Moving Soon? Here’s a Great Guide to Help!

Guide to a Stress-Free Move – Five Essential Tips

If you’re new to the moving game, you’ve probably heard some helpful tricks from friends, family and colleagues.  Add these key tips to your mental checklist and you’re well on your way to a smooth and easy move.

Plan It!

If you’re using a professional mover, you’ll want to invest the time to research the company so you can make a well-informed choice. Get answers to all your questions, check out the supplied references, and ensure the firm is experienced and established in the industry. If your move schedule is flexible, find out if booking on a certain day of the week can get you a helpful discount. Depending on the day you select, you’ll need to consider traffic patterns, rush hour and even special events that may affect transportation to your new digs. Make a map so everyone involved knows an efficient route – either the pros or your accommodating friends and family who agreed to pitch in – and that they take the quickest path between the two locations, especially when multiple trips are required.

Mark It!

Label, label, label! Even though you think you’ll remember that you packed the mixing bowls with the silverware, go ahead and write it on the box (the side of the box) just for kicks. When the time comes to load up the new kitchen cabinets – or make your inaugural meal! – you’ll be thankful that you were so meticulous. It also helps to think big: Make sure each box is labelled clearly and in LARGE LETTERS with the appropriate room so movers know instantly where to place it. Use specific terms like “Bedroom 1” and “Bathroom 2” in your labels, then tape corresponding signs to the doors of the rooms in the new house so you don’t have to be available to give directions.

Protect It!

Head to a liquor store and grab some wine boxes that contain cardboard grids. You’ll be able to safely transport items like your delicate drinking glasses. Bonus: These boxes often sport convenient, built-in handles that can make them easy to lift. Also, keep in mind that your sheet sets, blankets and tablecloths can pull double duty: Use them as additional protective material between breakable items. They have to get packed up anyway – why not have them provide more protection to your packed goods?

Document It!

Walk around and take pictures of specific details in your current home so you have a quick reference when organizing your new place. If you like the way your bookshelves are staged, snap a few photos to ease setup. And, it will help take the guesswork out of hanging your new picture galleries too. If your framed artwork or photos are presently arranged a certain way and you plan to duplicate the design in the new pad, why not capture it? This is also a great practice for electronics, so before you box them up, take a pic of the hookups – which cords fit where – to make your computer, gaming system or TV hum and come back to life hassle-free.

Bundle It!

Pack a separate box of the items you will need immediately – such as light bulbs, power strips, extension cords and chargers. Keep that box handy (along with your overnight bag of clothes and toiletries) for easy access. You’ll have one standard go-to spot and won’t waste time digging around in several scattered cartons. And, you won’t want to pack certain items until your actual moving day. Designate one shelf or corner for necessities like a heavy-duty marker for last-minute labeling, extra rolls of packing tape, large trash bags, a few rolls of paper towels and standard cleaning supplies.

Make sure you keep all of these handy tidbits in mind when planning the ins and outs of your next move!

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How to Survive Today’s Real Estate War

A Survival Guide for Spring

Real estate agents are reporting increased showings at open houses, bidding wars, and multiple offers over asking price within days, sometimes even hours.  Basically, it’s a jungle out there.

Before you jump into the fray, ask me to guide you through the process.

As a homebuyer, this time of year and competitive environment can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. As you enter the busiest selling season, here are a few tips for both buyers and sellers that should make the entire process easier.

Buyers, take the time to review your credit score. A sound financial track record and solid credit score may help you lock in a loan at lower interest rates, and try to obtain a mortgage pre-approval, which you may need in this fast-paced selling environment.

Keep in mind your housing priorities, preferences and desired locations when hunting, and remember your budget. Don’t get caught-up in the emotional drama of bidding, and price yourself higher than you can afford. Of course, select and work with an affiliated Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage sales professional who will guide you through the entire process.  A local real estate expert with years of negotiating experience is invaluable when it comes to closing the deal in this competitive market.

Sellers, while homes are selling faster, you still need to do your homework as well.  Do some spring cleaning, painting and sprucing.  Be forewarned that buyers are still looking for a great deal, so ensure that your home is priced accordingly and in good condition. Again, work with a local real estate expert who can advise you on a pricing and marketing strategy.

For those sellers sitting on the fence, don’t try to time the market. By the time most sellers sense a shift, the tables have typically already turned. Focusing instead on lifestyle needs is usually the better option.

For survival guidance during the spring selling season for buyers and sellers, contact me today. While the process may be challenging, I can help lead your way.

