Bay Area Housing Market Update

California Dominates Top-Performing Housing Markets List

San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento were among the nation’s top-performing housing markets in January, according to an analysis by realtor.com®.

The same analysis by realtor.com® revealed that homes were selling 4 percent faster nationwide than they did a year earlier, but housing supply hit new lows. Prices, meanwhile, remained at record highs. While nearly 360,000 new listings entered the market in January, inventory was down by 11 percent from a year ago, reports realtor.com®.

“We saw evidence of a stronger-than-normal off-season starting last September and October due to pent-up demand and surging interest from first-time buyers,” says Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke of realtor.com®. “The downside to this strong off-season is that we have started 2017 with a new low volume of available homes for sale and a new high for prices.”

Low inventory has been a challenging factor in parts of Northern California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, even though realtor.com® highlighted several markets in the region as top-performing in January, the California Association of REALTORS® cited the scarce housing supply as a key reason for the decline in the Bay Area’s pending home sales in December.

While pending home sales were on the rise throughout most of California in December, pending home sales in the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole fell 14.2 percent compared to December 2015 and 32.5 percent from November 2015.

San Mateo County posted the steepest decline in December at 35.3 percent, followed by San Francisco County at 23.3 percent. Meanwhile, Santa Clara County experienced an 18.6 percent decline in pending home sales.

Projections of mortgage rate increases in upcoming months are creating a sense of urgency among buyers, according to housing experts, which means that buyers will be scrambling to see new listings.

Despite the fact that fewer homes were available for sale, realtor.com® identified the following 20 top-performing markets in January, based on where buyers were checking out the most listings and homes were selling briskly:

1. San Francisco, Calif.
2. San Jose, Calif.
3. Vallejo, Calif.
4. Dallas, Texas
5. San Diego, Calif.
6. Sacramento, Calif.
7. Yuba City, Calif.
8. Denver, Colo.
9. Stockton, Calif.
10. Fresno, Calif.
11. Oxnard, Calif.
12. Columbus, Ohio
13. Colorado Springs, Colo.
14. Nashville, Tenn.
15. Detroit, Mich.
16. Modesto, Calif.
17. Los Angeles, Calif.
18. Tampa, Fla.
19. Santa Rosa, Calif.
20. Fort Wayne, Ind.

 

Here’s what was happening in our local Northern California offices during the last two weeks of January:

East Bay – There has not been a significant spike in listing inventory in the East Bay. The lack of inventory has led to multiple offer situations in some parts of the region.  A property in Oakland attracted 36 offers, while another listing received 26 offers, reports the Oakland office manager. Buyers are still flooding open houses, added the Oakland manager, and the Danville manager shared that it seems like buyers “are at the starting line waiting for the shot of inventory.” Meanwhile, there was strong and consistent growth in the area’s housing market in 2016 in comparison to 2015, according to the Berkeley manager. Median selling prices for properties increased year-over-year by double-digit percentages in several communities. Alameda’s single-family median home price jumped from $865,000 to $950,000, representing a nearly 10 percent increase, while the median condo price increased 11 percent from $600,000 to $667,500. Oakland’s single-family median home price jumped approximately 10 percent from $615,000 to $675,000, and the median condo price increased 15 percent from $482,000 to $555,000. Emeryville also saw a significant year-over-year increase in its median home price, going from $455,000 to $500,000, which represents an almost 10 percent increase. The median sales price for single-family homes in Berkeley grew approximately 8 percent from $1,025,000 to $1,105,000, while the median condo price leaped 14.5 percent from $585,000 to $670,000.  Albany’s single-family median home price increased from $875,000 to $925,000 and the condo median selling price inched up from $447,500 to $455,000. El Cerrito saw a smaller increase overall from $745,000 to $788,000. The condo sample size was only 23 sales in all of 2016, with a slight reduction in value from $518,000 to $500,000. Finally, Richmond’s single-family median home price rose from $400,000 to $440,000 and the median condo price increased from $355,000 to $397,000.

Monterey County – January started out a little slow in the region with the weather affecting listing activity. Rain delayed outdoor photo shoots for listings, and when the rain finally subsided the new listings started emerging. In January, the Monterey Peninsula offices saw several days with five to eight new listings coming online. Buyers are at a standstill if the property seems to be overpriced; they are not submitting any offers until there is a price adjustment, explained the manager of the Monterey Peninsula offices. The region is looking forward to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, which kicks off February 6, and the exposure that it brings to the Monterey Peninsula.

