August 7th, 2017
Many of you know that I have written often of the perils of dual agency. Case in point: I received a phone call today from a woman whose sister is working with an agent to purchase property. The agent also represents the seller.
Apparently the buyer and seller executed a contract. The seller, four days later, realized a mistake was made and they should have asked for a higher price. The agent let the buyer know that they were to sign an addendum for the higher price. The buyer did not agree and was fearful that the seller could cancel the contract. Her initial deposit money is already in escrow and escrow is open.
I do not represent this person and have not seen the contract. I did not provide legal advice but rather told the caller what right a buyer has under basic contract law – unless of course there is a clause in the contract giving a party more rights or altering the general rules.
Here is the bottom line: as a buyer in a real estate transaction, where there is a fully executed contract and no party has breached, and where there have been no alterations of contractual obligations pertaining to rights to cancel or amend, as long as a buyer performs his or her duties under the contract on time the seller does not have a right to cancel the contract. Parties of course CAN mutually agree IN WRITING and signed by all, to alter material terms, but if a buyer does not agree to do so it does not generally give the seller the right to cancel if the buyer is not in breach of contract.
Once again this problem is a result of dual agency- how can an agent who has a fiduciary duty to the seller (who wants to change a material term), also fulfill a fiduciary duty to the buyer (who does not agree)? This is a big pitfall of dual agency and a big reason for real estate lawsuits. I advised the caller to contact the agent, contact escrow, and if necessary contact an attorney.
August 3rd, 2017
It is usually typical for the real estate market to slow as summer winds down, but many people ask me if I think the market will continue on it’s current path – rising prices and lack of inventory. This subject is discussed on a daily basis in the media by real estate agents, economists and buyers and sellers. I read a lot of it – from those claiming that the market will continue on it’s path, others predicting a bubble, and all sorts or in-between predictions. So how is one to know where the market it really heading?
First of all, no two markets are the same. So while right now in Los Angeles there are still bidding wars going on in some neighborhoods, here in San Diego it really varies as to price, neighborhood and type of property. Investors are still out there trying to pick up good deals, especially in the attached market under $600,000 and with 2-4 unit properties. Many 2-4 unit properties that were sitting for a long time are suddenly entertaining multiple offers.
Attached homes – Townhomes and condos are still “hot” here in San Diego County, especially those in nice areas close to highways, beaches and shopping/dining/transportation. Those priced under $600,000 still seem to be going fast. For example, in Carlsbad (North Coastal San Diego), in the month of July the average market time for sold condos and townhomes was 32 days, with 39 of these properties in escrow now. There are currently 48 active condos/townhomes listed on the market in Carlsbad that are priced under $600,000. 9 condos/townhomes sold in July with an average market time of 32 days. The average sold price was $428,533.
Detached Homes – There are currently 78 detached homes for sale in Carlsbad that are priced under $1 million. 57 homes went pending in July with an average market time of 22 days and an average list price of $842,000. Only 5 homes under $1 million sold in Carlsbad in July, with an average market time of 16 days and an average sales price of $802,000. Of the active listings, average market time so far is 37 days, with 19 of those properties having been on the market less than 10 days. Of course, this “detached homes” field includes all 4 zip codes in Carlsbad and multiple types of detached homes – varying with location, age and upgrades/amenities.
Homes located in certain neighborhoods seem to sell much faster. For example, the Mar Brisa neighborhood of Southwest Carlsbad (with the exception of one listing that has not sold for over 60 days and has dropped price several times) tends to sell very quickly, oftentimes in days or even before hitting the MLS. So location is a big factor, and many buyers are willing to pay over asking price to get into neighborhoods with little to no active listings.
As I always say, if you are in the market to purchase or sell residential or 2-4 unit income property, it is important to contact a skilled area agent who can provide you with a complete, detailed analysis of the specific area on which you are focused.
Crystal Ball Predictions – The question I am asked the most is “what will happen in the real estate market in the next year?” I usually chuckle and say that if I had a crystal ball I would be a very rich person! But I do believe that while prices will not shoot down drastically, that we are entering a “correction” period. I think we will see prices stabilize and the market very slowly start to revert to a buyer’s market. That means that prices will not likely rise much more, but of course there may be some highly desirable areas that do still see rises for a short time.
Many buyers are getting frustrated with the high prices and low inventory and are thus deciding to put property searches on hold, opting to rent until the market changes. While interest rates will likely rise that does not seem to be enough of an incentive for buyers to jump in when facing high prices and multiple offer situations. So in my opinion I believe we will see prices drop slightly, maybe more for properties that are not selling. Higher inventory levels would help keep demand filled and prices a bit more stable, so hopefully we will see that happen as we head into the later part of this year and the year to come.
July 20th, 2017
Welcome to 31 Via Armilla, San Clemente.
