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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

Buying a Home by Assuming an Existing Loan

In most home purchases, the buyer gets approved to borrow a certain amount, finds a home and finances the purchase price. Some sellers, however, list their homes on the market even though they do not own it outright. In these cases, the lender will sometimes allow the buyer to assume the outstanding mortgage. The new borrower has to meet the same qualifying criteria as the original owner, and go through the entire qualifying process just like they would for a traditional loan.

Prior to the 1990s, banks would allow borrowers to transfer most loans without fully vetting the new borrower. Those days are long gone, however, and many banks today will not even consider allowing a loan transfer from one borrower to another, particularly for conventional loans. Most government-backed loans are assumable, however, such as those backed by the Federal Housing Authority, but the new borrower must be able to come up with the difference between the outstanding balance on the loan and the full purchase price. Essentially, this means that you have to reimburse the current homeowner’s equity in the home.

One thing to remember before assuming a home loan is the interest rate. If the interest rate is close to or lower than current rates, assuming the loan is probably a good decision. If, however, the interest rate on the loan is substantially higher than the latest posted rates, you’ll spend more money in the long run by assuming the mortgage, and should probably just get pre-qualified and search for another property as you’ll end up paying more than you would by securing a new loan. It’s also extremely important to make sure you understand the terms of the loan. Meet with a representative of the lender to discuss and ask about any surprise fees or balloon payments. Ask if the interest rate is adjustable and ensure that the loan is in good standing.


05 2014

Housing Market Kept GDP Growth in Check in Q1

US economic growth was held in check by the housing market in the first quarter, marking the first time since 2009 that housing weighed on overall growth for back-to-back quarters. The news didn’t come as a complete shock to observers, as recently released reports have hinted at weak growth in the sector. On the bright side, a report from the National Association of Realtors issued this week shows a marked improvement in pending home sales, suggesting a pickup as Spring rolls into Summer. Nonetheless, some economists are concerned that a continued decline in housing affordability and a lack of improvement in the job market could continue to hamper demand in the sector.


The recent trend in housing data has been downbeat enough that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have made revisions to their forecasts for 2014 housing market growth. Nobody expects the sector to slip back to the sad state it was in during the Great Recession, but to say economists are disappointed in this year’s spring season, typically the busiest time of the year for home purchases, would definitely be an understatement. Speculation about the causes behind the slower-than-expected spring has been rampant, with blame being assigned to a longer than normal winter storm season, dwindling supply of homes on the market and a mortgage environment that hasn’t completely opened up in the wake of the recession.


05 2014

Refinancing Advice for Non HARP-Eligible Borrowers

Over the last few years, millions of underwater American homeowners have managed to save their homes by refinancing under the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP. The program was recently extended as well, meaning the government expects millions more to benefit from it. The program is available to most underwater borrowers provided their loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and was purchased by one of the two mortgage giants prior to June 2009. Some banks, however, have declined to take part in HARP, leaving millions with no other choice but to seek refinancing on their own. The following advice is for those homeowners.


When trying to get refinanced the most important thing to remember is to take your time and get quotes from as many lenders as you can, as the rates and fees they charge will vary substantially. The best way to achieve this is to contact several mortgage brokers, because they have access to rate information from multiple lenders. Banks, on the other hand, will only quote their own rates to customers, so shopping around through a broker can be a real time saver. Another thing to remember is to protect your credit score while shopping around. Before allowing multiple lenders to run a credit check on you, narrow your choice down to just a handful of lenders, because multiple credit checks can bring your score down. Finally, if you opt to do business with an online lender, ask if your loan can be handled by a single representative, rather than being passed around from one to another every few months. Most lenders will gladly honor that request.


05 2014

The Difference Between a Pre-Approval and Pre-Qualification Letter

Selling a home can be a stressful, confusing process because of the various terms and rules governing real estate. One of the most confusing aspects of the process is the difference between a pre-qualification letter and a pre-approval letter. It’s all-too-common that a seller will take their property off the market after receiving an offer from a buyer that’s pre-qualified, only to have to list the home again when the buyer can’t get approved. Buyers, meanwhile, may get pre-qualified to see how much they can borrow, only to find they can’t get approved for the amount when it comes time to make an offer because they’ve maxed out a credit card or missed a payment.

Learning the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can help- simplify the home buying or selling process and save on the costs involved. The primary distinction between the two is that a pre-qualification is designed to let buyers know how much they could borrow based on the information they provide to lenders, while a pre-approval is only issued after the lender verifies the information provided. Many sellers will not accept an offer from a pre-qualified buyer but will gladly deal with a pre-approved borrower. That’s because lenders do not verify things like income and credit when issuing the pre-qualifying letter.

While a pre-approval letter is better than a pre-qualification, it does not necessarily guarantee that the buyer will get the loan. Even though the lender has verified credit score, income and other factors before issuing the letter, those criteria will be looked at again when the loan is processed. The lender may still decline to originate the loan if the appraisal comes in too far below the purchase price or the buyer’s credit score has taken a hit. Many lenders also require homeowner or title insurance for borrowers, and may cancel the loan if the buyer fails to acquire them.

The other major difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval is the process by which they’re obtained. Pre-qualification letters are relatively easy to obtain, since the lender does not actually require any documentation of the buyer’s finances. In fact, a pre-approval can be obtained without even meeting with a lender, either by phone or using a qualification tool on the Internet. Before handing over a pre-approval letter, however, lenders will do a thorough background and credit check on the borrower. This also gives the borrower the advantage of time to clean up any surprises that show up on his credit history, whereas a pre-qualified buyer may not have the same chance because he does not find out about those surprises until the bank turns them down.

While a pre-qualification letter from a reputable lender can be a useful tool for a home shopper, most experts agree that it’s far better to go ahead and get pre-approved. While the pre-approval does not guarantee there won’t be any pitfalls, pre-approved buyers can avoid many problems that pop up when a buyer only gets pre-qualified.


04 2014

Marin Foreclosures Plummet 60 Percent

Foreclosures have plunged 60 percent in Marin County since last year, according to a report issued this week by San Diego based housing stat tracker DataQuick. The report shows a 60 percent decline from the first three months of 2013 to the first quarter of this year in the county. Similar declines were reported for the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole, and for California, as well. Bay Area home seizures fell 46 percent year-over-year, while statewide foreclosures fell 43 percent, DataQuick said.


In addition to few home seizures, DataQuick’s report also indicates that fewer homeowners are receiving notices of default, as well. The first step in the foreclosure process, notices of default were down 21 percent year-over-year. Of course, insiders were quick to point out that last year’s figures were skewed because the new Homeowner Bill of Rights went into effect at the end of 2012. A set of laws that govern how foreclosures are processed, the legislation prompted most lenders and loan servicers to halt most activities pertaining to delinquent borrowers until their legal departments could absorb and understand the new laws. Taking that development into account, Tuesday’s report is even more positive, overshadowing other recent reports that would seem to indicate a slowdown in the housing market.


04 2014