Posts Tagged 'REALTOR'

Real Estate Market in Sonoma County – Many Offers and Cash is King

On October 1 I entered 152 Firethorn Drive, Rohnert Park into the MLS.  After a week of constant showings and a well attended open house, I received 10 offers on October 8.  We accepted a full cash offer from a party that was willing to do inspections during the period of review for a preapproved short sale with Bank of America.  The sale closed on October 30 with no hitches.  This home was a fixer but was in a great location and had good “bones”.

Yesterday I learned that an offer we submitted on a major fixer in the Rincon Valley area of Santa Rosa was not the winning bid.  They received 17 all cash offers and ours was the only one for an owner occupant.  The asking price was $229,000.  I believe that the final contract price was around $255,000.  We will not know until the property closes.  What is a “major fixer”?  The roof was caved in at one spot and the floor boards underneath were rotted through.  Read the article below and you will learn that this is not an unusual scenerio.

Realtors’ 2012 Housing Survey:

Competition Is the Name of the Game in California

A highly competitive market pushed California’s housing recovery into high gear in 2012, forcing homebuyers into bidding wars for available homes and rewarding sellers with the strongest prices seen in years.

A new report — the California Association of Realtors’ annual Housing Market Survey — helps explain the dynamics of today’s market.

The survey found that 57 percent of home sales received multiple offers in 2012, the highest in at least the past 12 years, with each home receiving an average of 4.2 offers, up from 3.5 in 2011. Lower-priced homes – typically short sales and bank-owned properties known as REOs – attracted more offers than equity sales. Seven of 10 short sales and REO sales received multiple offers, while only half of equity sales received more than one offer.

Such a competitive housing environment has led to more properties selling at or above the list price, with 41 percent of homes selling without a markdown from the asking price, the highest since 2005 and up from a long-running average of 32 percent.

Additionally, homes sold faster in 2012, with equity sales selling in 32 days compared with 67 days in 2011. REOs took 30 days to sell compared with 50 days in 2011, while short sales took 90 days compared with 141 days in 2011, reflecting the still-difficult process.

Many regions in the Bay Area saw even tighter markets.

“San Francisco saw a higher percentage of multiple bids than the statewide average,” said Patrick Barber, president of Pacific Union International’s San Francisco region. “A solid majority of homes here are selling at or above the asking price.”

Chart showing the share of home sales with multiple offers.

The share of California home sales with multiple offers is the highest in at least 12 years.

In the East Bay, nearly 70 percent of home sales received multiple offers in the third quarter, and many homes went into contract within two weeks of coming on the market.

Across the state, the competitive market is being fueled by favorable home prices and record-low interest rates combined with pent-up demand and a severe shortage of available housing.

“Well-qualified buyers are recognizing the once-in-a-generation opportunity to purchase a home in California and are jumping into the market,” C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold said in a statement accompanying the survey. “However, the fierce market conditions have forced many buyers to compete with all-cash offers and investors, setting off multiple offers and bidding wars, making it even more difficult for first-time buyers to become homeowners.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • The percentage of homebuyers making all-cash purchases has more than tripled in the past 11 years, from 9 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2012.
  • Demand for investment properties and second homes remained strong in 2012, with investors accounting for 16 percent of sales and second-home buyers for 7 percent. The remaining 77 percent purchased homes as a primary residence.
  • International buyers accounted for 5.8 percent of sales in 2012, relatively unchanged from 5.7 percent in 2011. Buyers from China, Canada, India, and Mexico made up the vast majority of international buyers at 39.1 percent, 13 percent, 8.7 percent, and 8.7 percent, respectively.
  • Reflecting tighter lending standards, very few homebuyers have a second mortgage. The share of home sales with a second mortgage has fallen dramatically from a high of 43.4 percent in 2006 to 1.8 percent in 2012.

The C.A.R. report was based on a questionnaire sent to a random sample of 15,000 real estate agents  throughout the state.


