Marin County property assessed valuation review

Today’s first page Marin IJ article entitled 

Assessor: Marin Home Value Sink reports that the County Assessor has reduced the assessed valuation of 16,408 parcels, or 21 percent of Marin’s residential properties in the biggest reassessment purge since Proposition_13.

If you have purchased your home or property in the past five or six years, and your property’s value has not been reassessed, you may qualify for a review.  Those of us who bought many years ago benefit from lower assessments that have only increased at the annual 2 percent inflation cap set by Proposition 13 and are very unlikely to qualify.

Request_for_Assessment Reviews should be made by Nov. 1.  Reviews are conducted free of charge. Property owners who fail to reach an accord with the assessor may file a formal appeal with the Assessment Appeals Board by Nov. 30. Appeals cost $50, but the assessor often settles with property owners who balk at valuations. “If you don’t agree with us, ask for a review and/or file an appeal,” Benson said. “We will listen.”  Visit the Marin County Website –  Real Property Divison for more information.  

I would be happy to provide you with an analysis of the value of your property at no charge to assist you in the review process.  Feel free to contact me at 415.505.4789 or Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com.


Mortgage Tips for Retirees

Seniors approaching retirement with a mortgage balance and financial assets are faced with the question of whether they should liquidate assets to pay off the mortgage.   Jack Guttentag, professor of finance emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers excellent advice on this question which looms large for many seniors. 

In his opinion, “The only foolproof solution to that problem is to accumulate more wealth than we can possibly outlive, but most seniors can’t manage that….

My general view is that for most seniors, paying off the mortgage (or paying it down by enough to reduce the payment significantly) is a prudent move. The major reason is that for most borrowers, the interest rate they are paying on their mortgages exceeds the rate they can earn with a reasonable degree of safety on their assets.

Paying off a 5 percent mortgage is an investment that yields 5 percent with no risk, so if you can do it by liquidating assets yielding 2 percent, you increase your wealth….

A feature of the post-crisis financial landscape that reinforce the case for paying down the mortgage balance is that the returns available on low-risk investments today are lower than they have been at any time since the 1930s.”

Professor Guttentag shares a spreadsheet he has developed “… that allows a borrower to enter any scenario for future interest rates, and compare his wealth in every future month in the two cases: where he liquidates his assets to repay the mortgage at the outset, and where he retains both the mortgage and the assets.” The spreadsheet is on his website and is titled Loan Repayment Versus Investment.”

Read the full Inman News article on Mortgage Tips for Retirees.


Government due to ease jumbo loan aid

Jumbo loans are currently loans which exceed the cutoff of $729,750 to qualify for government backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Borrowers seeking to borrow over $729,750 have to meet the more stringent criteria of private lenders who demand stellar credit scores, downpayment of 20% and full time employment. 

The government backing of jumbo loans– allowed by Congress two years ago to give the housing market a shot in the arm– is due to expire on December 31, 2010.  As we near the end of the year,  this issue is being hotly debated.  If lawmakers do not intervene, the jumbo loan limit will go back to $625,500, which would greatly impact the highest cost areas of New York, Washington D.C. and the Bay Area.

Some argue that the price of homes would drop significantly, while others believe that it would provide a needed opening for the private market to come back.  There is a strong chance that the High Balance Conforming loan limits of $725,500 will hold, but no one can bank on it (sorry, could not help myself!). 

If you are thinking of refinancing your mortgage or of buying a home, make sure to keep this potential change in mind.  I would be happy to recommend a professional mortgage broker to assist you with any of your financial needs.

Read the Today’s Wall Street journal Article: U.S. Due to Ease Jumbo Loan Aid.


Gloom and doom for Marin County Home Sales?

MARIN COUNTY REAL ESTATE MARKET UPDATE – August 2010   

Tiburon, CA

You’ve heard it from the media, Bay Area August 2010 home sales took a dive. We all know that bad news sells much better than good news and all we have heard recently is that Marin County home sales are spiraling down and prices are heading down too!  

Indeed August sales were very slow. As a matter of fact they were the slowest for any August since 1992 and less than half of the 2007 peak.  

Should we buy into the gloom and doom about the Bay Area and Marin County Real Estate markets?  

Year to Date Market Data:  

Let’s just take a step back and look at year to date numbers to better understand how we are doing. For the period Jan. 1-Aug. 31 1234 single family homes were sold in 2010 compared to 1000, up 23.4% for the same period and 322 condos were sold in 2010 compared to 304 in 2009, up 5.9%. Average year to date (YTD) price as September 1, 2010 was $1,044,953 for single family homes compared to $980,113 last year, while days on market went down slightly to 87 from 98 last year. For condos, the average YTD sold price on August 31 was $394,377 compared to $369,296 a year earlier, with days on market up from 103 to 110, a reflection of the financial challenges for condo buyers. The upward trend of sold homes is due in great part to the lower number of foreclosures as a percentage of total sales for the county.  

