Curb Appeal, Staging Rated as Best Home Improvement Projects for Sellers


Curb Appeal, Staging Rated as Best Home Improvement Projects for Sellers

 

Today’s home sellers should focus on curb appeal and home staging above larger-scale home renovations, according to a new survey from Zillow Digs. Zillow asked real estate agents and interior designers nationwide to identify the most valuable home improvements for sellers, and the experts agree that minor improvements like landscaping and painting walls in neutral colors save money and attract buyers faster.

Agents agree that sellers should avoid costly projects prior to listing their home, as the increased sale price may not outweigh the time and money spent on the remodel. Instead, agents and designers recommend spending money on minor renovations that will bring the home up to current market standards while also appealing to the broadest number of potential buyers.

According to the survey, the top 5 projects for sellers are:

  • Curb Appeal: Creating a strong first impression is imperative as buyers begin making assumptions about a home well before they step inside.
  • Staging: A home stager can skillfully identify ways to highlight a home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings.
  • Invest in Small Home Improvements:  Both agents and designers agree that sellers should never invest in a major renovation before selling.
  • Declutter: This sounds simple, but according to experts, it’s the one of the most important things a homeowner should do before selling. A clean house feels more spacious and helps buyers easily envision themselves in the home.

Granite Countertops and Stainless Steel Appliances: Most buyers are still requesting granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Sellers should keep in mind that most high-end finishes don’t equal high-end returns. However, incorporating granite and new appliances can help catch a buyer’s eye.

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

Is Market Recovery Slowing Down? Great Article from SF Gate

Great article about our local Real Estate market – is recovery slowing down?  Or is supply holding back the reins?

Signs of possible slowdown in housing recovery


By: Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle & SF Gate

Bay Area home prices rose on a year-over-year basis last month, albeit at a slower pace than earlier in the year, while sales fell to their slowest pace for a December since 2007, DataQuick reported Wednesday.

It was another sign of a potential slowdown in the housing recovery.

On Tuesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association lowered its forecast for 2014 mortgage originations, citing higher interest rates and uncertainty over new mortgage rules that took effect this month.
DataQuick attributed the sales slowdown to a lack of supply, not a lack of demand.
“Demand has been impacted by a roughly one percentage point increase in rates since spring. But we think the bigger deal is the lack of inventory,” DataQuick spokesman Andrew LePage says.
In the Bay Area, 6,714 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine counties last month. That was up 0.8 percent from November but down 12.7 percent from December 2012.
Sales are typically higher in December than November, but the seasonal increase is normally much higher – around 8 percent.
The December sales figure was the lowest for a December since 2007, when 5,065 homes sold.
The median price paid for a Bay Area home last month was $548,500. That was down 0.3 percent from November, but 23.9 percent higher than the same time last year. From April through August last year, prices rose 30 percent or more on a year-over-year basis.
More sales in spring

LePage says there will be more homes on the market in spring and summer, when the market typically heats up. Rising home prices will leave fewer homes underwater, so more homeowners will sell because they could make enough to pay off their mortgage. Also, there has been “a little more construction,” LePage says.
“Waiting (to buy a home) will get you more choice, but all bets are off on prices,” he says.
If the current rate of appreciation holds, “the typical home would be selling for $50,000 to $60,000 more by spring.

Perhaps twice that at the upper end of the market,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a news release.

Tight inventories are also hurting the mortgage industry.

In its forecast Tuesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association predicted that only $1.12 trillion in home loans will be originated this year, down 36 percent from $1.76 trillion in 2013. In October, it predicted that 2014 originations would drop by only 32 percent.

The forecast came out hours after mortgage heavyweights Wells Fargo and Chase announced big drops in fourth-quarter mortgage originations as part of their earnings reports.

The numbers “just kept getting worse through the end of 2013,” says Michael Fratantoni, the association’s chief economist.

The association predicts that home-purchase mortgages will rise just 3.8 percent to $677 billion this year. In October, it was expecting a 9 percent increase.

Refinance originations, it says, will hit only $440 billion, down 60 percent form last year. In October it expected a 57 percent drop.

Higher rates a drag

The main culprit is higher interest rates. Mortgage rates were around 3.5 percent at the beginning of last year but jumped by a full percentage point in May and June. They have been hovering around 4.5 percent since then.