Offered at $999,000-$1,029,000.
This is a stunning Talega VIEW home with a large private entertainer’s backyard, complete with outdoor kitchen and fire pit. Highly upgraded with wood flooring downstairs, granite counters, top of the line stainless appliances, lovely fixtures and lighting, a 3 car garage, spacious master suite with retreat and large outdoor balcony with ocean peek-a-boo views, designer amenities throughout and a downstairs bedroom and bathroom..all tucked away in a private gated neighborhood.
Located in the coveted hilltop gated community of Vittoria in Talega, this community has so much to offer – from biking/hiking trails to swimming and community events. Highly ranked schools and close to beaches, shopping, dining and highways.
For more information click here, or contact Rachel LaMar at 760-310-9466.
June 28th, 2017
As those who watch the real estate market know, here in Southern California it has been a bit crazy over the last year or so. Despite some reports to the contrary it has been a seller’s market, especially here in San Diego County. That means that prices have risen and it has basically been a great time to be a seller. Low inventory and high demand give sellers an advantage.
BUT, there are some signs that the market may be changing. Let’s have a look at how:
1. Buyers getting priced out of the market. Many buyers cannot afford to live in areas in which they were able to afford a short time ago – in some markets just a year or less! With the choice of moving to completely different areas some are deciding to rent in their preferred areas instead, hoping that prices will drop down the road.
2. Interest rates rising. The interest rates have risen a few times and then dropped. The Feds are trying to sustain the market by making home sales more desirable, but buyers still have to deal with the higher prices and, in many cases, multiple offer situations that raise them even higher.
3. Buyers getting frustrated and putting searches on hold (many opting to rent instead). Many buyers are tiring of the raise in prices. I just showed a condo to buyers (second home purchase) that is priced over $100,000 higher than the model match that sold in January – this is crazy!! I have had several buyers tell me they are just going to wait it out, as they do not want to pay “ridiculous” prices for homes.
4. Home sales are slowing down. May was the third straight month for declines in home sales. Sales listings dropped 8.4% over the last 12 months, due to higher prices and fewer options for buyers.
5. Summer selling season won’t last long. The “hot” selling season that is summer won’t last forever, and many buyers with families want to get into a new home before schools start up again in late August/early September. Those who cannot find homes will be forced to rent, which could take them out of the market for likely a full year, possibly longer. Also, many out of area buyers – a larger percentage here in San Diego which come from tourists – may not be able to find anything to purchase due to low inventory, which means they will be going back home empty-handed. Many of these buyers typically become second home or investment buyers and tend to focus on condos and lower priced homes.
It is evident that the market is causing issues among buyers, and the solution is to inundate the market with more listings. But until the sellers feel they can find replacement property many are electing to stay in their homes, creating a vicious cycle that had no clear end. Ironically, this is typically the best time to sell, so those who want to take advantage of the great seller’s market will need to take a risk and have a Plan B (such as renting in the interim).
June 14th, 2017
We are in the middle of the busy home selling season and many people ask me how the market is faring. You will likely not be surprised to know that we are still low on inventory. Here are how the numbers look at this time.
There are currently 313 total active listings in Carlsbad as of today, 184 detached and 103 attached homes (this includes condos, townhomes, rowhomes, twinhomes and condos). There are 29 active mobile or modular homes (included in the detached category). As you can see from the graph above, which showcases the last 3 years of sales, there was more inventory in both categories at the same time last year.
Multiple offer situations continue to be a norm in many areas, especially those properties under one million dollars (and most specifically those under $700,000). Below is a graph showing total inventory for the last 5 years.
There are currently 170 detached homes and 77 attached properties with pending sales (properties that are currently in escrow). As we continue to head through the top time of year for buying and selling properties, it is clear that supply is not meeting demand. This will continue to drive up prices in many areas. Interest rates just rose slightly today so that will also spur some buyers to get out there and join the search party.
If you have any questions about inventory in a specific part of San Diego please feel free to contact me for a detailed analysis. Otherwise find a competent and professional agent in your desired area before deciding to buy or sell a home.
June 10th, 2017
Upgraded and bright Santa Fe Ridge home located in South Carlsbad with award-winning Encinitas schools. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 1953 square feet.
Features include private landscaped courtyard entry, upgraded kitchen and bathrooms, recessed lighting and vaulted ceilings, custom paint throughout, ceiling fans, dual pane windows and sliders, plantation shutters, tile flooring downstairs, new carpet upstairs.
Beautifully landscaped and well maintained spacious, private backyard with inviting patio and grass areas. Furnace and AC installed in 2015, new hot water heater. Located close to everything – shopping, dining, entertainment, schools and highways…and of course, the beach!
For more information and to view more photos please click here.
Open Sunday 6/11 from 1-4 PM.
