Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Marin County Home

More First-Time Home Buyers In 2015?

In October, 29% of home buyers were first-time home buyers, the lowest level in decades, according to the National Association of REALTORS®,

In Marin County, that percentage was higher. In October 2014, 53% of the homes that were sold were priced under $1 million. But the one to two million price range was also very active, and the average sales price of homes (single family and condominiums) peaked at $1,327,000 in March 2014.  During 2014, Marin has had an average of 60-70% of its active listings, and an average of 80-85% of listings sold, in the under $2 million price bracket.

With  mortgage rates averaging less than four percent this November, and with rents rising faster than home values all over the Bay Area, the percentage of first-time buyers is expected to climb.

More than 6 million U.S. consumers will buy a home between now and the end of 2015. If you’re planning to be among them, you’ll want to make a plan for your purchase.

Follow these steps before you start your search. By asking good questions, you’ll have a firmer grasp of the home buying process and, also, of your finances.

41 Sandalwood Court, San Rafael, CA - exclusive listing by Sylvie Zolezzi of DEcker Bullock Sotheby's International Realty - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

I sold this entry level 3 bedroom San Rafael home to first time buyers for close to $1 million with multiple offers last summer

1. Have You Planned For Homeownership?

Home buyers aren’t born overnight. The decision to buy a home is one which can take day, months, or even years. There’s no “right” or “wrong” timetable for it.

In Marin County, a lot of the first time home buyers are families from San Francisco: either they have outgrown their current home, or are growing their family and our excellent  quality of life and schools are a major attraction. Other first time home buyers jump into homeownership when their rental lease ends. Landlords are often increasing their rent and they’ve decided against renting for another 1- or 2-year term.

If you are thinking of buying a Marin County home, regardless of your motivation, you won’t decide to buy a home overnight. And, with all the time you’ll spend asking “is it a good idea to buy a home?” you’ll have ample time to plan ahead.

Pre-home buyers should take a realistic look at their personal finances, as well as their goals for the future.

Using a mortgage calculator may come in handy, but there’s more to owning a home than low mortgage rates.

 

2. Have You Considered The Costs Of Homeownership?

Cleaning gutters

Deciding whether to buy a home or rent? Make your current finances a major factor because, although mortgage payments may be lower than comparable rental costs in many U.S. cities, the ongoing costs of homeownership are often higher.

Remember — homeowners with a mortgage are responsible for more than just the mortgage. Homeowners are also responsible for annual real estate taxes and, in some cases, annual or monthly assessments to a community.

Plus, the cost of homeowners insurance can be higher than the cost of renters insurance. Well prepared buyers plan for these increases in costs.

Furthermore, homes — even new ones — require maintenance and upkeep.  A good rule of thumb is to expect annual maintenance costs to average approximately 1.5 percent of your home’s value. This upkeep cost may include the cost of ongoing maintenance, new appliances; landscaping costs; window washing and gutter cleaning; and more.

Have a grasp on your income, your debts and your ongoing credit obligations to make sure you’re using your available money wisely.

 

3. How Much Home Can You Afford?

“How much home can I afford?” is among the most common home buyer questions. However, it may be the wrong financial question.

Instead of seeking your maximum home purchase price, it can be better to determine the maximum monthly payment you can reasonably manage on the basis of  both your income/resources and your lifestyle, and then work backward using today’s mortgage rates to determine your maximum home purchasing power.

Remember that a mortgage rate change of just 1 percentage point, for example, can raise or lower your purchasing power 11%.

When you focus on a maximum monthly payment instead of a maximum home purchase price, you can be sure that you’ve made a budget which accounts for all of a home’s ongoing costs — not just its principal + interest.

 

4. Have You Decided On Your Down Payment?

Before buying a home, financial experts often recommend, and lenders now frequently require, that home buyers have 6 months or more of cash reserves set aside to cover living expenses, real estate taxes, and other monetary obligations in the event of a catastrophe. These funds should not be used for a home down payment. They’re a cushion against emergency. And, once those funds have been set aside, home buyers should consider their home down payment.

Down payments on a home can range from zero to twenty percent or more.  In competitive bidding situations, which are very frequent in Marin for homes under $1 million, and common for homes up to $2 million, a higher down payment can give you a competitive edge and I have often seen down payments of 50% or more.

For buyers wishing to make the smallest down payment possible, the VA loan via the Department of Veterans Affairs and the USDA loan via the U.S. Department of Agriculture both offer no downpayment loans. However, each of these programs have unique eligibility requirements. For most home buyers, the minimum downpayment required is 3.5 percent, available with a standard FHA loan.