The immediate effect was to slash refinance volume, but home-purchase originations also suffer from a low-rate “hangover,” Fratantoni says. The ultra-low rates that persisted before May “pulled forward some (purchases) that might not have occurred until six months or a year later. Now we are now we are seeing a bit of a payback in terms of lower activity.”

The association predicts that the average 30-year mortgage rate will be above 5 percent by the end of this year and above 5.5 percent at the end of next year.

It also predicts that fewer mortgages could be made this year as lenders narrow their product lineup to conform with the new mortgage rules designed to outlaw some of the abusive lending practices that led to the financial crisis.

The new rules give lenders some protection from borrower lawsuits if they make what is known as a qualified mortgage and the loan goes bad. A loan is not qualified if it has certain features, such as interest-only payments, or if the borrower’s total debt payments (including the mortgage and other debt) exceed 43 percent of gross income.
Over government limit

The new rules apply only to jumbo and other nonconforming mortgages, because all loans that could be bought or backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and other government agencies are automatically deemed qualified.

Government loans account for the vast majority of the mortgages nationwide but a smaller percentage in the Bay Area, where many borrowers exceed the government limit, which tops out at $625,500 for Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans in high-cost areas.

In the Bay Area, 15.4 percent of home-purchase loans exceeded $625,500 in the fourth quarter, but this number ranged from less than 0.4 percent in Solano County to 32 percent in San Francisco, according to DataQuick.

Kathleen Pender is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Net Worth runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail: kpender@sfchronicle.com Blog: http://blog.sfgate.com/pender Twitter: @kathpender

I read this article at: http://www.sfgate.com/business/networth/article/Signs-of-possible-slowdown-in-housing-recovery-5146631.php
Remember to follow our Blog at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

For-Sale Home Inventories Remain Tight – From the Daily Real Estate News

I find it important to share articles related to our real estate market.  Please enjoy this one about our low inventory.

For-Sale Home Inventories Remain Tight – Daily Real Estate News

Inventory levels in 2012 reached an 11-year low and fell yet again last month, further limiting the number of homes for sale nationwide. Inventories of for-sale homes were down by 16.5 percent in January year-over-year, and fell 5.6 percent from December, according to the latest data compiled from Realtor.com.

Inventories typically fall in December and January in preparation of the spring buying season.

“But the shortage of homes for sale in a growing number of U.S. markets is maddening for would-be buyers who frequently complain that there aren’t enough good choices,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Bidding wars are becoming more common.”

At a time when buyer demand is strong, inventories remain constrained as banks slow their pace of foreclosures and home owners delay selling until they regain more equity in their homes.

Metro areas posting some of the largest monthly declines in inventory levels are San Francisco (where inventory levels are down by 21 percent in January compared to December and down 47 percent year-over-year) as well as Seattle (where levels dropped 9 percent from December). The two have also seen some of the largest price increases in the nation. Median asking prices have risen by 16.4 percent and 23.7 percent in those places, respectively.

My 2 Cents

Inventory is tight – across the board – across each price point on our beloved SF Peninsula.  Which is great news for sellers who’ve been waiting on the fence for recovery.  If you or someone you know is thinking about selling – let us know.  We’ll show you what your home is currently worth and with all the information – you can make a better decision on your next steps.

I read this article at: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/02/18/for-sale-home-inventories-remain-tight?om_rid=AACmlZ&om_mid=_BRImwmB8w5t6jo&om_ntype=RMODaily

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story…. Russ and Natalie’s 5 Month Wait for Their Home

This past year has been very competitive for home buyers at every price point on the San Francisco Peninsula.  Then again, it’s been a competitive housing market since the we hit bottom back in ’09.

I recall in 2006 when my husband and I bought our first place, a one bedroom condo in Foster City, prices were moving up fast.  As a Realtor and first time buyer on a budget, I knew that if my husband and I didn’t buy soon we’d be priced out of the market…including condos.  Then there was the crash and poof….prices started falling.

By 2009 homes prices had fallen as low as they could go and people were starting to feel confident in investing in real estate again.  That’s when Russ and Natalie, who had just had twins, needed a home.  We started our journey together and it quickly became evident – they weren’t the only people buying homes in the Bay Area.  I feel like a broken record in 2012 when I say – they wrote a whole bunch of offers back then and got out bid by higher offers, offers with larger down payments or cash offers with quick timing.  It was tough.  Susan and I take the punches with each client when they don’t get an offer accepted.  Yet Russ and Natalie were troopers, got up, dusted off and got back on the horse.  Sue and I truly wanted to hand them the keys to their first home before the twins started to walk.  And they were starting to walk!

