- HERO LOANS...WHO’S THE HERO??:
Maybe you’ve heard of them. HERO loans. They sound noble, trustworthy, and safe. But they’ve turned out to be nothing like a hero; they’re more like a villain. The biggest victims turn out to be the elderly, though anyone can be a victim of them.
HERO loans are a product of a company called Renovate America, based in San Diego. If you’re local, you’ve likely heard of these loans. They’re a loan product under the category of the PACE program. PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. These loans are made to make energy efficient improvements. Anything from solar electric systems to artificial turf qualify. As long as energy is being saved, a homeowner can get a PACE loan. These loans are available to commercial property owners and for residential rentals.
Why are property owners choosing PACE loans? Anyone who owns a property will qualify. No appraisal or income requirements exist with PACE loans. As long as you’re the owner of the property and the improvements are for the property you own (as opposed to another property), you can get a loan.
Why are they so easy to get? Ah, here’s the tricky part. The loans attach to your property taxes, which means they’re in a superior position to your mortgage. If you said, “HUH?”, you’re not alone. Let me explain this way…
If you stop making payments on your house – mortgage, property taxes, and HOA (if you have one) – the county, your mortgage company, or HOA can foreclose on you. These entities may not need to pay each other, though. Here’s how they rank:
1. Property taxes
If the county forecloses on you because you don’t pay your property taxes, the HOA and mortgage company lose out. If your mortgage company forecloses on you, they’ll have to pay your property taxes but not your HOA dues. If the HOA forecloses, they’ll have to pay your back property taxes AND your mortgage.
A PACE loan, because it attaches to your property taxes, will always get paid off, no matter who forecloses. So the risk is low to the PACE loan company.
Why are they so bad, though? There are a few reasons:
1. You cannot refinance. PACE loans remain ahead of a mortgage. Mortgage companies don’t like that. While PACE loan companies will say they’re glad to subordinate (go below) the mortgage, mortgage companies know that’s not how PACE loans work. The PACE loan might be glad to subordinate, but they jump right back up above a mortgage after the refinance is done. So mortgage companies will say NO.
2. You can’t sell without paying off the PACE loan. Buyers of homes with PACE loans can’t get financing, just like homeowners can’t refinance. So the sellers of properties have to pay off the PACE loans through escrow. The PACE loan company will say their loans will go with the property to the new buyer, which is true, they don’t tell homeowners that mortgage companies won’t lend with PACE loans in place.
3. PACE loans have high interest rates. I just saw one for 8%. They also may have payoff penalties. I recently saw a $2,400 fee.
4. Property tax bills skyrocket! PACE loan payments are made with property taxes, so the payment is made just twice a year. They’ll make property taxes go up tremendously!
Here’s a real story. A 78-year-old lady gets talked into solar, artificial turf, a new heater and air conditioner, and a new roof. A dishonest company convinced her to sign the loan documents. Three PACE loans later and she is $140,000 in debt. Her property taxes went up from $900 per year (she’s owned her home for 40 years) to $18,000! She makes $4,000 per month and owes $280,000 on her mortgage. Total debt is over $440,000. She couldn’t pay her property taxes, so her mortgage company did. Then they increased her monthly payment from $1,300 to $3,100! Not only does she have to move, she won’t make anything when her house sells and it might actually be a short sale. And there’s nothing she can do.
Safeguards for you and others…
1. If you’re considering a PACE/HERO loan, do your homework. Make sure you can make your new property tax payment. If you have an impound/escrow account with your lender, find out exactly what your new monthly payment will be.
2. Spread the word, especially to seniors. Don’t let them get these loans unless they know exactly what they’re doing and know exactly what their new property tax payment will be.
3. Consider alternative financing. If you need to get a loan, look also into home equity loans, lines of credit, cash-out refinancing, and others.
4. CALL ME! Let me go through these details with you or those you know to help you make an informed choice and possibly save you some potential headaches.
CHANGE IS HERE, OR IS IT? WATCH THESE 4 “I’s”:
Has it actually arrived? Is this the correction in the market we’ve been expecting?