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It’s a Seller’s Spring in Most Markets

While it may seem premature to prepare for the spring selling season now, the reality is spring is almost here. Whether you’re thinking of putting your home on the market or planning to buy a home, right now is a prime time to meet with a sales professional affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to discuss your options.

Historic low interest rates and rising rents are driving buyers who want to realize the dream of homeownership. With limited housing inventory, buyers are competing against one another for those properties that are priced well and in good condition. The competition is resulting in fierce bidding wars, which can drive-up housing prices.

The message is clear for sellers.  Buyers want your home and they want it now!

To take advantage of this opportunity, sellers should consider acting now.  A sales professional can help sellers prioritize and establish a strategic marketing plan that includes an effective pricing strategy, home presentation suggestions, and a comprehensive approach to online marketing.

A Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated sales professional can provide a competitive market analysis that includes a review of current inventory, recent comparable sales prices and other data. A sales professional can also direct one on how to prepare a home for maximum appeal and ensure that a property is featured on the leading real estate websites.

Buyers should be prepared as well.  With a lack of inventory, competition for that dream home is rigorous.  Come prepared with solid financing, be ready to make a quick purchase decision, and be reasonable with your offer and expectations.

For homebuyers, a Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated sales professional can lead you through the process and help you identify homes for sale as soon as they come on the market.  Your sales professional can also negotiate on your behalf.

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Simple Landscaping Upgrades to Attract Prospective Buyers

A home can be modern and cozy inside, but without curb appeal, potential buyers will lose interest before they step inside. An attractive, well-kept lawn is one of the first things people will notice. The good news is that upgrading an existing lawn doesn’t have to take months, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Remove Weeds

If weeds have gained the upper hand, pulling is still the tried and true method for getting rid of weeds in a hurry. If the act of pulling the weeds won’t do the trick, you’ll need to attack them with an herbicide. Always use chemicals strategically and make sure to use the correct amount–different weeds require different treatment.

Declutter

Take a stroll around your lawn and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Take a wheelbarrow if you have a lot of branches, twigs or other debris. Pick up children’s toys and gardening tools. Put hoses away, or invest in an attractive roller.

Overseed

Rake over brown spots to remove dead grass, then spread grass seed. For a more enhanced effect, aerate the soil before overseeding to help break up the soil and allow nutrients to get to the root of the grass more efficiently.

Mow

Taller grass stays green longer than short grass. Set your mower relatively high and take a little off the top every three to five days. Be sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade tears the grass and leaves ragged, brown edges.

Fertilize

Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will green up your lawn quickly, make sure to use the right amount according to your soil and grass type. A little nitrogen is a good thing, but too much may damage your lawn. Limit this trick to once or twice a year. Be sure and water well immediately after applying any type of fertilizer.

Iron is also helpful in turning a drab grass into a lush and healthy green lawn. Mineral supplements can be inexpensive and can be found at your local garden center or nursery.

Freshen up

Refresh any flower beds around your lawn by laying down a new think layer of mulch. The deep tones of fresh mulch will help compliment the more potent hues within the rest of the landscaping, making everything else pop. Fresh mulch is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time to apply yourself.

You can also consider investing in an inexpensive edger to smooth out and even out the edges of your lawn. This is a quick and easy way to make your landscaping look trim and neat.

Add color

Flower beds and container gardens are a great way to add a pop of color into your landscaping. Plant a few cheerful annuals such as geraniums, petunias or marigolds. Clean up an exterior furniture or give it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to use bright, bold colors.

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New Tax Reform Law

The new tax reform bill, which was signed into law by President Trump in late December, will be effective for the 2018 tax year. The National Association of REALTORS® has put together a useful summary to help you understand how the law affects homeowners and the real estate industry. Below, I have shared direct excerpts from that summary about a few of the major provisions affecting current and prospective homeowners.

Tax Rate Reductions

  • The new law provides generally lower tax rates for all individual tax filers. While this does not mean that every American will pay lower taxes under these changes, many will.
  • The tax rate schedule retains seven brackets with slightly lower marginal rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

Exclusion of Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence

  • The final bill retains current law – a significant victory that NAR achieved.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

  • The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after December 14, 2017. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
  • Homeowners may refinance debts existing on December 14, 2017 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through December 31, 2025. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million/$750,000 limits.

Deduction for State and Local Taxes

  • The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
  • The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.

Standard Deduction

  • The final bill provides a standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. The new standard deduction is not indexed for inflation.

