Archive for July, 2010
People always ask me how the real estate market is doing. It’s not easy to give a quick answer, so I usually say something like, “we have had some tough times but prices seems to have stabilized in North San Diego, and have even slightly increased in some areas.” The fact of the matter is that there are still lots of buyers out there, they are looking for the right home; there are some great buys out there waiting, if you are ready for negotiating and possibly a long escrow (think short sales and REO properties, or different types of loans). I couldn’t believe how many people called me the last few days of escrow on my last listing, wanting to get in to write back-up offers.
In my efforts to remain upbeat but present an accurate version of the state of the market, here is what I have, in a nutshell:
1. May sales were up in San Diego county, June sales dropped a bit, but prices continued to rise. San Diego was the only metro area in the country with 13 months of consecutive home price increases (placing second only to San Francisco).
2. The median price of a home in California increased 13.6% in June.
3. The number of foreclosed homes nationwide has fallen for the third consecutive month (but the numbers are still high historically speaking)
4. Lenders are still being very tough on potential buyers, so be prepared for an extended escrow (a few days to weeks), even if you are golden on paper.
5. There are still some great deals out there, especially with short sale properties, if you are not in a hurry.
6. There is still lower-than-usual inventory in North San Diego right now (although it is technically rising slightly), with many properties having been on the market a while or having fallen out of escrow. I see this as an opportunity…in fact I have personally had my eye on a property that has fallen out of escrow and reduced a few times.
So, what does all this mean? I really try not to read too much into statistics, as often they do not reflect my specific market. I also don’t place too much on analysts’ takes on the market as, again, they often focus on the big picture and not my little niche in the market. Not to mention you can make yourself crazy trying to crunch all the numbers and decipher all the opinions. I usually stick to my instincts, but being that I have a foot in the market so to speak, those instincts are buffered by what I see on a daily basis in my own market. So, I will end with the cliche that many agents spew, however note that this is based on what I see as truths: numbers, buyers out in the market, inventory (or lack thereof), price reductions in my own area, and of course, the good old instincts: NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO BUY REAL ESTATE IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY. You have to form your own opinion, but there is mine in case you wondered.
Many sellers often make one of two mistakes when getting ready to sell their home: either they spend way too much money fixing up their homes (money that will likely NOT be recouped), or they do not take the time to make some subtle yet important changes that could make the “love it” lightbulb shine brightly in buyers’ heads. The tough economy may make the second mistake more of a reality, but there are some easy and relatively inexpensive ways to spruce up your home in a weekend and on a tight budget.
1. Paint: Painting is one of the biggest “wow” factors in my book, especially if rooms have not received a fresh coat in a while or if all your walls are white. Exterior painting is expensive so unless yours is in desperate need of new paint you can skip that (there are other ways to spruce up the exterior, which I will discuss shortly).
Paint is inexpensive and color is a BIG plus for most buyers. Try to stick to neutral colors, but it is alright to accent with color as long as you pull it all together. Keep in mind when using color that many people follow feng sui principles, so speaking with a color expert at your local paint store, consulting with your Realtor, or combing through home decor magazines or online is a good idea. You don’t have to paint the entire home, but rooms that are most lived in will make the biggest showing difference–like the kitchen, family room and living rooms. The master bedroom is also a big selling point for buyers.
2. Plant: Some sellers hire landscapers to give the yard a boost, but doing it yourself is not only cheaper but rewarding. Local nurseries often sell flats of flowers for cheap. Flowers in the front make a BIG difference in curb appeal. If you can’t afford a lot of flowers, consider sprucing up the areas that make the biggest difference, for example, if you have posts leading to your front door you may want to purchase some inexpensive pots and fill them with flowers. If you have a lot of space by your door you may want to fill it in with potted arrangements as well. If your front yard is all grass you may want to dig a space and add some color there. There is a saying that most buyers decide in less than a minute when they pull up to your home whether they can see themselves living there, so use color and welcoming plants to spice up the curb appeal.
