Posts Tagged ‘home buyers’

Possible End to Housing Shortage in CA?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

There is a new voter measure that could put an end to the housing shortage in California if placed on the November voting ballot and passed. The proposition would allow homeowners 55 and older to reap tax benefits upon selling their homes by eliminating the “disincentive” to sell, and making it possible to move to other California counties while taking the tax benefits with them.

Here is how the proposal would work: older homeowners who want to sell their larger homes and downsize would be able to do so, while being allowed to move from any county in CA to another without a big tax hit, so long as the new property value is the same or less than the home they are selling.

This may sound familiar to you – it draws on the premise of Proposition 13, and this new measure would allow the sellers to retain their benefits under that law. Currently many would be downsizers have elected to stay in their larger homes in order to prevent higher tax liability by losing their Prop 13 status upon selling.

Prop 13 allows property taxes to be capped at 1% of the purchase value of the property, and they are normally limited to 2% annual increases so long as the homeowners stay in the home. Sale of the home results in a reassessment of the property value for the new purchasers – thus the reason many would-be sellers have decided to stay put.

Currently, homeowners who want to downsize and move to different counties, say to be closer to family or save money on living expenses, may opt NOT to sell for the reasons above. This creates a problem for current homebuyers, as inventory remains very low. This drives up prices and encourages multiple offer situations – not good news for buyers as they may get priced out of markets, especially with interest rates and prices increasing simultaneously.

Both the California Association of Realtors and California Chamber of Commerce support this measure, as it is seen as one way to ease the housing problem in the state by increasing availability of “modest-priced homes and move up housing for young families.” Many counties in California oppose these inter-county tax transfers, as they could reduce revenues collected in property taxes upon the sale of homes.

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Will Increased Interest Rates Affect the Housing Market?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

The reality of rising mortgage rates is of concern to home buyers and sellers. Normally interest rate increases alone would not be much of a concern but combined with continued low inventory and high prices many wonder if the housing market will be able to sustain itself; there are 3 – 4 expected rate increases remaining this year.

I feel it is safe to say that rising interest rates will have an effect on housing affordability and inventory. Here is how I see it:

1. Higher rates mean many buyers will not be able to afford the house they could afford today (if inventory was not an issue). Many people, especially the would-be first time home buyers, may choose to continue renting or live with parents. If there is less demand for the homes that are on the market, prices will drop.

2. Sellers may continue to withhold homes from the market for the same reason – if there is no inventory for them to move either up or down, selling may not make sense. Especially when you take into consideration the higher rates, plus property tax increases for move up buyers. With less homes hitting the market we will continue to see inventory shortages, BUT combined with higher rates, which could lead to lower demand, prices should start to come down.

3. Luxury markets will face even tougher challenges as rates rise. Combined with the new tax laws, which raise tax on purchases for loans over $750,000, many potential luxury buyers may decide to hold off. Luxury sellers will likely see longer market times and lower prices.

It is important to keep in mind that every market is different. Here in San Diego we have year-round desirable inventory due to weather and location – but the coming changes will affect us and could alter the second/vacation home market purchases as well. It is important to consult a local area real estate agent to understand what is going on in your specific area.

If the inventory rut continues on this path it could lead to a big problem in the real estate market. I feel, and many economists and real estate market watchers agree, that it will stall purchases, keep sellers in homes they would have otherwise sold, and have a deep effect on buyers currently in the market and future buyers. As we head into the Spring and Summer it is a good time to think about selling and purchasing, prior to further rate increases.

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The HOA Dilemma for Home Buyers: What You Need To Know

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Many home buyers considering attached home purchases – condos, townhomes or twin homes – often discover that HOA payments could alter monthly payments quite a bit more than anticipated, and may mean the difference between whether a purchase makes sense and if a loan will be approved.

HOA communities can often come with high monthly payments, especially in areas that are desirable such as those close to the beach, town centers, etc. Here are the things buyers should look into when deciding whether to buy a property with a high HOA:

1. What do the fees cover? Most cover exterior building maintenance and insurance, as well as the common areas (landscaping, pool and spa if they exist, gates and parking facilities). Home owners are responsible for insurance that covers the interior of the home, including all personal items. Make sure you understand exactly what is covered in the fee so you are not surprised.