North Bay – Overall, the North Bay region is dealing with a lack of listing inventory, which is leading to multiple offer situations. Marin County had 40 properties under $1 million listed for sale and 140 listings priced above $1 million. The Greenbrae office manager reports that most of the new listings in the office in the last two weeks received multiple offers included one property listed at $699,000 that drew 16 offers, and a fixer-upper priced at $1,195,000 that received seven offers. Buyers are having to pay substantially over the list price in the low inventory market, the Greenbrae office manager shared. In a similar fashion, the Novato office manager said a property in Bel Marin Keys garnered 16 offers, and he said some listings are expected to hit the market this month and in March. The supply of inventory averaged about two months in 2016, according to the Santa Rosa Bicentennial office manager. “We anticipate more new homes coming on the market this year, but not enough to make a sizable change in inventory,” he said. The Sebastopol market currently has 25 properties for sale, and the heavy rainfall delayed work to get properties ready for sale, according to the Sebastopol manager.  The Santa Rosa Mission office manager said inventory was down about 16 percent for the time period October 2016 – December 2016 compared to 2015, and closed units are down 11 percent for the same period. The Southern Marin office has three listings priced over $5 million that have not been posted on the MLS, but all three properties are already getting qualified showings, and two of the three homes have attracted offers.

Placer County – As in other regions, Placer County is in need of listings as sales activity is on the rise. Homes priced in the low $400,00s or less are receiving multiple offers within a couple of days of being on the market, explained the Auburn office manager. Appraisals are taking time, and there are still properties that are being appraised for less than that contract price, she said. “We are still having a higher number than usual of cancellations,” noted the Auburn manager.

Sacramento County – The region is dealing with a low number of listings and is facing strong buyer demand for properties priced under $350,000. The Elk Grove/South County market had 1.2 months of inventory, down 27 percent for the same period a year ago, according to the Elk Grove/West Sacramento office manager. The average sales price in that area climbed to more than $400,000, due in part to two $2 million-plus property sales. The average listing price is growing, making it more challenging for buyers to find properties priced under $300,000 and thus creating strong competition for homes priced in the $275,000 to $350,000 price range. Many properties in that price range are generating multiple offers. Sales prices have increased more than 7 percent over the last 12 months. The region is also seeing new home developments. West Sacramento is experiencing similar market trends, with a decline in inventory and few homes available under the $300,000 price range. Prices have increased more than 8 percent year-over-year and price per square foot has increased to its highest level in a decade, the Elk Grove/West Sacramento office manager pointed out.

San Francisco – Demand for homes in the San Francisco market remained strong but inventory is not keeping up, leading to buyer competition and multiple offers. The San Francisco Lakeside office manager notes, “There is virtually nothing available to buy,” while the Lombard office manager said inventory is growing but not at the rate expected.  Entry-level and fixer uppers are drawing a lot of buyer traffic, multiple offers, and offers above asking price, according to the Lombard office manager, but the condo market is cooling as evidenced by the price reductions, the growing supply and days on market.

SF Peninsula – Some areas in the region are seeing an uptick in sales activity. The Burlingame, Burlingame North and Half Moon Bay offices reported an increase in sales activity during the last two weeks, with the Burlingame offices noting an increase in listing inventory as well. There were 10 properties under contract in the Burlingame office, seven in Burlingame North, and eight in Half Moon Bay. The Palo Alto Downtown office reported a drop in sales activity and inventory, and had three properties under contract.

Santa Cruz County – Sales activity is picking up in the Santa Cruz market. There have been approximately three new single-family homes listed per day, but brisk sales activity is absorbing the inventory. There are fewer than 200 active listings, according to the manager of the Santa Cruz offices. A number of high-end properties received offers over the last two weeks, and pending sales in the luxury market are on the rise.

Silicon Valley – More listings are emerging in the region, but Santa Clara County is still facing a shortage of available homes and strong buyer demand, which in some cases is leading to bidding wars. Open houses drew “hundreds of visitors” in the last two weeks, reports the Cupertino office manager. All offers ratified over the past two weeks have been multiple offers and all deals have contingencies in place, according to the San Jose Almaden office manager. Prices were up in several communities in January compared to the same month in 2016, he noted. Almaden’s average sales price was $1,329,000 in January, which was up 12 percent from January 2016 and down 3 percent from December.  Blossom Valley’s average sales price followed a similar trend. The average sales price in that community was $708,000 in January, which is up 10.5 percent from January 2016 and down 9 percent from the prior month.  In contrast, Cambrian’s average sales price declined 10.5 percent from a year ago to $916,000 and was down 6 percent from December.  Santa Teresa’s average sales price rose 11 percent year-over-year to $759,000 in January and was also 2 percent higher than the average sales price recorded in December. Most homes are going into contract after just one weekend on the market and in some areas homes are selling well over 10 percent of asking list price, says the San Jose Willow Glen office manager. Despite the strong demand and brisk activity, “Sellers still need to be careful not to overprice as we see homes that are priced above market sit idle as more competitively priced homes are seeing all the action,” explained the San Jose Main office manager.

