Posts Tagged 'condominium'

It Is All About Community

WWW signWhen I moved to Winding Wood Way, I expected that I would learn to live with neighbors and hear the sounds of human existence over the hoots of owls, growls of raccoon and wind in the redwoods.  I have been surprised at how quiet my new neighborhood is.  I see folks walking their dog or pulling out in their car but other than those activities, I hardly see anyone and seldom have the chance to meet.

So I was very excited to learn that a workday and potluck was planned for last Sunday.  The entrance to our little street was flanked by grass and with a group of frustrated gardeners in residence, this was not an acceptable situation.  The homeowner’s association had planned a perennial garden to spruce up along the sidewalk and the ground was prepared by the maintenance fellows.  At around 11 AM the group was gathered and the planting was underway.Planting2We were finished in no time.  I had planned to spend the whole day and decided that I should use this time to work in my own little back yard.  It is still a mess so you will not be seeing a picture of it as yet.  I planted a rose which generated a tub of topsoil that I have no idea where to dispose.  I then decided that it was time for the privet growing along the back fence to go.  Soon my yard was not only full of pots, plants and topsoil but the debris of a 10 foot privet!  By this time I was totally exhausted and a bit downtrodden.  How was I going to dispose of the mess I had just made?Picnic

Off I went to the picnic at the common area by the vegetable gardens.  I am going to have to sign up for one  of these gardens and hopefully next year I can grow eggplant and peppers and onions and zucchini.  There is no time for that until I get my own garden habitable.

I met neighbors whom I had never seen and shared a wonderful meal.  I shared that I had just generated a great deal of debris and did not have a green bin for disposal.  I was told of someone who had offered theirs for the communal workday but was not needed.  I drove home yesterday thinking about how I might need to go door to door until I found the person with the empty bin.

What a wonderful surprise when I got home and a green bin was in my driveway!  Community is a wonderful thing.

What is happening in Real Estate?

The last few months I have been talking about moving and vacation and tsunami warning but not much about real estate.  The appearance is that nothing is happening in real estate or I am just not participating.  Appearances can be misleading!  I haven’t been writing about it but real estate is consuming most of my time – which is only fitting since it is the business I am in!

The sales of foreclosure properties is going to be with us for a long time.  Many homes that have reverted to bank ownership are still to hit the market.   Banks are continuing to hold back putting homes on the market that will flood neighborhoods with inventory and therefore drive the prices lower than they are today.  The low end (under $300,000 here in Northern California) had shown signs of firming but there are properties still coming on the market that are indications that we may see another price reduction.   The heavy rains of 2010 have had an impact on buyers willingness to go out looking but even with the inclimate weather, homes are selling.

Last week clients closed on a three bedroom/ two bath home in American Canyon for $325,000.

Over the last nine months, I have been working with 2 sets of buyers who could not get their offers accepted due to the multiple offers for lower priced homes in San Jose.  Today both are in escrow.  This came about through dedication to finding a way to make things happen and creativity in financing. 

One buyer is looking for either a home or condo under $200,000.  This was unheard of just two years ago but today there are many.  The difficulty for my client is one of beating out the cash investor.  With 60% down payment, he could still not get an offer accepted.  The first hurdle was that he did not have a credit rating.  You heard correctly – he did NOT have a credit rating!  Here is a person with no debt and a good chunk of change but no bank would lend to him.  Working with an ethical and hard working mortgage broker, he was able to establish a credit rating by the use of past rent and utility payments, making routine charges and payments to a credit card and being added as an account holder on one of his parents credit cards.  The first is a pretty safe and straight forward action but is not always successful in getting the credit established.  The second is simply a demonstration to the credit watching services that if he charges something, he will pay for it.  The third is a bit touchy as there needs to be a balance  maintained between income and debt.   To establish or improve a credit rating (called a FICO score) you should follow the advice of your mortgage broker carefully.

The second buyer was in a very different situation.  They each have steady jobs with regular paychecks and excellent credit.  But they have a modest nestegg to use as a downpayment and for closing costs.  FHA financing is their only option with the 3.5% downpayment.  With a maximum purchase price of $280,000, many homes are listed on the market but homes in this price range receive multiple offers from all cash investors.   Agents are writing all cash offers for much higher prices than the home will appraise knowing that when the appraisal comes in, they can lower the price.  This totally takes the first time homebuyer out of the market.  The approach we took to get into contract was to locate a home that was in need of major repair in a very good neighborhood and make the offer contingent upon getting an FHA 203K rehabilitation loan.  We located a home that was built in 1901 and has been “improved” over the last century.  Specifically, there are two small additions without foundations.  This “feature” makes the home unattractive to either a buyer who wants to immediately begin cash flow by renting or a buyer who is getting a conventional or normal FHA loan. 

The FHA203K loan program provides purchase money for the buyer plus the needed funds for making repairs and upgrades so that it qualifies for an FHA regular loan.  A licensed contractor must provide a bid for the work and the payments to the contractor are administered by the lender and a 203K consultant to insure that the work is satisfactory to the buyer and that the contractor is paid.  Yes, it is a lot of work beyond a normal purchase – but the homebuyer will have a home that is safe, not in need of repairs and meets their living needs.  It is a great program that is being utilized more than in previous decades.