2. CC&Rs. Usually a buyer cannot get copies of these until a contract has been negotiated and escrow opened. Once the documents are received make sure to read them thoroughly to understand owner responsibility and coverage. If you are thinking about making an offer and have specific questions, your agent can try to get the answers from the HOA or the listing agent/sellers. But if numbers work out for your loan and you love the home, make an offer and then you can get your hands on all the documents. You have a contingency period in which to review them so if you discover anything that concerns you, you have time to cancel the contract.

3. Assessments. The seller will be able to tell you if there are any upcoming assessments, but you will also be able to get an idea of what may pop up in the near future from the age and location of the complex. Make sure to take this into consideration – for example, if the complex is 25 years old you may surmise that in the next 5-10 years the roof will need to be replaced. Usually the HOA will assess homeowners to cover such a large expense. Payments will usually go up for a period of time until the money is collected. Some associations give a choice so the owner can break down the payments over time or pay a lump sum.

4. Dues increase. Note that HOA dues are subject to increase on an annual basis, or whenever the board feels it is needed in order to cover increased expenses. As a potential homeowner in the complex it is important to keep this in mind, especially if the price of the dues is already stretching your budget. Make sure to talk this over with your real estate and mortgage professionals.

5. HOA strength. One of the most important things to find out is just how strong the HOA reserves are – this will obviously carry it far if an unexpected expense does arise. If the reserves are low they would have to raise the dues a lot in order to cover unanticipated expenses. One great way to make sure the board is doing thing correctly is to get on the board! I have a friend with an accountant background who got on her board when she moved into the community – she found it many ways to save money and helped bring it back to a healthier place, reserve-wise.

6. Lawsuits. Check to see if there are any lawsuits against the HOA, as this could effect your purchase. Discuss with your mortgage professional.

No matter what type of home you purchase the bottom line is that you will have to be comfortable with expenses, including any that may not be forseeable. It is important to scrutinize HOA documentation so you are familiar with where the money is spent.

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Protect Yourself: What You May Not Know About Escrow Companies

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Most people know that escrow is the party that handles the money, paperwork and closing details of a transaction in California (and other states – the remaining states use attorneys for closings). But many do not know that escrow and escrow officers can fall under two regulatory categories, and that this could have an effect on their duty to remain a neutral party to both sides of a property sale.

2 Types of Escrow Companies in California

Independent or licensed escrow companies are independent companies that are licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO), which are governed by strict regulations designed to protect consumers.

Some of the requirements of independent escrow companies are that they are subject to management and bond requirements, are trust fund insured, are subject to annual financial and procedural audits and Department of Justice investigations of all employees, as well as escrow license requirements.

Controlled, or non-independent, escrow companies are nonlicensed businesses owned by third parties, such as real estate brokerages, attorneys, banks or title companies. These controlled companies are regulated by different licensing and regulatory authorities, which can vary amongst jurisdictions and are not governed as strictly as independent escrow companies.

Escrow officers have a difficult role in that they need to represent both parties in a property sale transaction while remaining neutral. An independent escrow company is the best choice, in my opinion, for real estate parties and clients, as there is more protection offered and there is not the threat of compromised neutrality.

 

 

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Why NOW is the Time to Sell Your Home

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Many people have been on the fence about selling this past year, due to the fact that inventory is low and they are concerned they may not find replacement housing right away – I personally have been assisting multiple sellers with such concerns. That of course keeps the inventory stagnant and prices high – a perpetual Catch-22. However, there are some conditions that make the market right now the BEST time for sellers to sell…so if you are considering selling, consider the following:

Inventory is still low and prices high. Normally at this time we should see a 6 month inventory supply, but there is only a 4.2 month supply on the market according to the National Association of Realtors (this number has even dropped since this time last year). Although we have seen homes dropping prices quite often in the last few months here in San Diego County, as well as longer market times, it is still a great time to get the best price for the sale of your home as long as you are realistic. Homes that are not priced far above comparable value and offer positive qualities can still sell at strong (higher than average) prices. But this may not be the case as we head toward the end of the year and into the next year, depending on several factors.

Buyer Demand is Higher. Compared to this time last year, buyer demand for homes is higher. Historically low interest rates and sustained job creation fuel the demand, but inventory levels prevent many from finding the right home. How long these buyers will remain in the market is hard to say, but many have decided to rent because they could not find homes, thus taking them off the market for at least a year in most cases.

