Bay Area Real Estate Market is Sizzling!

Found this great article by Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Had to share and add my 2 cents are in italics.

Tight inventory – a dearth of homes for sale – is driving bidding wars throughout the Bay Area, sending prices up and leaving scores of disappointed would-be buyers. Homes that do hit the market sell within days.

So few homes are listed for sale that agents are resurrecting old ways of drumming up business – going door to door, leaving cards and flyers and writing personal letters, asking owners if they’re interested in selling. Social networking and e-mail blasts are being used to increase inventory as well.

This is all too true.  The Caton Team has started targeting areas, condo complexes, neighborhoods and individual homes to find the right home for our buying clients.  It’s that tough!  And with some first time buyers, the window is closing as prices creep up.  Not to mention we are on the edge of our seats worried if interest rates rise.

“People are going old-school, farming their territory,” said Lynda D, an agent in the East Bay, using real estate agent slang for canvassing neighborhoods.

While tight inventory is a national trend, it’s especially pronounced in the Bay Area.

Alameda County, for instance, had 949 homes for sale in February, down 64 percent from the 2,617 on the market at the same time last year, according to data from Realtor.com, the listings website of the National Association of Realtors. Contra Costa County had 899, down 58 percent from 2,152 in February 2012.

“Those are striking reductions in inventory,” said Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com.

While inventory numbers did tick up slightly from January to February, that was a normal seasonal change, not an indication of the logjam loosening.

“After seasonal adjustments, inventory is still falling; the underlying trend is still downward,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist with real estate site Trulia.com.

However, he thinks the rate of decline is slowing.

“Inventory tends to fall the most sharply after prices bottom, as no one wants to sell at the bottom, they just want to buy,” he said. Trulia shows that Bay Area prices bottomed more than a year ago.

Price a factor

Sellers remain reluctant and elusive for several reasons. Those who are still underwater – owing more than their house is worth – have the obvious impediment of not wanting to do a short sale.

But many others “feel underwater based on the price they paid,” Samuelson said. That is, someone who paid $700,000 for a home in 2007 won’t feel good about selling it for $625,000 right now, even though the sale would cover their remaining mortgage.

Some potential sellers, seeing prices surge, are hoping to hold out for more. Others who might want to move up to a bigger house fear that the market frenzy means they won’t be able to find or afford anything else.

This is such a dilemma.  If a seller has enough equity, finally, to sell – the next question is – Where do we go?  If a seller wants to stay in the Bay Area, selling now means jumping into the buying pool – and that pool is man eat man!  So this truly creates a problem.

Now that it’s spring, the busiest real estate season, more homes should start hitting the market. But many agents have been taking matters into their own hands, making pitches directly to potential sellers about why it’s time to get off the fence.

Although there are numerous online sites to track homes for sale, “the way the market is set up now is forcing us to go back to the beginning where (agents) walk up to a door and knock and say, ‘Hi, how are you, my name is … ‘ ” said Adelaida M, a Realtor in San Francisco.

Personal touch

She recently worked with a client seeking a home in San Francisco’s Clarendon Heights neighborhood, above Cole Valley. After losing out with bids, she walked the neighborhood with him and identified houses he particularly liked. Mejia looked up the homeowners and wrote personal letters to each, explaining that her client loved the area and was seeking a house there.

“Three weeks later, one person called me back and said ‘We loved your letter, we’d love to talk even though we’re not on the market, come on over,’ ” she said.

Rich and Renee G, the homeowners, said they received two or three agent solicitations a week after unsuccessfully trying to sell the house last year, but ignored them because they were form letters.

I couldn’t agree more.  The Caton Team has taken this stance and only solicits a seller when we have an actual buyer for their home.  We’re not trying to just get listings.  We are trying to unit buyers and sellers.  I personally experienced what it feels like to be a seller for the past three years.  Back and forth with my loan modification paperwork, we placed our home on the market and with no offers, pulled it off the market for a spell.  During that time I got stacks and stacks of form letters.  Truthfully, it was starting to frost my cookies.  It was evident all us Realtors are trying to drum up business, but the form letters were bothering me.  They were heartless and actually hurt me – because we didn’t really want to sell – but had to.  In the end we listed our home in October of 2012 and sold it within weeks!  Now, on the other side of the fence, I consider how a homeowner would feel when they get a form letter.  Therefore The Caton Team takes the time to write a real letter, talk about the buyers we are representing and take it from there.

“Adelaida’s note was different; more personalized,” Rich said. “We were planning to put the house on the market again, but the note just pre-empted that.”

Her client ended up visiting the house, making an all-cash offer and buying it. “It was a really stress-free experience for both” the buyer and seller, she said.

If you do ask The Caton Team of your Realtor to solicit homes for you – be prepared to pay fair market value or more because if you aren’t willing too – the seller will simply put the home on the market, get multiple offers and sell for top dollar.  So in other words, you need to ‘make them an offer they cannot refuse.’

Beating the bushes for sellers is an about-face from just 18 months ago, when the challenge was to find people who wanted to buy.

A corresponding trend is that homes are selling very quickly.

‘Unbelievable’

“The median days on market in Contra Costa is 13 days – that’s unbelievable,” Samuelson said. A year ago it was 33 days.