4. De-clutter! This is a no-brainer and although most people have heard it you wouldn’t believe how many homes I show that are filled with clutter. Not only does it look bad and make your rooms seem smaller, but it often makes it difficult for the potential buyers to picture living there, and to see where all their own “stuff” will go. Think of this as a great time to go through closets, cabinets, garages and attics, and make some nice donations to charity or sell items online. Remember that the less clutter that shows, the bigger the house looks.
5. Clean carpets. You can do this for cheap if you do it yourself. Many grocery stores rent machines for around $30, plus the cost of the cleaner, for a day. It is easy to do and you will be surprised what a difference it will make.
6. Open and bright. Clean all window treatments and open them up. If you have a showing you want your house to be as bright as possible.
7. Focus on the kitchen. You want your potential buyers to feel the kitchen is a great space to work in. Clear counter tops and leave VERY little on them. Make sure all your surfaces and the sink are clean. If it is built in or you are including your refrigerator in your sale remember to clean it out and make it look as decluttered as possible for showings.
8. Clean windows. Not only does this give the obvious impression that you take care of your home, but it also brings the outside light in better.
9. Exterior sprucing: Unless it really needs it, exterior painting is expensive and not necessary in most cases. A better idea is to hose off cobwebs, hose down your garage, and hose down your driveway–you may need to rent a high powered hose. Trim bushes and plants that are overgrown, mow the lawn and make sure it is in good shape (you may want to check all the sprinklers if you have brown patches). Clean your front door and sweep the front patio or porch. Replace any light fixtures that have burned out…you get the idea.
10. Clean everything! Finally, give your home a good scrub. Pay attention the to bathroom areas–toilets, showers/tubs and sinks that are dirty make buyers scrunch up their noses. No one wants to buy a filthy home.
Remember, you can do all of the above yourself and most of it can be completed over a weekend, especially if you get the family involved. Happy selling!
Racing season at Del Mar starts this Wednesday, July 21 with the annual opening day celebration. Grab your hat and head on over to Del Mar tomorrow for lots of excitement. The gates open at 11:30, with famous hat contest starting at that time. Be sure to check the schedule for concerts and events throughout the season, which runs through September 8.
The track will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Sundays are Family Sundays, with a fun-packed schedule for the children including pony rides, magic shows, face painting and games. If you are new to horse racing you can take a newcomer seminar, offered daily. Concerts, food, celebrity sitings, beauty contests, meet-and-greets with jockeys and trainers, parties and many special events make horse racing season ideal for everyone. For the full schedule visit http://www.dmtc.com/season/events/.
In my last blog on MoneyPress.com I discussed real estate and ethics from the perspective of training. In the newest post I discuss how an agent can maintain high ethical standards. Read more at http://www.moneypress.com/real-estate-and-ethics-part-2-maintenance.htm
There is a lot going on this summer in Carlsbad, so be safe and have fun! Here are some highlights:
Calavera Hills Community Playdate: On July 24 the Community Center at Calavera Hills will host a day of fun for the whole family from 10:00-12:00. Come and try the Zumba dance-off, freeze dance, a family obstacle course, or practice your golf putting. Sample some of the classes and activities that are being offered this fall at the community center.
Family Movie Night in the Park: Saturday, August 7 from 6:00-10:00 p.m. you can see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs at Stagecoach Community Park. There will be food, games and activities from 6-8, with the movie starting at dusk. For more information visit http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/parksandrec/Pages/family-movie-night.aspx.
Dinner and a movie at Leo Carrillo Ranch: On August 20 from 6:30-11:00 you can enjoy dinner and a movie, AND all proceeds will benefit the wonderful Leo Carrillo Ranch. Tickets are $25 each and you must purchase them by August 13. The film will be History is Made at Night starring Leo Carrillo. For more information and to purchase tickets go to http://classweb.ci.carlsbad.ca.us/Activities/ActivitiesDetails.asp?ProcessWait=N&aid=1332.
