Things to Ponder Before You Submit a Low Ball Offer

I thought this was an excellent post with a good, comprehensive list of Things to Ponder Before You Submit a Low Ball Offer.

Hope you find it useful.  I like to guide my clients through a similar process when they are ready to write an offer.  It can be so emotional, it really helps to step back and ask a lot of questions before jumping into a low priced offer.


Mill Valley home first of its kind

On May 15, this stunning property was featured  on the American Institute of Architects Marin Homes Tour (see my Post about the AIA Tour).  It ‎ was completed in February for local architect Scott Lee and his family. 

This home was my absolute favorite among the six properties featured on the tour.  In addition to being Marin County’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum residence, it shines with its creativity, the mix of industrial and recycled materials, the way the rooms open up to the outdoors and the clever blending of indoor and outdoor space. 

Read the full Mill Valley Herald article here: Marinscope Newspapers Archives Mill Valley Herald News Mill Valley home first of its kind.


Quick update on Marin Market Year to Date Statistics

Here are the numbers for the period January 1st through June 22, 2010:  

  •  Active – 981 (+80 from last month)
  • Contingent – 240  (-27 from last month)
  • Pending – 88 (-25 from last month)
  • Closed – 846 v.   602 (2009) = + 40%
  • Median Price – UP
    • $799,000  v. $750,000 (2009)  (+6.5%)
  • Average Price – UP
    • $1,056,802 v $967,607 (2009) (+9.2%)
  • Why? 32%> $1 mill v. 27% > $1 mill (2009)
  • DOM  (days on market) – Down
    •  88 v  99 days (2009)
Manzanita tree on Crown Road, Kentfield, CA

 

What it means:  

It is not necessarily a rise in the actual valuation of homes that is pushing the median and average prices up for Marin County Real Estate, but rather a continued shift in sales away the less expensive homes which represented the bulk of the sales in 2009.  

For a more detailed analysis of Marin County Real Estate Trends, read my Marin County Real Estate Market Report for May 2010.  

Don’t hesitate to contact me for detailed statistics on recent sales in your own Marin neighborhood at sylvie@yourpieceofmarin.com or 415-505-4789.


The Largest Historic Homes In The United States

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NCIn 2009, the median size of new homes started was roughly 2,100 square feet. This figure was down from 2,200 square feet between 2005-2007 which, itself, was down from 2,350 in 2004.

Homes are getting smaller across the United States.

But, as compared to the nation’s largest homes, the shrinking is laughable. The Biltmore Estate, built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II, measures 175,000 square feet — 83 times the size of a typical home today.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is the largest home in the country and, meanwhile, another Vanderbilt-built property built in 1895 checks in at number two. The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island, measures 165,000 square feet and cost $150 million to build in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation.

Both homes are open to the public.

The next three largest U.S. estates in terms of square footage are:

Hearst Castle, arguably the most famous “large home” in the country, measures 60,645 square feet and ranks 7th.

See the complete list of Largest Historic Homes In The United States, including their build date and architecture style, on Wikipedia.

_______________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Marin County Real Estate Market Update – May 2010

  

Improved Consumer Confidence: 

As I mentioned in my last market report, the health of the housing market is very closely tied to consumer confidence. Buyers who are concerned about the future tend to sit on the sidelines while those who believe the economy is improving are more willing to get off the proverbial fence and buy a home. I was encouraged by the recent University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which showed this critical barometer rose to its highest level in more than two years (see chart below).  

 

Marin County Numbers:  

Improving consumer confidence, along with the April 30 deadline for the federal home buyer tax credit, undoubtedly played a key role in a spike in the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin County recent home sales, including in Coldwell Banker’s Previews luxury segment of the housing market.  Although the push for meeting the deadline of the federal tax credit created an enormous swell of activity in the first-time buyer price point (up to $800,000), the sense of urgency seems to have spread to higher priced markets.   

Overall, Marin Market conditions seem much improved compared to a year ago.  Single Family homes sold year to date as of May 25 increased 45% to 639 from 440 on the same date last year.  The average list price is $1,112,706 and the average YTD sold price $1,057,652 compared to $1,010,384 and $948,226, respectively, at the same time last year.  Days on market for single family homes have decreased from 110 in May 2009 to 96 as of 5/25/10.  

