Archive for the ‘Real Estate News’Category

Commute Changes in Marin County-Sonoma Marin SMART Train

Marin County is in the process of implementing a new light rail train service from Santa Rosa to terminate at the ferry terminal at Larkspur, CA.    The proposed stops will be as follows:

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Pending Home Sales Reach Post-Recession High

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that pending home sales in the US rose 0.9 percent in May, as gains in the Northeast and West offset declines in the Midwest and South. Compared to a year earlier, the NAR’s pending home sales index rose a staggering 10.4 percent. The index also reached a new post-recession high, climbing to a reading of 112.6, its highest reading since April 2006. A calculation of the number of contracts signed to purchase homes, the measure of pending sales is considered a solid indicator of what sales will do in the coming months, as closings typically trail contrcat signings by a month or two.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun was buoyed by Monday’s report, indicating that sales are now on track for their best year since the Great Recession. “The steady pace of solid job creation seen now for over a year has given the housing market a boost this spring,” Yun noted in a statement. “It’s very encouraging to now see a broad-based recovery with all four major regions showing solid gains from a year ago and new-home sales also coming alive.” The report continues a trend in recent housing reports that appear to show the market is finally nearing a state of health not seen since before the downturn. Just last week, in fact, a Commerce Dept. report showed that new home sales rose 2.2 percent in May to reach another post-recession high.


06 2015

Marin County Home Prices Up Slightly as Inventory Remains Tight

The Marin County housing market continues to struggle with a depleted inventory as prices continue to increase but only slightly. According to a report from Irvine-based CoreLogic, the median price of Marin County homes sold in March was $987,000, up 3.4 percent from the same month in 2014. That number is based on 218 Marin County homes sold last month, which is actually down from 219 sales in March 2014. Prices have actually risen faster in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, though most insiders assume it’s because the higher-end market has picked up while the lower end market has declined. “Some of the recent gains in the Bay Area’s median sale price can be chalked up to a change in market mix, meaning there’s been a higher share of sales occurring in the middle and upper price ranges,” explained CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage.

The ascent in Marin County home prices wasn’t exclusive to single-family homes, as the median price for condos and townhomes sold rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier. Sales of multifamily housing units improved even more drastically, up 49 percent from March 2014 to 70 sales.


05 2015

Bay Area Luxury Buyers Looking to the East?

San Francisco’s luxury home market is doing so well that it appears some locals are retreating east, where money goes a lot further. According to online real estate broker Redfin, the majority of homes sold in March in San Francisco went for over $1 million. But these higher prices are impacting sales at an almost inverse rate as luxury sales in the counties to the east. According to reports, there were 130 sales of homes priced $750,000 or higher in the first quarter in El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento Counties. That’s up from just 100 sales at that price level in the first quarter of 2014. Of course, rising sales often translate to dropping prices, and that holds true in the Sacramento region, where the median fell 9.3 percent, year-over-year to $866,150.


05 2015

Existing Home Sales Surge 6.1 Percent

The Bay Area housing market got off to a strong start to the all-important spring selling season as the majority of homes sold in San Francisco in March went for over $1 million. The primary reason behind rising prices is a declining inventory of homes for sale, as there are fewer homes listed for sale than in last March, and that trend has been affecting markets nationwide. According to a report issued Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously lived-in homes rose 6.1 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.19 million. Those numbers were particularly promising considering home sales started slowly this year due to harsher winter weather, alleviating concerns that the housing sector was in decline.

About the only negative factor in the housing market currently is the issue of supply. According to recent reports, the market is currently holding about 4.6 months of supply, at March’s sales pace. Economists generally consider a supply of about 6 months as indicative of a healthy US housing market. Diminished supply has a negative impact on affordability, which prevents a lot of first-time buyers, considered a vital part of a healthy housing sector, from even considering buying. Tight supply drives prices higher and effectively cuts out many lower-end buyers that are unable to afford to buy. On a year-over-year basis, home values have risen 7.8 percent to a national median of $212,000, according to the NAR report.

