Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's Been a Dry Year

With parts of California already asking for voluntary water conservation, the New York Times has an interesting article about using gray water and installing home gray water systems to not only reduce water use, but also to create backyard wetlands that can filter that gray water and make it useable to feed gardens and fruit trees. The article focuses on a home in our very own backyard of Oakland California.
It is all pretty tricky, and some of it is illegal if not done with the proper permits.
But, in this time of what seems like near drought in California, this article is an interesting read for all you home owning, do it yourselfers.
Read the article here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Google Feature, Street View

If you go to there is an amazing new feature called street view. If you look up an address and hit the "Street View" button, a golden little man will appear on the screen. Take your cursor and move him to whatever location you want to, and you will get a 360 degree view of the street on which you put him. This feature, for now, is only available for San Francisco, New York and Miami, but as google compiles more and more photographs, more towns will come on line.
This could be a fantastic tool for home buyers in the future who want to take a look at a neighborhood, before they go out and look at the house. I'm sure at somepoint Google will also link the street images to the businesses you see in the Street View.
For now, it is a great way to see where you are going if you have to meet someone in any of the above mentioned cities, or, as I did, to view the house in which you were born.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Alawys Investigate

I was talking to someone on Friday who bought a new house out by Tracy about a year ago, and she is now regretting it.
her problem brings to light two of the main factors that everyone must consider when buying a home.
The first factor for her was that she wanted a large home, she could afford, on a good size lot. Everything in the home buying decision is a balancing act. If you have a certain amount you can afford, you must decide whether it is more important for you to have a new home, or an existing home. The balancing act for her was she wanted a new home, so she had to live farther away from where she works, downtown Oakland, to find that large new home that she could afford. That turned out to be Tracy.
Others may have decided that it was more important for them to live closer to work, so they would have chosen a smaller existing home nearer downtown Oakland.
One thing she did not consider was that during the morning rush hour it can take her as much as 2 hours to get to work from Tracy to downtown Oakland. She had only driven the route on weekends, and so had never encountered the weekday traffic. Now she is trying to figure out whether she should sell the house, because the commute is killing her.
When you decide to buy a home, you should do more than just the inspection of the physical systems of that home.
Investigate the neighborhood, and visit it at least twice at different times of the night and day. You are going to be living there. You have to look at not only the home, but also the location, how close are you to work, family, friends, and the places you like to go? Are you comfortable being farther away? Does the area itself suit your needs?
An Inspection means a full inspection of both the house and the area it is in if you are going to be happy in your new home. It is all a balancing act.
What can you give up to be happy with thosre things you cannot give up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Half Way Through the Year

We are almost at the half way point in the year. I decided to take a look at what was happening this month last year, and this month this year.
To make the numbers simpler, I looked up the sold 2 bedroom, 1 bath homes in Berkeley for the month ending today this year, and the month ending today last year.
This month, last year in Berkeley, 17 two bedroom homes had sold with an average of 19 days on the market and an average sale price of $617,005.
This month, this year in Berkeley, 13 two bedroom homes have sold with an average of 17 days on the market and an average sale price of $641,940.
Berkeley generally represents the peak of the market in the area I work in, with the outer areas, Richmond, parts of Oakland and farther out falling away in value.
So, in this narrow category, Berkeley has seen a less than 4% rise in value over last year, with all other terms being basically level.
This is pretty much what I have been expecting. In Berkeley we saw a 2% rise in value last year overall, and I am expecting, by the end of the year, for home values to have gained about the same amount.
We are as we were last year; pretty much flat for value, and interest rates for 30 year fixed loans at near the same level that they were last year.
For Buyers, if you are waiting for prices to drop, I do not think that will happen, but I don't see home prices rising either.
For Sellers, you may not be happy that your home values are no longer growing like they were pre-2005, but you should be happy that your homes are maintaining their values, when, in so much of the country, Owners are seeing home values dropping.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's Not All About Real Estate

It's not all about Real Estate. Sometimes you just want a fried chicken sandwich. I finally stopped by Bakesale Betty's to try their famous sandwich.
A wonderful, moist slice of fried chicken on a soft, white torpedo roll with a tangy coleslaw. It's big too. There will be a line, but it moves fast, and it is definitely worth the wait. There are also great cookies, and a luscious strawberry short cake, but the lunch time draw is the fried chicken sandwich.
Go out of your way for this one.
Bakesale Batty's
5098 Telegraph Ave at 51st

Friday, May 18, 2007

104 Seaview Drive, El Cerrito

This Saturday I will be holding open this wonderful home on 104 Seaview Drive in El Cerrito.
It is a 2 Bedroom, 1 and 1/2 bath located just around the corner from Fat Apples and minutes to the Plaza and the El Cerrito BART station.
Beyond the 2 bedrooms is additional space downstairs for an office, and the home is framed with a fantastic garden. There is even a sauna in the home.
It is on the market for $595,000.
Come and see it this weekend, or feel free to email me for additional information.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What gets Left Behind

I forgot, here is a link to a funny story in the New York Times about the kind of things that get left behind when a seller or renter leaves their property for the next occupant, just click here.