Setting the Value of a Property

A Distressed Property that Looks Great

This last week has been a busy one in Real Estate.  I am asked many questions about the process of buying or selling short sales and bank owned properties (REOs).   I just listed a great home in Santa Rosa that is not a “distressed” property.   The question came up as to what is the pricing difference between “distressed” properties and those that are not.  I always respond that the prices are about the same for the same condition.  But often distressed homes are not in as good a condition as those regular sales.  Below is an article on appraisals that was sent to me by Ron Shaw of Paramont Equity.  I think that it gives a good description of the values given to different sales conditions.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Appraisal Institute recently released guidelines to instruct its members on how to deal with distressed sales and foreclosures when seeking comparables.
According to the Institute, some homeowners claim appraisers have undervalued their homes by relying on nearby foreclosed homes and distressed sales as comparables to their properties.
In a recent announcement about the new guidance, the Appraisal Institute states that qualified appraisers “know what adjustments to make, if any, when using distressed sales as comparables, for such methods are taught in basic coursework and updated seminar materials available to professional appraisers.”
Regardless, because the issue is “particularly crucial” in the current market where distressed sales are common, the Institute is offering additional guidance.
The new guide instructs appraisers to rely on less recent sales and broaden their geographic parameters when they cannot find an appropriate comparable within the traditional boundaries.
In general, “foreclosures and short sales usually do not meet the conditions outlined in the definition of market value,” the Institute says.
Short sales may involve “atypical seller motivations,” and foreclosed properties may be damaged or deteriorating. However, “appraisers cannot categorically discount foreclosures and short sales as potential comps in the sales comparison approach,” the institute states.
“As is always the case in selecting sales to use as comparables, appraisers must investigate the circumstances of each transaction, including whether atypical motivations were involved, sales concessions were involved, the property was exposed on the market for a typical amount of time, the marketing program was typical, or the property condition was compromised,” the guidelines state.
When using distressed sales as comps, appraisers must assess all aspects of the sale and decide whether it is appropriate to make an adjustment due to uncommon conditions.

So when you are deciding what to offer on the property, the condition is what is paramount – not the type of sale.


New Homeowners in Santa Rosa

Today was one of those days when I love being a Realtor.  I was able to pass the keys to new owners.  The experience is even better when the owners are first time home buyers.   Don’t get me wrong – I like giving the keys to retirees, second home buyers and folks new to the area.  It makes all the phone calls, bank delays and inspections worthwhile.

Celebrating with a little bubbly!

I met Katie a couple of weeks before she and Justin were married.  They were looking to start their home search when they returned from their honeymoon.  I called Katie a week or so after their return.  We met to discuss the process of purchasing a home and to define what type of home they wanted.

First step – they were qualified with Redwood Credit Union for a loan.  Second step – I identified a number of homes that might meet their needs.  Third step – we went out looking at houses.

Katie and Justin were wonderful clients.  When we visited a home, they were forthright with their reactions and what worked and didn’t work for them at each house.  I was quickly able to ascertain what they really wanted.  When a vintage 1920’s home in central Santa Rosa came on the market, I emailed Katie immediately.  Bingo!  This could be the one.

Thinking about the floor plan, the neighborhood, the condition of the house, will the classic car fit in the garage . . . . . .

The offer made.  The escrow open. The inspections done.

The house is now a home.  The Wedgewood range will be producing great meals and the back deck will be the venue of great gatherings.

I love my job!


What is Happening in Sonoma County Real Estate?

Amazingly I realize that it has been almost two months since I have posted.  It is not that I have not thought about it – it all has to do with timing.

December was filled with getting myself situated at RE/MAX PROs in Rohnert Park.  Yes, it is the same office as CPS Property Advocates which I joined in November.  Four affiliations in the span of six weeks is quite an undertaking.   Fortunately during this time, I have been able to get some business transacted.

Last week the little cabin in Maribel Heights of Forestville closed.  Two days prior to the close, the short sale on Gamay Street in Santa Rosa was approved and inspections were completed.  Early last week, we opened escrow on a bank owned condominium on Racquet Club Circle in Rohnert Park.  I would say that business is picking up in Sonoma County.

But none of these escrows are straight forward or “easy.”  What is a “straight forward” escrow?  Straight forward is where the seller agrees to an offer, the inspections are completed to everyone’s satisfaction, the appraisal is submitted and accepted by the bank, the escrow company draws up the papers, the buyers and sellers sign the documents, the bank funds the loan and the sale closes.  There are many steps but everything goes in a smooth order.  This does not seem to happen often these days.