The less than one million price range is still the most active with 31.78% of single family homes in contract and 29.46% of condos. The higher end of the market is still lagging as buyers are still struggling to secure Jumbo mortgages. Cash buyers on the other hand are taking advantage of the lack of competition and snapping up properties at bargain prices.

Marin County – Single Family Residences as of September 1, 2010      
  Total Active In Contract % In Contract Type of Market
ALL PRICES 1229 292 23.76% Buyer’s
0-$999K 686 218 31.78% Seller’s
1MIL-$1,999K 328 55 16.77% Buyer’s
2MIL-$2,999K 110 10 9.09% Strong Buyer’s
$3MIL + 105 9 8.57% Strong Buyer’s

The Local Scene

On a city by city basis, Corte Madera is the best performing market with 40.91% of its listings in contract versus 25% at the end of July. Percentages in contract were up in 9 out of 13 Marin County cities, down in 3 and unchanged in 1.

City by City Analysis-Single Family & Condos – All price ranges combined  Sept. 1, 2010 August 5, 2010
City Total Active In Contract % In Contract % In Contract
Sausalito 75 17 22.67% 24.05%
Belvedere 49 4 8.16% 2.22%
Tiburon 125 21 16.80% 13.28%
Mill Valley 179 34 18.99% 18.97%
Corte Madera 44 18 40.91% 25.00%
Larkspur 30 7 23.33% 18.42%
Greenbrae 40 14 35.00% 28.57%
Kentfield 38 7 18.42% 15.38%
Ross 22 3 13.64% 11.54%
San Anselmo 94 26 27.66% 21.35%
Fairfax 38 3 7.89% 27.66%
San Rafael 376 97 25.80% 27.53%
Novato 354 126 35.59% 34.87%

    

Current Trend:  

But why the sharp decline in July and August sales you might ask? Bay Area and Marin County home buyers, spurred by the now expired Federal First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, purchased homes sooner than they otherwise might have, squeezing a burst of activity in the first six months of the year and creating a lull after June. The monthly double  digit increase in the number of single family homes sold in Marin County experienced in the first half of the year gave way to a sharp drop in July when sales went down to 173 compared to 222 in June. June happened to have the highest number of single family homes sold in Marin County since June 2007 when 226 were sold. August Single Family homes sales went down even more to 139.  

Tavern at Lark Creek, Larkspur, CA

And now, Post Labor Day activity is picking up as sellers are putting their home on the market in order to get into escrow before the holidays are upon us. Open houses are well attended and attractive listings (well priced and presented) are getting snapped up by buyers writing multiple offers. Do not let the possibility of a bidding war discourage you from making an offer however; rare are the sellers who get a price significantly higher than their asking price even in a multiple offer scenario. Buyers are typically very smart and well informed, checking new listings on line, and know a good deal when they see one. If you would like to receive email alerts whenever homes that meet your criteria hit the market, please contact me. I will set you up on Clean Offer, a wonderful home alert tool which allows you to search the MLS the same way I do or to keep track of activity in your market area if you are thinking of selling.  

  Where are the buyers? 

It is very ironical that the number of Marin County home sales was the largest when prices were the highest.   So much for buying low! With spectacularly low mortgage rates and attractively low home prices, why aren’t more buyers jumping in?  

Kentfield home tucked in the hillside among redwoods

John Walsh, MDA Dataquick’s President, notes: “… many would-be buyers are holding off for further price cuts, which would be most likely where an inventory spike meets slackening demand. The trick is to keep one eye on mortgage rates. If they jump, it could erase the benefit of a modest price drop.” Just do the math and you will realize that a slight increase in interest rate would completely wipe out any savings from a slightly lower price. I would strongly recommend that you speak to your lender (if you don’t have one, I can recommend several whom I trust) and get preapproved so that you do not get caught when rates start going up and everyone rushes in secure their preapproval. It is more than ever paramount to work with a mortgage broker who can navigate skillfully in today’s challenging lending environment and successfully overcome the many hurdles with loans and appraisals.  

Many buyers are also staying on the sidelines because they are unemployed or fear to lose their job and will gain more confidence as the economy continues improving and unemployment goes down. On a positive note, Marin County’s unemployment has been consistently the lowest in all of California. As we all continue to support our local businesses, it will continue improving.  

