East Bay Sees Summer Seasonal Slowdown

“Into each life a little rain must fall” Longfellow reminds us, but also into each hot housing market, a little price decline and an increase in days on market must occur. And so it is, that according to real time real estate market data company, Altos Research, the Oakland and Berkeley real estate markets are in a summer slowdown with the average days on the market rising and prices falling. Read More

Why Staging Makes Sense In Selling Your East Bay Home

When you are considering putting your home for sale in the hot market we are currently experiencing in the East Bay, you may think that all you have to do is sweep the floors, take out the trash and put a For Sale sign in your front yard to get offers on your home. Wait long enough, and you may, but will it be an offer at the best price you could have gotten for your home? With our decades of experience in this market, we say “no”. Read More

How Following Zillow’s “List Your Home” Crowd Could Cost You

Making news this week in the real estate industry was an announcement by Zillow about a new tool for home sellers. The listing portal’s “Best Time to List” tool estimates how much the timing of when a property is listed will influence its sales price, based on the sales history of the property’s local market. “Sellers can use this information to have a more informed conversation with their local real estate agent to determine the best time to put their home on the market,” Zillow said when announcing the tool. Read More

7 Reasons Why Now Is The Time To Sell In The East Bay

As we all know inventory of existing and new homes in the Bay Area has been at historic lows, which has benefitted homeowners as price appreciation has risen steadily over the past six years, especially in the East Bay. However, a rise in interest rates, thanks to the Federal Reserve, combined with a shaky political atmosphere, combined with homeowners thinking now may be the time to cash out is almost certain to increase housing inventory for 2017. For prospective sellers that means that if you were planning to sell your home this spring, it’s time to get a move on! Read More

Election Results And Home Sellers

Housing market jitters during an election year are predictable. Even in less pugilistic eras, Realtors® have long noticed that home buyers and sellers cool their heels during presidential election years. Why? Because people are uncertain about what a new president will mean for the real estate market, and the U.S. economy as a whole. So they figure it’s wise to maintain a holding pattern until the next president is locked in place. Now that the election is over, people are still in a state of uncertainty and the housing market has been adversely affected as interest rates have moved higher, up to 4%. ‘It is early on, but I believe the initial effect for California home sellers will be negative, at least in the short-term,” stated Tracy Sichterman, Broker/Owner of Berkeley Hills Realty.  “We have early anecdotal reports of buyers backing out of contracts or stopping their active search until “the dust settles after the election.” Interest rates also jumped .25% which has a direct relationship on buyer affordability. As a result, we may see a slowdown that surpasses the seasonal fourth quarter norm.” The Trump victory has caused a major market reaction, with both stock and bond prices rising sharply. As previously noted, this led to a .25% increase in long term interest rates. “Conforming 30-year fixed rates will be in a 3.75-4.0% range for ideal scenarios, versus 3.5-3.75% earlier this week. It is too early to tell if this trend will continue or if we’ll have a reversal soon”, wrote Sam Krueger, Branch Manager/Mortgage Advisor, Pinnacle Capital Mortgage. The bond markets have also responded by treasury yields leaping on expectations of a rise in inflation and growth. The 10-year yield climbed above 2 percent to hit its highest since January 15th. Higher mortgage rates can throw a wrench into an already shaky housing recovery. Home prices have been rising dramatically in the past few months, largely due to a lack of homes for sale. During housing’s recovery from the worst crash in history, historically low mortgage rates allowed prices to gain quickly. Current buyers may find optimistic nuggets in the immediate election fallout. As some of the competition heads back to the side-lines, there may be an opportunity for the determined buyer.  Although interest rates have crept up slightly, this will be remembered as a historically low rate. Also, President Elect Trump champions tax reform, but has not put mortgage interest deduction on the table, so a change to the mortgage interest deduction is unlikely. For home sellers, the market may soften somewhat in the coming months. “Nonetheless, my advice to home sellers is to plug forward on the market and see what the response is. If there is a market correction or slowdown in the coming year, this may be the height of the market– even if less vigorous than before the election”, stated Ms. Sichterman. On the plus side, we just posted an optimistic blog that quotes a continued, although more modest gain this year.  More here   Read More

