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Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream

Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream | MyKCM

Forbes.com recently released the results of their new American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”

The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.

The national index score was rounded out to 100 in January and saw a modest jump to 100.5 in February.

Alaska represented the lowest score on the index at 80.7, due mostly to the recent collapse in oil prices. Nevada came in with the highest score at 108.8, boosted by big gains in goods-producing jobs and new construction activity. The full results can be seen in the map below.

Measuring Your Ability to Achieve the American Dream | MyKCM

Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:

“[B]usinesses are hiring in part in anticipation of tax cuts and less regulation… Many areas of the country have experienced strong upticks in employment and construction, as well as declines in unemployment claims since the start of the year.”

Bottom Line

The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of his or her own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, that dream can finally become a reality.

Why Millennials Choose to Buy [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • “The majority of millennials said they consider owning a home more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons — including control of living space, flexibility in future decisions, privacy and security, and living in a nice home.”
  • At 93%, the top reason Millennials choose to buy is to have control over their living space.
  • Many Millennials who rent a home or apartment prior to buying their own homes dream of the day that they will be able to paint the walls whatever color they’d like, or renovate an outdated part of their living space.

Is This the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do it Early

Is This the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do it Early | MyKCM

It appears that Americans are regaining faith in the U.S. economy. The following indexes have each shown a dramatic jump in consumer confidence in their latest surveys:

  1. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index
  2. National Federation of Independent Businesses’ Small Business Optimism Index
  3. CNBC All-America Economic Survey
  4. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey

It usually means good news for the housing market when the country sees an optimistic future. People begin to dream again about the home their family has always wanted, and some make plans to finally make that dream come true.

If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:

HSH.com:

“We think that conforming 30-year fixed rates probably make it into the 4.625 percent to 4.75 percent range at some point during 2017 as a peak.”

Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s Chief Economist:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the 30-year fixed mortgage rate hits 4.75 percent.”

Mark Fleming, the Chief Economist at First American:

“[I see] mortgage rates getting much closer to 5 percent at the end of next year.”

Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist:

“By this time next year, expect the 30-year fixed rate to likely be in the 4.5 percent to 5 percent range.”

Bottom Line

If you are feeling good about your family’s economic future and are considering making a move to your dream home, doing it sooner rather than later makes the most sense. Call us today 925.699.9896.

Will Housing Affordability Be a Challenge in 2017?

Will Housing Affordability Be a Challenge in 2017? | MyKCM

Some industry experts are saying that the housing market may be heading for a slowdown in 2017 based on rising home prices and a jump in mortgage interest rates. One of the data points they use is the Housing Affordability Index, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Here is how NAR defines the index:

“The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.”

Basically, a value of 100 means a family earning the median income earns enough to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home, based on the price and mortgage interest rates at the time. Anything above 100 means the family has more than enough to qualify.

The higher the index, the easier it is to afford a home.

Why the concern?

The index has been declining over the last several years as home values increased. Some are concerned that too many buyers could be priced out of the market.

But, wait a minute…

Though the index skyrocketed from 2009 through 2013, we must realize during that time the housing crisis left the market with an overabundance of housing inventory with as many as one out of three listings being a distressed property (foreclosure or short sale). All prices dropped dramatically and distressed properties sold at major discounts. Then, mortgage rates fell like a rock.

The market is recovering, and values are coming back nicely. That has caused the index to fall.

However, let’s remove the crisis years and look at the current index as compared to the index from 1990 – 2008:

Will Housing Affordability Be a Challenge in 2017? | MyKCM

We can see that, even though prices have increased, mortgage rates are still lower than historical averages and have put the index in a better position than every year for the nineteen years before the crash.

Bottom Line

The Housing Affordability Index is in great shape and should not be seen as a challenge to the real estate market’s continued recovery.

Have Questions? Call us today Mike and Nicole Wilhelm 925.699.9896

Tips for Preparing Your House For Sale

Tips for Preparing Your House For Sale [INFOGRAPHIC]

Tips for Preparing Your House For Sale [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Highlights:

  • When listing your house for sale your top goal will be to get the home sold for the best price possible!
  • There are many small projects that you can do to ensure this happens!
  • Your real estate agent will have a list of specific suggestions for getting your house ready for market and is a great resource for finding local contractors who can help!

If you need help we can provide a list of specific suggestions for getting your house ready for market Call Us today 925.699.9896.

2 Tips to Ensure You Get the Most Money When Selling Your House

2 Tips to Ensure You Get the Most Money When Selling Your House | MyKCM

Every homeowner wants to make sure they get the best price when selling their home. But how do you guarantee that you receive maximum value for your house? Here are two keys to ensuring you get the highest price possible.

1. Price it a LITTLE LOW 

This may seem counterintuitive. However, let’s look at this concept for a moment. Many homeowners think that pricing their home a little OVER market value will leave them room for negotiation. In actuality, this just dramatically lessens the demand for your house (see chart below).

2 Tips to Ensure You Get the Most Money When Selling Your House | MyKCM

Instead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price it so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing this, the seller will not be fighting with a buyer over the price, but will instead have multiple buyers fighting with each other over the house.

Realtor.com, gives this advice:

“Aim to price your property at or just slightly below the going rate. Today’s buyers are highly informed, so if they sense they’re getting a deal, they’re likely to bid up a property that’s slightly underpriced, especially in areas with low inventory.”

2. Use a Real Estate Professional

This too may seem counterintuitive. The seller may think they would net more money if they didn’t have to pay a real estate commission. With that being said, studies have shown that homes typically sell for more money when handled by a real estate professional.

Research posted by the National Association of Realtors revealed that:

“The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $185,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $163,800. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $245,000 – nearly $60,000 more for the typical home sale.”

Bottom Line

Price your house at or slightly below the current market value and hire a professional. That will guarantee you maximize the price you get for your house.

Not sure what to price your home…contact us today mike.wilhelm@sothebysrealty.com

Rent or Buy: Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

Whether You Rent or Buy: Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage | MyKCM

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

Bottom Line

This holiday season, why not give yourself the gift of homeownership? Lock in your housing costs for the next 30 years and guarantee you are the one building wealth.

Got questions…we got answers mike.wilhelm@sothebysresalty.com

The Fed Raised Rates: What Does that Mean for Housing?

The Fed Raised Rates: What Does that Mean for Housing? | MyKCM

You may have heard that the Federal Reserve raised rates last week… But what does that mean if you are looking to buy a home in the near future?

Many in the housing industry have predicted that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve, would vote to raise the federal fund’s target rate at their December meeting. For only the second time in a decade, this is exactly what happened.

There were many factors that contributed to the 0.25 point increase (from 0.50 to 0.75), but many are pointing to the latest jobs report and low unemployment rate (4.6%) as the main reason.

Tim Manni, Mortgage Expert at Nerd Wallet, had this to say,

“Homebuyers shouldn’t be particularly concerned with [last week’s] Fed move. Even with rates hovering over 4 percent, they’re still historically low. Most market observers are expecting a gradual rise in home loan rates in the near term, anticipating mortgage rates to stay under 5 percent through 2017.”

Bottom Line

Only time will tell what the long-term impact of the rate hike will be, but in the short term, there should be no reason for alarm.

Got Questions email us at Mike.wilhelm@sothebysrealty.com

Homeowner’s Net Worth Is 45x Greater Than A Renter’s

Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowner’s net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400).

In a Forbes article, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts that by the end of 2016, the net worth gap will widen even further to 45 times greater.

The graph below demonstrates the results of the last two Federal Reserve studies and Yun’s prediction:

Homeowner’s Net Worth Is 45x Greater Than a Renter’s | MyKCM

Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You

As we’ve said before, simply put, homeownership is a form of ‘forced savings.’ Every time you pay your mortgage, you are contributing to your net worth. Every time you pay your rent, you are contributing to your landlord’s net worth.

The latestNational Housing Pulse Survey from NAR reveals that 85% of consumers believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision. Yun comments:

“Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Bottom Line

If you are interested in finding out if you could put your housing cost to work for you by purchasing a home, let’s get together and evaluate your ability to buy today!

