Buying a Home


It’s not your imagination: The housing market recovery is on a roll, upwards! A recent survey of over 100 real estate and economic experts predicts that by the end of 2013, home values will have increased nationwide by an average of 6.7% over a year ago. This is significantly more than the 5.4% bump anticipated in an earlier study.

The Home Price Expectations Survey was conducted by Pulsenomics, LLC on behalf of Zillow. Based on market expectations, the panel predicts that home prices will continue to rise until 2017, coming very close to the record highs of May 2007. The rate of increase however will not be as dramatic as 2013, with appreciation anticipated to slow to 4.4% in 2014 and down to 3.4% in 2017. This represents a cumulative increase of 23.7% through 2017, at which point appreciation is expected to be more in line with historic norms.

Interestingly, most panel members did not feel that rising interest rates would derail the recovery, unless interest rates rise above 6.0%. According to Zillow Senior Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell, “As long as interest rates don’t rise too far and too fast, most markets should be able to absorb these changing dynamics and remain healthy.” It is anticipated that as interest rates rise, investors will pull out of some markets, increasing inventory and helping to stabilize the market.

What does this mean for you? If you are looking to buy, now is the time as prices will continue to rise. Looking to sell? You are more likely to get top dollar between now and the end of the year as inventory, especially here in San Diego County is very limited. As appreciation slows and more inventory hits the market it is less likely that the multiple offer scenarios that we are currently experiencing will continue.

Questions about the value of your home? Interested in an investment property? Just give me a call and I’ll be happy to answer all your questions.

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Okay, I admit to being a total wimp when it comes to cold weather. Waking-up to frost on the roofs and going out for a walk with gloves and a hat is not my favorite part of living in San Diego in January. But I have to tell you that my heart is warmed as soon as I turn on my computer, look at my emails, my transactions, and the MLS and realize that the San Diego real estate market is hot, hot, hot!

This is due to 4 primary factors:

1) Employment in the County in October was up by 1.9% over October 2011*
2) Consumer confidence (Pacific West) is up by 36%*
3) Interest rates remain at record lows
4) Inventory is approximately 50% of what it was a year ago*

The lack of homes to sell in San Diego County is clearly illustrated in these two graphs, which show unsold inventory at lowest point since 2005, and that homes in the $750 – $1000K range are the most scarce. However, as there are fewer people able to buy in that range the impact is less dramatic. The price range where we are feeling the greatest impact is the $300 – $500K range. If you’re a seller, you love it as you will likely have multiple offers within days of listing. If you’re a buyer, not so much, as it’s likely you’ll be in a bidding war with several cash buyers.

unsold inventory 10.12 sm

unsold inventory 2 10.12 sm

This of course has driven down the length of time homes stay on the market from approximately 60 days in January of last year to just 40 days in October.

time on market10.12 hero 2

The net result of all these factors is that prices in the San Diego real estate market are increasing at a steady rate, up 10.7% this October, over October 2011.

Median price 12

So is it a good time to buy or sell in San Diego? Absolutely! Barring any economic catastrophe I believe we’ll continue to see a strengthening real estate market throughout 2013. So if you’ve been considering a real estate investment, best to get in the game now as I predict prices will continue to rise. Please give me a call to discuss the opportunities available in America’s Finest City!

* Graphs and statistics courtesy of the California Association of Realtors®. All statistics reflect sales activity for detached homes.

You’ve found THE house and you’re ready to take the big step and write an offer.  But what is the right price?  Should you start low or come in at full price?  Should you offer more than asking price to seal the deal?

Determining the best offer price is based on a variety of factors, the first being the price of comparable properties.  Your Realtor will research sales and current listings, usually going back no more than 6 months.  She will try to find homes that have a similar number of bedrooms and baths and square footage.   She will also look for properties in the same or similar neighborhood of the same age.  Other factors she will consider might be upgrades and amenities, such as a remodeled kitchen or swimming pool, or view.  The more like the home you hope to buy, the better the comps.