South County — The real estate market in Santa Clara’s South County continues to be very slow, challenged by low inventory. Presently in the entire city of Morgan Hill, there are only 35 active listings.  The city of Gilroy has about 60 homes available. Both buyers and sales associates are finding this to be “frustrating and somewhat alarming,” shares the Gilroy and Morgan Hill office manager. Sellers are in an advantageous position to list their homes in coming weeks.  

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Home Sellers, Buyers: Start Planning Now

For homeowners who are considering selling their homes, it is not too early to start preparing for the spring selling season, which is traditionally the real estate industry’s busiest season.

Whether you’re thinking of putting your home on the market or planning to buy a home, right now may be the ideal time to meet with a real estate professional who understands the market to discuss your options.

For home sellers in particular, there is much to prepare for, and a real estate professional can help you prioritize and establish a plan of action. A strategic sales and marketing plan is essential to engage active buyers. That plan should include an effective pricing strategy, home presentation suggestions and a comprehensive approach to online marketing.

A competitive market analysis that includes a review of current inventory, recent comparable sales prices and other data is critical information that a real estate licensee can provide. In addition to providing valuable marketing data, a knowledgeable sales associate can also make recommendations on how to prepare your home for maximum appeal and to better position your property on leading real estate websites and portals in the industry. Below are a few practical tips:

As a seller, focus on curb appeal: The outside of a house is the first thing potential buyers see and it is important to make a good first impression. If the “curb appeal” is strong, people will want to see what is inside. To improve a home’s appearance, consider mowing the lawn, trimming the trees, cutting back overgrowth and possibly adding some pots or containers of colorful plants and flowers. Also, properly store away gardening equipment, bicycles and other toys.  The front door should have a “welcome home” feeling so consider adding a fresh coat of paint on the front door — it can work wonders on making that good first impression.

Remove the clutter: Homebuyers tend to show less interest in an untidy home. The two most important rooms in a buyer’s mind are the kitchen and bathrooms. Make certain these rooms are sparkling clean and show well.  If necessary, re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks. It is also helpful to clear out overflowing closets and avoid displaying too many family collectibles and photos.  Consider renting a storage unit to store some furniture to free up space in other living areas of the home. Buyers need to imagine themselves living in the home.  By neatly displaying and making all available space accessible, the seller affords the buyer a suitable opportunity to look towards the future.

Make repairs: Homebuyers generally expect all features in a home to operate safely and efficiently.   It may be beneficial to repair any faulty or outdated electrical outlets and wiring, furnaces and water heaters, along with leaking roofs and other plumbing concerns, prior to putting a house on the market.   Potential buyers may also react negatively to holes in window screens, broken windows and burned-out light bulbs.

Minimize odors: Make sure to take out the trash, change the cat’s litter box frequently, and open the windows to eliminate cooking odors. Another helpful tip is to clean drapes and bathe pets. It is important that the home smells nicely and you should consider adding fresh flowers, scented candles, or freshly baked cookies which can help create a pleasant environment.

Work with your Sales Associate:  Being objective about your environment is not always easy and you should utilize your real estate sales professional to gain an independent determination of what actions you should consider to make your home more appealing. Sales associates have the experience and knowledge to help identify potential problem areas and/or suggest some modifications that can help attract more potential buyers.

Preparation for Buyers Homebuyers have to do their homework as well and obtaining financing is generally a major priority. With limited inventory on the market in most areas, those buyers who come to the negotiating table pre-approved and ready to make an offer are likely to have stronger bargaining power.

A real estate professional can walk you through the home-buying process and help you identify homes for sale that are in your price range. Real estate licensees can help you research the markets you are interested in, prepare and present offers, negotiate price and other terms and then close the transaction.

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Bay Area Real Estate Market Update

The Cost of a Down Payment

Saving for a down payment can often be challenging for first-time homebuyers, particularly in high-cost areas like Northern California, and it is likely an issue that most consumers carefully weigh before the housing hunt begins.

A recent report outlined just how much homebuyers would need to save for a 20 percent down payment in major metropolitan markets across the country. Not surprisingly, some of the largest down payments are required in markets throughout California.

