were built prior to 1970. Such homes accounted for 42 percent of improvement loans in 2013, says JBREC, with Americans taking out almost $15 billion in home loans to renovate properties built in 1969 and earlier.
Both homeowners who need to spruce up their properties in advance of a sale and homebuyers who are considering a fixer-upper can save a significant amount of cash by performing the labor themselves. For example, while the median cost for a professional kitchen remodel comes in at close to $36,000, those with the do-it-yourself approach could expect the same job to cost $15,000. DIY bathroom remodels cost about $5,000 less than professional jobs, and handy homeowners can save nearly $7,000 by overhauling a bedroom on their own.
NAR says that even though a home-improvement project can seem like an expensive and overwhelming task, first-time buyers may be better off purchasing an existing property that needs work rather than a newly built home.
“Many factors come into play in choosing a home, but first-time homebuyers may need to better appreciate the financial benefit of purchasing an existing home as a starting point for homeownership, instead of ‘saving up for a new home,’ ” the organization said in a statement.
According to NAR, the median sales price for a new U.S. home was $298,100 in December, and in 2014 new homes sold for 37 percent more than existing homes. Historically, new homes have cost about 10 percent more than existing ones, but rising construction costs and limited inventory and land have helped to widen the divide.
Since every remodeling job is different, costs will of course vary by project, although a look at JBREC data offers some perspective. The company pegged the average home-improvement loan at $84,000 in 2013, compared with a 2005 peak of $94,000.
So, if you're either thinking of making major changes in your own residence short of buying a new home, or of adding some things that will definitely return increased value to you down the road, you may definitely want to consider a remodel.  Need expert advice and leads to contractors? Call us for help--Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.