Email Us Today: Mike.wilhelm@sothebysrealty.com

Start 2017 Off Right… List Your House for Sale

Start 2017 Off Right… List Your House for Sale | MyKCM

As we are about to bring in the New Year, families across the country will be deciding if this is the year that they will sell their current house and move into their dream home. Many will decide that it is smarter to wait until the spring “buyer’s market” to list their house. In the past, that might have made sense. However, this winter is not like recent years.

The recent jump in mortgage rates has forced buyers off the fence and into the market, resulting in incredibly strong demand RIGHT NOW!! At the same time, inventory levels of homes for sale have dropped dramatically as compared to this time last year.

Here is a chart showing the decrease in inventory levels by category:

Start 2017 Off Right… List Your House for Sale | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Demand for your home is very strong right now while your competition (other homes for sale) is at a historically low level. If you are thinking of selling in 2017, now may be the time.

The Dangers of “Tight Mortgage Credit” Headlines

the-dangers-of-tight-mortgage-credit-headlines

The availability of mortgage credit is not at the same level that it was during the boom in housing (2005), and that’s good news. However, the constant headlines which talk about “tight credit” are causing some potential home buyers to doubt their ability to purchase. We want to rectify the misconception of what is required for a down payment in order to purchase a home in today’s market.

Freddie Mac recently discussed the confusion many first-time homebuyers have about the down payment they need in order to buy:

“Did you know that the average down payment among first–time homebuyers is 6% and it’s 13–14% for repeat buyers…It’s possible to put down even less.

Many potential homebuyers think that only the FHA helps make mortgage loans with low down payments. Not true.

Freddie Mac’s Home Possible mortgage products let qualified homebuyers put down as little as 3%.”

Brenda Garcia Lemus of John Burns Real Estate Consulting reports that this is also the case with newly constructed homes: 

“Our home-builder clients sell hundreds of homes every weekend to buyers with 5% down payments and below average credit scores. Yet, many middle-income households with average credit and access to a 5% down payment assume they cannot become homeowners because of the ‘tight credit’ headlines.”

Bottom Line

Before you ‘disqualify’ yourself, let’s get together to find out if you qualify to buy today.

Contact Us for a complimentary evaluation Mike and Nicole 925.699.9896.

The Past, Present & Future of Home Prices

the-past-present-future-of-home-prices-image

CoreLogic released their most current Home Price Index last week. In the report, they revealed home appreciation in three categories: percentage appreciation over the last year, over the last month and projected over the next twelve months.

Here are state maps for each category: 

The Past – home appreciation over the last 12 months

actual-change-over-year-image

The Present – home appreciation over the last month

month-over-month-image

The Future – home appreciation projected over the next 12 months

future-of-home-prices

Bottom Line

Homes across the country are appreciating at different rates. If you plan on relocating to another state and are waiting for your home to appreciate more, you need to know that the home you will buy in another state may be appreciating even faster.

The Role Access Plays in Getting Your House SOLD!

the-role-access-plays-in-getting-your-house-sold-image

So you’ve decided to sell your house. You’ve hired a real estate professional to help you with the entire process and they have asked you what level of access you want to provide to potential buyers.

There are four elements to a quality listing. At the top of the list is Access, followed by Condition, Financing and Price. There are many levels of access that you could provide to your agent to be able to show your home.

Here are five levels of access that you could give a buyer with a brief description:

  1. Lockbox On the Door – this allows buyers the ability to see the home as soon as they are aware of the listing, or at their convenience.
  2. Providing a Key to the Home – although the buyer’s agent may need to stop by an office to pick up the key, there is little delay in being able to show the home.
  3. Open Access with a Phone Call – the seller allows showing with just a phone call’s notice.
  4. By Appointment Only (example: 48 Hour Notice) – Many out-of-town/state buyers and relocation buyers visit an area they would like to move to and only have the weekend to view homes. They may not be able to plan that far in advance, or may be unable to wait the 48 hours to be shown the house.
  5. Limited Access (example: the home is only available on Mondays or Tuesdays at 2pm or for only a couple of hours a day) – This is the most difficult way to be able to show your house to potential buyers.

In a competitive marketplace, access can make or break your ability to get the price you are looking for, or even sell your house at all.

Appraisers & Homeowners Don’t See Eye-To-Eye on Values

appraisers-homeowners-dont-see-eye-to-eye-on-values-image

In today’s housing market, where supply is very low and demand is very high, home values are increasing rapidly. Many experts are projecting that home values could appreciate by another 5%+ over the next twelve months. One major challenge in such a market is the bank appraisal.

If prices are surging, it is difficult for appraisers to find adequate, comparable sales (similar houses in the neighborhood that closed recently) to defend the selling price when performing the appraisal for the bank.

Every month, Quicken Loans measures the disparity between what a homeowner believes their house is worth as compared to an appraiser’s evaluation in their Home Price Perception Index (HPPI). Here is a chart showing that difference for each of the last 12 months.

appraiser-oppinion-image

Bottom Line

Every house on the market has to be sold twice; once to a prospective buyer and then to the bank (through the bank’s appraisal). With escalating prices, the second sale might be even more difficult than the first. If you are planning on entering the housing market this year, let’s get together to discuss this, and any other obstacle that may arise.

 

Call Us Today Nicole and Mike Wilhelm 415.846.3079

How Historically Low Interest Rates Increase Your Purchasing Power

How Historically Low Interest Rates Increase Your Purchasing Power

How Historically Low Interest Rates Increase Your Purchasing Power

According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at 3.47%. Rates have remained at or below 3.5% each of the last 16 weeks, marking a historic low.

The interest rate you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power.

Purchasing power, simply put, is the amount of home you can afford to buy for the budget you have available to spend. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain monthly housing budget.

The chart below shows what impact rising interest rates would have if you planned to purchase a home within the national median price range, and planned to keep your principal and interest payments at or about $1,100 a month.

buyerspurchasingpower-450k-500k

{For more Principal and Interest Payment figures email us at nicole.wilhelm@sothebysrealty.com}

With each quarter of a percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5%, (in this example, $6,250). Experts predict that mortgage rates will be closer to 4% by this time next year.

Act now to get the most house for your hard earned money.

It’s Not Always Marriage Before Mortgage

its-not-always-marriage-before-mortgage-image

There are many people sitting on the sidelines trying to decide if they should purchase a home or sign a rental lease. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family. Fun fact: We actually purchased our first home prior to getting married so it was great to see we weren’t alone. There was a surprising 14% of other unmarried couples that decided on a mortgage rather than a marriage first. Others may think they are too young. And still, others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage.

We want to share what the typical first-time homebuyer actually looks like based on the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting statistics on the first-time buyer:

percentage-of-buyers

Unmarried couples jumped up to the third spot, right after their married counterparts and single women. Many couples are buying a home before spending what would be a down payment on a wedding.

Bottom Line

You may not be much different than many people who have already purchased their first home. Let’s get together to determine if your dream home is within your grasp.

Contact Us today 925.699.9896.

Starting to Look for a Home? Know What You WANT vs. What You NEED

 

 Know What You WANT vs. What You NEED

Know What You WANT vs. What You NEED

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale with rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen in order to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the man cave of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make or break now?

The first step in your home buying process should be to get pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

  • ‘Must Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered. (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms)
  • ‘Should Haves’ – if the property hits all of the must haves and some of the should haves, it stays in contention, but does not need to have all of these features.
  • ‘Absolute Wish List’ – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must haves,’ most of the ‘should haves,’ and ANY of these, it’s the winner!

Bottom Line

Having this list flushed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration, while also letting your agent know what features are most important to you before starting to show you houses in your desired area. Need help, Call us today Mike and Nicole Wilhelm 415.846.3079.

Buying Remains 36% Cheaper Than Renting!