Snores and S’mores Family Campout at Aviara Community Park: Bring the family for a sleepover, games, s’mores and a lot of fun. Enjoy a BBQ and learn all about insects. Breakfast will be provided the next morning. Tickets are $20 a person, free for 3 and under, and must be purchased by August 16. For more information and to purchase tickets go to http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/parksandrec/Pages/snores-smores.aspx
Cool Zones for the summer: the city of Carlsbad has designated “cool zones” this summer. If you get too hot you are free to visit one of these places to cool down. They are the Carlsbad City Library at 1775 Dove Lane (760-602-2049) and the Carlsbad Senior Center at 799 Pine Avenue (760-602-4650).
Real estate transactions today are more difficult than those of yesterday. Now the difficult part is getting from contract to closing, so before you call the moving company you should be aware of some things that can potentially hold up the transaction.
There are three main factors that contribute to delayed closings in today’s market:
1. Lender issues. As many people already know, it is much more difficult these days to get a loan. Buyers have to be solid and have good credit like always, but today many lenders are making other requirements mandatory before agreeing to fund a loan.
One thing we are seeing is multiple credit checks and bank account checks. In my last transaction the lender approved the loan and on the day it was supposed to fund the lender asked to see the buyer’s most recent account statement (although it had been provided them less than two weeks prior). I now counsel all my buyers not to make any big purchases until after the loan has funded.
We are also seeing lenders asking for second home inspections to assure safety items have been repaired BEFORE escrow has closed. In a recent transaction the lender sent the home inspector back out to the property to prepare a second report, assuring the items noted in the first report had been corrected. They attempted to charge the buyer for this (I fixed that)! It is normal in a transaction for the seller to agree to credit the buyer for items that need repair, and often times those items are not repaired until escrow closes…so be wary of this if you are planning on closing on a certain date, as it may prolong your escrow.
A big lender issue holding up closing is the failure of buyers to obtain financing, often at the last minute. I too had this happen on a listing and the buyer ended up trying to renegotiate the price and then canceling on the last day of the inspection period. The meant the seller’s home was off the market for 17 days…not good.
Loan underwriting standards have become tougher and many buyers are not able to obtain their financing, even in cases where they were preapproved by their lenders. In many cases lenders won’t preapprove buyers anyway, due to new standards under the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA). It is important as both a buyers agent and listing agent to make sure you speak with the buyer’s lender right away.
2. Appraisal issues have also been deal killers in many cases, especially in cases where there are not enough comparable sold properties in a neighborhood OR where there are bank owned and foreclosure properties that have brought the values down substantially. Technically this is a lender issue but it can kill the deal even if there are no problems otherwise with the lender.
It is important to communicate with the appraiser if you are the listing agent. I always provide a complete report reviewing ALL the comps in the area, explaining both the good and the bad–how each property differed from or was similar to my listing. It is helpful if comps do not show the true value of the home. If the home is in a neighborhood where the only comps are short sales and REOs your seller may unfortunately be bound by those prices.
3. Title Issues. Obviously a home’s title cannot transfer without clear title. Even if there are some title issues upon sale they usually are cleared up during escrow, but it is important to know what issues you are facing right when you take a listing. I always ask my title representative to do a title search for me at the beginning so that I know what I am up against. It is also important to talk to the sellers and see if they are aware of any potential issues, like back taxes, unpaid HOA dues, land leases or any other issues that can encumber the property.
4. Home inspection issues. Home inspections often turn up problems that the buyers and sellers may not have known about. The expense involved in resolving these issues is usually determined by the buyer submitting a request for repair to the seller. the parties work out how to handle the issues or whether the seller will instead credit the buyer through escrow for repairs. Sometimes a failure to agree on repairs can cause the deal to collapse.
Lender-owned properties can especially create problems, as the lenders often refuse to make any repairs. Buyers need to understand this when they make an offer on lender-owned properties. The good news is that usually these properties are priced well so any necessary repairs can be made, but of course that is dependent on the cost of repairs.