Redfin has identified another trend it calls “flash sales” – homes that sell within 24 hours of being listed, usually because a buyer swoops in with an offer too good to refuse. Often, those are buyers who have lost other bidding wars and are determined to land a property.

In the past six months, almost 1,000 Bay Area properties went under contract within one day, Redfin said.

That’s the truth.  The Caton Team has started showing homes the day they come on the market and are prepared, right then and there, to write an offer if our client likes the home.  Gone are the days, for now at least, that you could see a home, think about it, maybe sleep on it, then write the offer.  Lately it’s felt like – ‘you like it – let’s write’!   And with each offer we write for each buyer, we’re doing everything we can to make the offer more likable to the seller.  We are using every tool in our toolbox and the toolbox of our clients. 

“I just had that experience at a house in the Oakland hills,” DiVito said. “I held the brokers’ tour just before putting it on the market. A buyer and agent walked in and offered us our list price in cash on the spot.”

Underscoring how much the market has changed, she said her sellers had tried to sell the house a year ago “and could not move this property, even though they lowered the price three times.”

Been there done that.  It is amazing how much our real estate market has changed in one year alone.  In 2010 and 2011 I had my own condo to sell, and nobody was interested.  October 2012 – put it on the market and within days I had several offers.  In the end, 20 offers on the same condo.  Amazing what a year can do.

Same-day offer

The sellers, who were buying a new home and needed to sell quickly, were happy to take the same-day offer since a cash deal meant it couldn’t be derailed by problems with financing or appraisals.

“Flash-sale terms tend to be really good because (buyers) really want to lock down that property quickly,” DiVito said. “They’re more willing to meet the sellers’ needs to scoop it up before anyone else gets it.”

What happens next with inventory is a big question hanging over the real estate recovery.

“My best guess is that you’ll see an orderly return of inventory to the market,” Samuelson said. “I don’t expect that you’ll see the floodgates open and torrents of properties hit the market. But for each percentage point increase in price, there will be some people who for life reasons have wanted to sell for the past five years – their kids moved out, they got divorced – and now feel that the time is right and they have enough equity.”

Don’t be discouraged if you are a buyer out there.  Don’t sit back either.  The best education a buyer can have is living the market.  So if you are thinking of buying a home, get pre-approved, call The Caton Team or your Realtor and come up with a plan.  The more active you are today – the better prepared you will be tomorrow.

I read this article at: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Homes-sell-faster-than-ever-in-Bay-Area-4375058.php

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

Home Buyers Face Dilemma with Housing Shortage – SF GATE sheds some light…

After a great open house yesterday with candid discussions with the buyers out there.  It was great to find this article this morning in the Sunday paper regarding what Realtors in the Bay Area were already thinking.  If you want to call our glorious SF Peninsula home – now is the time.  We hit bottom, whether it was 2009 or 2012.  With limited inventory and low rates driving renters from out under their rock – homes are selling with multiple offers and for over their listed price.  And with demand this strong – we don’t feel prices are going to fall anytime soon.  Take a read and let me know your thoughts.  Comment or email us at info@thecatonteam.com!  Enjoy!

Home Buyers Face Dilemma with Housing Shortage

The sharp drop in homes for sale poses a tough choice for buyers: Jump in now and compete with hordes of others or wait until inventory improves.  If you buy now, you might have to pay above asking. But if you wait, you could end up paying an even higher price and a higher interest rate if you need a loan. That’s because inventory won’t improve until prices rise enough to get more homeowners to sell and more builders to break ground.

The inventory shortage is especially acute in California. Of the 30 largest housing markets, the four with the biggest drops in homes listed for sale on Zillow in February compared with February of last year were Sacramento (48 percent), Los Angeles, San Francisco (41 percent) and San Diego.  Although listings are increasing on a month-to-month basis as the busy spring season gets under way, Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko predicts they won’t start rising on a year-over-year basis for a year or more.

An example of that: “In all of Millbrae, there was one listing two months ago. There are about a dozen now,” says Roger Dewes, a Coldwell Banker agent on the Peninsula. In a normal market, there might be 20. “We are not there yet, but going from one to 12 is quite a leap,” he says.

Experts cite five factors contributing to the inventory shortage:

Fewer foreclosures are hitting the market. “California did a good job of disposing of its backlog” of distressed properties, says Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries.

In California, where most foreclosures are handled out of court, the process is taking about 11 months on average, according to RealtyTrac. In New York and New Jersey, where foreclosures go through a court proceeding, the process is taking 36 and 32 months, respectively.

Many people still owe more than their homes are worth. If they sold now, they would have to come up with extra cash to pay off their loan. Although prices have rebounded from their lows, 23.3 percent of homes with a mortgage in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties were still underwater in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Zillow.

Even if they are not underwater, many owners won’t sell for less than they paid. If they bought near the peak, it may take a while before they are ready to budge.

The median price paid for a new or resale home or condo in the nine-county Bay Area was $415,000 in January. That’s less than halfway between its low of $290,000 in March 2009 and its high of $665,000 set in June/July 2007, according to DataQuick.

Many people, even if their homes are worth more than they paid, won’t sell because they are afraid they won’t be able to buy another house. “It becomes a game of musical chairs; they are afraid to get out because they can’t get back in,” Humphries says. This becomes “a self-reinforcing cycle” that keeps homes off the market.