Condo sales are up too, but much less dramatically: 187 units have been sold YTD as of May 25 compared to last year’s 165, a 13% increase.  Average YTD condo prices as of 5/25/10 at $415,311 list price vs. $406,558 sold price, comparing to $372,936 list price and $359,709 sold price during the same period.   

Heard on the Street in Marin County:  

Larkspur School District

 

 In Marin County, most real estate agents I talk to seem optimistic about the local housing market as activity has picked up.  Noteworthy is that we have all noticed a flight to safety: buyers are looking for value first and foremost.  Attractively priced and presented homes in very desirable locations and good school districts are receiving the bulk of the offers.  Overpriced, poorly presented homes in less desirable locations and school districts are often sitting on the market for extended periods (up to one year), even after multiple price reductions.  I find most buyers very prudent and even in multiple offer situations, they are commonly staying at or below asking price, rarely venturing over asking price.  Appraisals are stringent, and requests for appraisal reviews and even second appraisals not uncommon.  I recently heard of an escrow closing one week late because the well-meaning homeowner showed the appraiser the new smoke detectors he had purchased for his condo.  The lender then requested a second appraisal to make sure that the smoke detectors had been properly installed!!!  

We are not out of the woods yet.  Are we going to double-dip?  

While we have witnessed growing signs of a recovery taking hold, we need to step back and take a closer look at our market trends.    

First, while the comparison to last year is very encouraging, as my manager Kevin Patsel was quoted saying in the Marin Independent Journal today: “It’s a good sign, but we have to remember a year ago sales were incredibly less…we have to look at where we came from.”  

Second, the surge in activity in the first part of the year is starting to decline: the monthly city by city report as of May 31 shows the percentage of listings in contract down from last month in ten of thirteen listed Marin County cities and towns, up in two, and with no change in San Rafael.  The percentage of single family residences in contract is down in all price categories except for a very slight increase of 0.5% in the $2-3 million segment.  The under $1 million market segment is still doing well at 35% in contract but remains quite price sensitive.  

 City by City Analysis Single Family & Condos June 2, 2010 – All price ranges combined

City Total Active In Contract % In Contract
Sausalito 98 18 18.37%
Belvedere 39 5 12.82%
Tiburon 115 20 17.39%
Mill Valley 218 47 21.56%
Corte Madera 44 21 47.73%
Larkspur 41 10 24.39%
Greenbrae 47 15 31.91%
Kentfield 44 9 20.45%
Ross 25 3 12.00%
San Anselmo 93 29 31.18%
Fairfax 40 8 20.00%
San Rafael 392 132 33.67%
Novato 334 135 40.42%

 Market Type General Guidelines:

15% in Contract = Strong Buyer’s Market – 15-25% in Contract = Buyer’s Market – 25% in Contract = BALANCED MARKET – 25-35% in Contract = Seller’s Market – 35-45% in Contract = Strong Seller’s Market  

 Third, we must keep in mind that the market will continue to face strong headwinds on the road to recovery.  Among the challenges are stubbornly high unemployment (even though recently released numbers do show improvement for the Bay Area), recent volatility in the stock market, the European debt crisis and continuing concern over the possibility that troubles with the Euro may spread to other countries and the BP disaster, which is very much on everybody’s mind and is acting as a drag on people’s spirits.  

Last, but certainly not least, is the strong likelihood that many more distressed properties will hit the market in a rising interest rate environment.  The foreclosure explosion which began early in 2007 as home values began falling and adjustable-rate mortgages began resetting, putting payments out of reach for many homeowners has not gone away.  Rising unemployment has added to the problem.  

At the end of September 2009, about 1 in 4 U.S. mortgage holders was underwater, and more than a third of California mortgage holders were in that position, according to First American CoreLogic, a real estate data firm.  

The Administration’s loan modification program has not yielded very positive results. “Given what we see in terms of the number of distressed properties that are in the pipeline, we do expect that foreclosures will mount as borrowers are not able to make it from a trial [loan] modification to a permanent modification,” Celia Chen, senior director of Moody’s Economy.com, said. “This will cause home prices to start falling again.”   In a recent report projecting the level of shadow inventory in the housing market, Standard & Poor’s analysts shared the same concern and noted that they assumed a 70% re-default rate on loan modifications in the study.  