None of the information in the NAR report is intended as tax advice, so please consult your tax adviser for additional guidance. 

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Bay Area Real Estate Market Update

 

With the economy anticipated to continue growing, demand for housing is expected to remain strong and incrementally boost home prices, according to the California Association of REALTORS®. C.A.R.’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young states, “This year’s housing market can be told as a tale of two markets – the inventory constrained lower end and the upper end that’s non-inventory constrained. This trend is likely to continue into 2018…” Read more about what’s happening now from our Northern California offices.

 

Monterey County – The real estate market in Monterey experienced a slight year-end plateau in home prices, which is great for home seekers because the frenzy has subsided. The exception is Pacific Grove that continues to be in high demand with only 28 properties currently available for sale. There was a general slowing in the luxury market, but it is too soon to tell if this is due to the recent tax reform. The new year is a great time for sellers to get their properties primed for sale and Monterey has experienced great weather for exterior photography and yard maintenance.

North Bay – Greenbae saw a continued seller’s market due to low inventory. The luxury market has slowed in Marin County, but multiple offers are still expected on well-priced homes.  Santa Rosa Bicentennial also saw reduced inventory, but a decrease in offers has offset the seller’s market.

Economists predict higher mortgage rates in 2018 and affordability may be in question later in the year. For those on the fence about selling, it may be an opportune time while the pool of qualified buyers is still relatively high. Buyers are also encouraged to begin their house hunt as offers have slowed and there can be less competition early in the year. The luxury market is property and area dependent, and the rush to purchase after the local fires has waned for the time being.

Southern Marin saw a slowdown in the market leading up to the holidays with properties either being sold or just taken off the market. Demand typically picks up in early February until late summer, which is good for both buyers and sellers as there will be more properties on the market to choose from. Inventory is projected to increase in the spring, giving buyers more opportunities to find their dream home. The luxury market also cooled during the holiday season, although the area experienced a stronger demand for high-quality new construction.

Sacramento County – Sacramento Fair Oaks endured a 15 percent decrease in inventory since October and sellers saw a hot housing market with little seasonal slow-down. High buyer demand and a rapid rate of sales means sellers should get their property camera-ready. The upper-end markets remained active over the past quarter. The $400,000 to $750,000 price range saw an 18 percent increase in closed sales and a 29 percent increase in pending sales versus last year at this same time. Buyers need to get themselves pre-approved to compete in this fast-moving market. Homes priced over $750,000 saw a 42 percent increase in closed sales and a 35 percent increase in open sales over the past month. Anticipated mortgage rate increases and proposed tax changes may have contributed to a sizzling fourth quarter, but the high demand and low supply is expected to sustain the trend.

San Francisco – SF Lombard saw the typical holiday slowdown and this may have encouraged sellers to price their homes right. With less competition in the new year, sellers may be able to find a buyer more quickly.

SF Peninsula – Redwood City saw little activity in all price points. With little inventory, sellers are encouraged to list their properties now if seriously considering a move.

San Mateo experienced an active market during the holiday season. Listings and sales did not stop, as there were serious, committed buyers and sellers. Buyers are encouraged to keep searching for their dream home. As many buyers wait for the spring season to start their search, there is currently less competition in the market.

Silicon Valley – Los Altos saw a sustained seller’s market with low inventory and multiple offers on many properties. Instead of the usual holiday slowdown, activity remained brisk with properties selling above asking price in many instances. Knowledgeable sellers and buyers act and react quickly to home values in the current market, which led to lower days on market averages. Average DOM year-to-date is 18 for Los Altos, 37 for Los Altos Hills, 14 for Mountain View and 13 for Sunnyvale. Although the quick-selling moments lead to less homes on the market for buyers to compete for, there have been more homes sold in 2017 than 2016. Sellers must be methodical in pricing their homes as buyers are now very knowledgeable and aware of values. Buyers should also be ready with financing and be aggressive with their offers. Homes priced over $4.5 million are selling steadily with little growth.

Los Gatos saw multiple offers as the norm, especially because inventory is half of what it was a year ago. This makes it a great time for sellers to list their homes and capitalize on the record-breaking appreciation in the area. Buyers are encouraged to work with local experts to find their dream property.