I make it my business to understand the numbers, and follow the trends closely. I know the neighborhoods and can provide you with the right guidance. Whether you are thinking of buying or selling, or are just curious to find out how much your home is worth, call me at 415.925.3231 or send me an email at Sylvie@YourPieceOfMarin.com.


Unique Homes Across The Country

Shoe House (image courtesy of Zillow)If a home is an expression of personality, then these 10 homes say something unique about their owners. 

Culled by Zillow, this list of one-of-a-kind properties makes for excellent party conversation.   There’s the “round house”, the geodesic dome, the firehouse home, and the earth-ship, among others.

Some highlights from the collection:

  • The Shoe House (Hallham, PA) : The Shoe House was completed in 1949. It’s pink, it’s made of stucco, it’s 25-feet tall, and in the shape of a workboot. Oh, and every window is decorated with a stained glass shoe.
  • The Cave House (Festus, MO) : This 15,000 square foot home is tucked inside a mountain, and consists of three chambers — one for the bedrooms, one for laundry and storage, and one where musicians like Bob Seger once performed. Because of geothermal and passive solar heat, this home is extremely energy-efficient.
  • The Decommissioned Missile Site House (Othello, WA) : If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a decommissioned Titan 1 missile complex, than this is the home for you. Located roughly 3 hours east of Seattle, this home is built to withstand nuclear blasts. It’s a 6-story descent to the 125-foot diameter “center room” with 65-foot ceilings.  Missiles not included.

A few of the properties as listed by Zillow are for sale and most have accompanying pictures. Unfortunately, buyers of the homes should expect to pay cash because getting a mortgage for a unique home can be veritable challenge.

(Image courtesy: Zillow)

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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 Jobless Rate lowest in State

Shop at M Clothing or have breakfast or lunch at the Corte Madera Cafe both located at Old Corte Madera Square

Marin, which posted a jobless rate of 8.6 percent in July, remained the county with the lowest unemployment rate in the state, followed by Santa Barbara County at 8.9 percent and San Mateo County at 9.1 percent.  Way to go Marin County!  Let’s keep improving our economy by shopping locally and supporting our local businesses. 

Of the incorporated cities in Marin, Corte Madera had the lowest unemployment rate at 6 percent and Fairfax the highest at 14 percent. The rate was 10 percent in Novato and San Rafael.

Read the full Contra Costa Times article here. 


Rent A Home Or Buy A Home : The Case For Both Sides

Is it better to rent a home, or to buy one?   The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear the case for both sides.

From the pro-renting part of the talk, there are valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance — estimated at 2% of a home’s value.  Plus, renters have the ability to “follow a job” to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be somewhat restricted.

From the pro-purchase part, however, excellent points were made too:

  • Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
  • Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
  • A home can serve as a piggybank over the long-term; a place for “forced savings” for families that want it

The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.

Whether buying or renting, don’t try to go at it alone. There are a lot of resources online, but contacting a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.

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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.


The Math Of Choosing A Great Closing Date

Closing dates and rate locksWant a lower mortgage rate on your upcoming home buy? Think about moving up the closing date.

The reason is rooted in “rate locks”, a bank’s guarantee to honor a specific mortgage rate for a specific, finite period of time.  Rate locks allow home buyers to reserve mortgage rates today even though their respective closings may be scheduled as far as a year into the future.

A rate lock is a contract.   No matter what the “current market rate” is at the time of closing, the bank will honor the terms of the original rate lock.

It would be like making an agreement to buy Microsoft stock at a specific price 60 days from now. No matter what the price, you already know what you’re paying for it.

In this sense, rate locks are predictions about the future and, meanwhile, as we all know, the future can be a challenge to forecast.   Lenders know this, too, of course, so it’s easy to understand why longer rate locks tend to be more expensive than shorter ones.

The longer the rate lock, the more risk to the bank.

To compensate for this “time risk”, therefore, lenders typically step-up pricing for rate lock guarantees as lock period lengthen.

  • 15-day rate lock : The best of all pricing
  • 30-day rate lock : 1/8 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock
  • 45-day rate lock : 1/4 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock
  • 60-day rate lock : 3/8 percent extra cost versus the 15-day rate lock

One percent of “extra cost” is defined as one percent of the borrowed amount.

Now, this incremental price chart is just a rough guideline; exact spreads vary from lender-to-lender.   Overall, however, it’s fairly close.

That’s why it’s important to manage your closing date vis-a-vis your mortgage rate.   Closing in 30 days versus 31 can save you an eighth-percent in closing costs.   Assuming a loan size of $200,000, that’s $2,500 saved.

So, when negotiating a closing date on a contract, keep in mind the math of mortgage rate locks. The shorter its length, the more money you might save.

___________________________________________________________________________

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.