The housing bust put new construction on hold.

The shortage comes at a time when demand is rising in the Bay Area, not just from regular buyers but from investors, second-home buyers and foreign buyers, especially from Asia.

‘Heck of a wreck’

The result is stories like this: A 1,500-square-foot home on Clipper Street on San Mateo’s east side, advertised as a “heck of a wreck,” attracted 97 offers in the first eight days, says listing agent Claire Haggarty of NBT Realty Services.

The home was listed in mid-January at $375,000, which Haggarty considered “a little under market.” It sold for $510,000 in an all-cash deal with no inspections, no contingencies and a 10-day close.

At some point, prices will rise enough to shake lose more inventory, but it won’t happen immediately.  Based on what’s happening around the country, Kolko says inventory tightens fastest in the first 12 months after prices hit a bottom. “Everybody wants to buy at the bottom and nobody wants to sell at the bottom,” he says.

About 12 months after hitting bottom, inventory continues to decline, albeit at a slower pace. But it won’t increase on a year-over-year basis until at least two years after hitting bottom, he predicts.  If you adjust for the mix of homes sold, Kolko says prices bottomed in February 2012 nationwide and in most parts of California and the Bay Area. (The San Jose metro area bottomed earlier, in June 2011.)

Although DataQuick shows Bay Area home prices bottoming in 2009, that’s when most homes being sold were low-priced. The middle and upper end of the market bottomed in early 2012, says DataQuick’s Andrew LePage.

If you believe Kolko’s two-year rule, inventory won’t begin increasing on a year-over-year basis until at least early 2014 in most areas.  Humphries says it might improve earlier, by the end of the year, but “this spring will still be challenging from an inventory perspective.” If you wait until next year to buy, the market may be cooler but prices are likely to be higher. There’s also a risk that interest rates will be higher, he says.

Sweet spot 

The sweet spot for buyers might be this summer. Even though inventory is falling year-over-year, “the seasonal pattern means there will be more homes on the market in the summer,” Kolko says. “Search traffic peaks in the spring, but inventory peaks in July.”  Many buyers also go on vacation in July and August, Dewes says.

The decision to buy or wait “really comes down to a fundamental decision about how long you will be in a home,” Humphries says. “If you want to be in a home long enough to make buying better than renting, make that decision as soon as you can.”

In the city of San Francisco, the breakeven point where it makes more sense to own is 3.7 years, Humphries says. “If you will be there more than 3.7 years, I’d say buy now.”

By Kathleen Pender SF GATE

I read this article at: http://www.sfgate.com/business/networth/article/Home-buyers-face-dilemma-with-shortage-4342162.php#page-2

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

Top 10 Home Remodeling Projects – Get More Bang for Your Buck!

I love helping my clients buy and sell their home.  But what really gets my blood pumping is home renovation.  I truly enjoy seeing a home before and after a client puts their touches into their space.  However, home renovation is costly and sometimes it doesn’t add up.  Please enjoy this article about which home projects get the most bang for your buck!   Let me know what you think!

Top 10 Remodeling Projects That Offer the Biggest Returns

Home owners are investing in their homes once again, according to recent industry surveys that point to a strong rebound taking hold in home remodeling. Home owners also may be seeing higher gains from some of these remodeling projects at resale, according to the most recent Cost vs. Value Report, which reviews the top remodeling projects that offer the highest returns at resale. The Cost vs. Value Report is conducted each year by Remodeling Magazine, in conjunction with REALTOR(R) Magazine.

So, which remodeling projects offer the potential for some of the biggest pay-backs at resale? The following mid-range remodeling jobs offer the highest returns, according to the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report.

1. Entry door replacement (steel)

Estimated job cost: $1,137

Return on investment at resale: 85.6%

2. Deck addition (wood)

Job cost: $9,327

ROI: 77.3%

3. Garage door replacement

Job cost: $1,496

ROI: 75.7%

4. Minor kitchen remodel

Job cost: $18,527

ROI: 75.4%

5. Window replacement (wood)

Job cost: $10,708

ROI: 73.3%

6. Attic bedroom

Job cost: $47,919

ROI: 72.9%

7. Siding replacement (vinyl)

Job cost: $11,192

ROI: 72.9%

8. Window replacement (vinyl)

Job cost: $9,770

ROI: 71.2%

9. Basement remodel

Job cost: $61,303

ROI: 70.3%

10. Major kitchen remodel

Job cost: $53,931

ROI: 68.9%

Home Trends, Remodeling Adviser, by Melissa Tracey

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine 

I read this article at: http://styledstagedsold.blogs.realtor.org/2013/02/18/top-10-remodeling-projects-that-offer-the-biggest-returns/?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

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

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

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

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

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

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

5 Reasons Why now Is The Time To Sell Your Home

5 Reason Why Now Is The Time To List Your Home For Sale

If you are considering the sale of your home – waiting may not be necessary.  Contact The Caton Team with any questions.  We’d be happy to meet with you and let you know what your home is currently worth and what The Caton Team can do to sell your home.  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Many homeowners are waiting until the Spring ‘buying season’ to list their homes for sale. Here are five reasons why that might not make sense this year:

1.) Demand Is High

Homes are selling at a pace not seen since 2007. The most recent Existing Home Sales Report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed that annual sales in 2012 increased 9.2% over 2011. There are buyers out there right now and they are serious about purchasing.