Reviewing the prices of the comparable sales and listings will usually give you a reasonable price range.  The next step in determining your offer price is to look at the condition of the home.  If there are obvious repairs needed, such as new carpet or paint your offer price might be at the lower end of the price range for the comps.  On the other hand, if the home is in move-in condition or has other outstanding features or upgrades, your offer price should be closer to the top end of the range.

Another important factor is the competition.  How long has the home been on the market?  How long were the comps on the market?  Are you competing against other offers?  Is there a scarcity or over-supply of similar homes in this price range?  As with any commodity supply and demand are important factors in determining price.

And finally there is an emotional component.  If this truly is your dream home and you can’t bear the thought of having your offer rejected, you might be inclined to offer above the asking price and even above the comps.  Just be aware that if you are getting a mortgage on the property and it doesn’t appraise as high as you are willing to pay, the difference will most likely have to come out of your pocket.  You should also be cautious about buying at the top of your personal price range or depleting your savings as it will be difficult to enjoy your dream home if you’re house poor.

As I noted in a post earlier this year price isn’t everything when it comes to getting your offer accepted, but it is the most important factor.  Work closely with your Realtor; listen to her guidance, ask questions and carefully weigh all of the factors.  In the end the decision is yours so please, do everyone a favor and don’t waste time with a ridiculously low offer!  If you want the house, bid like you mean it…you might not get another chance!

La Mesa, CA Real Estate Market Update – November 2011

 

                                                 

 

 

 

La Mesa,CA is a great place to call home!  From the quaint downtown filled with restaurants and antique shops, to the views from Mt.Helix, there are many wonderful neighborhoods with their own distinctive vibe.  But like most everywhere throughout the county, real estate values continue to slip, as noted in this real estate market update.

La Mesa, CA Single Family Home Sales – November 2011

Total number of sales                       51

            Short sales                                 9

            REO sales                                   8

Average price                                     $381,197

Average days on market                 71

Average price 2010                          $417,252

Average price YTD 2011                 $387,727

Prices for single family homes have not showed a significant decline throughout the year, which may be a sign that the market is starting to level out.

La Mesa, CA Attached Home Sales – November 2011

Total number of sales                    14

            Short sales                             3

            REO sales                                2

Average price                                  $190,807

Average days on market              51

Average price 2010                        $190,580

Average price YTD 2011               $167,587

The average price for November for attached homes is surprisingly high when compared to the preceding months.  As we enter 2012 we will have to see if this is a trend, or merely a month with more sales of higher priced units.

To learn more about the La Mesa, CA real estate market, just give me a call!  I’ve lived in the area for over 20 years and would love to show you why this is such a great place to call home.

I moved with my parents to Fletcher Hills when I was 8 years old, and lived there until fleeing the nest for college.  And now I’m back with my husband, living again in my childhood home, wondering where the time has gone!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Fletcher Hills it is a suburban area of east San Diego County, located on the north and south sides of (you guessed it), Fletcher Parkway, just before the Parkway goes down the hill into the heart of El Cajon. 

The area was developed by Colonel Ed Fletcher (1872-1955) who was a prominent San Diegan and responsible for the development of Fletcher Hills, Mt. Helix, Del Mar, and other communities.   The Colonel was a major advocate of road and water projects that aided in the development of San Diego County.  He served in the California Senate where he authored laws that created the San Diego County Water Authority and transferred ownership of Mission Bay to the City.  What I remember about the Fletchers is that one of the Colonel’s sons and his family lived about a block away and to my mom; it was sort of like having royalty as a neighbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the exception of a few subdivisions, most homes in Fletcher Hills are custom single family homes on good-sized lots.  When we first moved into our home, it was quite rural, and many families had horses.  A large horse arena at the end of Rippey Street was the site of major horse shows and competitions.  Today, the arena, and most of the horses and bridle paths are gone, but the numerous canyons and open spaces still provide a bit of a country feel.