Buying Remains 36% Cheaper than Renting! | MyKCM

In the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia, they explained that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers actually show that the range is an average of 5% less expensive in Orange County (CA) all the way up to 46% in Houston (TX), and 36% Nationwide! 

A recent study by GoBankingRates looked at the cost of renting vs. owing a home at the state level and concluded that in 36 states it is actually ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ cheaper to own, represented by the two shades of blue in the map below.

Buying Remains 36% Cheaper than Renting! | MyKCM

One of the main reasons that owning a home has remained significantly cheaper than renting is the fact that interest rates have remained at or near historic lows.Freddie Mac reports that rates fell again last week to 3.43%.

Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven’t been that high since 1989.  

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, let’s get together and find you your dream home.

Don’t Get Caught in the Rental Trap!

Don’t Get Caught in the Rental Trap! | MyKCM

There are many benefits to homeownership. One of the top ones is being able to protect yourself from rising rents and lock in your housing cost for the life of your mortgage.

Don’t Become Trapped

Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, reported on what he calls a“Rental Affordability Crisis.” He warns that,

“Low rental vacancies and a lack of new rental construction are pushing up rents, and we expect that they’ll outpace home price appreciation in the year ahead.”

In the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University’s 2015 Report on Rental Housing, they reported that 49% of rental households are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. These households struggle to save for a rainy day and pay other bills, such as food and healthcare.

It’s Cheaper to Buy Than Rent

In Smoke’s article, he went on to say,

“Housing is central to the health and well-being of our country and our local communities. In addition, this (rental affordability) crisis threatens the future value of owned housing, as the burdensome level of rents will trap more aspiring owners into a vicious financial cycle in which they cannot save and build a solid credit record to eventually buy a home.”

 “While more than 85% of markets have burdensome rents today, it’s perplexing that in more than 75% of the counties across the country, it is actually cheaper to buy than rent a home. So why aren’t those unhappy renters choosing to buy?”

Know Your Options

Perhaps you have already saved enough to buy your first home. HousingWirereported that analysts at Nomura believe:

“It’s not that Millennials and other potential homebuyers aren’t qualified in terms of their credit scores or in how much they have saved for their down payment.

 It’s that they think they’re not qualified or they thinkthat they don’t have a big enough down payment.” (emphasis added)

Many first-time homebuyers who believe that they need a large down payment may be holding themselves back from their dream home. As we have reportedbefore, in many areas of the country, a first-time home buyer can save for a 3% down payment in less than two years. You may have already saved enough!

Bottom Line

Don’t get caught in the trap so many renters are currently in. If you are ready and willing to buy a home, find out if you are able. Let’s get together to determine if you could qualify for a mortgage now!

Why Is There So Much Paperwork to Sign to Get a Mortgage?

Why Is There So Much Paperwork to Sign to Get a Mortgage? | MyKCM

We are often asked why there is so much paperwork mandated by the bank for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today. It seems that the bank needs to know everything about us and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form.

Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank prove beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of affording the mortgage.

During the run-up in the housing market, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in the situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allows you to get a mortgage interest rate as low as 3.43%, the latest reported rate from Freddie Mac.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990’s and 6.29% in the 2000’s). If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of less than 4%, they would probably bend over backwards to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.

4 Reasons to Buy This Fall

4 Reasons to Buy In the Fall

It’s that time of year; the seasons are changing and with them come thoughts of the upcoming holidays, family get-togethers, and planning for a new year. Those who are on the fence about whether or not now is the right time to buy don’t have to look much further to find four great reasons to consider buying a home now, instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.4% over the next year. The Home Price Expectation Survey polls a distinguished panel of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts. Their most recent report projects home values to appreciate by more than 3.5% a year for the next 5 years.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Remain at Historic Lows

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have remained at or below 3.5% for 13 consecutive weeks. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtorsare in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

Any increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, the percentage of your income that you spend on housing will increase substantially if you choose to wait.

3. Either Way You Are Paying a Mortgage

Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either your mortgage or your landlord’s. As a paperfrom the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:

“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return. That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings. 

Email us today to learn the first steps to homeownership nicole.wilhelm@sothebysrealty.com

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall | MyKCM

School is back in session, the holidays are right around the corner, you might not think that now is the best time to sell your house. But with inventory below historic numbers and demand still strong, you could be missing out on a great opportunity for your family.

Here are five reasons why you should consider selling your house this fall: 

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Realtors’ Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now!

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

According to NAR’s latest Existing Home Sales Report, the supply of homes for sale is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market at 4.7-months.

This means, in most areas, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.

There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market this fall.

Also, as builders regain confidence in the market, new construction of single-family homes is projected to continue to increase over the next two years, reaching historic levels by 2017. Last month’s new home sales numbers show that many buyers who have not been able to find their dream home within the existing inventory have turned to new construction to fulfill their needs.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Fannie Mae announced that they anticipate an acceleration in home sales that will surpass 2007’s pace. As the market heats up, banks will be inundated with loan inquiries causing closing-time lines to lengthen. Selling now will make the process quicker & simpler. 

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by 5.3% over the next year, according to CoreLogic. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

According to Freddie Mac’s latest report, you can also lock-in your 30-year housing expense with an interest rate around 3.46% right now. Interest rates are projected to increase moderately over the next 12 months. Even a small increase in rate will have a big impact on your housing cost.

5. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire. 

That is what is truly important.

Where Are Home Prices Headed Over the Next 5 Years?

Where Are Home Prices Headed Over the Next 5 Years?

Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey.

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists about where they believe prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

The results of their latest survey:

Home values will appreciate by 4.5% over the course of 2016, 3.6% in 2017 and about 3.2% in the next two years, and finally 2.9% in 2020 (as shown below). That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.5% over the next 5 years.

Projected Prices Over the next 4 years

Projected Prices Over the next 4 years

The prediction for cumulative appreciation increased slightly from 17.5% to 18.7% by 2020. The experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey are still projecting a cumulative appreciation of 11.1%.

Graphic Cumulative Home Appreciation by 2020

Bottom Line

Individual opinions make headlines. We believe the survey is a fairer depiction of future values.

4 Stats that PROVE This is NOT another bubble

Are we in another housing bubble?

Recent research by realtor.com examined certain red flags that caused the housing crisis in 2005, and then compared them to today’s real estate market. 

Today, we want to concentrate on four of those red flags.

 

  1. Price to Rent Ratio
  2. Price to Income Ratio
  3. Mortgage Transactions
  4. House Flipping

All four categories were outside historical norms in 2005. Home prices were way above normal ratios when compared to both rents and incomes at the time.

They explained that mortgage transactions as a percentage of all home sales were also at a higher percentage:

“Loose credit was one of the main culprits of the housing crisis. Mortgage lending expanded dramatically as unhealthy housing speculation reached its peak and was met by the highest level of credit availability as measured by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The index measures the overall mortgage credit condition by the share of home sales financed by mortgages. This metric does not capture credit quality, but it does set a view of the importance of financing in supporting the housing market.”

House flipping was rampant in 2005. As realtor.com’s research points out:

“Heightened flipping activity is a clear indication of speculation in the real estate market. A property is considered as a speculative flip if the property is sold twice within 12 months and with positive profit. Flipping is a normal part of a healthy housing market. In an inflated housing market, expectations about short-term profit from pure price appreciation are very high; therefore, the level of flipping activity would show evidence of being heightened.”

Here are the categories with percentages reflecting the unrealistic ratios & numbers of 2005 as compared to the current market. Remember, a negative percentage reflects a positive gain for the market.

Today's housing market versus 2005

Bottom Line

They say hindsight is 20/20… Today, experts are keeping a close watch on the potential red flags that went unnoticed in 2005.

Real Estate Values Today Compared to Pre-2008 Peak

 Real Estate Values Today Compared to Pre-2008 Peak

This housing market has many people talking about home values; where they are and where they are headed. It’s also interesting to look back and see how home prices compare to values prior to the housing crisis.