2.) Supply Is Low

The monthly supply of houses for sale is at its lowest point (4.4 months) since May of 2005. The current month’s supply is down 21.6% from the same time last year. Historically, inventory increases dramatically in the spring. Selling now when demand is high and supply is low may garner you your best price.

3.) New Construction Is Coming Back

Over the last several years, most homeowners selling their home did not have to compete with a new construction project around the block. As the market is recovering, more and more builders are jumping back in. These ‘shiny’ new homes will again become competition as they are an attractive alternative to many purchasers.

4.) Interest Rates Are Projected to Inch Up

The Mortgage Bankers’ Association has projected mortgage interest rates will inch up approximately one full point in 2013. Whether you are moving up or moving down, your housing expense will be more a year from now if a mortgage is necessary to purchase your next home.

5.) Timelines Will Be Shorter

The dramatic increase in transactions caused many challenges to the process of buying or selling a home in 2012. We waited for inspections, dealt with last minute appraisals and prayed that the bank didn’t ask for ‘just one more piece of paper’ before issuing a commitment on the mortgage. There are fewer transactions this time of year. That means that timetables on each component of the home buying process will be friendlier for those involved in transactions over the next 90 days.

These are five good reasons why you should consider listing your house today instead of waiting.

The Caton Team is here to help.  With over 25 years of combined Real Estate experience – what can The Caton Team do for you?  Info@TheCatonTeam.com Voicemail at 650-568-5522 

To view the original article, click here: http://www.kcmblog.com/2013/01/28/5-reasons-you-should-list-your-house-today/

I read this article at: http://newsgeni.us/?em=sabrina_caton@yahoo.com&p=106816

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

 

FHA to Increase Fees on Mortgages!

Difficult news for FHA clients.  As home prices climb on the San Francisco Peninsula, saving money for your down payment feels like a heroic act.  FHA offers low down payments, 3.5% of the purchase price, but now the strings attached are growing tight.  Please enjoy this article from CNNMoney.

FHA to hike premiums on mortgages

The Federal Housing Administration, which is the largest insurer of low-down payment mortgages, announced that it will raise premiums by 10 basis points, or 0.1 percent, on most of the new mortgages it insures.

Making sense of the story

  • A borrower opting for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage who puts down 5 percent or more will now pay an annual insurance premium of 1.3 percent of their outstanding balance. Someone who puts down less than 5 percent will pay a premium of 1.35 percent.
  • The FHA said it also will raise premiums for borrowers with jumbo loans – loans of $625,000 or more – by 5 basis points, and increase the minimum down payment requirement on these loans to 5 percent from 3.5 percent.
  • Additionally, the FHA said it will require most buyers to pay insurance premiums for the life of their loan. A policy that was put in place in 2001 allowed borrowers to cancel premium payments once their debt fell below 78 percent of the principal balance. One exception will be for borrowers who put more than 10 percent down at the time of purchase.
  • Other new policies include a requirement that any mortgage for an applicant with less than a 620 credit score and debt-to-income ratio above 43 percent must be underwritten manually. Lenders who want to issue loans to these applicants must be able to adequately document why they decided to approve the loans.

The FHA also decided to put new restrictions on reverse mortgages, no longer permitting retirees to take such large, upfront payments.

More on this story from CNNMoney

By Les Christie @CNNMoney

Government-insured mortgages are about to get more expensive.

Translation: A borrower opting for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage who puts 5% or more down will now pay an annual insurance premium of 1.3% of their outstanding balance. And someone who puts less than 5% down will pay a premium of 1.35%.

The agency said it will also raise premiums for borrowers with jumbo loans — or loans of $625,000 or more — by 5 basis points, or 0.05%, and increase the minimum down payment requirement on these loans to 5% from 3.5%.

FHA said it will require most buyers to pay insurance premiums for the life of their loan. A policy that was put in place in 2001 allowed borrowers to cancel premium payments once their debt fell below 78% of the principal balance. One exception will be for borrowers who put more than 10% down at the time of purchase.

Additional new policies include a requirement that any mortgage for an applicant with less than a 620 credit score and debt-to-income ratio above 43% must be underwritten manually. Lenders who want to issue loans to these applicants must be able to adequately document why they decided to approve the loans.

The agency also decided to put new restrictions on reverse mortgages, no longer permitting retirees to take such large, upfront payments.

The changes are an effort to reduce the agency’s exposure to risky loans and bolster its financial reserves, which have been depleted due to high delinquency rates from the mortgage crisis. The agency did not say when the new rates will take effect.

Last spring, FHA increased both premiums and upfront costs on mortgages. Such hikes make it tougher for mortgage borrowers — especially first-time purchasers who can’t afford the large down payments most private lenders require today, according to Jaret Seiberg, a Washington policy analyst for Guggenheim Partners. “They are the ones most likely to turn to the FHA for credit,” he said.

And that could have a negative impact on the housing market overall. “You can’t have a healthy housing market without a constant influx of first-time buyers,” said Seiberg.

