Welcoming the Fall Season with Gratitude

After a busy first half of the year, August greeted me with a slightly more relaxed schedule, which was a blessing because I am gearing up for what I think will be a robust September.  Currently I have several buyers looking for homes and several homes getting prepped to hit the market.  As I review my business it feels good because it is balanced; there are qualified buyers in search of their next abode and lovely homes getting the final touches to impress their next stewards.  When I reflect on my book of business it is so much more than closed deals, it is about the people.  Every transaction has a personal story, a life change, a new adventure, and a new beginning.  I am so grateful that you share a piece of your life with me!

Last night I was invited over to my clients Lindsay, Kelly and Collins’s home for wine and cheese.  It has been less than two months since they closed escrow and they have already put their mark on their new space.  One of my recommended arborists came and sculpted the trees that were long overdue for pruning, the wood paneled walls (not the good kind) were removed and replaced with crisp Dove White paint, the light fixtures that were replaced with Rejuvenation lighting (I am able to pass along my trade discount for my clients!), the living room furniture was ordered and delivered, a once-dated fireplace was updated with a wall of white brick, the older Formica and wood bar was transformed with crisp subway tiles installed in a herringbone design, and the bar sink was capped with Carrera marble!  After a tour of their home I was handed a chilled glass of rosé and a cheese platter was served.  It was so nice to relax and learn more about my clients.  After what felt like a brief visit, but was actually 4 hours, I drove home and was filled with gratitude to have people come into my life and stay.

 Why do I share my personal tidbits with you?  Because you share your hopes, dreams and fears with me.  This fall season’s big news is my beloved assistant Kelly is getting married!  I am very excited for her as she marries the love of her life.  My youngest, my son Miles, just started his senior year of high school.  He is a team captain on his football team so on game days I will be screaming for the Saint Mary's Panthers!

My son is #17 Photo credit: James Jackson

My son is #17 Photo credit: James Jackson

This month marks my 12th year in business and I want to thank you, my husband, daughter, son, Kelly and the entire Red Oak staff for the ride!

Happy fall season! 

Will My Home Appreciate?

Many people ask me, "Is this a bubble...when will it burst?"  So I thought, let's track appreciation versus depreciation in the Oakland and Berkeley real estate market.  I tracked sales posted on the local multiple listing service (MLS) back to 1998 and it turns out that we only had 2 years of depreciation, 2008 and 2009.  Funny, I remember that the Federal government gave an $8,000 first-time-buyer tax incentive in 2009/2010 that really boosted sales; and we have not looked back.  

We cannot predict how future markets will pan out appreciation-wise, but it is good to know that going back 18 years there has been only 2 years of depreciation.  This is good data to use in your decision on if or when you should buy.

How Long Will This Market Last?

Anything is possible in regards to our marketplace, however, this is the 4th year of double digit increases and I am wondering how long these property values can be supported.  Currently only 22% of Alameda County residents can afford to buy a home.  This is an election year and if you wait until the end the year to sell your home things could change in the real estate market depending upon how the election goes.  In my experience, property values are driven by a combination of supply and demand, interest rates, jobs, consumer confidence, rent prices and crime rates.  If you decide to sell it should only be if you are really done with your home.

Real estate market report from KTVU news

Real estate market report from KTVU news

In regards to buying a home, economists do think there will be a market correction in the next couple of years.  I am recommending that all of my buyers buy for the long term.  Think of your equity as ghost equity, meaning it doesn't matter what your home is worth until you are ready to move on and sell.  When the market does correct, I do not think people will walk away from their loans like they did before, because many people are buying with heavy cash these days and have a considerable amount of capital in their homes.  

I recommend now (as I have for the past 11 plus years), buy something that fits your needs for 7-10 years or more.  

Understanding the Market as a Buyer

This week a client came to me who is considering a move from the East Coast for retirement.  They live in a wonderful community in New York and want two bathrooms.  It is funny how two bathrooms is considered a luxury in some highly sought after neighborhoods!  They have a son who lives in the Northbrae neighborhood of Berkeley and they really like Solano Avenue area for the walkability.  Today I drove them around and had these charts created so they could better understand our market, as it is very important to understand the market as a buyer.  Remember, listing price often times has no correlation to sold price. Blog chart pg1

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Buyers are Craving Quality Inventory

Last week I reviewed offers with three sellers on properties. Each was in a different Oakland neighborhood. The properties are now in escrow, two with accepted offers at more than 20% over the asking price. The third property also did well, but is selling at just 5% above the listed price. Each property received the same treatment: careful pricing to generate maximum interest, meticulous preparation, professional photography, and custom web sites that tracked and verified similar levels of consumer interest. Why did two homes go so high while the third did well, but not as well? The fact is buyers are craving quality inventory. They will pay high prices, but they carefully analyze the suitability and appeal of the home they are buying. Here are some features that add value:

  1. Natural light
  2. Flow to the outdoor spaces; people love kitchens with French doors out to the backyard
  3. Parking and access from the car to the house
  4. Real hardwood floors and original details

Here are some factors that do not add value:

  1. What you want to yield from your sale
  2. What you paid for the home
  3. What your neighbor's house sold for a few months prior
  4. Newer finishes that are dated; buyers will not pay extra for something new if they don't love it

And then there are location details that typically reduce buyer interest: a busy street, a corner lot, or close to a freeway and its noise. Those external issues affect value and need to be considered when pricing your property and setting your expectations for results.