A median-priced home in the U.S. is $192,500, which means buyers need $38,500 for a 20 percent down payment, according to the report by Zillow. But in most market areas in California, the down payment cost is much higher and the income burden is greater. In fact, metro areas in California were among the cities where homebuyers needed to save the highest percentage of income to cover a 20 percent down payment.

For homebuyers in areas like San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, saving a year’s worth of income wouldn’t even cover a 20 percent down payment, according to the report. Buyers in those markets need to save at least 180 percent of the average income in those cities.

In San Jose, for example, the median 20 percent down payment translates to $192,320. That represents 182 percent of the average income and is roughly the same as the median price for a home in the U.S.

San Francisco-area buyers are faced with a median 20 percent down payment of $164,920, which is 180 percent of the average income.

Buyers in Sacramento need $70,040 for a 20 percent down payment, which is about 108 percent of the average income.

The down payments are particularly steep when compared to the nation as a whole: the average American homebuyer sets aside two-thirds of his or her annual income to make that 20 percent down payment.

“It’s a big number,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas told CNN Money. “Very few are saving for a down payment in one year, it’s something they do over multiple years. And for renters who have been faced with rising rent and health care costs, it’s very difficult to put away any money at all.”

There are programs to assist first-time homebuyers, particularly those that offer smaller down payment requirements. While it is possible to put down less than 20 percent, that often translates to a higher interest rate and the extra cost of private mortgage insurance for homebuyers.

“Saving enough cash for a down payment is a major barrier to homeownership, especially in expensive markets, where a 20 percent down payment can cost nearly $200,000,” said Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Wacksman. “While it’s possible to buy a house with a smaller down payment, 20 percent ensures the best rates. As important as it is to find a monthly payment you can afford, some buyers’ budgets will come down to the amount of cash they can bring to the table.”

Here’s what our local Northern California offices had to say about market conditions as we started the new year:

East Bay – The East Bay market has had limited inventory and steady buyer demand and sales activity. Almost every property is receiving multiple offers because of the low number of homes available for sale, our Oakland manager reports, and buyers are eagerly waiting for more homes to come on the market. In fact, the office had 5 multiple offers. Sales associates have multiple buyers and many of them are looking for the same home, she added. The Oakland office has observed that many properties are being repaired and staged to be listed in the future, possibly by March.

Monterey County – Rain was a big factor in the area in the first weeks of January, but that hasn’t deterred sales associates and consumers. Buyers are looking in all price points and “sellers that have been waiting for the new year seem to be ready to get serious about selling,” says the manager of our Monterey Peninsula offices. A $10 million-plus property went into escrow this past week. There is limited inventory in the mid-level million-dollar price point.

North Bay – Pent-up buyer demand and low inventory continue to affect the North Bay area. However, a “surge” of new listings is expected in the Greenbrae and Southern Marin offices in coming weeks after the Super Bowl, our office managers report. The market is so short on supply that it has created an “off market” supply that is equal to almost 25 percent of all transactions in January, our Southern Marin manager reports. The office had 18 open houses and 10 properties under contract. Many buyers missed out on the opportunity to buy last year in Marin County, our Greenbrae manager said, so there could be a bump up in sales as new inventory comes on the market. The Greenbrae office had 7 open houses and 8 properties under contract. The high-end sector has also seen some activity, with new multi-million dollar listings coming on the market in January and February, and 2 $5 million homes going into escrow during the last week, said our Southern Marin office manager.

Placer County – Open house activity was slow in the first two weeks of the year because of the heavy rains and flooding, our Auburn manager explained, but listing inventory is steady and there were 3 multiple offers and 7 homes under contract. A majority of buyers are coming from the Bay Area, especially San Jose and Marin, because Auburn and the surrounding communities offer more affordable housing options, she said. Conditions in the Previews® luxury market are basically unchanged since December. High-end properties are being shown although the majority are overpriced, according to the Auburn manager, and several luxury listings will be hitting the MLS in upcoming weeks and months.

Sacramento County – Listing inventory is on the rise and sales are declining, according to both our Folsom and Sacramento Fair Oaks managers. However, the Fair Oaks office reported 6 multiple offers and 7 properties under contract. The office also had 19 open houses. The offices in the region are gearing up for the spring selling season.