Natural Disasters Will Help Fuel Buyer Demand. Due to the recent wave of hurricanes in the south many homeowners have been displaced and may soon join the ranks of buyers in other areas, making the demand even higher, OR they could become renters and take rental inventory off many markets – causing purchases to become the only option for many looking for places to live. There is a possibility this could push prices up in some areas.

Proposed Tax Changes Could Effect Demand. There are several proposed tax changes that could effect the buyer demand levels, including changes to real estate deductions. If this happens there is the possibility that sellers may elect to stay rather than move up (to save money), OR buyers may decide to rent to avoid higher tax bills. This remains to be seen but it is something to consider.

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If you are considering selling it is important to get an idea of what is going on in your specific market area. Talk to a real estate area professional and crunch the numbers. As always, the real estate market will fluctuate with the ebb and flow of many factors, but if you want to get a high price for your home now is a great time to do your research and prepare to sell.

 

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How the New Tax Reform Could Effect Real Estate

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

If you own a home or are thinking about purchasing one, you need to be aware of how the new proposed tax reforms could effect you and the effect they may have on the real estate market. Here are some of the proposed changes:

Tax Increases/Doubling of the Standard Deduction. Taxes could increase for hundreds of thousands of California homeowners, and this will hit the middle class hard. It would also put homeownership out of reach for many buyers.

Recently the National Association of Realtors stated that increasing the standard deduction and erasing others would “effectively nullify the current tax benefits of owning a home” for the majority of people. This could reduce housing demand and home values.

Elimination of State and Local Tax Deductions. These deductions make home ownership more affordable. This could include property taxes, and if implemented homeowners could see a rise of up to $3000 annually, leading to plummeting home values. Potential buyers may not be able to afford property tax increases, pushing them into lower price ranges. Homeowner equity would suffer.

If these new tax laws are implemented it will be a big hit to the housing market, with home purchases slowing  or even grinding to a halt; more importantly, we could face large foreclosures waves heading into the future, which of course could have big implications for the mortgage and banking industries.

Hopefully we will soon see some clarification regarding these proposed changes. Write your Congressional representatives and express your views on the new tax laws. Unless you exist in the 1% of the uber-wealthy you will not likely benefit from the expected changes.

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Working with One Agent vs. a Real Estate “Team”

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the real estate industry over the last 14 years, and one of the biggest has been the increase in the number of “teams.” A team is a group of real estate agents who work under one broker. For example, say John Smith works for Real Estate Company, and he forms a team of 10 agents. They all work for Real Estate Company, but they work together with John Smith as his team members; multiple agents may work together with a client during a home sale or purchase.

Many people wonder how a team can benefit them if they are a buyer or seller, and whether it makes more sense to hire a sole agent or a team. Needs and opinions will vary, but here are the reasons I feel that working with an experienced sole agent, rather than a team, can truly benefit buyers and sellers:

1.  Facts and details.  As a sole agent, my clients know they are working with ME. They will not have to deal with a slew of other agents, assistants, secretaries or other people. If they have a question, they will be able to reach ME. I always answer my phone and if I am with another client or in a meeting, I call back quickly. My clients love this, because I know what is going on at all times in regards to their sale or home search. In turn, it benefits me because I do not have to check in with someone else to find out what is going on before calling or visiting a client.

2.  Relationship. I have ALWAYS said the real estate is not just about selling property – it is about forming a relationship with the person who is entrusted to handle a legal transaction on your behalf. Buying or selling a home or investment property is fraught with legalities – you need to know that the person you select to help you truly has your back. I believe (and my clients confer) that it is easier to form a relationship with one person who is dedicated to serving you.

3.  Connections. Team members often claim that they provide superior service because they have a bevvy of “exterior” (not agents) experts – loan officers, escrow officers, title people, contractors, etc. Well, guess what? Sole agents have those too – in fact, I have a list with many kinds of referrals that I have compiled over the years, and my clients reap the benefits.

4.  Numbers game. As a sole agent my goal is to be there for my clients. I don’t focus on how many sales I can make, but rather on how I can best serve each individual to the best of my ability. If I cannot then I will not take on new clients. The key is dedicated service, not a numbers game.