8190 Knoll Drive, Forestville

The sale in Forestville was the perfect opportunity for a regular, straight forward transaction.  It is a cute, clean cabin – built in the 50’s (maybe – who knows when the county did not keep records at the time) and with a second lot next door.  First problem was that many did not believe that the lot was buildable (i.e. that the county would allow a residence to be built upon it).   We finally (okay, it was only a couple of weeks) got an offer that seemed to be acceptable to all parties and opened escrow.  Second problem was that while there were other homes sold in the last three months in the neighborhood, none were with post and pier foundations or with a lot as large.  Then the appraisal came in $40K less than the agreed upon price – not much value for the extra lot and no comps in the same area.  When the bank reviewed the appraisal, they decided that errors were made and took another $20K+ off of the value.  So now we have a buyer who was willing to pay more and a seller who was expecting more.  After much back and forth, it was agreed that the house would sell for some over the appraisal (based upon what extra cash the buyer could pull together) and after the first of the year to allow time for the sellers to find a property to exchange into.  Everything was set – and then the interest rates began rising.  The property finally closed but it was nail biting down to the end.

1623 Gamay Street

The home on Gamay Street is a short sale.  What that means is that the bank is owed more money than the house will bring in a sale.  Wachovia is the bank who holds the note and they have been proactive in addressing the issues.  My client was qualified for HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) which is a very good program for people who are losing their homes due to financial circumstances beyond their control.  The two major benefits of HAFA for the seller are that the loan is forgiven (meaning that the bank cannot come after the seller in the future to pay off the remainder of the loan) and the seller is given $3000 to cover moving expenses.  All was going well and then the appraiser climbed under the house and said that he observed a leak in the plumbing.  The bank said that there needed to be a licensed plumber called to remedy the leak.  Two inspectors had been under the house and did not observe a leak.  The plumber did not observe a leak.  We are awaiting a resolution from the bank.

The condo in Rohnert Park is in escrow with a bank.  Fortunately (based upon the two earlier examples) there is no loan and, therefore, no appraisal.  The challenge is that the bank wants everything done yesterday but seems to be taking their own sweet time about getting their end of the deal done.  I am sure that it will work out well but I expect that something out of the ordinary will happen.

This is real estate today.  Deals are getting done.  Nothing is easy.  Most buyers and sellers are stressed.   But the bottom line is:  When you need to sell, sell.  When you need to buy, buy.  There is no better time to do it.

When I return to Sonoma County from my vacation, I will be holding the home on N. Main Street in Sebastopol open and I will be listing a horse property on Sonoma Highway.  Watch here for details in early February.

417 N Main Street, Sebastopol - OPEN FEB. 13, 2011 1 to 4

The Changes Keep Coming

The Real Estate business has become a continual field of change over the last few years.  The market numbers no longer tell the same story of years past and the processes of buying and selling have changed significantly.  On top of that, there is a considerable consolidation and movement amongst the brokerages.  It is hard to keep up and difficult to interpret the meaning behind the statistics.

417 N Main Street, Sebastopol

Third quarter results are out and the numbers show an increase in the average price with a decline in the number of homes sold.  This might give an encouraging sign to home sellers – but don’t jump to conclusions.  Sales have declined because there are fewer homes on the market.  Over the last few months, foreclosures have slowed and, therefore, fewer homes are on the market.  There is a great deal of talk about the shadow market – homes that are either foreclosed and not on the market or homes that are to be foreclosed soon.  This shadow market continues to discourage investment buyers who are waiting for a greater selection and lower prices.  In the meantime, people who need to buy homes to live in are out looking for the great deal on their dream home.  Some of these folks are buying and they are buying higher priced homes at a significant discount from previous years.   Home seekers buying higher priced homes and investors sitting on the sidelines result in a higher average selling price without an increase in the price of any individual home.

More loan programs have been introduced that will allow first time home buyers to purchase a home with little to nothing down.  The programs differ from the exuberant past in the guidelines for qualification for these loans.  Interest rates are incredibly low which makes this a great time to buy if one is qualified – read this as a steady job, with a paycheck, good credit and little debt.   The all cash offer is still the trump card on well priced real estate.  Multiple offers make it difficult for first time home buyers to be successful in the low end of the market.