San Francisco – The start of the new year was marked by a bump-up in listings. Total inventory was 30 percent higher compared to a year earlier, shares our Lombard office manager, but sales and buyer traffic have lagged. Entry-level priced homes and fixer uppers are seeing the biggest demand, while the mid- to upper-priced condos have seen the largest number of price reductions, he said, with two-thirds of closed condo transactions selling at or under asking price.  The Lombard office had 2 multiple offers and 3 properties under contract. With mortgage interest rates expected to climb this year, open houses and broker tours have been well attended, and sellers are noticing increased demand and not waiting until the Super Bowl to sell in hopes of “catching a more-than-ready and able buyer,” according to our Market office manager.

San Francisco Peninsula – There was a significant slowdown in activity, due in part to the holidays and inclement weather, with our Burlingame, Burlingame North, Half Moon Bay, Palo Alto Downtown, and Redwood City managers reporting that sales activity decreased. Several offices in region held open houses during the last two weeks – 6 in the Burlingame office, 4 each in the Burlingame and Half Moon Bay offices, and 2 in the Palo Alto Downtown office. Demand seems to be healthy. Our Redwood City manager says there are still a lot of buyers, with very limited inventory, and both the Half Moon Bay and Burlingame offices dealt with multiple offers (2 each).

Santa Cruz County – The Santa Cruz area has seen a decline in overall sales but an increase in sales activity in the high-end market. Inventory is steady when compared to the level of listings a year earlier, however sales are off by about 25 percent. Previews® luxury property sales, on the other hand, have climbed, with 15 more unit sales recorded compared to the same period last year. Open house activity is on the rise in the region.

Silicon Valley – The new year has started off on a strong note, with sales activity and prices picking up in some parts of Silicon Valley. Gains in inventory are starting to emerge, but inventory is still not sufficient to meet the robust buyer demand in most areas. There are currently only 32 active listings in all of Willow Glen with only 3 of those listings priced under $1 million. Sales associates are reporting heavy traffic at open houses and strong buyer demand, says the San Jose Willow Glen manager. Many of the homes that had been lingering on the market have either gone off the market or have been absorbed, said our Los Altos office manager, and there is a little more than a month’s worth of inventory. With such a limited number of homes available for sale, properties are still receiving multiple offers and some are going for over the asking price. Average sales prices climbed in multiple communities, according to our San Jose Almaden office manager. The average sales price so far for January in Almaden is $1,216,000, which is 4 percent higher than January 2016 ($1,169,000).  Blossom Valley’s average sales price is up 9 percent to $695,000 in January 2017 compared to $633,000 in January 2016.  Santa Teresa had the largest increase of average sales price in January.  It is currently $829,000, which is 23 percent higher than the $674,000 average sales price recorded a year earlier.  Cambrian was down with an average sales price of $883,000 from $1,024,000 in January 2016 ( -14 percent).  The luxury market — homes priced over $3.5 million — is steady but somewhat flat with days on market and inventory creeping up; frenzy bidding and/or multiple offers is the exception as opposed to the rule, shared our Los Gatos manager.

South County – Listings are down and sales have been slow and flat since the beginning of December in South County. The holiday season, coupled with the election and economic uncertainty that goes along with it, and the perception that mortgage interest rates are on the rise, has caused sellers and buyers to postpone or delay their real estate decisions. “The old saying that the real estate market doesn’t hit its stride until after the Super Bowl seems to ring true this year,” says our Gilroy & Morgan Hill manager. The office had 7 open houses and 10 properties under contract.

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The Smartest Home Improvements for 2017

Why not add home improvements to your 2017 resolutions?

The New Year is a great time to begin thinking about home improvement projects. Here are a few tasks to kick off in 2017.

Replace Your Garage Door
Your garage door is one of the first things visitors and potential buyers will notice about your home. That’s why it’s important to ensure that yours is in great shape. Consider installing a new garage door if yours is damaged or showing its age.

Insulated garage doors will boost the energy savings of your home. Your garage is an open pocket of air attached to your home. As it gets colder outside, an uninsulated garage will trap cold air against your home, forcing you to spend more on energy bills. Insulated models will keep cold air out and help you eliminate extra spending on utilities.

Install Smart Locks
Smart locks allow you to control and monitor the security of your home through your smart phone. The price of smart locks will vary depending on the features. Most models come with Bluetooth connectivity and remote access.

Get a Nest Thermostat
Learning thermostats will improve the environment in your home and save you money. Smart thermostats learn your heating and cooling habits and automatically adjust your HVAC to meet your needs. You can install a smart thermostat yourself or with the help of a pro.

Complete a Minor Kitchen Remodel
Your kitchen is a busy place. Everyone loves to gather around food and enjoy good conversation while keeping the host or hostess company. If you’re dealing with a cramped kitchen, consider a minor kitchen remodel to help open up your space.

