Friday, February 26, 2016

Rate Rises Delayed

Since mid to late 2015, everyone and their brother has predicted, early and often, that interest rates would rise, and the first rate increase occurred last fall.  However, since that event, the Fed has been sending a continuous stream of signals that it may be a while before they follow with any other increase(s).  The reason is simple.  They do not want to smother any of the ongoing economic recovery, and fear that too many increases could do just that.

What does that mean for you?  Simple! Rates appear likely to remain in their present neighborhood for at least a while, and this is good regardless whether a Buyer or Seller you may be.  If you're looking to purchase a home, maintaining low rates keeps your financing costs manageable.  If you're thinking of selling, it gives a greater number of buyers greater affordability, thus increasing chances of a successful sale for you at a price you would like to receive.

Can we help?  As always, we're happy to do so. Just give us a jingle: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Market Growth in 2016?

Well, here we are almost 1/6 of the way through the year--Does Time Fly?!--and we're already seeing the market pick up in number of sales, while prices so far are marginally down or flat.
Pending home sales were on the rise both statewide and here in the Bay Area in December, a sign that points to a moderate increase in activity in 2016.toy_houses_dark
According to recent data from the California Association of Realtors, pending home sales across the state were up 8.3 percent from December 2014, which the organization characterizes as healthy growth. Every major region of the state saw annual upticks in pending sales, with the Bay Area posting a 12.4 percent gain. The year-over-year pending sales boost indicates that 2016 will be another strong year, sentiments echoed by a separate CAR survey of California real estate professionals, with 89 percent predicting a similar or better housing market than 2015.
On a monthly basis, however, pending sales were down across all areas of the state, which CAR attributes to the inherent seasonality of real estate markets. California pending home sales dropped 22.4 percent from November to December and fell by 36.4 percent in the Bay Area.
Additionally, the report found that the number of Golden State equity sales rose to 93.6 percent of transactions statewide, up from 90.1 percent in December 2014. CAR says that number of equity sales is now at its highest level since 2007, near the peak of the previous housing boom.
The number of distressed sales — REOs and short sales — dropped to 6.4 percent of all transactions, with about half of the counties for which CAR tracks data reporting declines from November. Three Bay Area counties boasted California’s lowest rates of distressed transactions in December: San Mateo (1.7 percent), Santa Clara (1.8 percent), and Marin (2.2 percent).
CAR’s aforementioned survey indicates that the state’s housing market remains competitive, with 65 percent of homes receiving multiple offers in December, nearly identical to levels recorded a year earlier. However, less than one in five sales actually closed for more than asking price, while 57 percent closed below asking price.
About one-third of California properties received price reductions in December, as the cooling prices that come with the season made sellers more amenable to the concept. That’s a phenomenon that several Pacific Union executives noted in our fourth-quarter 2015 real estate report, along with an overall sense of increased buyer caution.
And if you have any questions about your own home or the market in general, give us a call! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. As always, we're happy to help!