This has spurred increasing talk of a double-dip housing recession.  MSNBC, in a May 25 article, quotes Robert Shiller, co-creator of the famous Case-Shiller index as follows: “It looks like a double-dip already…There is a very real possibility of some more decline.”   

The term “double dip” refers to a recession followed by a short-lived recovery that then slides back into a second recession.  After a recent improvement in our market, are housing values at risk of coming down further?   

We know for a fact that values have not come down as much in Marin as they have in other very hard hit markets in California, such as the Sacramento region, among many, where homes have lost up to 50% of their value!  While the loss of equity varies greatly in Marin, the average decline seems to range from 20 to 30%, depending on the location of the property.  Values are generally determined by the relationship, or balance, between supply and demand: a balanced market is commonly considered to have 6 to 7 months of inventory.   

On the supply side, our housing inventory has always been low in Marin as a result of both the limited available space to build new homes—the closer to the Golden Gate Bridge the more limited—and existing regulations protecting open space.  Despite the very high desirability of Marin County, demand has been historically moderate because of our high price points.  While in other parts of California, there was a huge wave of new construction during the housing bubble, there was practically no new construction in Marin, with the exception of Northern San Rafael and Novato which have experienced the largest decline in value.   

Let’s look at the highs and lows over the past five years for the number of sold listings (demand), months’ supply of inventory (supply) and sold average prices (value): Demand was at its highest in August 2005 when 346 listings were sold, months’ supply of inventory (MSI) was at its lowest at 1.7, the sold average price was $1,052,000 and price per square foot was $545.  The lowest demand was in February 2009 with 87 sold listings, 14.5 MSI, $667,000 sold average price and $374 average price per square foot.   

Where are we now? The number of sold listings for May 2010 was 240, MSI was a healthy 5.8 and the sold average price was $941,000, with the average price per square foot at $447.   

The big unknown is the shadow inventory of distressed property and its impact on values.  “Shadow inventory” has been overused in the past year and different experts offer diverse definitions. Some only include homes that have already been repossessed by banks and are awaiting distressed sales. Others include those whose owners are long-overdue on mortgage payments. In Marin County this shadow inventory was originally comprised mostly of distressed homes in varying states of disrepair in the hardest-hit regions (Novato and parts of San Rafael).  In 2009, we witnessed a new wave of foreclosures all over Marin, even in the highest priced markets such as Ross, Kentfield, and Tiburon, due to unemployment.  We are also starting to see an increasing number of “strategic foreclosures” where the homeowner walks away from the property, determining that it is not worth any longer economically to make payments on a home on which he owes much more than the home is worth (and will be worth in the coming years), notwithstanding the resulting impact on his credit score.  

Homes in foreclosure drag down real estate prices and keep them depressed for years to come. The larger the shadow inventory, the longer the market will take to fully recover. The impact of the shadow inventory in Marin County will depend in great part on its size and how banks control how and when they put the foreclosed homes on the market.  The government now has controlling interests in many financial institutions and has significantly increased the regulation of short sales, loan modifications and foreclosures.  Let’s hope for the best.  

I strongly believe it all comes back to where we started this article: consumer confidence.  As consumer confidence keeps improving, consumer spending overall will increase, companies will start hiring again, and more homeowners will be able to make their mortgage payments every month. Let me know what you think.  

If you are thinking of buying a home in which to raise a family, create memories and live for the next five years or longer, there are many opportunities in today’s market.  Marin is more affordable than ever, interest rates are still at historical lows, loans are available for well qualified buyers with strong credit and employment records, and there are many motivated sellers with well priced houses just waiting to become YOUR HOME, YOUR PIECE OF MARIN.  Give it some thought, and give me a call when you are ready.   

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about real estate.  I would love to hear from you.


Did you know…June is National Safety Month?

“Summertime and the living is easy…”  Love that song!  Don’t you?  And yes, summer, after playing hide and seek, seems to have finally decided to stick around for good in Marin County.

Warm weather, barbecues, sun hats, pool parties, walks on the beach, white pants and sandals, dinners al fresco, cold drinks, fresh salads and sweet, ripe nectarines from the farmers’ market…all these wonderful things come to mind for me when I think of summer.  What does summer mean to you?