5. Are You Prepared To Pay Closing Costs?

In addition to a down payment, home buyers should set aside monies for home and loan closing costs, while leaving an ample amount of funds for living expenses and emergencies.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suggests that home buyers plan to have 4 percent of a home’s purchase price ready at settlement to account for costs and expenses, which include lender fees, title fees, government taxes and real estate taxes.

In some areas of the country, the real estate contracts provide for the home seller to pay for all, or a portion, of the buyer’s closing costs. This is an arrangement known as Seller Concessions. Sellers may contribute toward closing costs and prepaid items up to 6% of the home’s purchase price.  In Marin County, it is customary for the buyer to pay for all fees, including title and escrow fees.

Your lender can also help you to lower your closing costs using a zero- or low-closing cost mortgage. If bringing cash to closing will deplete your personal reserves, have a talk with your lender about your options.

6. Have You Reviewed Your Credit Report For Errors?

FICO recipe

For most mortgage loans, the rate you get from the bank is linked to your credit score.  This is because your credit score reflects the likelihood of your loan defaulting and your home going into foreclosure. Higher credit scores are linked with lower default rates. This is why home buyers with high credit scores get access to the lowest rates available — the loans represent a lesser risk to the lender.

However, it’s been said that as many as one-quarter of all credit report contain an error. Some of these errors are minor and have little effect on the overall report. Some, however, are major and can affect a score by 100 points or more.

By law, U.S. consumers are permitted to receive one free copy of their credit report per year. As earlier in the home buying process as possible, you should execute on this right. Order your free credit report and review it for errors carefully. Correct or dispute the issues you uncover.

 

 

If you are thinking of buying a home, I have a Marin County Buyer’s Guide that my clients have found very useful.  If you would like a copy, just send me an email at Sylvie@YourPieceofMarin.com. I would be happy to answer any real estate related questions as well.  I can recommend an excellent mortgage professional if you don’t have one and want to start the mortgage process or just ask questions.

This article was adapted from The Mortgage Reports’ article: Ask these 6 Mortgage Questions Before Buying a Home.

 

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Sylvie Zolezzi - www.YourPieceofMarin.com 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 am an award winning Realtor specializing in luxury residential real estate in beautiful Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I offer a wide range of real estate solutions for buyers, sellers and investors, attracting clients who demand excellence—in marketing, negotiations, market knowledge—and a genuine concern for their needs. My association with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty allows me to provide a high-end luxury experience to all my clients at every single price point. It also empowers me to leverage the unique combination of Sotheby’s global resources, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty’s growing market share and local knowledge with my unmatched social media networks to provide highly personalized service and unmatched exposure to my clients’ properties locally and worldwide.

I service all of Marin County’s beautiful towns: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur,Greenbrae, Kentfield,Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato, with a special focus on Central Marin.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Marin County Real Estate Market Update – October 2014

MARKET SNAPSHOT

The Marin Real Estate Market continued on a steady course of stabilization and sustainability for the month of October.  The market continues to be characterized by the limited inventory of homes for sale and continued pent up demand resulting in high average sale prices–7% higher than the peak 2007 average monthly average.

According to Zillow’s Chief Economist Stan Humphries, “We’re transitioning from a fast form of recovery to a slow form of recovery, particularly since a lot of those factors driving us forward – household formation rates and income growth – have not fully recovered.”

The active inventory was slightly down month-over-month which may be attributed to the cyclical slowdown of entering the holiday season. There were only 219 new listings in October, compared to 318 in September and 263 in October 2013. Despite the limited inventory of homes for sale, there were 284 homes than went pending (i.e. in contract) in October, compared to 252 in September and 277 in October 2013.

Sales increased roughly 23% with the average price per square foot falling to $584, which is most likely caused by the sales volume increase.

 

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Total Market Snapshot - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

HOME SALES BY AREA

Novato, San Rafael and Mill Valley jumped in sales volume from September. San Anselmo saw a fairly decent sales spike from 5 in September to 18 in October. We saw a 25% infusion of new listings in September with the sales results showing in October. Lack of new inventory will likely be an issue throughout the remainder of the year.

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Home Sales by Area - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

HOMES IN CONTRACT

October returned to patterns we’ve observed for the entire year with Corte Madera and Fairfax continuing to be the “it” neighborhoods of 2014. Larkspur and San Anselmo were cut by over half and will continue to hold strong for the remainder of this year given their limited inventories. Ross and Belvedere felt the biggest pending contraction month-over-month, with both falling by over half to 13% respectively.

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Percent of Homes in Contract - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

MARIN MARKET BY PRICE POINT

Just shy of 66% of active Single Family Homes in Marin are under $2 million; they also represent 83% of October’s sales. Months of inventory remained relatively stable from the previous month with the exception of the under $1M which was reduced to 2 months from 3 in September.