With VA loans the repairs MUST be completed before closing, and the buyer is not allowed to pay for repairs. This can be a sticky situation if the seller is a bank, so make sure upfront that everyone is on the same page to avoid any issues upon inspection (this is usually not an issue because the seller is aware of the VA loan and has to sign corresponding paperwork), but if the seller is not a bank and cannot afford to pay for required repairs it can cause the sale to be canceled.
As mentioned under number 1 above, watch out for home inspection issues that the lender may require to be remedied before closing, as these issues have been causing delays as of late.
Although it is more difficult to get to closing now, if buyers and sellers are prepared and understand potential issues it will hopefully make for a smoother transaction. Best of luck!
It’s summer in San Diego…but it sure doesn’t feel like it yet! If you are chomping at the bit waiting for the sun to come out so your kids (and you) can really experience a San Diego summer, don’t despair. There are some great things you can do here in San Diego that don’t require beach weather.
The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park: Again, no sun is needed to visit the animals. While you likely WILL find sun at the Animal Park the cooler temperatures will make it more comfortable than normal at this time of the year.
Balboa Park: I actually visited with my kids a few days ago and we had a blast. With so many museums, exhibits, ponds, wonderful kids’ play area and the IMAX theater you can’t go wrong…there is something for everyone. You can bring a picnic lunch or enjoy lunch at the tea house or the Prado, or grab a sandwich from several museum cafes. It is a great way to spend the entire day or just a few hours.
Old Town: Turn your summer day into a historical and delicious one! Old Town is a great place to stroll around. You can learn about the history of San Diego and California, do some shopping and have a scrumptious lunch at one of the many restaurants (personally I recommend one that has homemade tortillas).
Coronado: This is a great place to spend the day. You can walk or bike around the island and spend time shopping the quaint shops on Orange Avenue. There are numerous restaurants to choose from, or you can picnic on the beach or in the park. Better yet, you can take the Coaster to the downtown station, walk to the harbor and take the ferry over to the island to make it an adventure.
Downtown San Diego: If you haven’t been downtown in a while you are really missing out. Shopping, dining, theater, trolley rides, the fabulous and improved San Diego Children’s Museum and Seaport Village, just to name a few things.
Take a Hike or Walk: With so many great trails throughout the county you have a lot of choices for a beautiful hike. My favorites are Torrey Pines, the Cabrillo National Monument trails and the Batiquitos Lagoon trails in Carlsbad.
Ride a Bike: Again, no sun is required and there are so many choices! Mission Bay is great because there is no traffic, but other wonderful places like Coronado and Oceanside have nice trails for riders of all ages.
I could write a much longer post because there are SO many fun and exciting things to do here in San Diego, no matter the weather. Hopefully you have some ideas to help you forget about the absence of the sun…and even when the sun DOES come out all the above are still great ways to spend the summer. So get out there and have fun!
Ethics play a big role in every profession. Not only does it say a lot about who the individual is as a professional and as a person, but it can make or break any transaction or negotiation. Those who do not adhere to high ethical standards let down the others in the profession and taint their image. More importantly, their actions can hurt others and create legal consequences. As in many professions, there are unethical Realtors in every market. What can be done to help place more emphasis on high ethics? To learn more please click here: http://www.moneypress.com/real-estate-and-ethics-part-1.htm.
Proposition 13, which puts a cap on the maximum amount property tax bills can be raised, is to thank; it prohibits property taxes from rising more than 2% annually. This number is based on the Consumer Price Index, which documents increases in the overall cost of living (thus the increase is not based on home value exclusively).
Notices regarding changes in value are usually sent out mid-July, so look for those to see if there is a new, lower valuation on your property. If you still feel your property value is lower you can apply with the county Assessor’s office for a request for review of valuation.
The total assessed home value in San Diego has declined by approximately 1.56%. Make sure to check your home value and see if you will get a slight break this year on property taxes.