I read this article at: http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/31/real_estate/fha-mortgage-premiums/index.html?iid=HP_LN&hpt=hp_t2

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

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

Bay Area Home Prices Projected to Surge – SF Gate Reports

As a full time Realtor – I’ve seen prices rise since we hit bottom.  Low inventory, cash buyers, and low interest rates have generated multiple offers on each home.  So if you are thinking of selling – there is opportunity now.  The Caton Team is here to answer questions – email us at info@TheCatonTeam.com.  Enjoy this article from the SF Chronicle.

SF Gate reports…

Almost every corner of the Bay Area is poised for robust home-price appreciation this year in a surge that will outpace projected national growth, according to a forecast from real-estate information site Zillow.com.

Looking at 245 Bay Area ZIP codes, Zillow projects that 244 will see home values ratchet up by significant margins in 2013, with 27 ZIPs seeing double-digit appreciation. Only one of the ZIPs analyzed – 94515 in Calistoga – is forecast to see values recede, by a modest 1.4 percent.

“The forces of supply and demand seem to be exacerbated here right now,” said Svenja Gudell, senior economist with Zillow in Seattle. “We’re happily surprised by how well (the market) is doing and how much it’s picking up steam.”

Strikingly, some of the strongest percentage increases are likely to happen in both the cheapest and the priciest areas in the nine-county region, Zillow predicts. Low-end Solano County markets such as Vacaville, Fairfield, Dixon and Suisun City, where values plunged during the real-estate downturn and are still half off their peaks, should see values bump up by more than 14 percent – admittedly easier to do off a low base.

At the same time, Portola Valley, Atherton and Palo Alto – with million-dollar-plus median values that now exceed their boom-time heights – should see appreciation above 12 percent, Zillow said.

Popular San Francisco neighborhoods such as Noe Valley, the Castro, Twin Peaks, the Mission and Bernal Heights are poised for double-digit appreciation, along with Menlo Park, Larkspur, Palo Alto, Alameda and North Berkeley, Zillow predicts.

Regaining value

One major way that the low-cost and high-end markets diverge is in where values are now relative to their peak. Zillow shows 25 ZIP codes where values have regained all the value lost during the downturn and then some. All are in pricey Silicon Valley or San Francisco neighborhoods where the median price is around $1 million. Meanwhile, about 100 ZIP codes are still 30 percent or more below their peaks – all in hard-hit, lower-end communities in Solano, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

For the San Francisco metropolitan area (the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa), Zillow projects that that values will rise 7.3 percent this year, more than double its predicted 3.3 percent national increase. The San Jose metro area (Santa Clara and San Benito counties) should rise 6.6 percent, it said.

“That is a really great number in the San Francisco metro,” Gudell said. “It is rather special compared to the U.S. as a whole.”

Zillow’s projections take into account both long-term historical trends back to 1997, as well as current data on how markets have behaved in recent months. It also factors in information on employment, income and other economic factors to predict what housing values might do, she said.

Can’t meet demand

Every market around the Bay Area – whether low-end, high-end or somewhere in the middle – now has one outstanding characteristic that is driving up prices: too few homes for sale to meet buyer appetite.

“There is no place where we see a steeper decline in listed homes (for sale) than the Bay Area,” said Lanny Baker, CEO of ZipRealty in Emeryville, which has agents throughout the Bay Area and the country. “This time last year there were 13,000 homes listed here. Today we see about 5,000 homes – a 60 percent reduction.”

Moreover, the mix of homes being sold has changed dramatically, something that particularly affects lower-end markets such as Solano County. Far fewer bargain-priced, bank-owned foreclosures are on the market.

In the low-cost markets, investors waving fistfuls of cash are snapping up properties, usually to keep as rentals, sometimes to flip. In the high-end markets, it’s tech millionaires – armed with far bigger wads of cash – who are jostling to live in homes in Silicon Valley or San Francisco.

“As soon as something new hits the market, it’s snapped up,” said Sandy Rainsbarger, an agent with ZipRealty in Vacaville. That town’s 95688 ZIP, where the median value is now $287,900, is projected by Zillow to see values rise 17.1 percent this year – the biggest price appreciation in the Bay Area. “There are multiple offers on every single property.”

Buyers pushed aside

Meanwhile, “regular” buyers, especially first-time home buyers who are relying on Federal Housing Administration mortgages, are finding themselves shoved aside time after time in frenzied bidding wars.

“The Bay Area is one of the fastest-moving markets in the country,” Baker said. “We see houses sell on average in 26 days here. One statistic we look at is what percentage of homes sell in just seven days; that’s like a red alert. If it gets to 15 percent, we know we’re in a zany market. In the Bay Area, it’s at 13 percent. In Sacramento, 25 percent of homes sell in less than seven days.

“I think throughout this year, we’ll see Bay Area markets continue to be very, very strong,” Baker said. “On the lower end, the specter of foreclosures and ‘Gosh, nobody’s ever going to want to live this far out’ has washed away, and there is more confidence in values recovering.

“On the high end, we’ve got Silicon Valley and the tech economy doing really well.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Bay-Area-home-prices-projected-to-surge-4288392.php#ixzz2LOK2EMfM

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

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

25% of Consumers Have Errors on Credit Report – I WAS DECEASED! Great article – had to share!