60 Minutes

On Sunday, 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl did a story on Redfin, the on-line Real Estate company and their effect on traditional Realtors. If you missed it, you can go to CBS by clicking here to watch the story on line.
The world of Real Estate will change,. It has been changing. The internet has made knowledge much more freely available, and I think this is how it should be. Attempts by the NAR and others to try and keep knowledge private will prove to be a vain endeavor, and, I think, a foolish one. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. The wiser position to take is to accept change, and evolve with the changes that are sure to come
More than ever the way the traditional Realtor can differentiate himself or herself from the on-line broker is with fine tuned, customized service to each of our clients. I put in a lot of time getting to know the clients who work with me, what their motivations are, what they hope for when they are buying or selling a home, and I make sure that it fits into their overall financial plans. I am a resource for lenders, gardeners, painters, plumbers, handymen and carpenters. I am a consultant who is always available to them to discuss my clients' concerns.
I pride myself on the work I do with my buyers. I often work with first time home buyers, and I make sure that they understand the process and its many pitfalls. I truly hear both their fears and their dreams, and I hold their hands through what can seem like a daunting process, especially for the first time buyer.
When we are looking for a home, I internalize what they want in their new property so that I always have that in mind when I am in the market looking at properties new to the market.
Again, for me, it has always been about a high level of service for all my clients.
There will always be room in the market for those looking for the fee approach to Real Estate that is Redfin's model, and for those looking for the services of a full service agent like me. And, if the market demands that I change my business model to fit the market, I will never be so arrogant that I will not bend as needed for the service of my clients.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

60 Minutes and the NAR Tonight

Tonight Leslie Stahl from "60 Minutes" is doing a story on the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and how on-line companies are driving down Real Estate commissions and prices.
The NAR is already trying to do spin on the story before it even airs. I will watch. You should watch, and I will talk about it tomorrow.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Right Offer

I specialize in working with first time home buyers, and amongst the various parts of the process making a bid fora home, one of the stickiest is making the right offer. There are two major parts to an offer. One is the conditions of the contract, and the other is the amount of the bid. These two parts work together to form a successful bid, but the heaviest burden lies with the amount of the offer. That is the part I am going to discuss in my entry today.
For the first time in many years in Berkeley and the surrounding areas, the buyer is seeing situations in which they are either the only person making an offer on the home, or the buyer is making an offer on a home that has been on the market for awhile, and , again, they are the only people making an offer. The strategy in this case is to make an offer low enough to prompt a counter offer from the sellers, but not so low that it is rejected out right. This stratagy should get you the property at the lowest offer the seller will accept. This will be different with each home, and it will take some knowledge of the state of the market, the inventory of homes, and the ability to recognize the real value of a home apart from it's list price.
If the buyer is making an offer on a home, and they are in competition with other buyers, a different stragy is called for.
I have seen it time and again, when there is competition for a home, there will be one or two low offers, a majority of offers bunched up around a single price, and one, maybe two offers that rise above the others.
If you truly want a home and there is going to be competition for that home, you must be able to determine where that price is around which most of the other buyers will bunch up , and come in with an offer above that.
In most cases, that number is going to be obvious.
When in competition, I want my buyers to reach a bid price where they are happy if they get the home, and they are happy if they do not, because they would not have paid over that price for the property.
Both these stratgies for making an offer in 2 different situations do take a good understanding of the market, and a good understanding of your own motivations and desires.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Look at the Offers

It looks like 525 Pomona will be going into contract before the end of the day. This week, a month after it went on the market, 2 weeks after the day they were to receive offers and got none, 525 Pomona got 4 offers. I can say that the home did not get an offer at its list price, but it did get a better offer than I thought it was going to get, because of the 4 offers vying against one another. I can't reveal it until after escrow has closes, and, in this, 525 Pomona may offer one last lesson.
This home seemed to reach a certain ripeness last weekend. I could feel it as I held it open on Sunday. The home had been on the market long enough so that potential buyers were feeling that there may be a deal to be had. In the end, there were enough buyers who felt this way that the home created a second wave of competition with these 4 offers that appeared, thus creating a bounce in the final bid price.
The really smart move would have been the buyer who recognized the value in this property a week before everyone else did. If a smart buyer has gotten an offer in early, before competition appeared, they truly would have gotten some value for their money.