Every quarter, Freddie Mac releases their House Price Index. The index usually provides monthly home values for:

  • the nation as a whole
  • each of the 50 states
  • 367 metropolitan statistical areas

This quarter, the report also included a look at today’s home values as compared to Pre-2008 values. Here is a graphic that breaks down the numbers on a state-by-state basis:

Ever wonder how home prices/values are doing right now

 

‘Old Millennials’ Are Diving Head-First into Homeownership

 ‘Old Millennials’ Are Diving Head-First into Homeownership Infographic

‘Old Millennials’ Are Diving Head-First into Homeownership

Some Highlights:

  • ‘Old Millennials’ are defined as 25-36 year olds according to the US Census Bureau.
  • According to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the median age of all first-time home buyers is 31 years old.
  • More and more ‘Old Millennials’ are realizing that homeownership is within their reach now!

What are you waiting for?

Call us today: Mike and Nicole 415.846.3079

Whether You Rent or Buy, You Are Paying a Mortgage

Buying is better than renting

There are some people that have not purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:

“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return.  

That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”

Christina Boyle, a Senior Vice President, Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Managementat Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.

Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were 3.43% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.

The 7 Advantages of Buying a New Construction Home

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Are you debating between purchasing a new construction home and purchasing an older home? Today’s new construction homes have more benefits than ever before, making many buyers lean toward building their own new home rather than purchasing a pre-loved home.

Here’s a list of the top seven advantages of buying a new construction home.

#1: You Design It

You don’t have to settle for someone else’s floor choices, wall colors or countertops when you purchase a new construction home. You can select your favorite countertops, cabinets, kitchen fixtures, lighting and other options in your home that you’ll love.

#2: You Choose the Floor Plan

Want a traditional style home? Or, an open concept floor plan? It’s yours for the choosing. You can put in a massive laundry room, walk-in closets, a rooftop deck, a luxury master bathroom and anything else you’d like in your floor plan. If you want a grand fireplace in your living room, you can make it happen with a new construction home.

#3: Everything is New & Under Warranty

When you purchase an older home, chances are there are older appliances, fixtures and other products in the home that have out lived their warranty and might need to be replaced, costing you valuable time and money. You may even find yourself replacing large things like the roof, countertops, water heater or appliances – all of which are expensive to replace. Your new home will have all updated features and all will be under warranty giving you years of use.

#4: Energy Costs

New homes are more energy efficient than older homes. New homes often offer double or even triple-pane windows with special window coatings and inert gases between the layers of the glass, saving you energy and money during the cooling and heating seasons. Older homes often don’t have the energy efficient equipment that new homes do, making energy bills higher.

#5: Safety

In a new construction home you can have electric garage door openers with safety infrared beams that will prevent the door closing on your child riding their bicycle in the driveway. You can have high efficiency furnaces and air conditioners that use “green” coolants. The paint, carpet and cabinets in your home can have fewer volatile organic compounds so that your family can breathe cleaner air in your home. The choice is yours.

#6: Community Amenities

New construction homes are often built within master-planned communities with amenities such as a pool, fitness center, clubhouses and hiking trails. Many of these resort-style communities also have new schools and shopping either near or inside the community giving you access to all the things you need.

#7: The New Home Feel

An older home sometimes feels like it isn’t yours, it reflects the previous owner’s tastes. New construction homes have style, comfort and quality that are all yours. You don’t have to do any work to your new home and can easily move in and begin life in your new home. Your new home is your masterpiece that you have created from scratch.

Whether you’re in search of a new construction home or prefer to find a pre-loved home in one of the Bay Area’s historic neighborhoods, we can help. Connect with us today to learn more.

San Francisco’s Top 10 Shopping Districts

San Francisco is known for its many shopping districts full of glamorous stores and bounties of tourists visiting from all over the world, as well as the locals who travel to all of the various shopping spots. Let’s take a look at the top ten shopping districts in San Francisco so that you know exactly where to find the hottest fashion pieces on your next trip to the city.

Chinatown
Love to bargain and find great deals on unique items? Chinatown is one of the most famous shopping districts in San Francisco. You can find great bargains on knick-knacks, jewelry and clothing. This is one of the biggest Chinese settlements outside of China. Gain a vast look into the culture, enjoy some Chinese cuisine and shop ‘til you drop!

Union Square
Union square is known worldwide as a shopping haven that is comparable to New York and London. All of the stores in Union Square range from the high end Thomas Pink to the millennial crowd at H&M and Zara.

Haight/Ashbury
Known to the world as the hippie station of San Francisco, this area has increasingly become more upscale in recent years making for great people watching. There are plenty of great consignment stores and record stores to find the best music.

SOMA
South of Market is just across the street from the Union Square area, but is an entirely different area. Westfield Mall is anchored by Nordstrom and has a Bloomingdale’s nearby for traditional shopping.

Sacramento Street
Victorian Homes and boutiques line Sacramento Street creating a charming shopping destination. There are local boutiques and old-fashioned hardware stores as well as consignment stores for both women’s and men’s clothing.

Japantown
This is a mecca of Japanese stores and markets with bargains at Japanese bargain stores and authentic Japanese noodle stands.

Mission at Valencia
A historic Hispanic neighborhood, Mission Valencia is home to a majority of the working class in San Francisco with plenty of markets and inexpensive spots to shop and browse with friends and family. This area is geared toward a younger crowd of buyers.

Union Street
Union Street is full of boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops in an upscale setting. The shopping district is beautiful but prepare to spend money – many of the shops are on the more expensive side.

Fisherman’s Wharf
This is a tourist destination that has plenty of bargains and plenty of San Francisco-themed gifts for tourists to snatch up and bring back home as souvenirs. Don’t forget to stop and have a bite at one of the many seafood restaurants along the wharf – the seafood is fresh, local and you’ll sure to be hungry after all of the shopping!

There are plenty of places to get great deals, purchase unique finds and immerse yourself in the true culture of San Francisco. Whether you are a tourist, new to living in the city, or are a lifelong resident of San Francisco, there are a multitude of different places to shop and find pieces you will treasure for a lifetime!

Where to Find the Finest Restaurants in Oakland

Whether it’s date night, a celebration dinner, or just a night out in Oakland, there are plenty of fine dining restaurants to indulge at. If you are new to the area or a local resident just looking to try a new restaurant, here are the best fine dining restaurants in Oakland with flavors and entrees of all kinds.

#1: Haven
Jack London Square

Haven’s Chef Daniel Patterson is putting his talent to work in Oakland. Haven has cuisine that is both familiar and inventive, with twists in every bite. The burger is a must-have with aged beef, scallion aioli and a homemade, seeded bun. This is homey fine dining that will leave your taste buds satisfied.

#2: Commis
Piedmont Avenue

Commis is Oakland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. This is the elite dining experience of Oakland with food arriving at your table resembling artwork. Chef James Syhabout’s Commis restaurant is a five-star beautiful dining place you’ll want to dine at over and over again. The restaurant delivers open-kitchen experiments with one-of-a-kind ingredients to craft inspired New American price-fixed meals.

#3: Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar
Uptown

Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar is an upscale diner that serves Japanese-American fusion cuisine. Locals say the best dish to order is the perfectly crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside buttermilk fried chicken paired with a sweet & smoke Maple Old Fashioned. The menu also includes custard cream and homemade donuts.

#4: Wood Tavern
Rockridge

Wood Tavern is one of the best date spots in the neighborhood. The rustic upscale American restaurant features menu items like grilled pork chops and rotating gnocchi and pastas. Reservations are hard to come by at this spot, but the bar seats are reserved for walk-ins.

#5: Chop Bar
Produce District

Chop bar is a unique, but homey fine dining spot with a diverse crowd and amazing food and drink options. This all-day eatery on Jack London Square has an indoor-outdoor patio, perfect for dining with a view. The menu is constantly changing, but meatloaf, oxtail poutine and risotto are some of the tasty foods you can order at this popular dining spot. Chop Bar also serves wine all from California on tap.