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Market Activity by Price Point - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

AVERAGE SALES PRICE

The Average List Price increased slightly month-over-month with the average sold price falling. The Average Sales Price for October of $1,309,884 is 7% higher than the 2007 peak average.

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Average Listed and Sold Price of Homes - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

NUMBER OF HOMES LISTED AND SOLD

The number of Single Family Homes in Marin for sale in October 2014 fell from what will probably be the highest inventory for the year the previous month. Sales were also up from the previous month and the same month in 2013.

Marin County Market Update - Oct. 2014 - Number for Sale and Sold - www.YourPieceofMarin.com - Sylvie Zolezzi, Realtor

 

Are you thinking of putting your home on the market next spring?  It is not too early to start planning. Feel free to contact me for a no-obligation consultation.  You can reach me at 415-505-4789 or Sylvie@YourPieceofMarin.com.

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White glove service - www.YourPieceofMarin.com by Sylvie ZolezziAbout 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 am an award winning Realtor specializing in luxury residential real estate in beautiful Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I offer a wide range of real estate solutions for buyers, sellers and investors, attracting clients who demand excellence—in marketing, negotiations, market knowledge—and a genuine concern for their needs. My association with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty allows me to provide a high-end luxury experience to all my clients at every single price point. It also empowers me to leverage the unique combination of Sotheby’s global resources, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty’s growing market share and local knowledge with my unmatched social media networks to provide highly personalized service and unmatched exposure to my clients’ properties locally and worldwide.

I service all of Marin County’s beautiful towns: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur,Greenbrae, Kentfield,Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato, with a special focus on Central Marin.

 


Winterizing Your Marin County Garden

Fall colors in San Anselmo's Seminary neighborhood
Fall colors in San Anselmo’s Seminary neighborhood

When autumn nights start to get cold, it’s time to prepare your garden for winter. Winterizing not only makes your garden look better during the cold weather months, but will make for easier work in the spring and will protect less hardy plants from the cold. Start closing your garden down when there is frost in the forecast or the temperature consistently starts to drop to the mid to low 40’s (Fahrenheit) at night, usually around late October or November.

Evaluate your Garden Design

Winterizing Your Marin County Garden
Japanese Maple in My Larkspur Garden in the Fall

 

Before you start your preparations:

  • Take a moment to review what worked and did not work in your garden over the past season.
  • Fall is an ideal time to move plants (or remove plants) if you feel that they are not working in their current location.
  • Fall is also a great time to plant bulbs, as well as plant bare-root shrubs and trees.
  • It’s a good time, too, for dividing perennials. Division not only maintains the health of your perennials, but it’s also an easy way to propagate your plants so that you’ll have more coverage next season.

Finally, take a look around to see if your garden is lacking in fall color.

  • Japanese maples grow fast in our climate and can add gorgeous red and orange hues in the fall.
  • If you want fall blooms, you may want to plan on planting some late flowering plants next spring, such as Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan), Aster Novi-Belgii, Anemone Japonica, Sedum spectabile. Hydrangea paniculata also provides nice color in the fall, but you don’t have to wait until next spring to plant them. Many hardier shrubs like panicle hydrangea are perfectly happy with a late planting and will use the extra winter to build up a bigger root system; it’s like getting almost another year into your plant.

Many sellers feel that the Spring is the best time to place their home on the market as buyer demand increases at that time of year and yards look their best.  However, the Fall and Winter have their own advantages.   You can enroll Mother Nature to give you a helping hand in making your home and yard look stunning  in the Fall.

 

Preparing you Garden to Look its Best Next Spring

Winship Park

Great Curb Appeal in Winship Park, Ross in the spring time

 

If selling right now is not in the cards but you are planning on putting your home on the market in the spring, here are some steps to take now to make sure your home looks its best come March or April.

  • Improve your Curb Appeal: It’s an undisputed principle among Realtors that superior curb appeal adds value to any home for sale. A fresh coat of paint can work magic on the outside of your home as well as your front door. Small details such as a new mailbox, house numbers, front porch light fixtures, potted plants on either side of your front door and a new welcome mat can make a huge difference in making your home look well-kept and inviting.In California, different studies arrive at differing answers for how much superior curb appeal can increase the value of a home, but most agree that it lies somewhere in a range between 5% and 15%.Needless to say, that is huge! And landscaping is a great part of your home’s curb appeal.
  • Update Your Landscaping: The landscaping term covers just about every part of your Marin County property that isn’t physically part of the house itself. Improving it does not have to be expensive!
    • A well-maintained front yard is commonly the first ‘must’ for improving the value of any home for sale. A messy and unkempt front yard will put off most potential buyers immediately and can make an otherwise sparkling property appear run-down and poorly maintained.
    • Adding and improving ornamental detail is one of the least expensive and most impactful ways to upgrade the look of your home. Professional landscapers know how splashes of color placed in strategic places can please the eye and distract from features that would otherwise detract from an overall positive impression. Be willing to freshen up over-the-hill plantings and planters before they become visual liabilities.
    • Taking the long view, the time/budget trade offs are fundamental realities when it comes to more major plant landscaping. A tree planted now can mean a great improvement to any home for sale five or ten years from now.  If you want to sell your home now or next spring, just ask a nurseryman what is involved in transplanting a mature tree! It might be worth the investment.