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Market Watch | No Holiday Slowdown for Most Northern California Communities

In other parts of the country, it may be typical to see a slowdown in real estate exchanging hands leading up to the year-end holidays, but not in Northern California. The region is among the most in-demand and most expensive markets in the nation as recently reported by Forbes magazine, where California – and Northern California in particular – dominates 2017’s list of America’s most expensive ZIP codes. From Atherton, Ross, Los Altos, Palo Alto to Hillsborough and Woodside, the region rules in luxury homes and premium prices. Other counties and cities may see a slight dip during the holidays, but overall demand remains strong. Read more about what’s happening from our Northern California offices.

 

East Bay – In Oakland, inventory has decreased mostly due to the holiday season. However, there are still serious buyers and sellers in the market – both motivated and ready to make a deal and that move.

Monterey County – Monterey Peninsula offices saw a slight slowing in new listings, with some sellers opting to wait until the new year. Buyer demand remained strong, especially on properties with recent price reductions. Many sellers sold their homes faster than expected; a client reported anticipating a six-month listing period, but was made a full price offer in two days.

North Bay – The Santa Rosa Mission office experienced a frenzied market after the wildfires. Properties that were priced right received multiple offers, often selling for over list price post bidding wars. Buyers in the entry-level market and even luxury segment are encouraged to act quickly with their strongest offers.

Placer County – In mid-November, Tahoe saw inventory down approximately 9% from the end of October with 462 properties for sale. Active inventory is down from 601 properties, or 16%, in a year-over-year comparison. Coldwell Banker continues to be the listing market leader with over 13% of active listings in the market. Luxury sales over $1 million are increasing for the first time in 2017.

Sacramento County – Sacramento Fair Oaks experienced a continued lack of housing supply, which impacted pricing and maintained a sellers’ market. But buyers should not be discouraged, there are still good deals in the market. Luxury homes are seeing a buyers’ market, especially in prices over $1 million. Buyers can choose from a variety of properties and currently have leverage to negotiate.

Sierra Oaks saw inventory up over 2016 in a year-over-year comparison. Activity continues to be strong in the luxury market.

San Francisco – In San Francisco Lombard, market activity was varied. While there were 23 offers on a single property, other homes didn’t fare as well. Activity generally slowed as prices increased. To help spur offers, sellers should price their homes competitively and make sure that their property is turn-key. The luxury market slowed over $3 million and we witnessed ample inventory in the $5-6 million range.

SF Peninsula – In San Mateo, homes continued to sell with multiple offers in short timeframes, even with the holiday season upon us. The luxury market slowed, especially in the price range over $3 million. 

Silicon Valley – Cupertino saw continued sales with multiple offers and an uncharacteristically active market considering the time of year. The luxury market was also strong with several sales over $6 million.

Gilroy and Morgan Hill inventory remained tight. Because of the unequal supply and demand, prices have increased to record levels. Sellers looking to move quickly should consider listing now as they can also receive top-dollar for their property. Buyers also must be prepared for a multiple-offer scenario. They should be able to make a strong offer above asking with no contingencies to be taken seriously.

Los Altos’ sellers’ market continued throughout the month with many homes selling over asking price. Average days on market year-to-date is 17 for Los Altos, 35 for Los Altos Hills, 14 for Mountain View and 13 for Sunnyvale. In these markets, more homes have sold YTD than all last year.

Sellers must be aware that buyers are knowledgeable. Therefore, asking for a price over-value will likely cause the property to sit on the market. However, with the help of an experienced agent, sellers will be able to get the highest possible price for their home. Preparation is key. Financing should be lined up and buyers are encouraged to be aggressive with their offers. The Los Altos luxury market is steady but flat, as most properties are on the market for 44 days.

Las Gatos experienced a lot of buyer competition with multiple offers on almost every property. Pre-emptive offers are becoming more common as buyers hunt for coming soon and exclusive properties that are not yet listed. This is a great market for sellers wanting to have a quick sale. The luxury market saw prices steadily increasing.

San Jose Almaden had an active month with increasing sales and only 50% of available inventory as compared to 2015 and 2016. Prices are also rising with increased sales.  As inventory declines, the area is still in a sellers’ market. Buyers should be ready to offer up to 20% over asking price unless a property has been on the market for over two weeks. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated agents can help both buyers and sellers navigate the market.

San Jose Main had little inventory with only 437 homes for sale in Santa Clara County, as compared to 2600 homes in 2011. This has created motivated buyers and multiple offers on most properties. Regardless, sellers still need to price their homes well and be thorough in preparing their property to go on the market. This includes staging and decluttering as needed. Buyers still have a chance of landing their dream home, but must have realistic expectations and remain persistent.

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