People have been predicting the end of our increasing home prices for a couple of years now. Everyone is watching for a major sign, the one thing that will signify the end of this amazing growth in real estate. The truth is it’s not just one thing that will impact the real estate market, but rather a variety of factors.
At the same time, each single factor, or variable, can impact the market. Here are four variables for you to watch.
1. Interest rates. Probably the one change that will have the biggest impact on our housing market is interest rates. We saw a healthy ½ percent change in the first quarter of the year. What is the impact? Some buyers are now priced out of the market. Fewer buyers mean price increases will slow.
2. Inventory. It’s going up a little. Brand new homes have been completed, and we’re seeing more new home construction. It’s about time, but the new homes will mean more existing homes coming on the market. Increased inventory will decelerate the price climb.
3. Incomes. Though you may not have seen a big change personally, incomes have gone up in the last year. At the same time, so did housing and interest rates. For example, a ½ percent change in the interest rate means the same loan balance will have a 6% higher payment. Or said another way, the loan balance, and therefore the home price, would need to come down 6% to keep the monthly payment the same. Even if incomes went up, they didn’t increase enough to cover the increase in monthly payment. Fewer buyers affording to buy means an impact on home prices.
4. Inflation. The rate of inflation in the U.S. over the past year was 2.2%. The next report of the Federal Government will be Wednesday, April 11th. Let’s see what they say. If it goes higher, the Federal Reserve will raise rates again.
Will we have a significant shift in the market? It won't be anything like we had in 2007 and 2008. The one rule I insist you follow is: DON’T PANIC! Just watch. Let’s see what happens. If you have specific questions about the value of your home or just want more general information about our real estate market, please contact me at Jim@URESanDiego.com.
Next month, I’m going to share some really exciting news about my company, United Real Estate San Diego. Stay tuned!
Caught your attention, didn’t I? Why in the world would I be saying, “Don’t move!”? I’m hearing you say it now: “Don’t you make money when people move?”
You’re right. Turns out, though, people are moving less frequently. It used to be that people moved every 7 years on average. That statistic has changed now to an average of 10 years, and this statistic is climbing. Why is that? I think there are several reasons.
1. Housing Prices – We’ve seen record increases in housing prices over the past few years. This has impacted both first-time home buyers and current homeowners. Because they can’t afford a home or afford more home, they’re staying put.
2. Mortgage Interest Rates - They are increasing! A ½% increase in the mortgage interest rate means a 6% increase in the monthly mortgage payment. Because mortgage payments are fixed for the length of a mortgage (with the exception of adjustable rate loans), people stay put because they just can’t afford a higher payment.
3. Lack of Equity – So many people were impacted by the economic downturn we experienced 10 years ago. For those who stuck it out, they’re just now seeing equity again in their homes. It’s just not enough to move.
4. Credit Challenges – For those who had no choice but to short sell, had their home foreclosed upon, or even those who went bankrupt, their options to buy over the past few years have been nonexistent or very expensive. Some have chosen to wait out the time period to be fully restored, which can be 7 years and sometimes more.
5. Property Taxes – In California especially, the impact on property taxes is significant when someone sells a home with equity. Because of Prop 13, a homeowner’s property taxes could triple or more when buying a new home. There is work being done to help these homeowners afford to move. Hopefully we will see the results of this work soon.
6. Limited Housing Supply – This has impacted so many buyers. I've had conversations with people who want to move but they can’t find anything to buy. So, they decide not to sell. A recent article I read stated that California needs to build 180,000 new housing units to meet demand. For those who don’t live here, I can tell you for a fact: that level of building is not happening. For those who do live here, you knew it before I told you.
7. Occupational Licensing – I hadn’t heard of this one before. According to Richard Florida, writer for Citylabs, occupations that require state licensing keep people settled where they’re licensed. Careers such as doctors, teachers, nurses, real estate professionals, and others sometimes require lengthy processes and even testing in order to work in a different state. Believe it or not, the number of people in this category could be as high as 25%!
8. Opportunity – The job market may be improving across the country. But it’s not in every job sector and not at pay rates that make moving affordable or advantageous. For married couples, new opportunities may be available for one but not the other. So they stay put.