#6: Galeto
Clay Street

Galeto is an authentic Brazilian steakhouse where Gauchos roam the dining room continuously offering exquisite churrasco of 12-14 different rotisserie meats such as pork, chicken, lamb, beef and sausage, all perfectly seasons and carved tableside. Galeto also has a buffet salad bar with a variety of salads and special hot dishes. Indulge in the many tastes of Brazil at Galeto!

#7: Flora
Telegraph Avenue

Flora is located in downtown Oakland offers a menu of reinvented American classics. Flora is in the beautifully ornate Oakland Floral Depot building. The restaurant and bar has small bites like marinated olives and deviled eggs, starters like house stretched mozzarella and fritto misto, entrees like grilled pork porterhouse, pan-seared SF halibut and roasted chicken breast with sides like mashed potatoes and marinated beets and many other options.

What are your favorite fine dining spots in Oakland? We’d love to hear from you!

7 New Developments to Watch in San Francisco

There is construction happening in nearly every part of San Francisco, and the new construction boom is record-breaking. Residents of the city have become used to high rises and new buildings popping up in every nook and cranny of the city.

Whether you’re looking for a new construction home or simply have a fondness for following real estate news, take a look at these seven new developments to watch in San Francisco.

#1: SFMOMA Expansion
SFMOMA closed its doors in 2016 to make room for the construction of a massive expansion that tripled the amount of gallery space at the world-famous museum.

#2: Transbay Terminal
The Transbay Terminal will provide space for bus services and will later be joined by Caltrain and High Speed rail come 2017. The Transbay Terminal will also include space for retail businesses and a public park on the rooftop.

#3: Van Ness High Rise
The corner of Van Ness and Market Street will be transformed into a towering condo development that will open its doors in 2019. The plan for the 39-story, 300-unit building at One Oak Street will break ground in April 2017 and be completed in October of 2019.

#4: Gateway at Millbrae
The Gateway at Millbrae is a 10-acre project that will be home to hundreds of units of new housing, hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and office space and a 126-room Marriott hotel. Twenty percent of all the housing present in the current design is below market rate.

The Millbrae BART station averages about 7,000 entries each day and is the system’s hookup to Caltrain, SamTrans and several other private shuttles that serve ferries to Silicon Valley.

#5: The Harrison
The Harrison, the new luxury residential development located at 401 Harrison Street on Rincon Hill, started selling units on April 1. The 49-story building has a grand salon entry, a private club for residents called Uncle Harry, The Harrison Attache concierge service, a doorman, valet parking, and a view lounge.

This new development has been the hype of the area with units containing Carrera marble countertops, custom brass and cast-glass wall sconces and many other designer finishes.

#6: Treasure Island
The earliest work has started on the multi-billion dollar development project to transform Treasure Island into a prime real estate hub. The first phase will call for demolishing the existing buildings and the beginning of the infrastructure work.

Developers, architects and investors foresee Treasure Island being home to 8,000 residential housing units, three hotels and hundreds of thousands of feet of commercial space.

#7: Mission Ground Park
San Francisco broke ground on the new park at 17th and Folsom streets. The present parking lot will turn into a $5.2 million project with nearly 32,000 square feet of community space. The new park will have a drought-resistant garden, a teardrop-shaped center plaza with a lawn and state, fruit-bearing trees and greenhouses.

Art by Chicana artist Carmen Lomas Garza along with an interactive water feature, which will recycle water for subsurface irrigation, will also be included in Mission Ground Park. One section of the plaza will have a children’s playground next to workout equipment for adult use.

New Construction in San Francisco

When you’re ready to take the next step in exploring what San Francisco has to offer in the new home market, connect with our team today. We’re always just a phone call away and look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with you. Let’s get started today!

Are We Wrong About San Francisco’s Lack of Housing?

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San Francisco has always been different from every other city of its kind with its stunning beauty, bustling city lifestyle and vast amount of famous sightseeing spots such as Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. In recent years, the real estate market in the Bay Area has been hot with a technology boom and a wealth of foreign investors snatching up properties in the area. Because of this, many believe San Francisco now makes a name fAre We Wrong About San Francisco’s Lack of Housing?

or itself due to its lack of housing.

Home prices in San Francisco have increased by more than 100 percent in the last three years with the median property sales price hitting just over $1 million. For comparison, the median household income of those living in San Francisco is around $77,000 – not quite enough to keep up with the prices of homes.

Fewer than 10 percent of San Francisco’s households can afford to purchase a home in the area and the rest of the region is not too far behind in matching income to the prices of homes in the market, as approximately 20 percent of these households can hit the benchmark to afford these hefty mortgages. The rental market is steaming up as well – average rent reaches almost $4,000/month, which is nearly double the average rent in 2011.

San Francisco’s Lack of Housing

Typically lenders advise buyers to spend around 30 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage – homeowners in San Francisco are spending 42 percent of their monthly paychecks on just their rent alone. These numbers can all seem discouraging to those looking to purchase in the competitive San Francisco housing market, but the city is working on improving the housing shortage with new developments and affordable housing initiatives.

Many middle class families are moving past the city lines and into the suburban neighborhoods due to the rise in housing prices and the lack of housing. As technology investment that was once concentrated in Silicon Valley continues to grow in SF, the population in the area will continue to grow.

Many believe that city laws concerning housing development and construction do not meet the urgent need of the housing market today. The city plans to help this housing shortage issue with the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, which promises more relaxed limits on height and density restrictions as well as a requirement of 20 percent of new housing units to be marketed as affordable units.

It is crucial to the housing market in San Francisco that the city continues with increased developments to overcome the housing shortage. It is also important for citizens to be involved locally to determine how to reconcile plans with new construction and improving affordability.

A huge increase in development and construction is continuing to solve the housing shortage issue. Developments in the past few years have overseen dramatic transformations of neighborhoods like South Beach, Mission, SOMA and Mission Bay.

If you’re moving to the area, let our team of real estate professionals help you find the home that best suits your needs. With our finger on the pulse of the market, we can alert you to homes as they become available. Connect today to learn more.

Have You Seen These 6 Hidden Gems in San Francisco?

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San Francisco is known for big attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, but there are also plenty of hidden gems that only locals know about in the Bay Area. Take a deeper dive into the city of San Francisco and visit these six hidden gems.

#1: The Golden Fire Hydrant

The Golden Fire Hydrant is more than just a fire hydrant – this hidden gem saved an entire city from burning up in flames. The Golden Fire Hydrant can be found at Church and 20th streets and was the sole functioning fire hydrant during the fires following the earthquake in 1906.

This one fire hydrant saved Noe Valley and the entire Mission District from burning to ashes like the rest of the city did. Every April 18, the hydrant gets a fresh coat of gold paint to honor its noble service to the city.

#2: The Parrots of Telegraph Hill

San Francisco may not be known as a “tropical” place, but there are tropical characteristics like the Parrots of Telegraph Hill. No one knows where the feral parrots came from, but many theories surround the idea that the original two were just domestic escapees that quickly expanded their flock.

There just four birds in 1989 and just ten years later there were 50. Today, there are about 100 parrots that can be found perched in the trees or flying overhead at Telegraph Hill.

#3: Yerba Buena Garden Sculptures

There are plenty of pieces of beautiful, thought-ensuing artwork in Yerba Buena Gardens, but there is one that absolutely stands out. Located near the children’s museum, there is a kinetic sculpture of a humanoid figure standing atop a steel globe. This hidden gem mimics visitors – when you sit down on the bench that faces the sculpture, the figure sits too. When you rise from the bench, the figure also rises to its feet. Watching people try this is almost as entertaining as the piece itself.

#4: The Vulcan Stairway

There are many beautiful scenic stairways hidden throughout the streets of San Francisco, but the locals love the Vulcan Stairway most. This stairway spans nearly two blocks and the steps showcase a view of the gorgeous Victorian homes and stunning gardens accessible only on foot.