My job is to get your home sold for the highest price that the market will bring. That begins with helping you benefit from my experience so that you can see your home from the market viewpoint. With this understanding we can work together through any sale confident that, in the end, we attained the best result possible for that house, at that time, in those market conditions..

If you are considering selling your home, let's talk!

Oakland's 146 neighborhoods, in their own words

I was happy to make a small donation and even more happy to hear it is now fully funded!  Stephen Texeira's The Oakland Neighborhood Project is a very cool photographic story telling about Oakland and its vast array of people.  Please click on the links below to find out more! [embed]https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2056607570/the-oakland-neighborhood-project?ref=checkout_share[/embed]

http://www.oaklandphoto.org/

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YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AMENITIES

A huge asset to living in Oakland are the local amenities.  Are you utilizing what Oakland offers in your neighborhood?  So many of us, are stuck in our routine and do not venture out to explore the oaks and redwoods that are clustered throughout of town. Check out this Trailhead documentary of Oakland that I am proud to be sponsoring and was interviewed for, "Discovering Oakland's Gateway to the Redwoods". We filmed this @Bellanico in the Glenview.

http://trailhead-dimond-park.org

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Natural Hazards, where does the fault lie

When meeting with new clients, I always have a conversation about natural hazards.  The reality is, one will have to determine their comfort level when it comes to natural hazard zones before they enter into a particular transaction.  Many of my clients feel that it is inevitable that one will live in an earthquake fault zone, while others are adamant about living outside of that zone.  Additionally, there are other hazardous conditions such as high fire, liquefaction and landslide to consider.  In this seller centric market, many buyers will overlook hazards to win a property, but keep in mind, when a market shifts and inventory is higher than the buyer demand, some buyers may be discriminating when it comes to what they will accept or not.  Last fall, I had a heart-to-heart with buyers who were strongly considering a home with the trifecta of natural hazards: earthquake fault, landslide and fire zones.  I shared with them this could potentially impact future resale value.  After sleeping on it, they decided not to write an offer.
This interactive website was provided to me by one of the structural engineers that I have worked with. http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/2006/177/HF_zoom.html
USGS Hayward Fault

This one is gone, but not forgotten!

A few weeks ago, I saw this home out on Broker's tour. Over an acre of mainly level gardens and on the market for the first time. 13281 Skyline Blvd is the home of master gardeners and members of the American Rhododendron Society, these grounds are luscious! Listing courtesy of Martha Hill, Pacific Union.

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Out on Broker's Tour

I'm always fascinated by the different homes I get to view on our weekly broker's tour. I really liked the two homes below, listed by GrubbCo. 46 Melvin Court reminded by of a wooden labyrinth puzzle and felt as though it should have a fridge full of Tab Cola.

Source: The Grubb Co.

Source: The Grubb Co.

Source: The Grubb Co.

123 Wildwood Gardens in Piedmont had one fantastic front door, original details and a backyard out of a scene from a movie.

Source: The Grubb Co.

Source: The Grubb Co.

Source: The Grubb Co.

Styling, It's Not Just For Celebrities

Every house has a different vibe, style, and architecture. When prepping a property for sale, its individuality should be taken into consideration. Not every home should have a mass produced feel with the same ol’ furniture and marketing. Even though it is a seller’s market there are properties that are not selling and some that are selling short of their potential; therefore, it is important to highlight characteristics and do the proper preparation to stand out from the rest. It is all about collaboration. I work with four different stagers and pair the stager’s style to that of my client’s property. Often it is the little touches that make the difference and set one listing apart from another. I attend Designer Showcase Homes to educate myself on what buyers want and to give expert insight.

Light fixtures and colors are similar to belts and shoes; they have to go with the outfit.  You want your property to look good, right?  Not every house is already adorned with a gorgeous vintage dining room light fixture but adding one can be the key accessory in giving off just the right vibe to prospective buyers when they preview the home. The wrong styling, or repetitive styling, can leave money on the table. When the market shifts, how will your house stand apart?

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How much does a backyard pay you?

As I am reviewing some sold homes that earned multiple offers, selling over the asking price; I saw a common thread - really cool outdoor space!  Indoor-outdoor flow is a vital part of California living and a special backyard can make a small house feel bigger.  For the property below that I listed last year in Rockridge, I spent some time browsing on Houzz and Pintrest to see what I liked. I then shared my likes with my clients and we came up with this.  

This is the backyard at 406 61st Street in Rockridge before we placed it on the market.  My clients had always wanted to renovate the space, but after an extensive interior renovation, they  put the outdoor space on hold.

Here it is after flagstone, raised veggie beds and eco-lawn was installed with an irrigation system.

A view from the