When I came across this article I had to share it.  I also have to laugh – when my husband and I bought our first home and our credit was run – it came back that I was deceased!!!!  What really made me laugh though was that all my payments – from the grave  – were on time!  Since you cannot get a mortgage if you are not breathing, I called my bank and corrected their error; within a month my credit report stated I was alive again.  Sadly, we went through this again when we bought a car a few years later.  This time my husband wad deceased.  Instead of friendly help from our credit union, they hung up the phone and said they couldn’t help us.  So my husband went to a notary who certified that the man before him, was alive and well and with that notarized document we were able to correct his credit report.  Thankfully the dealership wasn’t too concerned and we bought the car before the correction – nonetheless – the moral of the story here…  Check your credit report YEARLY!  You can do so for free on sites like www.annualcreditreport.com , and monitoring it yearly will keep surprises to a minimum when trying to buy a home!  Enjoy this article from the Daily News…

25% of Consumers Have Errors on Credit Report

Consumers need to be extra vigilant about checking for any errors on their credit reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

One in four Americans report they’ve found an error on their credit report, according to a study conducted by the FTC, which analyzed 1,001 consumers’ credit reports from the three major agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Researchers helped the consumers spot potential errors on their reports.

Five percent of the consumers found such large errors on their report that they could have gotten stuck paying more for mortgages or other financial products, if they hadn’t taken steps to correct it before applying, according to the study.

Twenty percent of the credit reports studied that were found to have errors in it were ultimately corrected after the consumer took steps to dispute it, which resulted in about 10 percent of consumers receiving a higher credit score, according to the study.

Consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report each year from the three reporting agencies.

Source: “Study: 1 In 4 Consumers Had Error In Credit Report,” The Associated Press (Feb. 11, 2013)

I Read this article at:  http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/02/12/25-consumers-have-errors-credit-report?om_rid=AACmlZ&om_mid=_BRGpXlB8w0qair&om_ntype=RMODaily

 

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-city

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

Rational Home Buying – Great article I Had to Share – Let Me Know Your Thoughts Too!

I love it when friends and clients come across a great real estate article and think of me!  Sophie sent me this interesting article about rational thinking when buying a home.  I found it most interesting and had to share.  Please enjoy – and of course I added my 2 cents in italics!  Would love to know your thoughts too – please leave comments!

Rational Home Buying

My parents are considering moving house. I’ve had a front-seat window to their decision process as they compare alternatives, and sometimes it isn’t pretty.

A new house is one of the most important purchases most people will make. Because of the sums involved, the usual pitfalls of decision-making gain new importance, and it becomes especially important to make sure you’re thinking rationally. Research in a couple of fields, most importantly positive psychology, offers some potentially helpful tips.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

People so consistently under-count the pain of commuting when making choices that the problem has its own name: Commuter’s Paradox. The paradox is that, although rational choice theory predicts people should balance commuting against other goods and costs, so that one person might have a longer commute but a nicer (or cheaper) house and so be just as happy overall, this doesn’t happen: people who have long commutes are miserable, full stop. A separate survey by Kahneman and Krueger found that commuting was the least enjoyable of nineteen daily activities mentioned, and other studies have found relations between long commutes and poor social lives, poor health, high stress, and various other problems.

Psychologists aren’t entirely sure why people so consistently under-count the pain of commuting. Maybe it’s because it’s viewed as “in-between” time rather than as an activity on its own; maybe it’s because it comes in relatively short and individually bearable chunks repeated over many years, instead of as a single entity. In any case, unless you are mentally atypical you will probably have a tendency to undercount commute time when buying a new home, and may want to adjust for that tendency.

I loved this part – Commuter Paradox!  Finally a name for the epidemic I see when working with buyers.  Prices can push any buyer far from their place of work.  And commuting takes time, money and lots of energy.  I would rather see a client live closer to work and maybe change the list of wants in order to have time to actually enjoy their lives, instead of driving for hours to that perfect home, only to have no energy to enjoy it!

HOUSES COST A LOT OF MONEY

One of Kahneman and Tversky’s famous bias experiments went like this: imagine you’re buying a new shirt. It costs $40 at a nearby store, and it costs $20 at a store that’s fifteen minutes away. Do you drive the fifteen minutes to save twenty bucks? Most people would.

Now imagine you’re buying a new TV which costs $2020 at a nearby store, and $2000 at a store that’s fifteen minutes away. Do you drive the fifteen minutes to save twenty bucks? Most people wouldn’t.

In both cases, the tradeoff is the same – drive fifteen minutes to save twenty bucks – but people were much more willing to do it for the cheap item, because $20 was a higher percentage of its total cost. With the $2000 TV, the $20 vanishes into the total cost like a drop in the ocean and seems insignificant.

Nice homes can cost $500,000, $1,000,000, or even more. There doesn’t seem to be a big difference in price between $710,000 and $745,000 houses; perhaps if the second home looked even a little nicer in an undefinable way you might be prepared to take it. But $35,000 is $35,000; if those minor advantages don’t provide $35,000 worth of value, when measured on the same scale on which you measure the value of of movie tickets, shoes, and college funds, then you should buy the first house and keep the cash.