Call Nicole to schedule a showing at 760-580-7992
May 30th, 2017
People are always asking me how they can save money on home purchases and sales, and legislation under California Propositions 60 and 90 is one of the best ways to do just that. BUT, you have to meet certain qualifications.
Proposition 60 and 90 help home sellers transfer their current residential tax base to the purchase of a new home, saving potentially thousands of dollars in taxes. Proposition 60 is for intra-county transfers (between the counties of San Diego, Orange Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda, El Dorado, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Tuolumne and Ventura. Proposition 90 allows for the same advantage with inter-county transfers.
This all sounds great, right? Here is the fine print…in order to qualify:
1. The home owner (only one of them) must be at least 55 years of age. Co-owners cannot both qualify.
2. The home being sold must be a principal residence
3. The present home must be sold and the new home must be equal or lesser market value to the original property
4. If the property is held in a trust the seller will need to be the beneficial owner of the trust, not merely the trustee
5. The replacement property must be purchased or built within 2 years (before or after) of the sale of the current property.
6. “Your original property must have been eligible for the homeowners’ or disabled veterans’ exemption either at the time it was sold or within two years of the purchase or construction of the replacement property.”
As an example let’s say you purchased your home many years ago for $400,000 and it’s current market value is $800,000. If you sell this home and purchase a home that is $800,000 or less, should you qualify under Proposition 60 or 90 you will be able to take your current tax basis (tax on the $400,000 home plus the increases that have accrued over the years) to a replacement home that is purchased for $800,000 or less. This is a huge savings because most counties tax about 1-1.25% on real estate purchases.
For more details on eligibility requirements to take advantage of Prop 60 or 90, click here.
May 22nd, 2017
Today Zillow announced that it has test-launched a new program called Instant Offers, which it claims will help home sellers and agents. But upon close inspection this program is full of legal caveats for home sellers and agents alike.
The new program claims to offer options to home sellers so that they can avoid traditional marketing such as open houses and photographs. Here is how it works, according to what I read: a seller decides to use the program, which offers 3 options –
1. Sell directly to investor buyers: Without placing the home on the MLS it is offered to investors for purchase – almost like a For Sale by Owner listing. The investors can make an offer. At that point the homeowner can decide whether to take the offer or list on the MLS with an agent the traditional way (Zillow will recommend the agent). Zillow will benefit financially from the agent referral as more agents will want to advertise with Zillow). It is not clear how Zillow will benefit financially when sellers do not want to work with agents, but maybe there will be some kind of agreement between it and the investors.
2. Sell to investor buyers and use an agent recommended by Zillow to assist with the sale: If the homeowner wants to list their home Zillow will recommend one of it’s “Premier Agents.” These are agents who pay Zillow for advertising. Zillow wins here (like above) because 70% of its revenue comes from these agents who advertise.
3. Reject offers and list on the MLS with an agent: Zillow will of course recommend one of it’s Premier Agents (note that Zillow is NOT a broker, rather these agents achieve this status by paying Zillow money to advertise their names and services).
Ok…so you may think this is good – it gives home sellers options. But here are the other points to consider for all home sellers:
1. Potential lower sales price – investor buyers typically do not pay high prices – they offer a quick sale but the catch is that they want to save money. For those who have to sell quickly this could be a good thing, but for those who want to realize top dollar this is not the answer. If you have a home that is a true fixer upper an investor buyer is great as well, but there may be competing investor buyers out there on the open market and you could end up getting more if you have multiple offers, so choosing the Zillow program really puts your back against the proverbial wall.
2. High Fees – People always complain about high fees for selling homes. This program appears to charge a 9% service fee to those who choose to sell to one of the Zillow partner investors. Rather than pay such a high fee for a likely lower net sales price, it’s better to interview professional skilled area agents. Standard commission rates in CA are around 5% but commissions are negotiable.
3. THE LEGALITIES – Selling a home is a legal transaction, with contracts, paperwork and deadlines that are imperative to get right in order to prevent a lawsuit down the road. Although Zillow says it will recommend the seller work with an agent to get through the paperwork process with the new program, sellers have the option to forgo this. This is problematic, to put it mildly.
If I can give you one piece of advice only when it comes to selling your home, it would be this: have a lawyer review all your paperwork, including seller disclosures. If you do not want to hire a lawyer, make sure your agent has a good broker and have that broker review all your paperwork (or better yet, find an agent/Broker who IS an attorney). There are also many highly skilled agents who know what they are doing – find one.
4. Errors and Omissions insurance and lawsuits – Every broker (at least here in CA) must carry errors and omissions (E&O for short) insurance. It protects them in the event of a lawsuit brought by a party to a real estate transaction. Here’s the biggest problem with Zillow’s new program – Zillow is NOT a broker. If a home seller opts into the program and elects not to work with an agent, who is going to assume liability for contractual paperwork? What happens if disclosures are not filled out correctly, or if there is a problem with the home that is discovered after closing? The seller is put in a very bad position.