Worried about the cost of a remodel? A kitchen remodel will return 83 percent of its cost at the time of resale, making it one of the better ways to spend your money in 2017.

Update Your Bathroom
Your bathrooms are another great location for home improvements. You don’t have to overhaul the entire room to recoup the cost of your upgrades. Head to your local home improvement store and pick up any of the following items to boost the appearance of your bathrooms:

● New faucet and handles
● Modern mirrors
● New towel racks
● Floating shelves

Channel Your Inner Handyman
You can also tackle some home improvements yourself. It’s as simple as focusing on what’s already in your home rather than what it lacks. Go through your home and check for the following:

● Leaks in the shower
● Leaks in the sink
● Knicks in the drywall

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Signs You Could Have a Plumbing Problem

A plumbing problem can be extremely disruptive. We expect fresh, clean water that’s available at a tap’s notice. Plumbing problems destroy those expectations. The following watchouts can help you decide if you need a plunger or a plumber.

A plumbing problem can sneak up out of the blue, causing disruption in a life where you’ve come to expect that everything should always run as it should. Like losing electricity in a blackout, losing access to fresh, clean water can turn your life upside down as you rush to handle the issue, usually at substantial inconvenience and major cost to you. The best thing to do is to attack plumbing issues before they become plumbing disasters. Check out below for some plumbing problem watchouts.

Leaky Pipes

If you’ve ever opened up the cabinet beneath your kitchen or bathroom sink and noticed drips coming from one of the pipes, you’re most likely dealing with a plumbing issue that can get progressively worse if it’s not dealt with right away. A leaky pipe often means that the pipe is rusting, creating holes for water to seep through. You will need to replace the rotted section of the pipe at the very least and possibly the entire pipe. A great plumber can let you know for sure.

Frequent Toilet Back Ups

There is quite possibly nothing more “ew!”-inducing than a backed up toilet. A toilet that can’t flush is not only gross, but it can also quickly turn into a major sanitary issue. Plunging the bowl may take care of the problem temporarily, but if the issue keeps happening, the problem is probably deeper in the tank. You may have a septic tank that needs to be emptied. If you own a single-family home, call your plumber stat. If you own an apartment in a co-op or condo, alert the board ASAP as the issue could very quickly end up affecting other apartments in the building.

Sink Draining Slow

If you’ve noticed that it’s taking a long time for your sink to empty of water, you’re most likely dealing with a blocked pipe. Some people try clearing the drain with gentle solutions like (blue) Dawn dishwashing soap and hot water. Dawn cuts grease really well, and the hot water helps melt and push through the blockage. If that doesn’t work, you’ll want to call a plumber. Commercial drain cleaners can be effective, but they’re also corrosive and can cause damage to fragile, rotting pipes.

Sputtering Faucet

You’ve most likely experienced a sputtering faucet at one point and simply attributed it to a moody faucet. That’s only true if it doesn’t happen that often. If it happens all the time or in more than one faucet in your house, it could mean there’s a cracked water pipe somewhere in the building’s plumbing system or the main water line. You’ll need a plumber to take a look and see if it is a local issue or if it’s centered on your home’s system alone. Waiting to handle it could deal with more costly and disruptive repairs down the road.

Dripping Faucet

A constantly dripping faucet is annoying at best, while costly and evidence of a deeper hidden problem at worst. Your water bill can be driven up by hundreds of dollars a year by a seemingly light drip. The washers that prevent leaks from happening can become torn or loosen over time, causing a leak. Replacements can be found at your local hardware store.

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Outlook for 2017: Will The Seller’s Housing Market Continue?

Over the past year, California has seen a strong seller’s market for housing – thanks in large part to a shortage of homes on the market, strong demand by buyers and mortgage interest rates that hovered near historic lows. But as 2017 gets underway, the question is whether that seller’s market will continue, especially given a recent uptick in interest rates.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage nationwide climbed to 4.16 percent in mid-December (the latest figures available), up more than a half a percentage point just since the November presidential election. Economists say the increase is due to more optimistic economic growth projections, higher-inflation expectations, and the Federal Reserve’s recent rate hike.

Although mortgage rates remain relatively low by historical standards, the sudden increase in rates is one of several factors that could impact the housing market in the coming year: Will low inventory levels begin to rise? With the job market remain strong and continue to grow? What impact will the new Trump administration have on the housing market and the economy?

All of those factors could play a role in how the housing market shapes up in the new year.

A panel of industry economists in a recent article in Inman News, the national real estate trade publication, said they generally expect 2017 will remain a seller’s market in much of the country. But they believe that trend could begin to give way to more favorable conditions for buyers in 2018 and 2019.