Around Thanksgiving a home that was previously pending came back on the market. It was a tricky short sale that fell apart.  As they can do.  We showed it as soon as we could.  Russ and Natalie were so great about being open to possibilities, ready to get their hands dirty and build some “sweat equity”.  They saw the possibilities this particular home had to offer.  It’s funny. I know the home you think you will buy and the home you actually buy are often very different.  Each buyers journey is unique.  I know my first time buying was not at all what I expected.

Anyway, I digress.  It was the holidays and had this home popped on the market any other week – maybe we would have been outbid.  Instead Russ and Natalie wrote a terrific offer and with the help of The Caton Team their offer was accepted.

That’s when the hard work really starts on a short sale property.  The Caton Team was very fortunate to work with Shirley Krause, whom represented the seller during what proved to be an almost 6 month group effort.

It’s a long wait – for everyone – when buying or selling a short sale.  Just around the twins birthday in the Spring Susan and I had the pleasure of handing the keys to Russ and Natalie.  Yes, they waited 5 months to get their house!

Moral of this Cinderella Story, don’t give up. Not now. Not if you want to call our gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area home sweet home.  So now as the malls fill up with shoppers and homes are sitting on the market ignored – give us a call – you never know the possibilities until you try.

Thank you Russ and Natalie for working with The Caton Team.  Here is to many happy years in your lovely home.

Happy Holidays!

Curious about my own buying and selling experiences?  Although I am a Realtor by trade, I’m no different than you when sitting in the buyer or seller seat.  Enjoy my journey through homeownership at: http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Warren Buffet is our New Boss!!!! Press Release!!!!

PRESS RELEASE !!!!!

Prudential, Real Living brands to be Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

Brookfield Asset Management remains a partner in new brand

BY INMAN NEWS, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012.

The nation’s second-biggest real estate broker, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. affiliate HomeServices of America Inc., has entered the franchising business by acquiring a majority interest in the Prudential Real Estate and Real Living brands from Brookfield Asset Management.

The Prudential Real Estate and Real Living affiliate networks will be rolled into a new franchise brand, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, that will come online in 2013, the companies said.

HomeServices and Brookfield have formed a joint venture, HSF Affiliates LLC, to operate the Real Living and Prudential Real Estate affiliate networks, whose member brokers employ 53,000 sales associates and closed more than $72 billion in home sales last year.

HomeServices is the majority owner of HSF Affiliates, with Brookfield Asset Management retaining joint ownership. Brookfield’s relocation business, Brookfield Global Relocation Services, will remain wholly owned by Brookfield. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a new franchise brand built upon the financial strength and leadership of Brookfield and HomeServices,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in a statement. “I am confident that these partners will deliver value to the residential real estate industry, and I am pleased to have Berkshire Hathaway be a part of the new brand.”

Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of  HomeServices, said the company was “honored and proud to be entrusted with the use of the Berkshire Hathaway name as our new real estate franchise brand.”

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will be based in Irvine, Calif., and led by Earl Lee, who will serve as chief executive officer. Other key management executives named today are Chief Operating Officer Stephen Phillips, Chief Financial Officer Brian Peterson, and Chief Marketing Officer Aleya Chattopadhyay.

Lee has worked under the Prudential brand since his Hawaii-based company, Locations LLC, joined the Prudential network in 1995. He was president of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services when it was acquired by Brookfield Residential Property Services for $110 million last year.

Real Living founder and president Harley Rouda Jr. will take over as CEO of Trident Holdings Inc., the parent company of Ohio-based HER Realty Real Living. Rouda said HER Realty does not plan to be affiliated with Real Living or Prudential Real Estate.

Canadian-based Brookfield entered the U.S. market in 2008, by acquiring GMAC Real Estate and merging the company into Real Living the following year.

Phillips served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for GMAC Home Services from 2001 to 2006, and as interim CEO of the GMAC Relocation Services business. Peterson has 24 years of experience in the real estate brokerage and franchising business, including 14 years with Brookfield and GMAC. Chattopadhyay has been with Brookfield since 2003, holding roles in Canada, India and the U.K.

Peltier said that while Minneapolis-based HomeServices is getting into the franchising business to accelerate its growth and build a website that will be a destination for consumers, the company will continue to expand its company-owned brokerage operations.