Fletcher Hills is a very desirable area because of its many custom homes, large lots, proximity to freeways, shopping and good schools.  Prices for a single family home range from $300,000 – $800,000.  This is a very typical  home for the area, though it is somewhat larger than most:  4 bedrooms, with 2.5 baths, ranch style built in 1966 with an updated kitchen and beautiful backyard.  The home is a standard sale being offered at $579,888.  

 

For a personal tour, just give me a call and you’ll learn why I’m happy at home in Fletcher Hills.

Freddie Mac announced yesterday that for the first time in history, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has dropped below 4.00%  to 3.94%.  Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages are even lower, at 3.26%.  Last year at this time the 30-year rate was 4.27%  and the 15-year at 3.72%.

When you combine the low rates with prices that have generally declined throughout the county you have a great opportunity to buy more home for less money.   On a $300,000 mortgage the principal and interest payment at 4.27%  is $1479 per month.  At 3.94%  the monthly payment is $1421 per month.   That is a savings of $58 per month which may not sound like much, but over the length of the mortgage, that is a savings of over $20,880.

So whether you’re looking for your first home, a move-up, or an investment property, now is a great time to buy!  Curious about what’s available?  Give me a call and I’ll be happy to send you some listings of homes and investment opportunities throughout San Diego County.

Termites are a fact of life in California.  Nearly every home I sell, when inspected, shows evidence of some form of termite damage or active infestation – no matter how new the home might be. 

In a traditional sale, the buyer generally requests that the seller pay for the inspection and any necessary repairs.  In a short sale however, the seller, who doesn’t have enough money to pay his mortgage, is generally not in a position to pay for any repairs, and I have yet to see a bank pick-up the cost.  So who pays?

Generally, it is the buyer who is responsible for paying for any termite damage, which could mean thousands of dollars.  The cost to tent and fumigate a 3 bdrm/2 bath home is roughly $1300, plus the cost to repair or replace any damaged wood.  It is not uncommon for total costs to exceed $5000.  This unexpected expense can cause a real problem in the transaction, and often the buyer simply has no choice but to walk away.

So how can a seller avoid losing buyers over termite issues?  Start by selecting an experienced short sale agent to list your home!  An experienced agent will have the inspection done prior to putting the home on the MLS and will make the report available to any agent and buyer writing an offer.  The agent should also make it clear in the listing that any repair costs will be the responsibility of the buyer.   In this way, the buyer knows what costs will be involved, and the offer price can reflect the anticipated expenses.  The report should also be submitted to the lender so that they understand the costs that the buyer will incur to purchase the property and will (hopefully) take that into consideration in the approval process.

Buying or selling a home “As Is”, whether it’s a short sale or foreclosure raises many disclosure issues.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

As I’ve recently noted, getting a home loan these days can be extremely difficult unless you have a 20% down payment, a credit score in the mid 700’s and sufficient income so that your housing costs are no more than 28% of your gross income.  In fact, according to the Financial Institutions Examination Council, roughly 25% of all conventional home loan applications submitted in 2010 were rejected. 

These stringent qualification requirements are for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but luckily they aren’t the only game in town.  Today, more and more borrowers are taking advantage of the less demanding criteria for FHA loans. The Federal Housing Administration has been in existence since 1934 and has become the largest government insurer of home loans in the world today.

Although every lender might have slightly different requirements, here are the basics needed to qualify for an FHA insured loan:

  • Technically, 580 is the minimum acceptable score, but in practice lending institutions require a minimum of a 620 mid score.  The mid score is the middle score when credit is pulled from all three major reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
  • Housing expenses, (mortgage, taxes and insurance) must not equal more than 31% of your gross income, and all payments, (including cars and credit cards) must not exceed 43%.
  • The down payment must be at least 3.5%.  If the down payment is less than 10%, most lenders require a credit score of 640.
  • There is also an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium paid at closing and usually financed into the loan.  This premium is 1.75% of the base loan amount.  There is also an annual premium paid on a monthly basis.  This amount will be based on the loan-to-value ratio.