While huge strides have certainly been made, the US housing sector is still striving to recover from the 2008 crash that brought on the worst economic downturn in the US since the Great Depression. A number of factors have impeded this recovery, including the uneven pace at which different parts of the economy improve. Rising home values are surpassing wage gains, which diminishes the pool of potential home buyers by making even the least expensive homes out of reach for lower income buyers. Prices continue to rise, meanwhile, because many possible sellers are underwater, meaning they owe the bank more than their home is worth. This trend limits active listings which pushes prices higher.

Despite the challenges still faced by the housing market, the NAR’s March report offers promise. The report marks the first time this year that the sales pace topped 5 million, and gives hope that the market can reach the so-called healthy level of 5.5 million sales this year. But even if sales slow slightly through the rest of the year, most economists fully expect sales to increase from last year’s paltry total of 4.94 million. Home sales surged in March in all four regions of the nation, led by the Midwest and Northeast, where sales were most significantly impacted by weather in the winter months. Last month also saw an increase in first-time buyers, which accounted for 30 percent of all sales last month, up from 29 percent in February.


05 2015

New on the Market in Marin County




Beautiful 5 bedroom home in Novato.  Hardwood floors throughout main level, multi-sport athletic court, and stunning un-obstructed views. 




Beautiful 3 bed home in the Dixie school district in San Rafael.  Refinished hardwood flooring, new paint inside and out and stunning views of the surrounding hills.



Gorgeous bayview home in Belvedere.  Views of the Pacific from nearly every room in the house, plus an observation deck overlooking the Bay.



Click Here to view more info about the above listings, or, Click Here for info on more recent Marin County listings.




05 2014

Housing Affordability Improves as Mortgage Rates Continue 4-Week Slide

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.14 percent this week, down from an average of 4.20 percent a week ago, according to a Thursday report from mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The report marks the fourth straight week in which the average rate for a 30-year home loan fell, alleviating concerns about housing affordability. Rates also fell for 15-year fixed and 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages this week, while the average rate for a one-year ARM was unchanged at 2.43 percent.


Housing affordability has fallen off considerably in recent months as prices steadily rose and mortgage rates climbed from record lows set last summer. The issue is particularly disconcerting in the San Francisco market, where home values have surged to all-time highs in recent weeks. Some observers have even predicted that San Francisco is on pace to completely price out the middle class within the next ten years. While the recent downward movement of interest rates will alleviate the affordability problem somewhat, the issue may still be a pertinent one until there’s another housing crash to reduce values.


05 2014

Existing Home Sales Surge in April

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that the US housing sector finally showed signs of a spring buying season in April as existing home sales rose 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized pace of 4.65 million units. Of course, sales are still down nearly 7 percent from last April as higher mortgage rates and property values have simply priced lower income buyers right out of the market. The pace is also still well below the total of 5.1 million US homes purchased in 2013, and almost a million units behind the 5.5 million unit pace considered healthy for the US market.


Last month’s sales gains came primarily in the volatile multifamily market, as sales of condos and townhomes rose7.3 percent from March to April. Sales of single-family homes, meanwhile, rose just 0.5 percent nationally. Sales have been on the slow side since last summer, when mortgage rates began rising after the Federal Reserve started tapering stimulus measures. At the same time, declining inventory and heightened demand from investors has depleted inventory, driving prices higher and putting a dent in affordability for the middle and lower classes. The median price paid for homes sold in April was $201,700, up 5.2 percent from the month prior.