#5: Sutro Baths Ruins and Cave

Self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro designed the world’s largest indoor swimming pool at the time in 1894. The high tide filled the pools with 1.7 million gallons of water in an hour. The Sutro family maintained the Sutro Baths for many decades, but during the Great Depression the pools shut down. What’s left of the structure is now a stunning collection of architectural ruins in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

#6: Camera Obscura

The camera obscura is one of 20 in the entire world. It was originally built as a part of theme park and the location on the cliffs just above Ocean Beach gives visitors a breathtaking view of the ocean, Seal Rock and the cliffs.

Whether you’re just visiting San Francisco or have lived her a lifetime, put all of these unique attractions on your bucket list. And, for more information on housing in the area, feel free to give us a call!

Buyers

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Blog Post for Buyers
Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Most homebuyers start the process anxious, excited, nervous, and some are downright terrified. It’s natural. A home is the largest and most expensive purchase that most people will make in a lifetime. It can either turn out to be a complete financial disaster or a smart long-term investment. As vital as having an experienced agent by their side is, there are things that first-time homebuyers have to do. Here’s a list of tips to help us, the real estate agents and the first-time homebuyers work as a team. When we are approached by a first-time homebuyer, we share this list with them to ensure that we start off on the right foot.

  • Tell Your Agent Everything: You don’t want any surprises; neither does your agent. Let them know upfront about any financial issues on your credit report. Be as detailed as possible about your goals and be flexible.
  • Make Lists: Write out a list of the things that you want and a list of the things that you need in a new home. Share this list with your agent so that they can better help find what you are looking for. Update or add to your list as you think of things and share those changes with your agent.
  • Keep Notes: Your agent is going to keep solid records of the homes that you see. However you should also keep your own notes as you go to open houses. After each home, share what you liked and what you didn’t like with your agent. That will help him or her narrow the search down for you.
  • Organize Your Documents: Keep your documents organized and all in one place. If you have a pre-approval letter, keep that with you on house hunts in case you decide to make an offer. Any documents that you will need like inspection reports or appraisals should be readily available as you search for homes.

Speaking with an Agent

An agent for first-time homebuyers is an invaluable asset. They can help you navigate the process when you are unsure of what to do next. You should call and speak with an agent if you have general questions or if you are ready to start shopping for a home. Feel free to contact us today with your specific questions 925.699.9896.

Blog Post for Sellers

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Signs that Now is the Time to Sell Your Home

There are many reasons why it may be time to sell your home. You may need more space to make room for a growing family or you need to downsize after your kids leave the nest. Whatever your motivations, you want to make sure that you’re timing it right. If you sell when home prices are plummeting, you may end up losing on the deal. If you sell when home prices are highest, there may not be a lot of buyers looking to move. So how do you know?

When is it a good time to sell?

A qualified agent can help you determine if the market puts you in a good place or not. But for  your own personal situation, here are the signs telling you that now is the time to sell your home.

You’ve Outgrown Your Home

Whether you are expecting another child, caring for an aging parent, or have taken in your adult children, when you’ve outgrown your home, it may be time to sell your home. Consider the permanency of the change. Will the kids be there for a long time? How long will you be able to care for your aging parent? Buying a bigger home is one of the main reasons why homeowners decide to sell.

You Need to Make a Change

Change is inevitable. Maybe you’re tired of shoveling snow and you want to live in a warmer climate. Maybe you have to move so you can go after your dream job or you want to be closer to family. When change entails moving, then a home sale becomes necessary.

Home Prices are on the Rise

This is one of the riskiest reasons to sell your home. Sure you may get more than you ever dreamed for your home when prices are on the rise, but that also means that you will pay more for another home. Perhaps your agent can help you find a steal in a new location where prices are more level. Then you will have made a huge profit and a smart move.

You Need to Downsize

Many homeowners are selling in order to downsize. The baby boomer generation is moving into their golden years. The kids are all out of the house and you just don’t need all that space anymore. Selling now could add a nice healthy sum to your nest egg as well. As long as you are smart about how much of that profit to spend on a new place, downsizing could be just the right move for you financially.

You Can No Longer Afford Your Home

Sadly, there are homeowners who just can no longer afford their home. Whether it is due to divorce, illness, a death, a skyrocketing mortgage payment, or the loss of a job, change in your financial circumstances is a big red flashing sign that now is the time to sell your home. Waiting any longer could have catastrophic financial consequences.

In any situation you find yourself in, an experienced agent is the key to helping you achieve your goals. Learn more about how to determine if now is the time to sell your home by speaking with agent now.

Featured Events in San Francisco

San Francisco is constantly booming with events. Residents of the Bay Area always have something to do in the city from the Cherry Blossom Festival to the San Francisco Marathon. If you’re new in town, you’ll quickly learn that there is never a shortage of exciting things happening in the area.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular annual events in the Bay Area for you to check out and meet other area residents.

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April

Cherry Blossom Festival – This annual festival is one of California’s most prominent celebrations of Asian traditions featuring beautiful cherry blossoms.

San Francisco Giants Opening Day – The San Francisco Giants kick off their baseball season with a three-game series at AT&T Park.

San Francisco International Film Festival – This annual event presents an amazing showcase of cinematography and films for people all over the world to attend.

May

Carnaval – This is San Francisco’s “Mardi Gras.” This is one of the biggest annual celebrations and features exotic Carnaval dancers with a mix of samba, jazz, Latino and Caribbean influences.

Uncorked Wine Festival – Taste a variety of different wines from wineries in the Bay Area and enjoy the waterfront view and entertainment scattered throughout Ghirardelli Square.

Bay to Breakers – Tens of thousands of people have gathered in the city since 1912 to see the world’s largest footrace and runners’ creative and quirky costumes.

June

San Francisco Jazz Festival – Dance along to soulful jazz music at one of the city’s biggest and best musical festivals featuring local and international jazz artists at the new SFJAZZ Center.

Haight Ashbury Street Fair – Celebrate the Haight-Ashbury district, one of San Francisco’s most internationally celebrated neighborhoods.

July

SF Chefs. Food. Wine – Celebrate wine, Chefs and spirits in this interactive urban food and wine festival with local talent and ingredients from across the region with a series of classes, tastings, dinners and different events in Union Square.

Fourth of July Waterfront Festival – Beautiful fireworks, plenty of food, arts and crafts, local artists and plenty of fun at the annual waterfront Fourth of July party.

San Francisco Marathon – Get your running shoes ready for the San Francisco marathon. This is a fun event that’ll help you exercise while enjoying views from the amazing city.

August

San Francisco Street Food Festival – This event is put together by La Cocina at the San Francisco Mission District with over 80 local food vendors to celebrate food entrepreneurs in the bay area.

Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival – A three day music and art event at the Golden Gate Park that features many famous pop artists and world-popular bands.

September

Opera in the Park – Enjoy an outdoor opera concert featuring arias and ensembles by the stars of the San Francisco Opera and the Opera Orchestra. Admission is free!

Oktoberfest by the Bay – Munich’s autumn beer festival comes to the bay area every September for Oktoberfest. The event features dancing, music, German food and drinks and singing!

Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival – If this doesn’t give you a reason to indulge, then what will? At this festival you can enjoy chocolate galore from Ghirardelli.

October

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – A free celebration of music in the park.

Nike Women’s Marathon – A marathon featuring over 20,000 women racing together through the city streets to raise awareness and funding for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Fleet Week San Francisco – Honor the nation’s men and women of the Navy and Marines with navy ship tours and an air show.

November
Ghirardelli Square Tree Lighting Ceremony – Kick off the holidays by watching Ghirardelli Square come to life with a 50-foot Christmas tree lighting and plenty of food and performers.

Tree Lighting at Pier 39 – Enjoy interactive exhibits, holiday sing alongs and of course, the tree lighting!

Union Square Tree Lighting – The annual lighting of Macy’s Great Tree includes over 1500 ornaments hanging from the tree adjacent to the Union Square Ice Skating Rink – a truly magical experience!

December

Santacon – Dress up like Santa Clause and enjoy a citywide pub-crawl to celebrate the holidays!

San Francisco Bowl at Levi’s Stadium – College football is heightened as two of the country’s top football teams battle it out at the San Francisco Bowl.