An FHA loan is an excellent choice for first-time buyers, or anyone with less than perfect credit or a small down payment.  If you’re thinking of buying in San Diego,Orange orRiverside County, please give me a call.  The time to get qualified is before you start looking for a home.  There is nothing worse than finding the perfect home, only to discover you can’t get a loan!

A new law goes into effect today requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all single family homes in California.  However, there seems to be some confusion about the exact requirements and how the new law applies to rental homes and apartments, so here’s what you need to know.

A carbon monoxide detector is required in all single family homes that have fossil-fuel burning appliances such as a gas heater, water heater, or stove, fireplaces, and/or an attached garage.  If you are the owner of a qualifying home that you rent to others or plan to sell, you must have a detector installed immediately.  If you rent a single family home, please contact your landlord or property management company to make sure that your home is protected.  All multi-family rental units have until January 1, 2013 to have the detectors installed.  Installation of the detectors is now required prior to close of escrow on all single family home sales transactions.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, carbon monoxide poisoning kills approximately 200 people every year.  It is called the silent killer as the gas is colorless, tasteless, odorless and otherwise undetectable.  Most carbon monoxide accidents are caused by faulty LP and natural gas heating systems. 

The detectors cost $10 – $50 each and must be a model approved by the State Fire Marshal.  Like smoke detectors, they should be mounted high on the wall or ceiling and there should be one on every story of your home.  Some homes with alarm systems may have the detector connected to their existing system, so please check with your security company provider.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness

If you or a family member has these symptoms, or the alarm on the detector goes off, get everyone outdoors, and then call for help. 

Please don’t leave yourself and your family unprotected.  Make sure your detector is installed today!

Anyone who knows me would probably say that I’m a fairly optimistic person, but lately it seems as though the real estate market is developing into a vicious cycle with no way to correct itself.   In a report released on Monday, the researchers at Capital Economics said that we could expect nationwide home prices to fall an additional 3% this year, bringing the year’s total decline to about 5%.  So, despite the fact that some markets inSan DiegoCountyhave seen modest gains in home prices over last year, overall, the picture is less than rosy.

So what are the driving forces behind this downward spiral?  Well, the obvious answer is that there are many complicated factors at play, but the cycle we’re seeing is really pretty simple:   Housing prices are falling due to low demand and too much inventory. Normally after a recession, home sales start to pick-up, but that’s not what we’re seeing.  Instead, demand is being strangled by increasingly stringent lending requirements which restrict buying power.  So instead of more buyers coming into the market to take advantage of the low interest rates, we’re seeing fewer that are able to qualify because of high credit score and/or high down payment requirements.   Even existing homeowners looking to sell and buy up or down are caught in a stalemate as most have limited or no equity to leverage against a new property. 

The cycle picks up momentum every time prices drop.  Lower prices, mean less equity for existing homeowners and for those with a mortgage, an increasing number of borrowers are choosing strategic default.  These voluntary defaults are adding to the foreclosure inventory already on the market and the estimated 5 million foreclosed homes lurking in the shadows.  And so the cycle continues; more foreclosures create a bloated inventory.  With an insufficient number of buyers able to buy, sales drop and prices fall, which breeds more foreclosures, and on, and on.

As I’ve noted before, I’m no economist and certainly don’t have all the answers, but there are clearly two actions that could put the brakes on falling prices and encourage increased sales:

  1. Congress should oppose the Quality Residential Mortgage (QRM) requirements being proposed.   The QRM would require an unnecessarily high down payment of 20% and impose a very stringent debt-to-income ratio for conventional loans.  The result would be that more borrowers would seek FHA loans, which in turn would likely raise qualification standards and insurance requirements.  The bottom line result will be fewer qualified buyers and fewer sales.
  2. Banks need to address the issue of negative equity by offering programs that provide principal reductions.  When a borrower feels that he/she is paying on lost equity that they will never recoup they are more likely to choose to default, adding to the inventory glut.

Do you have any ideas about breaking the cycle of falling prices?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

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