Putting an FHA 203K deal together is not for the faint of heart.  In preparation for this approach, I became certified as a 203K Specialist by RE-Build USA.  This is a training on the FHA process and an introduction to the people who can make it happen.  I am pleased to  partner with Pollie Barnes of Prospect Mortgage and Wells Fargo Bank in this endeavour.    Feel free to ask if this loan program can be a way for you to get your dream home.

Retirement has a new meaning to me!

On Thursday and Friday of this last week, I joined about 25 other Realtors in a class called Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES).   This class leads to a designation which is accredited by the National Association of Realtors.  I am interested in learning the information because I have worked with a number of clients who have moved from their long term homes (30+ years) into less demanding living spaces.  One relocated to an adult community (55+ age requirement). One moved to a smaller home in town.  One decided that assisted living was the next step.  One is now living in the granny cottage on her daughter’s property.  In all of these cases, I learned a great deal about the issues we will all face as our life circumstances change.  But I didn’t know if I was giving the absolute best service possible. 

In the process of these transactions, I came across rules for “adult” communities, how to get the most “stuff” removed in the least disturbing manner and the pros and cons of reverse mortgages.  I wanted to know if there was a better way to do things.  The good news from the class is that I did everything in the recommended manner.  The bad news is that I have so much more to learn – that is good news too because it means I can give even better service in the future.  I am now in the process of meeting professional organizers, elder law attorneys, designers for universal use, insurance agents, reverse mortgage experts – the list goes on!

The huge choices for retirement living arrangements is beyond what I had an inkling.  Cruise ships are being built where you can buy a unit (just like buying a condo) and cruise around the world 365 days a year.   These floating cities are geared to active 80+ people who want to see the world without flying or living in hotels.  Communities are available that have beautiful apartments or garden homes and a full care “memory” center for the spouse who has developed Alzheimers.  I was blown away by the options that are being developed so that those of us who never want to be “old” can enjoy life without expending so much energy!  Over the next few months, I am going to visit the various options in Sonoma County so that I can be informed.

Many serious topics were covered in the class and I am no expert on any of them.  The attendees where asked to give the age of the oldest person they knew.  The average age was 94.  These 94 year olds were mostly active and living independently.  By the time the baby boomers (yes, that is where I am) are nearing the end of their lives, that age will be around 104. Right now 60 doesn’t sound so old. We all still have a lot of time to plan.  From the senarios given in the class, there could be three moves after age 60.  1 – Downsizing for more time to do activities. 2 – Relocating to be nearer the children or other support group.  3 – A home with 24 hour care.  Some people will move to communities that have all of these options.  Others will stay in their homes with support staff.  The varieties are endless   Over the next year, I plan to learn a lot more about these things.  I want to be prepared for what is coming.

Condominiums in Sebastopol

Homes in Sebastopol are frequently a bit higher priced than similar homes in the surrounding area.  The reason is due to the community uniqueness and delightful weather.  There are vintage homes and new homes and a quaint downtown that is great for walking.   There is a wonderful bookstore, Copperfields, that can keep me occupied for hours and plenty of places to get healthy meals.  One of my favorite spots is East West Cafe that serves Mediterranean influenced meals for vegetarians and meat lovers.  The Sunday farmer’s market is across the street from Whole Foods and always has delights both decorative and edible.  So what does a person do who wants to live in Sebastopol but can’t afford a Sebastopol house?  Right now there are some wonderful deals in the condominium market.  I visited two today and made a few videos to let you see what can be purchased for under $300,000 in Sebastopol.  The first video is of the parking lot and going up to the condos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRC__5LItlo  The second video is of a unit that is on the market for $299,000.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SJRwxVDyaQ  The third video is on a unit that is on the market for $255,000.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWNqPvMmIXc  These videos make more sense if you watch them in this order.  Enjoy the videos and let me know how you like them.

Condo Market in San Jose, CA

Tuesday I traveled to San Jose to look at property and visit my son.    I first moved to the San Jose area in 1979 when I rejoined IBM after a few years hiatus to raise young children and try other endeavours.   We moved into the Santa Teresa area where I lived until moving to Palo Alto in 1985.  When my son and his wife decided to purchase a home within a couple of miles of our old family home on Mindy Way, I brought the real estate part of my life back to the old neighborhood.  In 2009, I joined the Santa Clara County Realtor Association.  I am pleased to say that I am now an active member and visit the area regularly.  The low end market is very active in Santa Clara County with prices beginning to creep up and multiple offers on anything well priced.  Most properties are bank owned or short sales but there are still homes with equity.   While a great many are in distressed condition, some are move in ready as shown in the pictures below.  The pictures show ample storage space, a clean bathroom and good condition flooring.  This condo is in the north eastern section of San Jose (95132) and is listed at $199,900.  It has been on the market 5 days and offers were requested to be in by noon on the 4th day.  This property was listing for a year at $365,000 before the bank took it over.  This pricing was based upon what the seller owed on the property and not what the market conditions were requiring.  This home could have been sold as a “short sale” for something between the current asking price and the previous asking price.  This potentially saves on personal and family stress and the impact on credit scores.  If you or someone you know is facing foreclosure, a short sale could be a better solution.  Call Tom Shula if you have questions about selling in a distressed property.  He is a Certified Distressed Property Expert and would be happy to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.   


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