San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker – Tchaikovsky’s classic the “Nutcracker” is performed by America’s oldest ballet company.

What is your favorite San Francisco event? We’d love to hear from you!

5 Emerging Restaurant Trends in San Francisco for 2016

There have been plenty of changes to the San Francisco restaurant scene that have created noteworthy trends for the Bay Area. Whether it is a new restaurant establishing itself in the area or a well-known restaurant vying to stay fresh and hip in a competitive industry, San Francisco is seeing a wave of new trends in its dining spots.

If you’re a sucker for a great meal and an exciting atmosphere, take a look at these 5 emerging trends in San Francisco:

#1: Small Plates or Big Plates

Chefs across the Bay Area have done away with the traditional three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, main course and dessert. Now we see “single bite” menus and “slightly larger” food options to choose from. One of the most unifying elements of these menus is emphasis on sharing food.

From family style meals serving 4-6 people to small snacks for those with a smaller appetite, this is a new trend that has broken the traditional mold of 3-course dining.

#2: Tipping

Tipping in restaurants has become a national debate and many restaurants in the Bay Area such as Homestead, Lazy Bear and Aster have started to include service in the menu prices or as an automatic percentage on the bill.

Other restaurants like Bar Agricole and Sous Beurre Kitchen have gone tip-less and then backtracked to supporting tipping again. The city’s high cost of living has made San Francisco a hotspot for the discussion of tipping in restaurants.

#3: Sequels

Many of San Francisco’s most notable recent restaurant openings have been sequels to some of the city’s most popular restaurants. For example, Aziza’s Moroccan décor and menu sparked the creation of the global New America cooking at Mourad.

This isn’t the only restaurant that has created a sequel restaurant to their first hit restaurant – this is a trend that will continue on for many years to come in San Francisco.

#4: Smoking, Fermentation and Pickling
Smoking, fermentation and pickling food aren’t only for the south – there are plenty of restaurants that use these cooking techniques. The Rare Barrel ferments the potatoes they use in fries. Del Popolo serves a smoked sweet potato appetizer and a smoky mescal cocktail. A few restaurants like Ninebark in Napa serve house-cured pickle plates and Old Bus Tavern even serves pickled quail eggs. This is a trend that is heating up in San Francisco’s restaurants.

#5: Cocktails & Craft Beers

Both craft beers and craft cocktails are becoming a trendy norm in San Francisco. Dive bars are making their own syrups and even upscale restaurants are putting tea and beer alongside wine options. Cider is also a new option that can be found in many restaurants in the bay area.

This is a trend that allows restaurant-goers more drink options to pair with their main course and dessert. Be sure to pay a visit to one of the city’s newest restaurants Old Bus Tavern in Bernal Heights, some of their beers are even brewed in house!

What are some of your favorite restaurant trends in the area? We’d love to hear from you!

5 Eclectic Restaurants in San Francisco

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San Francisco is unlike any other city in the world. It is a melting pot of different cultures, many of which reflect in the restaurants and food spots in the Bay Area – and San Francisco is no stranger to eclectic places to dine out.

Whether you’re new to town or have been here a while, check out these five eclectic restaurants that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Brainwash Café & Laundromat
1122 Folsom St.

At Brainwash Café & Laundromat you can eat, drink and do your laundry. This restaurant concept was a bit of an accidental stroke of genius for Susan Schindler, who was planning to open a club but then found out about the need for a Laundromat south of Market. She merged the two concepts and created Brainwash Café & Laundromat – and the rest is history.

You can chow down on waffles, sip coffee, drink $1 beers during happy hour, join in on the open-mic nights and enjoy free Wi-Fi – all while doing your laundry.

Supperclub
403 Mason St.

You may be familiar with Supperclub as a hot spot for dancing and drinking, but you can also wine and dine there! The chef at this unique restaurant prepares a 4-course meal for you to enjoy while lounging on an oversized white bed with your shoes off. While you enjoy your dinner, you can also enjoy an avant-garde show with burlesque dancers, acrobatics and trapeze stunts. It’s unlike anything else in the city.

Forbes Island
Pier 41

Forbes Island is a romantic and eclectic dining location simply because you eat underwater on a man-made floating island. Dining at Forbes Island is truly an experience you will never forget – you start off with a short boat ride to the island, along with a short history lesson.

When you arrive, you have free time to explore the island before you eat – so, don’t forget to check out the 40-foot lighthouse with spectacular views!

El Mansour
3119 Clement St.

Have a seat, eat with your hands and enjoy watching belly-dancers groove to eclectic Moroccan music. This is a true Moroccan experience. You wash your hands before the meal with rose-scented water, you drink mint tea and you can interact with amazingly talented entertainers – some even give on the spot dancing lessons to diners! There is also a beautiful backdrop created outside by the exterior tiling, so make sure to take a photo for the occasion.

Karma Kitchen
Taste of the Himalayas

1700 Shattuck Ave

At Karma Kitchen, he entire staff works off of smiles and pure kindness. This is a pay-it-forward concept, so you will receive your meal as a gift from a customer before you and you have the opportunity to pay as much as you please to give a meal to the next person. All of the profit goes to purchasing ingredients for the next month. You will receive unlimited amounts of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. This place truly spreads good karma.

Whether you’ve just moved to the city or are a local looking for new places to enjoy, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more great ideas. We’re just a phone call away.

Raise Your Home’s Value With These 5 Easy Improvements

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If you are ready to sell your home, it pays to make sure you are maximizing your equity. Large-scale home improvements may increase your home’s value, but they may also cost you. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on major improvements in your home that may or may not pay off, try these five easy improvements that can raise your home’s value and help you sell it faster.

#1: Give Your Bathroom a Facelift

The bathroom is one of the key rooms that buyers will look at when deciding to purchase your home. If your budget doesn’t allow a complete bathroom “facelift,” there are still plenty of ways to heighten the look and feel of your bathroom.

Replace older fixtures to improve the look and functionality of your bathroom without spending more than your budget allows. You can also put on a fresh coat of paint and vamp up your accessories with new hanging towels and a new shower curtain. Another easy fix is to give your bathroom a deep clean to make your floor tiles look brand new.

#2: Turn Up the Lights

Old light fixtures and poor lighting can attract attention to the wrong places in your home. You can spend as little as $100 on new light fixtures and completely transform your home and give it a warmer and more modern look and feel to keep buyers focused on the best attributes of your home.

If you don’t want to spend time or money switching out light fixtures, simply give your current fixtures new bulbs with higher wattage to light up your home.

#3: Play Up Your Kitchen

Your kitchen is another important selling point for your home. Installing new cabinets or appliances comes with a big price tag, but you can give your home a fresh look just by making small cosmetic changes, such as painting your cabinets a neutral color to appeal to more buyers. You can also trade outdated hardware with new cabinet and drawer pulls to freshen up the kitchen and add detail.

#4: Clear Out the Clutter

Clutter is a huge distraction to potential buyers. When buyers visit your home, you want them to be able to envision themselves living there. If your home is disorganized and cluttered, buyers will feel overwhelmed and it may cost you a sale.
Sift through items in your home and get rid of things you no longer use or no longer need. Or, box up belongings you don’t need until you move into your next house. The less clutter you have in your home, the more additional space buyers will see.

Cleaning and organizing can completely change the look of your home, and all it will cost you is some elbow grease and maybe a storage unit.

#5: Create Curb Appeal

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that your home has excellent curb appeal. Mow your lawn, plant new flowers, clean up your mailbox, and make sure that your hedges and trees are trimmed to give your home stunning and eye-catching appeal. Just think – if the outside of your home doesn’t impress potential buyers, it will be hard to get them inside.

Need more tips on adding value to your home before a sale? Connect with our team today to learn more. We’re just a phone call away and look forward to hearing from you soon.

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San Francisco is unlike any other city in the world. It is a melting pot of different cultures, many of which reflect in the restaurants and food spots in the Bay Area – and San Francisco is no stranger to eclectic places to dine out.