I find purchasing decisions easier when I think about them like this: which would you rather have, the second house, or the first house plus a two-week luxury vacation to anywhere in the world every summer for the next five years? The second house, or the first house plus a brand new Lexus? The second house and dining at home every week, or the first house and eating out at your favorite restaurant every weekend for the rest of your life? (EDIT: gjm points out that it’s easier to resell houses than other types of good, so if you expect to resell your house you should really only be considering the extra money involved in the mortgage)

This is a hard one, and truly each house has it’s own pros and cons and value.  So we’d need to tackle this – one house at a time. 

DON’T OVERCOUNT EASILY AVAILABLE DETAILS


The availability heuristic says that people overcount scenarios that are easy and vivid to imagine, and undercount scenarios that don’t involve any readily available examples or mental images. For example, most people will assert, when asked, that there are more English words ending with “-ing” than with “-g”. A moment’s thought reveals this to be impossible – words ending in “-ing” are a subset of those ending in “-g” – but thinking specifically of “-ing” words makes it easier to bring examples to mind.

The real estate version of this fallacy involves exciting opportunities that you will rarely or never use. For example, a house with a pool may bring to mind the opportunity to hold pool parties. But most such plans will probably fall victim to akrasia, and even if they don’t, how often can one person throw pool parties without exhausting their friends’ interest? Pool parties may be fun to imagine, but they’ll probably only affect a few hours every couple of months. Other factors, like the commuting distance and whether your children end up in a nice school, may affect several hours every day.

(a classic example here is the “extra bedroom for Grandma” – visits from Grandma are easy to imagine, but if she only comes a couple of days a year, spending tens of thousands more dollars for a house with an extra bedroom and bathroom for her is probably pretty stupid. You’d save money – and make her happier – by putting her up in the local five star hotel.)

I have come across this moment many times.  It truly depends on each person’s lifestyle.  Candid conversations about what a buyer wants in their home and their budget can help work through this dilemma.    

LIGHT AND NATURE

Good illumination and a view of natural beauty aren’t just pleasant luxuries, but can make important practical differences in your life.

Light, especially daylight, has a strong effect on mood. There are at least fifteen controlled studies showing that bright light reduces symptoms of seasonal and nonseasonal depression by about 10-20% over placebo. This is about equal benefit to some antidepressant drugs, and sufficient that light therapy is a recognized medical treatment for depression. Bright light leads to self-reported better mood even in subjects without a diagnosis of depression, and also leads to better sleep and more agreeable social interactions.

Light and nature have positive effects on health. Some of the most compelling data comes from hospitals, which have long realized that their patients near windows do better than their more interior counterparts. In one study, surgical patients near windows recovered faster (7.9 vs. 8.7 days), received fewer negative comments from nurses (1.1 vs. 4 notes), and needed fewer strong painkillers (1 vs. 2.5 doses) than matched controls without a view. Other studies have compared recovery of physiological indicators of stress (for example, blood pressure) in subjects viewing natural or artificial scenes; the subjects with views of nature consistently have healthier stress reactions. 

Nature may have special benefits for children. Experiments with subjects of all ages and levels of mental health have shown nature increases mental functioning and concentration, but some of the most cited work has been in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Children who live in greener settings also (independently of wealth) do better on schoolwork and show greater ability to delay gratification. Large studies find with high certainty that students who take standardized tests in better lighting do up to 25% better than their literally dimmer schoolmates, and progress through lessons 15-25% faster.

You don’t have to live in the Amazon to get a benefit: even children in a concrete building with a tiny “green island” boasting a single tree did better than their peers in a building without such an island.

Yes!  Light has such an affect on us and our moods.  No argument here.  My only 2 cents.  If you cannot find a home with the right light, it’s time to talk paint and art!  My first place was a sandwiched condo, we didn’t have much natural light – so paint and great lighting was key to my sanity!

BETTER FIRST IN A VILLAGE THAN SECOND IN ROME

Brains generally encode variables not as absolute values but as differences from an appropriate reference frame. That means that to really appreciate your wealth, you’ve got to be surrounded by people who are poorer than you are.

This seems to be empirically the case: a US study found the happiest Americans were rich people living in poor counties. However, this was true only of rich people living in rich neighborhoods of poor counties. As the study puts it, “individuals in fact are happier when they live among the poor, as long as the poor do not live too close”. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should move to Somalia for eternal bliss. There are community-wide benefits to living in a wealthy neighborhood, like better schools, and you may be better able to socialize with people from a similar class background as yourself. But given the choice between a neighborhood at the top of your price range and one at the bottom, you may find yourself more satisfied living in an area where it’s the Joneses who have to try to keep up with you.

DON’T OVERSHOP AND DON’T OVER-THINK 

It’s easy to confuse “rationality” with a tendency to turn all decision-making over to conscious general-purpose reasoning, and in turn to assume that whoever ruminates about a decision the most is most rational. But there are at least two reasons to think that within reason it may be better to worry less over important decisions.

One is the finding that “comparison shopping” usually leads to less happiness in whatever you buy. Imagine being pretty sure you’re going to buy House X until you look at House Y and find out that this one has a granite fireplace, and a pond in the backyard. It may be you don’t like House Y at all – but now every time you go back to House X, you’re thinking about how it doesn’t have a granite fireplace or a pond, two features which you never would have even considered before. Whether you find this explanation plausible or not, the research generally agrees: too many choices result in less satisfaction with whatever you finally buy.