9. Remodeling – When people gained equity but couldn’t find a new home to buy, they renovated their current homes. The result? Now they don’t want to move…they like their homes!
10. Schools, family – Those who live close to family or their favorite schools don’t want to pull their kids out. They’ve put off moving until the kids have moved on.
In spite of these influences causing people to move less frequently, people are still moving. Job opportunities, up-sizing or down-sizing, income, and life changes still happen. They just happen less frequently.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to make these huge decisions absent of one key element: information. These discussions often happen 9 months to a year before people actually move. Knowing what your property is worth, what you can afford, or what the market is doing are all key factors you should consider early on in the process.
So don’t wait to contact me. Let me give you the information that will help you make the decision a little easier. If it’s important to you, it’s important to me too. And I want what’s best for my clients, even if it’s to abandon the idea of moving.
And if it’s not you but someone you know who confided in you, let them know they can contact me.
Here are a couple of articles you might find interesting to read: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/02/american-mobility-has-declined/514310/
Happy Half Year!:
Happy Half Year! It’s amazing to think we’re already in July. Vacations, stay-cations, or just trips to the beach or pool are part of our summer routine.
It’s been a full and exciting half year for our family. Personally, Kyle has promoted out of 8th grade and will head to high school, and Keaton will enter the 4th grade. Kristin is enjoying the break for summer. As a family, we’re currently on our 10 day trip in New York and Washington D.C. Though it’s not really a vacation (Kristin’s and my definition of a vacation includes sandy beaches, lounging by the pool, and really good breakfast buffets), we have enjoyed seeing a Broadway show and are looking forward to our tours of the Capitol, the Smithsonian museums, and the memorials and monuments.
Professionally, it’s been an amazing year. I've continued to help buyers and sellers at my usual pace. I recently added an agent to my personal team. Jasmine Askew has been a great addition! As a company, we’ve grown by 50% since January and continue to add agents and brokers to United Real Estate San Diego.
The real estate market still amazes so many of us in this business. Properties at the lower end of the range are still attracting multiple offers and prices are inching up. For properties in San Diego above $700,000, we’re seeing prices soften and market times going up.
I think there are a couple of reasons for it. One is affordability. Only 25-30% of the population can afford a median-priced home in San Diego, which is well over $500,000 now.
The second is property taxes. Buyers can use their equity to buy more expensive homes and limit the increase in their monthly payment. But there isn’t any way to limit property taxes. For example, a $700,000 home would cost a homeowner nearly $700 per month or over $8,000 per year. That’s a lot of money! It could increase a monthly mortgage payment by 25-30%.
Stay posted for more about the market. In the meantime…Happy Half Year!!
Long Family Life Update 2017:
It’s hard to believe we’re in September! Of 2017!! Our family, probably like yours, is back to school. The boys are already involved in theater productions. Kyle’s freshman year includes having a role in West Hills High’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and three AP classes as part of his full course load. Keaton is in the Peter Pan Junior Theater’s production of Music Man and started 4th grade.
Kristin is back in full force with the Mom’s ministry at church and shuttling the boys around. I’m not sure how she keeps track of everything – her schedule, the boys schedules, and me. But she does and I’m so blessed!
For me, it’s been an incredible year in real estate. I've had the opportunity to help amazing buyers and sellers all over San Diego County…from Julian to Point Loma, Escondido to La Mesa, and even Murrieta! The company continues to grow, now to 21 agents all over San Diego, and we’re adding more each week.
One of the most exciting techniques I've applied to my listings is an auction-style sales approach. The results have been amazing, and my clients couldn’t be happier. If you’re thinking about selling, reach out to me and I’ll tell you more about it. I’d love to do the same thing for you or someone you know that I've done many times this year.
Have a wonderful September.
Making Friends First:
A REALTOR® opened the door of his BMW, when suddenly a car came along and hit the door, ripping it off completely. When the police arrived at the scene, he was complaining bitterly about the damage to his precious BMW.
"Officer, look what they've done to my Beeeeemer!!!", he whined.
"You REALTORS® are so materialistic, you make me sick!!!", retorted the officer. "You're so worried about your stupid BMW, that you didn't even notice that your left arm was ripped off!!!"
"Oh my goodness...," replied the REALTOR®, finally noticing the bloody left shoulder where his arm once was, "Where's my Rolex?!!!!!"
For many in our industry, the focus on money is not just to fund an extravagant lifestyle. It’s often because agents have to pay significant brokerage fees. As a consumer, you might think REALTORS® keep all the commission they earn. That’s not the case, though. They may only make 50% of their commission after broker fees and expenses. Sometimes less!
When I started in this business, making friends first was what I wanted most. But it’s hard to focus on that when the costs are so high. The battle between the dollar and the service existed. And then I found United Real Estate San Diego.
What’s different about United is that they charge me about 80% less than what other brokers charge. That means I don’t have to worry about the cost of business like I did before. I’ve invested the difference in building relationships, enhancing marketing, tapping technology, and working smarter.
Making Friends First means the focus of my work is on people, not a product or money. I can do real estate the way I want to, not the way someone you’ve never met (aka my broker) says I have to do it. The freedom I have means as much to you as it does to me. And what you get is more.
How? I’m glad you asked. Let me know when we can get together and I’ll explain.
Overcoming the Hassle of MOVING:
Moving. I don’t know anyone who has positive thoughts about packing up their stuff, getting it moved, and then unpacking it in a new location. For those who are moving because of the military or a civilian job, most times it means they pack up the stuff. But most people are on their own, moving from one home to another within the same community. It’s all on them…
Or you and me. At age 50, I still get asked to help people move, so even age doesn’t have an impact. Socioeconomic status doesn’t always either (we all know people who could afford to pay someone, they just choose not to.)
But this article is about you and me moving. It’s a hassle! And yet it may be something you’re grappling with right now as you consider moving into a new house. So, let’s talk about how to minimize the hassle involved with moving. Here are some best practices I've observed over nearly 7 years in the real estate business (I know…7 years!!!)
- Purge Now. Begin the great purge of 2017. Whether your stuff goes via a garage sale, a donation truck, or both, start pulling out the things you no longer need or want now. Do it before you start looking for a new place. BENEFIT: It will begin helping you wrap your head around how much you actually need to move.
- Pack Some Now. You know what will happen. Just before you put your house on the market, I’ll come over to your house before you sell to tell you what you need to get out of the house. If you don’t need it out now, then put it away now. You don’t need to put it all into storage. Just put it in your garage. Items to consider: books, toys, possibly some furniture items. BENEFIT: This task may be a part of the Purge Now process, so get it done at the same time.
- Talk to Me Now. Frequently, people will wait until they’re “ready” before they contact me. They don’t want to reach out too early. Sometimes, they’re concerned that it’s a secret or under wraps, and they don’t want anyone to know. Just ask Kristin…she’s always the last to know! It’s never too early. For example, I just met with a client that I've been talking with for more than a year! Moving isn’t typically something you decide overnight. So contact me early in the process and the process will go much more smoothly.
The part of the process that often concerns people more is how to make the move from one home to another when there are so many factors that can impact the sale of one home and the purchase of another. Just remember: I've made it work for so many clients. When we meet, we’ll talk about how I can make it work for you also.
If you begin the process NOW, the stress of the move will be greatly reduced. Call, text, or email me with any questions. I’m always glad to help.
Pricing Your Home “Auction” Style:
One of the biggest decisions a homeowner makes when selling their home is how to price it. In fact, they often choose an agent based on how much the agent says they should price it for and how much it’ll sell for. Of course we know that no one can guarantee what a house will sell for, but I can tell you it’s a serious discussion, that sometimes gets adversarial, between a homeowner and an agent in some home sales.
Why is this? Fear. A homeowner is afraid that if they price their home too low they won’t make as much money. However, THIS IS A MYTH!
Homes frequently sell for over asking price, sometimes by as much as 20%! Some may say that it’s because the homeowner and agent didn’t do a good job of pricing the home. But that’s simply not true in all cases.
When done right (and your agent needs to know how to do it), a homeowner will make more money by slightly underpricing their property. It’s not difficult, but it takes a strategic mindset on the part of the agent to make it work properly.
The key is to make your home sale function like an “auction” through pricing. We don’t officially call it that, but let me tell you more. Let’s say you underprice your home by a few thousand dollars. Your home will be the talk of the MLS. Comments like, “We need to go see that place before someone else gets it!” are often heard when this happens.
The result? Multiple offers. That’s when the “auction” comes in. Most agents don’t know how to do this. Instead, they typically either decide with the homeowner on a price to counter all the potential buyers, or they make the mistake of putting, “highest and best.” I guarantee you that both of these methods fall short of getting the seller the highest price for their property.
How does the “auction” work? I’d love to tell you about it. Email, call, or text and I’ll describe it in detail. I wouldn’t call it difficult, but there’s a technique and it definitely takes the right approach to make it work. Developed at our brokerage, it’s something we don’t see anyone else doing, and we get surprising results for our clients.
Reach out to me soon to learn more about our “auction” style.
Quick Look at Discount Brokers:
Real estate has been changing since the profession began. Publishers back in the 30’s began putting listings in catalogs, which led to the creation of the multiple listing service, or MLS. When computers entered the world, properties began being shared between real estate brokers and offices. And when the internet arrived in homes, so did all the homes available for sale. Now there are apps you can use to take a picture of a home for sale and it’ll show you all the photos, the price, and the details about it. With those same apps you can find an agent, contact your agent, and even research the price of the home. Great innovations!
Over the past 10 or more years, the less-than-great innovations have come from companies that offer discounted real estate services. The savings sound good. But are they all they’re cracked up to be?
I've been researching the discount brokers for a while and there are some distinct differences. Let me give you some insider information into the real estate business.
Depending upon the mix of buyers and sellers a real estate professional is working with, one agent/broker can handle 20-24 transactions on his or her own on an annual basis. (NOTE: The average licensed agent does 2-3 transactions per year.) Once the agent is doing more, they need help.
In order to make up for the commission reduction, discount brokers assign literally dozens of clients to a single agent. The agent manages the relationships by assigning work to other licensed agents who don’t have experience. They pay these people either a low hourly wage or pay them a flat amount for each task they perform. The service provided to the client is disjointed. The result is that the client ends up receiving a substandard result.
Let’s take one of the discount brokerages as an example. Nearly half of their agents don’t complete any transactions. Is that strange? Not when you learn that they have agents who just show property. Paid $13-14 per hour, they show up to meet the client to show them a house. If the client likes it, the original agent will write an offer, sight unseen. That’s their primary job – writing offers. Historically, their offers don’t get accepted with the same frequency. This is primarily because they don’t build relationships with agents from other companies. They largely stay isolated. Because real estate is very much a people business, this negatively impacts their clients.
What about on the listing side? Let’s take another discount brokerage for example. They charge about ½% less than a full service broker to list a property. However, they don’t put their listings on the MLS – they just put them on their website. They’ll represent a buyer who learns about a house via their website. But, they don’t otherwise compensate a buyer’s agent. That means the only buyers who will buy their home are ones who will also pay their own agent. These homes tend to sell for less because they’re not exposed to the whole real estate market.
Do these models work? Yes, but not as frequently. Here’s the story of an agent from one of the larger brokerages here in San Diego. He had two listings and one buyer at the end of last year. An agent from one of the discount brokerages wrote offers on his listings and also wrote an offer on the same property he wrote an offer on for his client. In ALL these cases, the discount brokerage’s agent didn’t get any of the properties for their client. What was her response? She called up the agent from the large broker and yelled at him, accusing him of sabotaging her. Amazing!! He did no such thing – she simply didn’t take responsibility for failing to help her clients.
And here’s a story that just happened to me. A prospective buyer called on a listing of mine he wanted to see. I asked if he had an agent and he said no. His plan was to use an online company to submit an offer if he was interested. I encouraged him to get someone from the online company to show him the property so they will know more about the property when they wrote the offer. He got upset and said, “I've literally seen over 100 properties and you’re the first agent that’s hassled me about this.” My thought? Why has he seen 100 properties and hasn’t bought one yet? Probably because the discount system hasn’t worked for him.
Ultimately, cutting corners can save money in one area, but it doesn’t always lead to the results you want. The old adage, “You get what you pay for!” proves to be true in real estate. A combination of good service, strong negotiation skills, and knowledge of the industry will lead to you saving money AND getting a better result.
Want to know how I save my clients thousands more than the discount brokers? Contact me and I’ll let you know.
Repairs – Are They Required?:
Just recently, someone asked me, “Does a seller have to do repairs on a property to sell it?” Certain I would say yes, she was very surprised when I told her, “No, a seller doesn’t have to do anything to a property to sell it.”
Most people are unaware that a real estate sale in California, and probably other states as well, is “as is.” Why is this? Imagine the opposite, where a seller has to do work to a home in order to sell it. Who would decide what work is required? By what standard would the work need to be done? What government entity would be assigned to review, inspect, or approve the work?
Instead, the onus is on the buyer. Now, that doesn’t mean that a seller isn’t obligated to tell a buyer what he or she knows about the property that could affect the value or desirability of it. That’s the law. It’s on the buyer, though, to do something about it if the buyer chooses.
One of the things a buyer can do is ask the seller to make repairs or give the buyer a credit for repairs. In the purchase agreement, a buyer has a right to ask for repairs. However, the same paragraph that gives the buyer the right to ask also gives the seller the right to decline. In fact, it says a seller doesn’t even need to respond.
There are times you might see a property advertised with the words, “As Is.” How is this different? What a listing agent is attempting to communicate is that a seller has no intention of doing repairs. In other words, “What you see is what you get.” Even if that’s in the listing, it doesn’t mean a buyer can’t ask.
Regardless, though, here’s the reality: the seller doesn’t want to do repairs and the buyer would love to have things fixed. Somewhere in the middle is where most people end up. But how do you end up there?
If you’re a seller, here is some advice when approaching a request for repairs.
- Don’t take it personally. A buyer isn’t trying to make you angry. Whether they’re tight on money or just tight with money, they’re asking to see what you’ll say.
- Get estimates. Hopefully the buyer’s agent is on the ball and has quotes to support their requests. Whether they do or not, get estimates for things so you can arrive at a decision.
- Even if the buyer walks, the problem still exists. Depending upon the item, it may not matter to a buyer. But if it’s something like the roof, the heater, or a sewer line, the next buyer is going to care.
- Budget in advance. You’re going to be asked to do some things, so be prepared with a figure. Budget for termite work, the leaky faucet, and the wall switch that quit working. Those may be things they don’t know about until after the inspection and reading your disclosures.
- Cosmetic work is not included, especially when it’s known. Repairs don’t include painting houses. Now, you certainly can offer to paint or give a painting credit. Generally that’s shown in a listing as being offered by the seller and consummated in the actual offer negotiations.
For you as a buyer, here are some good “rules” to follow:
- Health and safety items should be requested to be repaired. These are things such as electrical or heater issues.
- Surprises that are significant get requested. An example of something significant is the roof. You don’t always know there’s an issue at the time an offer is made.
What do you think has the biggest influence on the list of repairs a buyer has? If you said the price they’re paying, then you’re right. Buyers who have to pay more than they wanted will have a longer list than those who perceive they got a good price. Sellers, if you had a bidding war and the price went up, be ready for a list.
One more note about repairs. While a seller doesn’t have to do repairs, a third party in a transaction could require repairs as a condition of the sale. You guessed it: the buyer’s lender. Termite work is a big one. Appraisers can put anything in their report, though. If they see water stains on a ceiling, they might tell the bank, and then it becomes a repair requirement. The seller doesn’t have to fix the problem, but refusing to do it will likely mean the buyer can’t buy the house.
Repair requests are inevitable. But a seller is not required to do any repairs. A buyer should be reasonable when requesting repairs. If something is a deal breaker, put it on the list. Everything is a negotiation, so buyers might put a couple of negotiable items on the list as well. At the end of the day, an agent who is a skilled negotiator will be your best advocate. Find him or her and your transaction will go more smoothly and result in a solid outcome for you.
Selecting a Service Provider - Choose Them Before You Need Them:
One of the toughest things to do is find good service technicians for home repairs and projects. In fact, I think the only thing tougher is picking a good real estate agent!! (Except that you know me so that problem is solved J )
In most cases, you need to hire a service provider quickly. You need one fast because the roof is leaking, or the dishwasher quits, or the hot water heater bursts. That’s never a good time to hire someone.
Those who use service providers regularly already know who they will use before they need them. And you can do this, too. It will save you money and time in the end.
How do you choose them? Start by making a list of all of the things that could go wrong with your house:
3. Clogged drains (may be a different vendor from your plumber)
7. Pest control
Next, decide what you can do yourself. Maybe you decide that you can paint and spray for bugs, but you’re not going to do any of the other work. So you know you’ll need to hire someone to do the work in the other categories.
Then, compile your list of service providers. To pick ones:
1. Ask around. One of my agents goes directly to Facebook. I know, we thought it was only good for making our friends think we have a perfect life!! It’s also a great way to get recommendations to vendors. You can also ask friends you trust who have had work done on their house.
2. Check Online. Good companies covet their reviews. From Yelp to Angie’s List to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), there are dozens of online rating sites. See what everyone says. NOTE: Don’t be too alarmed if you see an occasional negative review. What matters most is how the company responded to them and if they tried to fix the issue. However, if you only see bad reviews, then pass.
3. Check their license. If a contractor does work totaling over $500 they are required to have a license. So, you can hire a handyman for small jobs, but you should get a licensed contractor for all the others. In California, most contractors are licensed by the Contractors State License Board. Their website is www.cslb.ca.gov. You want to insure they have a valid license and proper insurance (worker’s compensation if they have employees, and general liability.)
4. Test them out. When you have a simple job, even one you could do yourself, try them out. See what their cost is, how quickly they can come out, and what they say is wrong.
Don’t have time to do all the homework? I've compiled a list of vendors I love. If you’d like a recommendation, please reach out to me.
There's Nothing to Buy!!!:
“This has to change, it just has to!” Those words have gone through my mind for the past two years as we’ve seen record home price increases and inventory of available homes dropping to its lowest levels. Interest rates are going up a little, but it seems to have no effect on the housing market. And I think I know why…at least for a while.
I've personally represented buyers and sellers on 20 real estate transactions in the past year. On all but two transactions there were multiple offers. On the last one I wrote, there were 14 total offers! I think there would have been more offers if the interest rates were lower and home prices hadn’t climbed. That tells you how many buyers are out there ready to buy.
If you’ve been starting to think about moving, then you know what I mean. However, I heard some intriguing news last week. There is an idea floating around between real estate leadership and state legislators that seems to have some real merit.
Right now, when you sell the home you’ve owned for a while, you’ll be leaving a relatively low tax rate when you go to a new house. Your annual taxes could easily double! An example is the first house Kristin and I bought that we still own as a rental.
Let’s assume for this example that we still live there and were ready to move up. The annual taxes are about $2,600, which means the assessed value is about $220,000. But we just had the house appraised and it came in at $525,000! Let’s say we want to buy a $650,000 home. Our property taxes would go up from $2,600 per year to $7,800 per year…3 times more!
BUT…what if we could take our tax basis with us? If we did what we just talked about, we would take a $220,000 tax basis on a $525,000 house and pay the tax difference on the difference in the sales prices. The result? Our tax base on the new house would be $220,000 (assessed value of our current home) + $125,000 ($650,000 new house minus $525,000 sale price of our house) for a total assessed value of $345,000. Instead of paying $7,800 in annual property taxes, we would pay about $4,100…just over half!
This gives us the ability to actually consider moving. It also frees up our home for another buyer. We pay more taxes on our new house than the seller before us, more taxes are collected on the home we sold than what we were paying, and the seller of the house we bought is paying more taxes in their new home. This domino effect means more tax revenue for our county as well.
So should you wait? You could, but I don’t suggest that. Here are a couple reasons why.
- We don’t know when this plan will get to Sacramento. In the meantime, home prices continue to go up, so the tax relief could just get spent in a higher payment.
- Who knows if this plan will get to our state legislature and, if it does, if it’ll look like this or not.
I’ll keep you all posted as we move forward. In the meantime, if you’re considering a move, please reach out so we can dive into the details. That way you’ll know if it’s even possible.
What will interest rates do?:
Just days after the election, mortgage interest rates rose by about ½%. While still low, the jump had an impact on affordability. For the same loan amount, loan payments rose approximately 6.25%.
It had no immediate negative impact on sales. If anything, people rushed to make a purchase, thinking that rates will go up even more. The demand for properties has never been higher. Inventory levels are at all-time lows. And it’s likely that we won’t see a rise for a while.
What will interest rates do? Though no one can be certain, let’s review what could impact them.
- The Federal Reserve continues to talk about raising the overnight rate. While the rate doesn’t always have a direct link to mortgage rates, it does indicate that the Federal Reserve anticipates an increase in inflation, and raising the overnight rate can slow the rate of inflation.
- The stock market has seen record activity across most sectors since the election. Investors are feeling more confidence in a Trump presidency, at least in the short term, and it has caused stock values to increase because more money is entering the market. This can be bad, though, for mortgage rates, because that means less money for the mortgage market, driving up rates.
- The minimum wage increased in California to $10.50 per hour for 2017. While it sounds good for minimum wage workers, it means that prices for basic goods will go up with the minimum wage. This puts pressure on employers to raise compensation for all employees, including those who make many times more than minimum wage. This will cause prices on goods and services to increase, causing inflation.
- Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. means more jobs and more tax revenue. This revenue will offset the tax breaks that will be given to businesses, which will lead to more jobs in other professions. Demand for employees will impact pay as well, so another influence on inflation. This will have an impact in the short term and long term.
- Housing demand is still high and supply is low in most parts of California and in many places across the nation. High demand coupled with low supply will always push on prices to go higher. We continue to see multiple offer situations on well-priced properties. (Interestingly, though, I’m not seeing the same thing for overpriced properties.)
Given that many indicators say that interest rates should go up, what should you do? I suggest you don’t do anything! That is, don’t do anything different from your plans or needs. Don’t plan ahead for a changing market we aren’t certain will go up. Selling now, refinancing now, or buying now just to beat an increasing market may mean that you rush in before a drop (unanticipated change) as much as you could be rushing in before a rise (anticipated change.)
If you are making plans to change, please let me know. I’d like to help you make an informed decision. Contact me anytime.
WHY PROPERTIES DON’T SELL:
Have you ever wondered why a house isn’t selling? There are a lot of reasons people give, and most of them are wrong. In fact, there are only two reasons houses don’t sell, and only one of them is true in virtually every situation.
Before we get to the real reasons, here are the ones I get often that are wrong:
1. Location – people assume a house isn’t selling because of where it’s located. Homes too close to a busy street, near an airport, or right next to the freeway are often reasons given…that aren’t the real reason.
2. Condition – a house that needs painting, updating, or landscaping can be seen as detriments to selling. Not so…
3. Needs Updating – a house that’s in good condition but is dated inside and out can seemingly take longer to sell, but it’s not because it needs to be on “Fixer Upper”.
There are more, but these are most often given. They sound good. But…they’re wrong.
There are only two reasons why a house doesn’t sell. In a few cases, it’s marketing. Specifically, people don’t know it’s for sale. In today’s marketplace, it’s very uncommon that a house for sale isn’t seen by hundreds, even thousands, of people. The MLS shares information with so many websites, virtually every potential buyer knows when a property goes on the market.
In every other case, the reason a house doesn’t sell is because of PRICE.
If you live in the United States, then you have experience with our capital markets, supply and demand, and pricing. You’ve been to Costco and bought in bulk because it was cheaper, purchased more clothes than you intended because they were on sale, and even justified a luxury purchase like a nice watch or pair of shoes because you couldn’t pass up the price.
You’ve also seen some beautifully renovated homes come on the market that you never saw up for sale before they were updated. That’s because an investor swooped in and bought them for cheap and made lots of money. Why did they buy them? Not because they were in the wrong location or in bad condition…but because the price was right.
So, when you see a property on the market for a long time and it hasn’t sold, don’t judge anything else about it except the price. If it hasn’t sold, it’s because it’s overpriced. That’s all.