“2017 is probably going to skew more toward the seller’s market,” Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, told Inman. “Most markets will skew more toward seller’s markets, and even in the Midwest there are probably more seller’s markets than buyer’s markets compared to their own history.”

But Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at realtor.com, said the three laws of real estate – location, location, location – will be ever more important this year.

Markets in the western U.S. have seen the most significant price appreciation, making it difficult for first-time buyers to find success. Smoke expects that trend to continue, but sees great variations geographically – even from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood in a particular market.

“We’re seeing some clear patterns emerge within markets — one might be slowing down and cooling off where another part is really heating up,” he told Inman. “Real estate is so local that I would argue that a neighborhood view is really where you can see the differences and disparities and changes that are occurring around the country.”

The economists did project that inventory levels will likely rise in 2017 and new construction will pick up as well, giving frustrated buyers a bit more to choose from.

The upshot is that sellers might find that it will take a little longer to sell their property this year than it did in 2016. However, the increase in listings and construction probably won’t be enough to offset pent-up demand from buyers as long as the job market remains strong.

The National Association of REALTORS® publication, realtor.com, said the days of multiple offers and bids well over the asking price probably won’t go away in 2017 – although they may not get much worse from a buyer’s standpoint.

Citing rising mortgage rates and a shortage of affordable homes for sale, realtor.com projected a smaller increase in sales in 2017 than last year and slightly slower price appreciation of about 4 percent on average nationally, down from 5 percent in 2016.

“2017 will be a year of growth in both sales and prices, but that growth will be slower than what we’ve seen over the last three years,” according to Smoke.

Much of what happens in the coming year could depend on how high mortgage interest rates go. Smoke projects 30-year fixed mortgage rates to rise to 4.5 percent in 2017, while Gudell of Zillow expects a peak rate of 4.75 percent following additional Fed rate hikes.

No one knows for sure what will happen to interest rates or the housing market. But if you have been thinking about buying or selling your home, now may be a good time to make your move before rates go higher and while demand for housing remains strong.

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2017 The Year of Smart Home Technology

Coldwell Banker Survey Finds Voice Control Next Big Thing in Smart Home Technology

Coldwell Banker Real Estate is continuing its efforts to be the smart home leader in real estate. This month, Coldwell Banker Real Estate teamed up with Vivint Smart Home to conduct a survey on the types of smart home technology consumers want and the smart home trends they expect to see in 2017.

The survey revealed that the vast majority of Americans who have smart home products – controlled remotely by a smartphone, tablet, computer or by a separate automatic system within the home itself – want voice control. The survey also found that an increasing number of consumers are already using voice control.

According to the survey results, a whopping 72 percent of respondents with smart home products said they wanted voice control. Another 48 percent of Americans with smart home products already have voice control capability.

What systems and products do consumers want to control using their voice? More than half of Americans who own smart home products with voice control use the feature to control entertainment, such as playing music, televisions and speaker systems. In addition to entertainment, the next three most popular functions being controlled by voice activation for smart home product owners are lighting, security products and shopping (all tied at 33 percent).

“We’re not surprised that so many Americans want to be able to use their voice to control smart home products because it makes for a much more intuitive user experience,” said Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “As the smart home leader in real estate, Coldwell Banker is at the forefront of smart home trends and we’re hearing directly from our agents that their clients are demanding voice control to make their smart home experience more seamless.”

Voice controlled smart home products were a significant part of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES®) in Las Vegas, which kicked off January 5 and concluded on January 8. Coldwell Banker was proud to participate in CES once again, even broadcasting live on Facebook from the CES show floor. The company was the only real estate brand to have a presence in this pre-eminent consumer technology conference which drew thousands of exhibitors and product launches from more than 3,800 companies. To see the live broadcast and more coverage from the Coldwell Banker team on the ground, make sure to visit ces.coldwellbanker.com.

Advances in smart home technology are something to watch in 2017.

Here’s what our local Northern California offices had to say about market conditions as we closed out 2016:

East Bay – In Pleasanton, Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas, listings were somewhat steady with some slight declines and sales activity was off. One factor that is being closely monitored throughout the region is the uptick in mortgage interest rates which can affect affordability for many buyers. The rise in rates will either spur buyers to make a move before further increases or may deter sellers from putting their homes on the market who are enjoying lower interest rates and fear having to obtain loans with higher rates—which all puts more pressure on the market.