October Housing Market Update And A New View On Old Listings

When we bring you our monthly housing statistics, we also look at interesting facts and outliers to show trends that you may wish to use in your strategy of finding or selling a home. This month we found a trend about waiting and being patient. The Facts Since July 1, 2016, 166 houses sold in Berkeley. The majority (135 homes or 81%) sold in twenty days or less. Here is how patience is rewarded: if you wait to see which homes are on the market for 21 days or longer, the competition virtually disappears. The homes that were on the market for more than 21 days, sold for an average of 99% of the list price, but the homes that sold in less than 21 days sold for an average of 121% of the list price. The homes may have took longer to sell because they started at too high of a list price.  Yet the numbers still reflect a relative savings: <21 days = median price of $925,000, with homes averaging 1,981 square feet in size. <21 days = $1,087,400, with 1400 square feet. The difference in the homes that sell quickly is $705.27/square feet versus only $613.80/ square feet for the houses that sat a little longer. The savings is a hefty 13%.   Search Tip For Homebuyers Buyers should revisit homes on the market for 21+ days, as there may be lower price opportunities there available at that time. Make a lower offer! Take a second look, even if you have already been to the first open house. If the available homes are not bid up that extra 21%, you may be able to afford to fix “the thing” you didn’t like when you first saw it hit the market.   Buyers can also look in a higher price point at the properties that have been on the market for 21+ days, as they don’t have to brace for competition.  If you are looking at quickly moving popular properties, we recommend you look 20% below what you can afford in order to be competitive.  If you pay attention to the properties that missed the initial offer date, you can bump the search bracket back up to reflect your affordability.   Sellers-Heads Up Here What the above facts also tell us for people selling their homes, is that when a home is priced correctly THE FIRST TIME by taking the listing agents advice on market conditions that the home would sell quicker for a better price in the current market. Real Life Example: Recently, a home on Summit Road was on the market for 36 days and sold for 103% of the list price (countered up due to seller expectations). The buyers got a deal at $499/ sq. ft.   “My clients who bought Summit needed more space than the 750 square foot place they had in the flats”, stated Romney O’Connell, Realtor with Berkeley Hills Realty. “They asked me months ago whether I thought they could get significantly more space in Berkeley and stay under a million.  In my endless optimism I said “yes” but explained to my clients that it would be a needle in a haystack and you’ll have to make two concessions:  you’ll have to look in the hills and you’ll have to know it will need work.  They were OK with cosmetic work.  As it turned out, my clients were patient and we found the needle. Together we stayed plugged into the new homes coming on and to things they had already seen during their search.  We waited for the deals and I helped them imagine the potential in the homes that seemed unappealing to others.” Local Housing Market Update: According to statistics provided by Trulia the housing market in the East Bay is still on the rise in terms of pricing. For Berkeley the median price for single-family homes is $1,030,00, a 12.6% increase year over year from October 2015 to 2016. For Oakland the median price for single-family homes is $607,500, which is an 8.9% increase year over year. In contrast to the double-digit gains during the past year in Oakland and Berkeley, El Cerrito saw a -1.0% in its single family housing prices. Interesting to note in both Berkeley and Oakland is that rental prices are starting to decrease and number of rentals available are increasing, possibly due to the continued record breaking low interest rates driving renters into the housing market. To learn more about the market in the neighborhoods you may be searching or for further tips and information about listing your home, please call us today at Berkeley Hills Realty at (510) 524-9888. Read More

Berkeley Home Sellers Think ‘Staging’

We all know the feeling – the one where guests are due and you haven’t had time to clean the house. You shove all the…well… stuff into the back bedroom and shut the door (you’d lock it if you could). Now imagine that feeling times 10. If you are trying to sell your home this spring, and you have rooms full of that…well…stuff — you’re in for exactly that. You can prevent it all with just a touch of the staging approach for your Berkeley home. Not everyone has $5,000 or more to spend on professional staging, but then again, you can’t offer your home in “lived in” condition and expect to have buyers racing to write you their high-priced offers. There are many staging companies that can work within your budget as well, so, if you only have a few thousand to work with that is better than nothing. And often times, a stager or Realtor can incorporate your stuff to save on costs. Real estate is in large part an emotional selling proposition – beyond their basic housing requirements, buyers want to see themselves living a better life in their new East Bay home. The quickest and easiest way to make that possible is to simply get rid of that same stuff! Here’s an easy example: while a messy home office – one stuffed with papers and files – will cause many potential buyers to think too cramped for me, a well-staged home office helps them imagine their own paperwork in control. To achieve a look that’s clean and simple, box up your files and clean out the dust bunnies. If you have allowed extra furniture to accumulate (like that folding table in the corner that holds last year’s tax records), go ahead and de-accumulate it! Staging of any kind may not be your first choice for how to spend an afternoon, but selling your home is a business transaction, and when you approach the process confident that a little elbow grease will go a long way, your pocketbook will register the difference. If you are, in fact, preparing for this spring’s selling season, contact me to discuss practical strategies for economically handling the repairs, remodeling, and staging that will speed the sale of your home. written by Gina Odom, Realtor Read More

What Happens to an Escrow When Disaster Strikes?

  It seems like natural disasters are in the news quite bit these days. This article on the California Uniform Vendor and Purchaser Risk Act (Cal. Civ. Code § 1662), helps answer questions about what happens if disaster strikes during escrow. The Uniform Act is worth knowing about, as it may help put buyers at ease once all contingencies have been removed.   Firestorms: Basic Real Estate Legal Issues Read More

Seller Incentives: Your Bank May Pay You to Sell Your House

  Banks have discovered that it is better to give than to receive. Receiving a home through foreclosure has proven expensive for the lender. According to Freddie Mac, an average foreclosure costs a bank $60,000. Instead, bottom-line sensitive institutions are giving cash incentives to encourage homeowners to cooperate with a short sale. A short sale is a sale in which the bank agrees to let a house sell for less than the amount of their outstanding loan. Bank of America is offering 5k-30k Chase is offering 10k-55k on their older WAMU products. Wachovia and Wells Fargo Financial: 5-15k In addition, the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program provides $3,000 in relocation assistance at the close of an FHA short sale. Don’t Sell Yourself Short The summer market has been sizzling and one surprising beneficiary has been sellers who had assumed they were in for a short sale. Some recently listed “short sales” have received multiple offers. Through the miracle of competition, the price has been driven up enough in some instances to bridge the loan gap and turn the short sale into a traditional sale. This is great news for sellers’ resulting credit. Don’t assume your house is underwater. The tides are turning. Read More
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