Friday, February 12, 2016


The trend started a number of years ago, but has become even more pronounced in recent months. Kitchens are the social center of many people's lives.
As homeowners spend more time entertaining, socializing, and working in their kitchens, remodelers are finding that their jobs are all about enhancing the flow to both indoor and outdoor spaces.openkitchen
Almost half of all homeowners who recently renovated their kitchens were motivated by the desire to open it up to surrounding rooms, according to a new survey from Houzz. Eighteen percent were opening their kitchen to outdoor areas, and 66 percent of remodeled kitchens will have some sort of connection to the outside world. That’s a trend that could surely affect kitchen-renovation jobs here in the Bay Area, where a moderate year-round climate promotes an indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
To be sure, food is still the primary purpose of the kitchen, with 98 percent of respondents saying they cook in the new space and 69 percent using it to dine. But leisure wasn’t far behind; 49 percent of homeowners will entertain guests in the renovated kitchen, while 43 percent said that they will use it to socialize. Given those numbers, it’s hardly surprising that more than two-thirds of those polled spend more than three hours a day in their kitchens.
When it comes to optimizing the design of the kitchen, a multipurpose space once again falls near the top of the list, with 40 percent of homeowners reporting that a kitchen that was easy to work, play, and live in was a priority. Thirty-four percent want a kitchen that makes it easy to entertain, and one in five plans to watch television in the new space. Other top additions to promote a leisurely lifestyle include barstools, window coverings, and wall art.
Countertops are by far the most common basic kitchen elements to receive an overhaul, with 93 percent reporting this upgrade. Houzz notes that granite competes with engineered quartzite were among the two most popular material choices for countertops, particularly in Western states.
Improved faucets, sinks, backsplashes, lighting, cabinets, and appliances were in the project plans for more than 80 percent of kitchen renovations. Dishwashers, microwaves, and refrigerators were the most likely appliances to be replaced, and 75 percent of homeowners opted for stainless-steel ones.
If a kitchen renovation is on your list of home-improvement projects this year, make sure that you have realistic cost expectations; one-third of homeowners spent between $25,000 and $50,000, and an additional one-third spent in excess of $50,000. And since the average American only upgrades their kitchen once every 16 years, consider going with the majority and sticking to classic colors like beige, white, grey, and natural wood.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Save on Home Insurance

One of the most expensive ongoing costs of home ownership is that of homeowners insurance.  AS is typical with anything these days, the premiums keep climbing, often with no regard to the fact that an individual may have had no claims against his own policy.  Other things in the wider world--floods, storms, wildfire and more, may have led to an increase in insurance costs. But never fear--there may be ways to minimize the resulting increases in your insurance costs.

Homeowner’s insurance costs can vary by hundreds of dollars a year, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from, but there are other ways you can lower the price, too. Here are a dozen tips from the Insurance Information Institute:
SHOP AROUND: It will take some time, but comparison shopping is worth the effort. Ask friends and check consumer guides and online insurance quote services. Price isn’t the only factor; consider an insurance company’s reputation for customer service. The California Department of Insurance’s website has several helpful resources, including an insurance-coverage comparison tool and a consumer-complaint summary.
RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE: The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on premiums. Most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500; if you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent.
UNDERSTAND REBUILDING COSTS: The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire, and the other disasters covered in your homeowner’s policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much insurance to buy to avoid higher premiums
MULTIPLE POLICIES, SAME INSURER: Some companies that sell homeowner, auto, and liability coverage will deduct 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy multiple policies. But do the research to confirm this is actually true.
MAKE YOUR HOME DISASTER-RESITANT: Find out from your insurance company how to make your home more resistant to windstorms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by retrofitting areas of your home such as the roof; foundation; and heating, plumbing, and electrical systems.
BOLSTER HOME SECURITY: You may get discounts of 5 percent or higher for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies will cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install modernized alarm and sprinkler systems.
ASK ABOUT DISCOUNTS: Companies offer several types of discounts, but that varies by firm and state. For example, since retired people stay at home more than working people they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.
KEEP YOUR CREDIT IN CHECK: Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied.
STICK IT OUT: If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But periodically compare this price with that of other insurers.
REVIEW THE VALUE OF YOUR POSSESSIONS YEARLY: You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home, but don’t spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners policies, such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers, and valuable art).
IN A GOVERNMENT PLAN? LOOK FOR PRIVATE INSURANCE: If you live in a high-risk area — say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms or wildfires — and have been buying your homeowner’s insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or contact the state Department of Insurance for other options. You may save some cash in the private market.
WHEN BUYING A HOME, CONSIDER THE INSURANCE COST: You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating, and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old.

Just as we're happy to be able to provide this helpful information, we are also available to advise on all of your real estate needs: selling or buying a home, investment property, and referrals to top service providers for anything to do with your real property! Just give us a call: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.