Whether you’re new to town or have been here a while, check out these five eclectic restaurants that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Brainwash Café & Laundromat
1122 Folsom St.

At Brainwash Café & Laundromat you can eat, drink and do your laundry. This restaurant concept was a bit of an accidental stroke of genius for Susan Schindler, who was planning to open a club but then found out about the need for a Laundromat south of Market. She merged the two concepts and created Brainwash Café & Laundromat – and the rest is history.

You can chow down on waffles, sip coffee, drink $1 beers during happy hour, join in on the open-mic nights and enjoy free Wi-Fi – all while doing your laundry.

Supperclub
403 Mason St.

You may be familiar with Supperclub as a hot spot for dancing and drinking, but you can also wine and dine there! The chef at this unique restaurant prepares a 4-course meal for you to enjoy while lounging on an oversized white bed with your shoes off. While you enjoy your dinner, you can also enjoy an avant-garde show with burlesque dancers, acrobatics and trapeze stunts. It’s unlike anything else in the city.

Forbes Island
Pier 41

Forbes Island is a romantic and eclectic dining location simply because you eat underwater on a man-made floating island. Dining at Forbes Island is truly an experience you will never forget – you start off with a short boat ride to the island, along with a short history lesson.

When you arrive, you have free time to explore the island before you eat – so, don’t forget to check out the 40-foot lighthouse with spectacular views!

El Mansour
3119 Clement St.

Have a seat, eat with your hands and enjoy watching belly-dancers groove to eclectic Moroccan music. This is a true Moroccan experience. You wash your hands before the meal with rose-scented water, you drink mint tea and you can interact with amazingly talented entertainers – some even give on the spot dancing lessons to diners! There is also a beautiful backdrop created outside by the exterior tiling, so make sure to take a photo for the occasion.

Karma Kitchen
Taste of the Himalayas
1700 Shattuck Ave

At Karma Kitchen, he entire staff works off of smiles and pure kindness. This is a pay-it-forward concept, so you will receive your meal as a gift from a customer before you and you have the opportunity to pay as much as you please to give a meal to the next person. All of the profit goes to purchasing ingredients for the next month. You will receive unlimited amounts of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. This place truly spreads good karma.

Whether you’ve just moved to the city or are a local looking for new places to enjoy, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more great ideas. We’re just a phone call away.

What to Look for in a Luxury Home

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What do buyers look for when shopping for a luxury home? The answers are many and varied but certain features stand out as the favorites. The underlying idea is for residents to feel surrounded by the best money can buy – a reflection of the success they enjoy in life.

Whether you’re looking for a luxury condo or single-family home, take a look at some of the features most coveted by high-end real estate buyers.

Location

This is undeniably the single most important factor that defines a luxury home.

A gated community, perhaps built around a golf course with a lavish country club, or the penthouse suite of an elite high-rise is the kind of residential address that spells success in every way.

Properties in these locations offer exclusivity, privacy, lots of personal space, and in most cases, spectacular protected views of the surrounding city or landscape.

Impressive Architecture

Whether a condo or a single-family home, unique and beautiful architecture greatly adds value that’s retained through time. Who the architect is could be a selling point if you decide to sell the property in the future. A practical design, interesting details, artistry and top-of-the-line materials are some of the hallmarks of great architecture.

Exceptional Storage Space

Spacious closets with enough space to store and display designer clothes, shoes and bags are a must-have for luxury property buyers.

In single-family homes, this often means walk-in closets (preferably separate his and hers) with built-in shelves and racks, and a separate dressing room.

In condos where space is more limited, buyers want enough room to add shelves and racks, and perhaps added storage space in the basement.

The Gym and Pool

Exclusive, members-only gym and pool are two of the most popular amenities in luxury condos.

In single-family homes, buyers often look for a swimming pool as well as a fitness room which can accommodate their exercise equipment, plus extras like a television, wireless speakers, and a spa.

High Ceilings

Whether in a condo or a single-family home, high ceilings are the standard in luxury properties, with a preferred height of 12 to 14 feet. Buyers now look at cubic footage instead of just square footage, particularly in condos.

Hi-Tech Features

Wireless home automation has become a sought-after feature by luxury home buyers. Using just your iPhone, you can remotely control your home security and alarm system, entertainment and communication systems, the lights, temperature and even the blinds.

Professional Kitchen

The kitchen has become a primary entertainment and living center in a home, and luxury home buyers give kitchens a lot of attention. They look for features like warming drawers, a walk-in pantry, and professional-grade appliances and fixtures, along with fancy finishes and the highest-grade materials. The kitchen also has to be spacious enough to accommodate the family or guests at informal gatherings.

Layout

A 2013 study cited an open floor plan as the most desired feature of luxury home buyers, suggesting the need for spacious and airy surroundings. This applies to condos as well, but with a condo’s smaller space, a clear separation between the entertainment and private areas is desired.

Northern California: An Overview

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Northern California, popularly known as NorCal, spans the 48 counties in the northernmost portion of the state, beginning with Monterey, Kings, Tulare and Inyo, and going all the way up to Del Norte, Siskiyou and Modoc.

This vast area encompasses various topographies and micro climates, as well as contrasting urban and rural landscapes and lifestyles. All this makes Northern California not just a single destination but a host of widely varied regions and environments that offer their unique set of experiences.

In exploring NorCal, you will see why it’s one of the most desired areas to live in the entire United States.

Mild climate

As with the rest of the state, the climate in NorCal is mild with warm summers and cool winters. It receives more rainfall than other parts of California and gets snow in the mountains during winter. Mt. Shasta Ski Park is a favorite skiing destination, along with Yosemite’s Badger Pass.

The coasts

Northern California’s coastal areas offer a variety of experiences.

The San Francisco Bay Area is unarguably the most famous. Anchored by one of the world’s most iconic cities, the nine-county Bay Area is an epicenter of innovation and entrepreneurship and is also home to one of the best-known wine regions on the planet. Its most famous landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, is an engineering marvel and perfectly encapsulates the region’s pioneering spirit.

Go a little further up and you’ll hit Bodega Bay on the Sonoma coast, the place to go for highly prized Dungeness crab. Drive a few more miles north and you’ll find the famed headlands of Mendocino,which is part of the still mostly rural North Coast.

In contrast to the Bay Area’s urban chic, the coastal areas of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties are rawer, with their dramatic crags and heavy fog that wraps around towering redwoods. This rugged stretch of shore, also known as the Redwood Coast, is full of breathtaking sights, and includes the spectacular sweep of untouched wilderness that is the Lost Coast.

Wine country

About an hour north of San Francisco are the rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma, where the world-famous California wine was born. Hundreds of wineries sprawl across the countryside, where the landscape dramatically changes as the vineyards show off the colors of the season.

Grand estates, castles, renovated barns and bucolic towns dot this varied expanse, bringing you to another time and place. The wine regions of Napa, Sonoma,Mendocino and Lake counties are composed of over two dozen distinctAVAs (American Viticultural Areas) and also host Michelin-starred restaurants, luxurious spas and elegant hotels.

Sonoma County’s Wine Road takes you on a winding picturesque drive through the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys where you can learn about the region’s history, sample wines from the over 190 participating wineries, and stay in the area’s finest lodgings.

National parks, lakes and forests

Northern California has a rich natural beauty that’s simply unparalleled.

One of its greatest treasures is Yosemite National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is nearly 1,100 square miles of awe-inspiring natural wonders that include roaring-waterfalls, mighty granite cliffs, pristine meadows and alpine lakes.

Lake Tahoe lies at the heart of the High Sierra. With its deep blue waters framed by majestic mountains, this masterpiece of nature attracts visitors from all over the country all year-round.

The Calaveras Big Trees State Park is where you will find giant sequoia trees in 6,400 acres of preserved land. This state-run park features hiking trails, the Stanislaus River, campgrounds, picnic sites and many more.

Among the many other state and national parks, monuments and recreation areas in NorCal are:

  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lava Beds National Monument
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Sequoia National Park