School is out for everyone now I believe and whether you are going on a vacation or taking a “staycation,” it is important to remember to put safety first.

You don’t have to have children to think safety and implement the following measures in preparation for the hot months ahead. Summer risks can affect seniors as well as children (and your pets). Take a few minutes to review the following tips from Adrianne Peixoto of Costello and Sons and make sure you are adequately prepared for summer.   Adrianne is an integral part of my team, and I highly recommend her for all your insurance needs.  See below for her contact information.

SUMMER SAFETY TIPS FROM ADRIANE PEIXOTO, CSI

Planning a vacation?

As you leave on vacation, protect yourself against a physical or a virtual break-in, warns the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).  Most burglaries occur in July and August and losses due to burglaries totaled 3.5 billion and residential burglaries averaging around $1,600 according to the FBI.  Identity theft is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in the country, according to the Federal Trade Commission, with more than 10 million victims a year.   “Once in your home, a burglar can easily obtain credit card information, social security numbers or other identification information by going over personal documents in a home or stealing the family computer,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.  Losses to credit cards average $18,000, but victims are generally only liable for the first $50 dollars for each card.

We recommend the following preventive measures to keep your home safe while you are away:

 Keep your home well lit. Mount exterior lights out of reach of would-be burglars in your yard or on your house. Put indoor lights on a timer.

  •  Make it noisy to break into your home. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective systems ring at an outside service, which alerts the police, fire or other emergency service. A sophisticated alarm system could result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.
  •  Keep valuables under lock and key and well hidden. When possible, do not leave personal documents in your home office or desk – burglars know to look for them there. Put critical documents in a lock box (or safe) somewhere else in the house. Keep copies of important documents at another location – a nearby relative’s home, for example.
  •  Have mail and packages picked up, forwarded or held by the post office. Stop newspaper deliveries and ask a neighbor to pick-up “throw-away” circulars.
  •  Leave blinds or curtains open in their usual position. Make it appear that you are at home.

 Many homeowners’ policies offer insurance to cover the cost of identity theft! Contact CSI to learn more.

 Don’t forget about Fido!

Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.

 According to Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA Vice President of Veterinary Outreach, “symptoms of  overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.” Pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.[i]

 Protect Against Drowning!

Each year, more than 830 children aged 14 and under die as a result of accidental drowning, and an average of 3,600 children are injured in near-drowning incidents.[ii]  Between May and August, drowning deaths among kids increase by a whopping 89 percent. If you have a swimming pool or if your child will be near one, it is crucial to put multiple safety measures in place to keep kids safe.

  •  Put barriers around the pool to restrict access. Use doors with locks and alarms to keep kids out when adults are not present.
  •  Never leave kids unsupervised. Even if your grade-schooler is a confident and capable swimmer, do not leave the pool area without adult supervision if children are in or near the water.
  •  Do not use flotation devices. Inflatable “floaties” and other flotation devices and toys can give kids who cannot swim a false sense of security.
  •  Learn CPR. You may never need to use it, but knowing CPR for adults and for kids is something that can mean the difference between life and death. Check your local American Red Cross or Fire Station for CPR classes near you!

 There are several other hazards to consider before you break out the hibachi and surf boards. Including: lawn mower and outdoor tool safety, protection from the sun and insects, proper food preparation and cooking, the use (and often abuse) of backyard trampolines, car accidents for teenage drivers goes up in summer months.

 This article is meant to give examples of just a couple summer safety concerns and is meant to be informative and not comprehensive in nature. As your insurance provider, we ask you to make sure you are adequately protected from any unwanted summer emergencies.

 Please go to any of the following agencies / websites for more information, additional tools and resources or contact us at CSI.