The second is the discovery that attempts to make your reasoning explicit and verbal usually result in worse choices. This includes that favorite of guidance counselors: to write out a list of the pros and cons of all your choices – but it covers any attempt to explain choices in words. In one study, subjects were asked to rate the taste of various jams; an experimental group was also asked to give reasons for their ratings. Ratings from the group that didn’t need reasons correlated more closely with the ratings of professional jam experts (which is totally a thing) than those who gave justifications. A similar study found students choosing posters were more likely to still like the poster a month later if they weren’t asked to justify their choice (Lehrer, How We Decide, p. 144).

The most plausible explanation is that having to verbalize your choices shifts your attention to features that are easy to explain in words (or perhaps which make good signaling value), and these are not necessarily the same features that are really important. In a telling experiment under the same protocol as the ones listed above, people asked to reflect upon their choices were more likely to choose the house with the extra room for Grandma than the house with the shorter commute times, because the extra reflection gave more opportunity for the availability heuristic to come into play.

Sometimes we cannot put into words what we like about a home.  Sometimes it is just a feeling.  And believe it or not – if you feel like you are standing in your home – you are!  Go with your gut!  I know I’ve walked into homes that on paper didn’t fit the bill – but I felt it was “the one” and when my clients walked in – they did too!  Sometimes you just need to throw out the list, open your eyes and look around.

CONCLUSION

Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions a family faces, and so has extra opportunity to be improved by rational thinking. Try to buy a house with good illumination and nearby green space in an area close to your workplace where you’ll be relatively high on the social ladder. Carefully consider whether special features have genuine utility or are just highly available small details, and justify the relative differences in cost in absolute, not just relative terms. And, um, try to do all of this while following your gut instincts and not overshopping.

Easier said than done!  But The Caton Team is here to help every step of the way.  How can we help you?

I read this article at: http://lesswrong.com/lw/7am/rational_home_buying/

 

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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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

 

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

GOOD NEWS FOR SELLERS – Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities were up – biggest jump in more than 6 years!

I was beside myself when I came across this article from Money.Cnn.com. Realtors are seeing this market and are trying to get the news out there. On the SF Peninsula – we have an excess of buyers ready to move and bare bones inventory. If you are considering the sale of your home – let your Realtor know! The Caton Team enjoys sitting down with sellers and showing them where the market is and where we expect it to go. Enjoy this article!

Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities were up 5.5% in November compared to a year earlier, their biggest jump in more than six years.

The latest reading of the closely watched S&P Case-Shiller index is another sign of the growing recovery in the long-battered housing market.

The last time prices jumped this much was in August 2006, when the housing bubble was still inflating. Soon after that, prices went into a steep decline that led to a flood of foreclosures. That sparked the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression.

“Housing is clearly recovering,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Prices are rising as are both new and existing home sales. These figures confirm that housing is contributing to economic growth.”

Housing prices have been helped by a number of factors in recent months, including increased sales of both new homes and previously-owned houses, a drop in foreclosures, and near record low mortgage rates. A drop in the nation’s unemployment rate also is helping.

The rise in home prices is good news for more than just people hoping to sell their home. The higher prices rise, the fewer homeowners that will be underwater on their mortgage, meaning they owe more on their homes than they are worth. That can help many homeowners refinance and save money, which would pump more cash into the economy.

“The ongoing price appreciation is significant, because we expect housing wealth effects to be an important factor driving economic growth in 2013, possibly matching the direct impact on economic output from the rebound in homebuilding,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank.

Related: Housing to drive economic growth (finally!)

Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist for Barclays, said the fundamentals for the housing market are now strong enough that his firm is forecasting another 6% to 7% rise in prices in 2013, and a 5% to 6% rise again next year. He said the tight supply of homes for sale on the market should support continued price increases, and that the decline in foreclosed homes for sale is reducing the drag that those distressed properties had on overall prices.

How to play the 2013 housing market

“I’m not worried about these increases being overdone,” he said. “Home prices overcorrected a bit on the downside, and what we’re seeing now is a recovery from that.”

Sabrina’s 2 Cents: If you want to be a homeowner – don’t shy away just because prices are moving. There is a saying in Real Estate – “Don’t Wait and Buy Real Estate – Buy Real Estate and WAIT!” Why you ask? Because investing in real estate, even if it is the home you live in, is an investment. Buy Low. Sell High. That’s the idea. So if you want to be call your self a SF Peninsula homeowner – don’t sit on the sidelines and wait – come in and sit down with The Caton Team – we’ll come up with a plan to turn your real estate dreams into realty.

Related: Home building surges 12%

The S&P Case-Shiller index tracks home prices in 20 major markets. The latest reading showed 19 of them posting a gain in prices, with only New York posting a modest decline from a year earlier. Phoenix, one of the markets hit hardest by the housing crisis, posted the biggest increase, with home prices there climbing 22.8%.

San Francisco and Las Vegas, markets that were also hit by the housing boom and bust, also posted double-digit increases, while Miami, another bubble market, posted a 9.9% rise. Detroit, a city where economic problems led to a high rate of foreclosures, enjoyed an 11.9% price increase.

But even with November’s strong gains, the overall index stands 29% below the home price peak reached in the summer of 2006.

I read this article here: http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/29/news/economy/home-prices/index.html?hpt=hp_t3b

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-city

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