People have different opinions on how their needs can best be served when it comes to real estate transactions, and that is great. If you are planning on buying or selling real estate, it is important to figure out what you expect from your relationship with your agent or team, and to make that clear up front. Most importantly, make sure you find an area expert who has experience selling homes. A large percentage of agents have secondary jobs and do not think of real estate as their career – find one who is a professional.

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Crazy Things Are Happening in Local Real Estate Markets

Friday, August 18th, 2017

The real estate market is going CRAZY…well, at least in my local area. After over a year of increased prices and low inventory, multiple offers and crazy shenanigans so that people can get into homes, there are some strange things going on all of a sudden – since the start of August.

Here is what I am seeing in the San Diego market:

Longer market times – Many homes are taking longer to sell compared to those that sold just within the last few months. Even neighborhoods where homes were literally receiving multiple offers on the first day on market are sitting now. Many eventually reduce and on the average I am seeing some homes take around 60 days just to go into escrow.

No more multiple offers in most cases – You would think that the continued lack of inventory would make multiple offers a common occurrence still, but many homes are sitting on the market and reducing prices before they finally go into contract.

Lots of price reductions – I am seeing this all across the board – from condos to single family homes to 2-4 unit income properties. Sellers continue to hit the market with high prices – at comparative sales value or higher – only to have to reduce after 30 days or so due to lack of offers.

Buyers are making low offers – This is for real folks, so if you are a seller be prepared! It is happening all over. I think buyers are tired of rising prices and competition for homes, and they are starting to feel that if a seller won’t take a lower offer, they won’t buy. This is also true with short sales, even though banks no longer accept crazy low offers like they once did years ago.

Escrows are cancelling – I have seen this first hand with my own listings and I have heard from other agents as well – buyers are cancelling escrows at what seems to be a higher rate than we have seen in a long time.

I have reached out to other agents and escrow officers and it seems I am not the only one who feels the market is in such an interesting place. Many agents feel that August has always been a slow month for real estate sales – the end of summer with last vacations prior to kids returning to school, visitors leaving the city, etc. (here in San Diego we have a LOT of summer visitors!)

But there are some who think that this change is indicative of what is to come. Many buyers who were unable to purchase homes due to lack of inventory and multiple offer situations, have decided to rent and wait until the market drops or until there is more inventory available (which really goes hand in hand with prices dropping or at least stabilizing).

I will reiterate my belief, as stated in many blogs, that I do not think we will have a bubble burst or a housing crisis in the near future, but I do think tides are changing. A buyer’s market is starting to blossom and at some point it will flourish. If inventory picks up it will only fuel the change.

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Are Short Sales Still Great “Deals?”

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Here we go again…short sales seem to be hitting the market once again, due to rates resetting on adjustable interest rate loans. Back in the heyday of the housing market meltdown these types of properties were often times great buys, so long as a buyer had the patience to wait.

For those not familiar with short sales, they occur when a home is valued for less than what is owed on the mortgage. As a condition of the sale the lender must approve the contract and terms in order for the sale to proceed.

The bad news is that short sales are still anything but “short” in so far as timing is concerned – I still have not figured out why this is the case, but if I were the bank I would try to get through them a lot quicker in order to avoid losing more money. But I digress.

Aside from taking a long time, in most cases, to be approved, short sales are not quite the bargain they once were. Lenders used to accept lowball offers in order to get the short loans off their books, rather than face foreclosure (which typically costs a lender about $20,000). Faced with so many short sales it was easier for the lenders to accept low offers.

Once the supply ran out, the housing market started to recover, and short sales were fewer and farther between, most lenders wised up and refused low offers. Now, although most of them would rather save the money and approve a short sale over a foreclosure, they tend to be tougher when it comes to offers.

Lenders want to see that an offer is close to comparable value. So if the homes in the neighborhood are all selling for $1M and a buyer offers $950k on a short sale, chances are the lender will counter the price as a condition of acceptance. The best way to get a “deal” is to make an offer that is slightly under comparable values in order to avoid a lender counter offer.

If you are a buyer contemplating a short sale purchase, make sure your agent really does his/her homework on comparables and talks to the listing agent. I do believe you can get a decent price on a short sale, but they are not the “deal” they used to be.

 

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Another Dual Agency Dilemma

Monday, 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.

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