 Home Safety Council (excellent interactive and user friendly website)

American Red Cross (type in your zip code to find out about CPR classes and resources in your own neighborhood)

About.com “Hidden Summer Dangers”, by Dr. Vincent Iannelli (article with lots of links to other articles of interest)

US Consumer Protection and Safety Commission (CPSC)

LifeScript “Top Ten Summer Safety Tips”, by Stephanie Smith (article with lots of links to other articles of interest – very good for families)

AARP (excellent website for those over the age of 55)

ASPCA (good website for those of us with pets)


[i] ASPCA “Hot Weather Tips”

[ii] American Academy of Pediatrics

********************

Contact Information for Adrianne:

Adrianne Peixotto, Vice President, Private Client Group

415-257-2131

San Rafael, CA

apeixotto@costelloandsons.com


Loan Application Alert : Conforming, Interest Only Mortgages Guidelines Change Next Week

Fannie Mae changes the interest only guidelinesIf you plan to finance your home with a conforming interest only mortgage, get your loan application submitted no later than this Friday, June 18. 

Starting next week, Fannie Mae is clamping down on the popular loan product.

An “interest only” mortgage is exactly what its name implies — a mortgage for which the monthly payments consist entirely of interest with no principal reduction. Because there’s no amortization, payments are less costly on a month-to-month basis.

For example, assuming principal + interest payments at 5 percent, a $250,000 mortgage carries a monthly payment of $1,342.  The payment on a comparable interest only mortgage, however, drops to $1,042.

That’s a payment difference of $300 and the size of the cost savings, not surprisingly, is the biggest reason why Fannie Mae is making its changes.

In its official announcement, Fannie Mae says it wants to give the interest only option to “borrowers who are in a position to choose it as a financial management tool” rather than allowing homeowners to use it as an affordability tool for their budgets.

Going forward, there are new minimum standards for interest only home loans.

  • Applicants must have a 720 credit score or better
  • Applicants must have at least 24 months of reserves
  • The property type may not be a 2-unit, 3-unit or 4-unit
  • The property must be a primary residence, or vacation home

Furthermore, only purchase and rate-and-term refinances are eligible.  Cash out refinances are prohibited.

Interest only home loans aren’t for everyone, but if you plan to finance with a Fannie Mae mortgage and interest only is your preference, get your loan application submitted as soon as possible. Starting Monday, approvals will be tougher to come by.

Larkspur-Corte Madera Bike Path

___________________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Shopping And Paying Bills Online? Here are Methods To Protect Your Online Financial Identity

In May 2010, Retail Sales at non-store retailers — a category that includes Amazon and eBay — topped $29 billion, up 16 percent from May 2009.   Clearly, Americans are doing an increasing amount of shopping online.  And we’re paying our bills online, too.

But how well are we protecting our identities?

In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the basics of online fraud and methods to minimize the likelihood of identity theft.  Furthermore, the tips go beyond the basic “choose a challenging password”.  For example, you’ll hear about:

  • Why you shouldn’t pay bills from a coffee shop
  • Who might be hiding behind an unprotected public wifi network
  • The dangers of storing credit card numbers with an online retailer

And, although, at one point, the interviewee goes over the top with respect to spyware and anti-phishing prevention, the point being made is a good one — you can’t be too careful with your online financials and common sense goes a long way.

_________________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on Marin County Real Estate was provided by Sylvie Zolezzi.  I can be reached via email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com or by phone/text at 415.505.4789.  I help people move in and out of Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am here to help you make the smartest real estate move and build wealth, providing you with reliable real estate information and advice you can trust.

My knowledge and passion for Marin County are equaled by my commitment to helping you successfully navigate the process of buying and selling a home.  My business model enables me to provide superior service and a better client experience.  I know the neighborhoods, the schools, the amenities; I know where you want to live.  I know and love Marin County! 

I service the following towns in Marin County: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae, Kentfield,  Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato.


Marin changes policy to now allow dogs to sit with owners at restaurants with outdoor seating

  

Yet another reason LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL when you are a dog in Marin. 

The author's dogs playing at Stinson Beach in November 09

 

Add all the beautiful trails, dog parks, beaches and fancy pet stores Marin has to offer and you have a perfect spot for Fido.  

As the proud owner of two big dogs (Max and Charlie – two black standard poodles), I am very familiar with all that Marin has to offer to dog lovers and their canine friends.  I will post on these amenities soon.  Stay tuned… 

Read the full article on the new policy allowing dogs to sit with their owners as they dine al fresco in Marin County restaurants by clicking on the link below 

Marin changes policy to now allow dogs to sit with owners at restaurants with outdoor seating – ContraCostaTimes.com.