Barbara Ellis - Realtor

On the business side of real estate, there is a great deal of movement in the brokerages and their affiliations.  I do not want to add to the rumor mill so I will focus on just my changes.  A couple of weeks ago, I moved from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate – MasonMcDuffie (which was Prudential Real Estate a week before) to join CPS Property Advocates in Rohnert Park.  My reasons were many but the compelling motivations were to more centrally locate along the 101 corridor and work with a locally owned brokerage. CPS Property Advocates is an independently owned and operated office led by Spence and Ann Hiatt – skilled, established professionals with sound reputations within the community.  I am delighted that they have recently announced their change in affiliation to ReMax, one of the largest and most successful real estate companies in the world.  So in a couple of weeks, I will have yet another new set of business cards and will be sending out announcements of my change.  I think that this is the last change for quite a while.  I am ready for some stability and selling some homes.  You know that I am available to provide the very best in service for you and your friends and family.

Does Anything Ever Stay the Same?

Just when I thought that I had changed everything that should be changed, another big change has occurred in my life.  I am now a REALTOR affiliated with Better Homes and Gardens – Mason-McDuffie.  Now that is a mouthful!  How did this come about?  Mason-McDuffie is the brokerage that I joined when I moved to Prudential CA Realty some 4 years ago.  The company owns 35 offices (of which Sebastopol is one) with 1900 agents throughout Northern California and the Reno-Sparks area of Nevada.  


So what does all of this mean to my clients and me?  My funny, flippant answer is that I have always wanted to be with a company that has a green (or non-blue) logo.  It goes so much better with my coloring.  The serious answer is that for right now – it means nothing.  A lot of hoopla was made at the announcement meeting in San Francisco about improved tools, expanded marketing and better name recognition.   Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation, a global leader in real estate and relocation services.  Meredith Corporation is the licensor of the Better Homes and Gardens brand and publishes the magazine, Better Homes and Gardens.  

I have spent my last 36 hours contacting the sellers of my listings and giving the heads up on the sign changing in front of their homes.  I am selecting new business cards – yes, my beautiful new business cards that Jen designed are now obsolete.  I am doing the business that needs to be done.  This seems like an excellent time to post my listings here.  

1623 Gamay Street, Santa Rosa

 Today the home on 1623 Gamay Street in Santa Rosa went active in the MLS.  Asking price is $348,000 which is a short sale.  This is a lovely home in West Santa Rosa off of Guerneville Road.  With only one loan, the approval time from the bank should not be very long.  


One of 3 Residences at Sully's

The nostalgic community of Monte Rio is along the Russian River and hosts the Bohemian Grove.  Sully’s was the playground of San Franciscans escaping the summer fog.  Today this property  is 1.75 acres of walkways and redwoods with three  residences.   This historic property offered at $650,000. 

417 N Main Street, Sebastopol

Sebastopol is known for gravenstein apples and vintage charm.  This four bedroom, two bath home was built in 1903 and is true Sebastopol.  Hardwood floors, gas fireplace, spacious porch – all add up to a convenient, livable home in downtown.

8190 Knoll Drive, Forestville

I used to live in Forestville so there is a special place in my heart for this wonderful little town.  Up in the warmth of Mirabel Heights is 8190 Knoll Drive.  This 2 bedroom cabin is on a double lot which means it has some gardening room.  The interior is knotty pine and totally Russian River in style. 

Call me if you would like more information on any of these listings.  My phone number remains the same:  707 486-3119. 

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.

Getting the House Ready to Sell

In my business, I am constantly letting people know what they need to do to get their home sold.  Have good curb appeal, pare down the possessions, take the family pictures off the wall, stow away valuables….  The list goes on.  Then there are the disclosures that need to be completed.  In a turn around of roles, I am dealing with these issues from the other side.   My home should be on the market within a week or so.  I have gotten most of the interior ready to show.  The front yard has a new cover of mulch.  The patio is neater than usual.  When did we put down those limestone floors?  Does the doorway into the master closet really need to be repainted?  Pity the poor Realtor who has a Realtor for a client! 

The peaceful red living room

I will keep in my bank of memories the many hours of peacefully reading in the living room with the shade of the oak tree adding a serenity to my day.  Red is not known as a soothing color but in this particular application, it envelopes instead of excites.   The beiges and warmth of the dark wood must be a huge contributor to this overall feeling because the dining room is the same color of red but with the inclusion of the blues from the oriental carpet and the large carborundum print, the dining room is stimulating and energetic. 