“The business model we have used to grow for the last 15 years was to identify great companies, regardless of their brand, and own and operate those local companies,” Peltier said. 

Since HomeServices was acquired in 1998 by Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings Corp., the “independent brand” acquisition strategy has helped the company grow from 4,000 agents in three markets to more than 16,000 agents in 21 states who last year handled sales of homes valued at nearly $32 billion.

Peltier said that while HomeServices will continue to identify brokerages to acquire, own and operate, “being a franchisor, we’ll be in a lot of markets much quicker than (with the) existing strategy” alone.

With consumers typically starting their home search on the Internet, creating a single destination website under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand will benefit both company-owned brokerages and franchisees, Peltier said.

“At some point, you can’t ignore the fact that if you want to attract customer eyeballs, you have to have a presence on the Internet, and you can’t do it with local independent brands” alone, Peltier said. “You have to have a single brand.”

Company-owned brokerages that operate under independent brands will continue to have the option of pursuing that strategy, while still benefiting from the exposure they will receive from the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices website, he said.

“We will continue to grow and support the independent brand strategy as well,” Peltier said. “We’re adding to our strategy — this is not deleting.”

HomeServices of America’s business model now looks more like the one employed by competitor Realogy Holdings Corp. Although Realogy operates the nation’s largest brokerage company, NRT LLC, most of the company’s 2011 adjusted net earnings came from providing real estate franchise services to companies operating 13,800 offices under the Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s International Realty, Coldwell Banker Commercial, and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate brands.

HomeServices owns nine brokerages affiliated with Prudential Real Estate, including three acquired this year: Portland, Ore.-based Prudential Northwest Properties, acquired in February; Seattle-based Prudential Northwest Realty Associates, acquired in April; Prudential Connecticut Realty, also acquired in April.

The six other HomeServices brokerages affiliated with Prudential Real Estate are and Prudential California Realty (Southern California), Prudential First Realty (Iowa), Prudential Rhode Island Realty, Prudential Carolinas Realty, Prudential York Simpson Underwood Realty (North Carolina) and Prudential Yost and Little Realty (North Carolina).

HomeServices also owns Koenig & Strey Real Living, a dominant brokerage in the metro Chicago area, which it acquired from Brookfield in 2009.

“This is not a new thought,” Peltier said of the decision to create a national franchise brand, noting that HomeServices was interested in acquiring the Prudential Real Estate brand two years ago. 

When Brookfield acquired the brand instead, it did so knowing it would eventually have to transition to another name — parent company Prudential Financial Inc. made that a condition of the sale.

“They were looking for a great brand, and we were fortunate in that we’d been given permission by our parent” company to use the Berkshire Hathaway name to create a new brand, Peltier said. It’s “an internationally recognized brand that’s currently not being used in commerce.”

According to an amended registration statement Prudential Real Estate Affiliates filed on Jan. 19 with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Brookfield was barred from signing up new franchisees to operate under the Prudential Real Estate name. Brookfield had the right to renew the right of existing franchisees to operate under the Prudential name for up to five years, but only if their franchise agreements expired on or before Dec. 6, 2013.

All rights to use the Prudential Real Estate name expired at the end of 2027 — when the franchise agreement with the longest term was set to expire — or on the date on which no franchise agreement is in effect, the registration statement said.

Brian Boero, a partner in the real estate technology consulting firm 1000watt, said in a blog post today that while many existing Prudential affiliates “are deeply invested” in the brand, “I think most will jump at the opportunity to associate with Berkshire Hathaway. I’ve heard from some already, and they’re enthused. A conversion process that could have taken a decade will be collapsed into months.”

In filing its updated registration statement with Minnesota regulators, Prudential Real Estate also disclosed recent litigation with several franchisees.

Last year, Prudential Real Estate said it received $1.9 million from Mason McDuffie Real Estate Inc. to settle a breach of contract lawsuit Prudential Real Estate filed against the Pleasanton, Calif.-based brokerage after it switched its franchise affiliation to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Prudential Real Estate also disclosed that it had received settlement payments in 2011 from Prudential Texas Properties and Missouri-based brokerage Carter Duffey Inc.

I read this article at: http://www.inman.com/news/2012/10/30/prudential-real-living-brands-be-berkshire-hathaway-homeservices

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina