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You are here: Home » 2014 » March

So How Is The Market?

So if our real estate market was a cartoon, here is how it would sound the last few years. 2001-2002 – “Wow!” 2003-2004 – “To the moon!” 2005-2006 – “Rut-Roh!” 2007-2008 – “Look out below!” 2009-2011 – “*$#@$!%!.” 2012-2013 – “Wow!”
Many people thought that the huge price increases the last few years meant that the “boom” is back on, and that prices will continue right back up to 2005 levels. Lots of talk about heading back into “bubble” territory again. But those fears seem overblown. Right now inventory is rising dramatically and pendings across the US are falling. However, let’s not panic. Inventory is up more than 40% since Jan. 1, however, it’s still at VERY low levels historically. There are fewer closed escrows yet there are still lots of buyers out there.
What’s happening is that the normal market forces of supply and demand are kicking in. When homes were $250K, all KINDS of buyers wanted to buy and COULD buy. Now that average prices are back up in the $300-400Ks, the investors are less excited about buying. And many owner-occupant buyers are starting to get squeezed out on affordability. Sure, they’d like to buy a home for $450-550K, but not everyone can qualify for that. This is due to lending rules that didn’t exist last time where lenders have to make sure that buyers can actually AFFORD to make their payment, and it needs to be based on their ACTUAL, verifiable income. Interest rates are still low, so really we just need incomes to rise so house prices can take the next leg up. The economy is better than it was several years ago, but not firing on all cylinders just yet to where everyone is getting big raises. And many people are facing a higher federal income tax bill this year and next due to some changes made in Washington DC. So if you making the same income, but paying more in taxes and home prices are higher, that tends to cap home appreciation. This is what SHOULD have happened last time to prevent the bubble from forming.
If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). #1 in Brentwood listings sold since 2000. To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty.

How To Compare Closing Costs

Within minutes on the Internet you can have 3, 4 or even 10 quotes from different lenders. Common sense would say you should pick the lender with the lowest quoted rates and closing costs, right? Not always.
Those online calculators can only ESTIMATE your closing costs. There are five kinds of closing costs–lender fees, third-party fees, taxes, title insurance and prepaid items. Of these, the lender only has direct control over the first one, their own fees like processing and underwriting. As far as the second item goes, they should be able to fairly accurately estimate the third-party fees like appraisals and inspections.
However, I’ve found that the online estimates of the last three items—taxes, title insurance and prepaid items—are inconsistent and frequently inaccurate. I don’t believe this is done intentionally. It is a result of differences in local customs and tax rates that a national website can’t keep track of.
In some counties (like ours), the Buyer pays the title insurance and escrow fees. In others the Seller pays, and in others, they are split 50/50. And tax rates can vary widely. Prepaid items like your property tax payments can vary widely depending on when you are closing escrow.
So in summary, when you are comparing lenders, ignore the bottom-line estimate of all your closing costs as they include many items that can be thousands of dollars off. Instead look carefully at the interest rate, the points and lender fees so you are comparing “apples to apples.”
If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). #1 in Brentwood listings sold since 2000. To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty.

Change That Filter!

I’ve seen it hundreds of times. I’m at the home inspection with some clients as the inspector is telling them the issues with the home they are about to buy, and also dispensing some sage advice on home maintenance. When the inspector gets to the part about changing the air filters frequently, the new buyers both nod their heads enthusiastically, and promise to be responsible homeowners. Fast forward 5 years, and I am back in the same home getting ready to list it for sale, and I see it, the same filter that was there 5 years ago. Dust and dander are hanging off the filter nearly half an inch thick. I mention that they might want to change that before we put the house on the market because it has become an eyesore. They look up, as if seeing if for the first time, and finally it gets changed.
Sound familiar? I have to admit my filters haven’t been changed in, oh, let’s say a while. HVAC filters need to be changed frequently. If they are not changed as recommended, the filter can become clogged and the airflow through it will be reduced. This puts an extra burden on your HVAC system that will reduce it’s life and increase your maintenance costs. If a clogged filter is left in a furnace, the furnace may cycle on and off because the interference from the filter will play tricks on the sensors. Under normal circumstances the filter should be changed every three months.
So what to do? Well, as usual, I have a website I can direct you to. Go to www.Filters-Now.com. There you will find practically every make and model of filters. Can’t find yours? No problem, they’ll custom-make filters for you. Then you can sign up to have them auto-shipped to you every three months. So then you’ll have no excuse NOT to change them. Unless you can’t find your ladder, then I can’t help you.
If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). #1 in Brentwood listings sold since 2000. To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty.