Dining Room during packing

Many a lively dinner party was held in this dining room.  The table would be set either formally with china or elegantly with pottery.  No matter what the dishes were, most every open space would have an array of  wine glasses filled with the best of California and French wines.   Friends and family would feast on terrific meals and the conversations would last for hours.  Thankfully the chairs are very comfortable. 

Those wonderful meals were prepared in the carefully planned kitchen.  The Dacor cooktop has handled multiple tasks simultaneously with the ability to provide raging fires and very controlled simmering.  The ease of cleaning is very important to me as that is the task that often fell to me.  The double electric ovens are great for baking as well as roasting the perfect turkey or pork loin.  A great deal of love went into the selection of every aspect of this culinary center. 

Cook Area of Kitchen

My favorite element of the kitchen is the granite backsplash behind the cooktop.  The flow of water from the flow of textural veining seemed a necessary complement.  Of course, the custom stainless steel hood and the pull out pantry between the ovens and wall are also favorites.  Then there are the sectioned drawers and the pull out seasoning shelves and the recessed glass shelves for spices.  I am quite pleased with the overall efficiency. 

The family room is just the other end of the kitchen.  The full kitchen/family room is the hub of the house.   The thermostatically controlled fireplace welcomes early morning risers to a warm and glowing sanctuary.  Well it is a sanctuary until the surround sound is activiated and the TV gets going!  I must admit that watching a golf tournament on the large screen TV is much more  entertaining than trying to see what is happening on a small one.  The living room and patio are wired to pipe music throughout the home and garden.   No matter how enticing I make the living room, guests and family alike seem to gather in the kitchen.  It is comfortable, in the middle of everything and has a great view of the garden. 

Family Room from the Kitchen Sink

If you know of anyone who is in need of a 4 bedroom home with a great garden, send me a message or comment.  It should be on the MLS tomorrow.  Our listing price is $724,500.  

I miss this home and everything that it stood for.  I will replace it with another – very different – but equally as welcoming.  I certainly hope that as many friends will visit me in my new place – where ever it turns out to be.

The Q3 Real Estate Report is Out

Every quarter we wait for the quarterly report to see if the numbers agree with how the market seems to be from an activity perspective.  It is always interesting to read how the number crunchers interpret the data.  For Q3 there is a mixed bag for Sonoma County.  As a whole, year to year comparisons are that the prices are down and the activity is slightly down.  But that is only part of the picture.  For Sebastopol, Forestville and Guerneville, the volume is up 38% from Q3-08 to Q3-09.  2008 was a very slow year in Forestville but 20 homes were sold in the last 3 months.

The buzz in the news is that there is not going to be that huge glut of foreclosures this next year.  The number of foreclosures in California have leveled off instead of escalating as predicted earlier in the year.  According to information on California released by MDA DataQuick on Tuesday, 50,013 homes were foreclosed upon in the three months ended Sept. 30, down from 79,511 for the same period in 2008.  They report an increase in default notices but the banks are attempting to keep people in their homes if at all possible. 
 The bottom of the market is being bought up by investors and first time home buyers as quickly as it enters the market.  While looking at properties in San Jose yesterday, we had to juggle around other Realtors and their clients while looking at homes priced for multiple offers.  This is happening throughout Northern California.  This is making the purchase of a home for first time buyers difficult as any reasonably nice single family dwelling is receiving cash offers.  An FHA borrower cannot compete against all cash.  The strategies to get into contract are more than price and it takes real perseverance to be successful.

Meanwhile, we are seeing a renewed interest in higher end properties.  This is good news for everyone as it signals an increase in comsumer confidence.  I am certainly feeling more confident about the real estate market – but that could pass!

Look for the Q3 Market Report for Sonoma County within the next week.  If you do not receive one, email me with your current address.  If you would like to get the Q3 Market Report for another Northern California area (like San Francisco, Contra Costa or Santa Clara counties), just ask.  I am happy to send them along.

Rural property 011

Walking down Memory Lane, Guerneville

Memory Lane is a short street on the most eastern side of Rio Nido.  The street is one way and climbs up above the road and comes out onto Canyon One near the entrance to Rio Nido.  There are a number of very nice homes on this lane and the one in these videos is up with the best.  It was built in 2004 and is currently on the market for $289,900.  There have not been many sales in Rio Nido since the market began to slow in 2006.    This is a special one.




September 2021


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