Lake Tahoe & Truckee –  2016 ended on a fairly high note. The company consistently led the market in terms of listings and sales in the region, according to our office manager in the region. Inventory levels were approximately 10 percent lower than 2015, and the high point for listings was in late June, when 840 properties were listed for sale in the region. We ended the year with 514 available listings. Luxury sales increased, with the sale of $1 million-plus properties shooting up 49 percent. (280 sales in 2016 vs. 187 sales in 2015). Sales prices in the high-end of the market, however, eased with the median sales pricing decreasing 5 percent to $1,536,875 from $1,622,5000 in 2015.

North Bay –  Sales and listing inventory were steady in some areas and lighter in others to close out the year. The Greenbrae office had 15 properties under contract, but inventory and sales overall were lighter compared to the rest of the year as both sellers and homebuyers were preoccupied with the holidays. But the market was surprisingly active in our Santa Rosa Mission office, and the Previews market was experiencing about the same pace as a year earlier in terms of closed sales and listings, according to our local manager in that area. Our Novato office manager reported a drop in sales and listings, with three accepted offers in the last two weeks.

Placer County – Sales and listings fell during the last two weeks in the area, with consumers pausing to focus on holiday festivities. Listing inventory is still limited, with a low number of homes priced below $400,000 available for sale, according to our Auburn office manager.  Despite the slowdown, there were three multiple offers and 12 properties that went under contract in the Auburn office. A number of homeowners have indicated they are waiting until after the holidays to put their homes on the market, so the Auburn manager expects an increase in listings in coming weeks. One area of concern is that appraisals are still coming in lower than the purchase price, according to the Auburn office manager, and last-minute contract cancellations are occurring. The higher-end of the market was also slow, with buyers being very specific about what type of property they are seeking, and with additional properties expected to come on the market this month.

Sacramento County – Restricted inventory remained an issue in the region. Sacramento County’s inventory was down 40 percent in December, compared to the same month in 2015, with just over a month’s worth of inventory, according to our Elk Grove office manager. The average price stood at $331,000 and demand has been strong but sales were off by more than 7 percent, he said. There was a particular lack of inventory of homes priced under $350,000, according to our Sacramento Fair Oaks office manager. Still the Fair Oaks office recorded 17 accepted offers and had 7 multiple offers during the last 2 weeks. Our Folsom office saw increased sales activity, with 14 properties under contract. 

San Francisco –  While a slowdown in activity isn’t unusual during the holiday season, our Pacific Heights office manager observed a bump-up in listings and sales, with 9 properties going under contract. Heading into the 2017, it will be interesting to see whether the new administration’s policies will have any significant impact on the region’s housing market.

San Francisco Peninsula – The holiday season was affecting the local market, as consumers focused on the holiday hustle and bustle. There was a decrease in the number of for-home sales, as well as a dip in sales activity in the area, with the Palo Alto downtown and Redwood City offices reporting 2 properties under contract each. Demand appears to be healthy, however, as there were multiple offers on all 6 properties that went under contract in the San Mateo downtown office.

Silicon Valley – There was some mixed news about inventory and sales activity in the region. Our Los Gatos manager shared positive news for home searchers, saying that listing inventory was up slightly while sales activity was steady. There were 35 homes available for sale over the last two weeks, which is up from 27 homes during the same period last year. The office also juggled 20 multiple offers. Meanwhile our San Jose Willow Glen office saw steady sales activity, with buyers coming off the fence to make those year-end purchases and multiple offers on practically all of the office’s in-house listing that went well over asking price. Several agents affiliated with the San Jose Willow Glen office wrote offers for buyers who experienced sticker shock with both the amount of offers on each property and how much over their asking price they went, according to our local manager. Most offices in the region were reporting that listing inventory was down over the last two weeks. The low inventory and holiday season likely affected sales activity in the last two weeks of 2016 in both our Cupertino and San Jose Almaden offices, with both revealing a decrease in sales activity. The limited inventory also likely led to three multiple offices in the San Jose Almaden office, with the manager saying it was surprising that 7 properties went under contract given the low number of listings. But activity will likely pick, as our Cupertino manager pointed out that agents have many prospective buyer clients who are waiting for new inventory to the come on the market. Most homeowners are likely waiting until after the Super Bowl to list their homes for sale, she said.

South County – Market conditions shifted with listing inventory experiencing a significant decline. In all of Morgan Hill there were only 32 active listings, while Gilroy had 62 listings. Agents are dealing with a restricted supply that’s not nearly sufficient to meet buyer demand, according our Gilroy and Morgan Hill office manager. Some buyers have been frustrated by the lack of inventory and are anxious to secure a property since mortgage interest rates appear to be on the rise.

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