This fall, with inventories trending lower, now maybe a great time to list your Marin County home. Feel free to contact me to talk strategy and the best way to take seasonal advantage of your property.

Post updated on October 24, 2016


Sylvie Zolezzi www.YourPieceofMarin.comAbout 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 am an award winning Realtor specializing in luxury residential real estate in beautiful Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I offer a wide range of real estate solutions for buyers, sellers and investors, attracting clients who demand excellence—in marketing, negotiations, market knowledge—and a genuine concern for their needs. My association with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty allows me to provide a high-end luxury experience to all my clients at every single price point. It also empowers me to leverage the unique combination of Sotheby’s global resources, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty’s growing market share and local knowledge with my unmatched social media networks to provide highly personalized service and unmatched exposure to my clients’ properties locally and worldwide.

I service all of Marin County’s beautiful towns: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur,Greenbrae, Kentfield,Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato, with a special focus on Central Marin.

 


Marin County Market Report – September 2014 and Q1-Q3 2014

How is the market at the end of the third quarter 2014?

Over all, the Marin County real estate market has been very similar during the first three quarters of this year to the way it was during the first three quarters of 2013.  Limited inventory has continued to plague buyers who have continued to compete with multiple offers on the most desirable listings, thus driving prices up.  The average sales price in 2014 has been over $1 million all year, reaching a high of $1,327,000 for all property types in March, compared to an average sales price of $962,000 in March 2013.

Marin County Market Update - Q1-Q3 2013 vs. 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.comAverage sales price is in 1,000’s.

MARKET SNAPSHOT

The Marin Real Estate Market action in September found itself in a very similar position to that of August. The active Marin inventory increased nearly 25% for the 2nd month in a row with the number of contract/pending homes increasing slightly over 40%. Sales fell but the average sale price and price per square foot were up month-over-month.

Marin County Real Estate Market - Total Market Snapshot - September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

HOME SALES BY AREA

The larger markets of Novato, San Rafael and Mill Valley continue to move the most inventory. There was another 25% infusion of new listings month-over-month, which will provide additional options for buyers and potential motivation for sellers to remain competitive.

 Marin County Real Estate Market Update - Home Sales by Area for September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

HOMES IN CONTRACT

September was the first month in 2014 that no towns/areas in our Marin market report were over 50% in contract. Fairfax continues to be Marin’s market of choice reporting 43% of inventory under contract. Looking at the Percent of Homes In Contract graph you can see that for the first time all year there are no anomalies – a sign of a market reaching a sustainable equilibrium.

Marin County Real Estate Market - Percentage of Homes in Contract - September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

 

MARIN MARKET BY PRICE POINT

Nearly 68% of active Single Family Homes in Marin are under $2 million; they also represent 83% of September’s sales. Months of inventory remained relatively stable from the previous month with the exception of the $4-5M range, which fell from 10 months to 4 months.

Marin County Real Estate Market Update - Activity by Price Point for September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

AVERAGE SALES PRICE

The Average List Price fell again while the Average Sales Price rose. The Average Sales Price for September of $1,433,041 is 17% higher from the 2007 peak average. September’s data is a major milestone and positive sign of a normalizing market.

Marin County Average Listed and Sold Price of Single Family Homes - September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

NUMBER OF HOMES LISTED AND SOLD

The number of Single Family Homes in Marin for sale in September 2014 rose considerably month-over-month and up from the same time the previous year. Sales were also down from the previous month and the same month in 2013.

Marin County Real Estate - Number of Homes Listed and Sold - September 2014 - www.YourPieceofMarin.com

Should you need assistance with any of your real estate needs, feel free to contact me.

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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 am an award winning Realtor specializing in luxury residential real estate in beautiful Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I offer a wide range of real estate solutions for buyers, sellers and investors, attracting clients who demand excellence—in marketing, negotiations, market knowledge—and a genuine concern for their needs. My association with Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty allows me to provide a high-end luxury experience to all my clients at every single price point. It also empowers me to leverage the unique combination of Sotheby’s global resources, Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty’s growing market share and local knowledge with my unmatched social media networks to provide highly personalized service and unmatched exposure to my clients’ properties locally and worldwide.

I service all of Marin County’s beautiful towns: Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur,Greenbrae, Kentfield,Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Fairfax, and Novato, with a special focus on Central Marin.