05 2014

Bay Area Home Prices and Sales Nearing Pre-recession Levels

The Bay Area housing market is all the way back to pre-recession levels, according to a string of recent reports.  A report issued Wednesday by real estate information provider DataQuick shows that median sales prices reached post-recession highs in several Bay Area counties last month, including Contra Costa and Alameda, while prices in Santa Clara County reached an all-time high in April.  Sales in the region, meanwhile, shot up more than 10 percent from March, though they were relatively flat when compared to the previous March’s numbers.  For the entire nine county Bay Area region, the median price paid for homes sold in April was $610,000, the highest that number has been since November 2007, and a 16 percent improvement year-over-year.  Sales, meanwhile, rose almost 20 percent between March and April, prompting numerous housing insiders to proclaim the San Francisco market as the best-improving in the nation.


05 2014

Home Loans 101 – Understanding Mortgage Terminology

Mortgage is simply a word used to refer to bank loans taken out to purchase a home, yet many Americans view the subject of mortgages as confusing due to the various types of mortgages and the differences between them. Compounding the confusion, the majority of Americans will only go through the process of securing a mortgage once in their lives, and some will never even purchase a home. Every mortgage type can be sorted into one of two main categories, depending on whether interest accrues at one rate for the life of the loan or adjusts over time. Fixed-rate mortgages, in which the interest rate always remains the same, are a popular choice for home purchases, while adjustable-rate mortgages, also known as ARMs, are typically used when a homeowner refinances an existing loan.


Both mortgage types have distinct advantages and disadvantages. With a fixed-rate loan, borrowers have the peace-of-mind that there will be no surprises. Your payments remain exactly the same over time, even if interest rates rise substantially. The disadvantage, meanwhile, is that you will be stuck at the same rate if interest rates drop. With ARMs, however, your initial interest rate might be substantially lower in the beginning of the loan, but that interest rate will adjust based on average rates, so the dollar amount of monthly payments can rise and fall multiple times over the life of the loan. Generally speaking, fixed-rate mortgage products carry longer terms than ARMs, usually 15, 20 or 30 years. Designed to be paid off more quickly, ARMs are normally offered with one or five year terms, though some ARMs are designed to be paid off in 15 years.


Besides being either fixed-rate or adjustable, all home loans are also either conventional or government insured. Conventional loans are those handed out to consumers based solely on their credit qualifications, and are not backed by a government agency. Insured loans might be covered by the Federal Housing Authority or Veterans Administration. The advantage of a government-backed loan is that they’re easier to qualify for, and typically require much smaller down payments than conventional home loans. These borrowers are required to carry mortgage insurance, however, which raises their monthly payments. FHA loans are available to qualified borrowers throughout the general public, while VA loans are only available to active military, veterans and their spouses in some cases.


Another distinction among home loans is conforming or non-conforming, and is based on the actual dollar amount borrowed. Conforming refers to the fact that these loans conform to maximum amount limits set by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Non-conforming loans are also referred to as jumbo loans, in reference to the large amount of money borrowed. Because banks take on considerable more risk with jumbo loans, borrowers usually have to have superb credit histories and come up with massive down payments to qualify, and interest rates are generally higher.


The final type of mortgage is a reverse mortgage, and is unlike any other type of mortgage in that it allows mostly senior homeowners to convert equity into cash to supplement fixed-incomes such as Social Security checks. Proceeds from a reverse mortgage can be paid out in one lump sum, over time in monthly payments, or even as a line of credit. The homeowner is not required to make payments as long as they reside in the house, leaving them more money for monthly expenses. The disadvantage, meanwhile, is that the bank gets the home if the borrower passes away and the estate they leave behind is not enough to cover the balance. The biggest disadvantage to reverse mortgages is that they are often used by predatory lenders, though this can be avoided by making sure the mortgage is federally insured.


Before beginning your search for a new home, you should always take some time to educate yourself on the different types of home loans available in your market. Check with the Better Business Bureau, a real estate agent, and other housing professionals to ensure the lender you choose doesn’t have a history of shady deals. It’s also highly advisable to consult with an attorney before signing any contracts. Different lenders offer different interest rates, mortgage types and quality of service, so it’s a good idea to sit down with several lenders before making your final decision.


05 2014