Should We Clean Up For The Appraiser?

My answer to this question has changed over the years, I used to tell my clients, “Oh, don’t bother. It won’t matter. The appraiser is just going to look at your square footage and your upgrades.” But I’ve changed my mind on this one.

I just don’t like to take any chances and usually we only have one shot at the appraisal. Even though the appraiser is supposed to put most of the value on the location, square footage and upgrades, they can still consider the upkeep and maintenance of the property when calculating value. In addition, appraisers are still human. If they walk into a home with last night’s dinner plates on the table, dirty laundry on the floor, and just a general mess throughout the rest of the home, it’s going to give them a certain impression about the home and with how you’ve cared for it.

So now I tell clients to prepare for an appraisal similar to how you would prepare for a potential buyer to come view your home. Maybe it doesn’t need to be perfect, but picked up and mostly clean would be great. Clean dishes off the counter and wipe them down, pick up clothes and toys, stack up loose books, magazines and papers, then open window blinds to let light in. Run a vacuum if you have time. Appraisers will look in, out and all around your home, so make sure the yard looks somewhat decent, as well.

This environment will leave the appraiser with a nice feeling about the home, and in case your value winds up on the borderline, the extra effort you went to to make it show well might just pay off to keep your deal together. While the hard “facts” will mostly determine your appraised value, there is a little wiggle room in regards to condition and maintenance that is mostly a subjective assessment by the appraiser. It’s to your benefit to give them the most favorable impression of your home’s condition.

If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). #1 in Brentwood listings sold since 2000. To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty.

Check Is In The Mail

If you experienced any kind of distress with your mortgage the last few years, be sure to check and open ALL your mail! There may be a check in there for you!
In March of 2013, about 4.2 million people were sent notices from a company called Rust Consulting that they were going to be receiving a check as a result of an agreement between federal banking regulators and 13 lenders. This is part of the Independent Foreclosure Review process that I’ve written about several times in the past. This was similar to a class-action lawsuit for certain borrowers with certain lenders where foreclosure was started or completed in an improper manner (mostly due to the “robo-signing” fiasco where documents were notarized incorrectly).
98% of the checks have gone out. The problem is that about 500,000 of the checks that went out were never cashed! They think a lot of people just didn’t open their mail, thinking it was just another collection letter from their lender, and threw the checks out! Or they have since moved, and they need your forwarding address. However, Rust Consulting is sending out 1099s to people that were sent a check, WHETHER THEY CASHED THE CHECK OR NOT!
If you remember seeing any notice from Rust Consulting but didn’t receive a check, or you got a 1099 from them, you should contact them. They also still have 2% of the checks that are in dispute over how to split up the money due to divorce, death of one of the borrowers, etc. If you fall into either of these categories, they’ve probably been trying to contact you! Here is their phone number: 888-952-9105.
If you have questions on this or any other real estate topic, call me at (925) 240-MOVE (6683). #1 in Brentwood listings sold since 2000. To search the MLS for free and view virtual tours of homes for sale, go to: www.SharpHomesOnline.com. Sharp Realty.

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  • Sharp Realty
  • 320 Fairview Ave.
  • Brentwood CA 94513
  • P: 925.240.6683
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