Agents could be hurt by this new program if they do not advertise with Zillow, as they will not be recommended by the company program. This is a lose-lose for hard-working professional agents everywhere who do not choose to pay money to Zillow, as home sellers in their areas may not even come across those skilled agents if they opt for the Zillow recommended agent.
These and many other questions do not have clear answers and as an attorney I say this program is fraught with potential problems for home sellers. So while Zillow may think the Instant Offer program is a great new “thing,” in my opinion, or until I see otherwise, sellers should steer clear. This program is in a test phase right now and is only available in Las Vegas NV and Orlando, FL.
For more information on the legalities of selling your home please contact a skilled attorney or broker in your area, or feel free to contact me with any questions by responding to this post.
May 16th, 2017
Appraisals are causing problems again for buyers and sellers for the first time in many years. Many appraisals are not coming in at value, despite comparables that support contract prices, leading to problems between buyers and sellers.
Prices have come up quite a bit in many areas in the last few years, San Diego County included. That means that when an agent goes to list a home there are usually comparables to support a higher price. But I keep hearing stories about homes that are not appraising, and it just happened to my buyers as well (even though the offer we wrote and had accepted had comps that supported our price).
So what is a buyer or seller to do if the appraisal does not come in at value?
1. Renegotiate. The first thing to do is to try and renegotiate the contract price. I had a home that appraised $8,000 under contract price (which was completely ridiculous given a smaller home had sold for more just months before). We tried to get the seller to drop the price to the appraised value, or at least meet us in the middle but he would not. He had received multiple offers and there were buyers waiting in the wings who would still move forward with the higher price.
2. Buyer contributes the cash difference. This means that the sales price will remain the same, and the buyer will have to put the difference between it and the appraised value on the table (come up with more money) in order to close. The bank will only lend on the appraised value, but this option allows the buyer to move forward and purchase the home.
3. Challenge the appraisal. This can be done only when there is information that the appraiser did not take into consideration that could alter the evaluation, such as comparable homes that were not reviewed, or maybe a comparable sale that closed immediately after the appraisal was issued which had a higher price, or a sale that closed which was not on the MLS. Or, there may be upgrades to the home of which the appraiser was not made aware. But a challenge needs validation, so the fact that parties do not agree with the appraisal is not a reason for a challenge.
4. Cancel the contract. This is the buyer’s right when an appraisal does not come in at contract value. However, it is important to take into consideration the status of the market – if inventory is low and there is a lot of competition it may be smart to stick with the sale, since getting another contract accepted could be difficult and the buyer could wind up paying even more money for the next opportunity.
In my buyers’ situation they decided to stick with the contract price (after the seller would not negotiate) and pay the cash difference. Since it was only an $8,000 difference this was the smart choice, as they ended up with a beautiful home that likely would have sold for even higher than their contract price had they canceled.
It is important to discuss options with your real estate agent and tax adviser or financial planner if needed. Every situation is different and buyers have to feel comfortable in their decision. But it is tough out there in certain price ranges for buyers right now, and inventory is low, so oftentimes it makes sense to stay the course.
April 25th, 2017
If you are a home buyer or plan to buy or sell in the future, and if you are using a third party website online to look at inventory: Beware. Zillow and Trulia, two of the biggest third party consumer property websites in the industry, have recently changed their policies. This means that there are listings that may not ever show up on their sites – bad news for buyers, sellers and real estate agents.
Zillow announced to all agents that effective May 1 agents will no longer be able to manually upload listings to their sites (Zillow and Trulia). Since many MLSs around the country do not have agreements with Zillow to automatically transfer listing data (Sandicor, the San Diego MLS, included), the only way for listings to get on Zillow/Trulia after May 1 will be for each brokerage to have an agreement with the company. With so many brokerages many may not pursue such agreements.
This could hurt buyers worst of all, as those who are not working with real estate agents (who rely on the MLS for property data – the best and original source) may miss out on new listings. In a market with low inventory and multiple offer situations popping up, a buyer could lose out on purchasing homes.
Although this new rule is supposed to roll out on May 1, Zillow seems to not have waited that long. I had a listing that disappeared from the sites last week. I had to apply to my MLS to provide me with a number I can share with Zillow that will allow it to capture my future listings. But the process can take 7-10 business days – just enough time for a buyer to completely lose out on seeing and making an offer on a great home, and there are likely agents who do not realize their listings will or have disappeared.
My advice to buyers it to use only MLS sites – this means having an agent set up a search for you directly from the MLS. You can access that search and do a reverse search, which will allow you to see other listings. If you must use a third party site, I recommend Redfin, as they somehow pull from MLSs, and their data is updated almost instantly. They also provide more accurate value estimates on properties, in my opinion.