Top 10 Bay Area Real Estate Predictions for 2016 – Part 1

With 2015 in the record books, it’s time to focus forward. While it’s a given that no one has the ability to predict the future, it is possible to paint some broad strokes based on past and current events. Here is our stab at the Top Ten things you can expect to affect the Bay Area Real Estate Market in 2016:

  1. Expect interest rate hikes to continue.

Our first interest rate increase in almost a decade took place in Q4, 2015 as the Fed took one more step in its ongoing quest to normalize U.S. monetary policy. While we can expect to see more increases coming in 2016, we do not believe they will do much to hamper the Bay Area housing market short term, as their effect on mortgage rates will not really be felt for some time to come.

  1. Expect continued stock market volatility.

Stock prices ended down for 2015 as we experienced an extremely volatile year. Leading issues included

turmoil in the Chinese and European markets, anticipated interest rate hikes, the collapse of oil prices and the stated intent of the Fed to begin normalization of the U.S. monetary policy. Since none of these issues have gone away, expect more of the same, bringing continued uncertainty to the stock market, which in turn will bring a degree of hesitancy to the housing market.

  1. Expect millennials to continue avoiding homeownership.

Only 20% of millennials own a home versus 75% of boomers. Millennials are staying home longer, getting married older (if at all) and having children later. Consequently, they appear to be in no rush to buy homes. It had been anticipated that they would begin moving en-masse towards purchasing homes in 2015 – this never happened and will probably not become a reality in 2016 either.

  1. Expect move-up buyers to continue to have extreme difficulty.

The “move-up” segment of the market has almost disappeared as there have been no homes for them to buy to replace their existing properties. While homeowners have historically moved an average of every seven years, a series of factors over the past five years have now increased that average to ten years. Since move-up buyers have traditionally represented a large percentage of the buying population, the fact that they are going nowhere will leave a big gap in the market for 2016.

Next week – Top 10 Bay Area Real Estate Predictions for 2016 – Part 2

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.

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6 Critical Reasons I WISH You Would Use My Lender

First of all – let me do the disclaimers:

  1. I am not getting a penny from my lender for writing this.
  2. I get no financial kickbacks, bonuses, credits, kudos, incentives, yadda yadda for using my lender.
  3. In fact, he doesn’t even KNOW I’m writing this (and would probably be VERY embarrassed if he knew).

So … why would I recommend you use him? Glad you asked.

  1. He is the best loan officer I know.

Period. And I know a bunch, believe me. He knows his stuff inside out, upside down and so on. Getting a loan these days and seeing it through to a successful close is like surfing the lava flow on Mount Vesuvius. It’s not for the timid or the newbies. You REALLY need someone on your side who knows what they are doing. REALLY.

  1. He closes escrows.

And that, dear reader, is the bottom line. He has absolutely convinced me that he can get it done, and has demonstrated his abilities so many times, I rank him right up there with the pope when it comes to infallibility. He has NEVER failed to get one of my escrows closed once he has pre-approved the buyer. And … he has saved a number of escrows this year alone that were screwed up by other lenders. Saved my bacon, he did. And my buyer’s bacon as well. It would have been SUCH a shame to have gone through all of the motions only to fall out of escrow at the end. And lose the buyer’s deposit. Etc.

  1. He will tell you the truth.

Strange but true. If he can do a loan, he will tell you he can do it. If he can’t, you will know that as well. There will be no “maybe’s”, “sort-ofs”, “kinda’s” … you get the idea. In fact, there’s a verse in the Bible about that … “Let your yes be yes and your no be no…” I encounter loan officers (almost weekly) who will say almost anything to get a loan, only to change their tune once we’re in escrow. They promise closing dates, then don’t deliver. They promise that they can have approval in a certain number of days, only to disappoint. They promise rates, only to have us discover higher rates on the loan docs at signing. They promise no fees or points but … you can figure out the rest. My lender tells it like it REALLY is … and quite frankly loses loans all the time BECAUSE he is honest. It’s a real shame, truth be known. Telling the truth has become so … underrated.

  1. He can be trusted.

Integrity is huge in this business, especially since it’s been in such short supply over the past few years. He will not put you in a loan program that will hurt you. He will not allow you to get in over your head. He views this as a sacred trust and responds as such. Truth is, he wants to be your friend in ten years, so he puts relationship above trying to “get a deal done.”

  1. He has access to more loans that a big box lender does.

The mainline banks all have their standard programs. Need something a little different? They simply won’t be able to help OR you’ll either pay through the nose to get it. Either way, they have a limited number of programs. My lender is a loan broker and has access to hundreds of loan programs. These programs include many of the “big box” lenders but also includes smaller lenders and even “boutique’ programs. Bottom line, he has access to the specific program that is best for you.

  1. He is FHA certified.

HE is … not someone he knows. Not someone down the hall. Or in some other city. He doesn’t have to send anything out to anyone else.

  1. He is a REALLY nice guy!

He will spend the time necessary with you to make sure you understand the whole process. He goes overboard to explain things and is easy to talk to. And … if you don’t qualify for reasons of credit history, etc., he will be glad to work with you to help you get your financial act together. And he doesn’t charge to do so. He is an adviser, counselor, advocate and … he will become your friend.

Other than that, I can’t think of a single reason to use him … but then again, that’s just about everything, isn’t it?!

5 Ways to Prepare for Winter

While much of the country is hunkering down for snow and ice, the Bay Area is meandering into winter – at least what passes for it here. Although we don’t face most of the frigid antics Mother Nature foists on other regions, we still need to prepare.

Here are 5 ways to get ready:

  1. Have your roof checked.

If your roof is older than 10 years, get a roof inspection. Better to be safe than sorry, and a certified inspector will be able to quickly identify potential issues and provide repair estimates. This year, we’re facing the prospects of an El Niño promising a wetter than normal winter – since Bay Area roofs haven’t seen a lot of rain in recent years, they haven’t been put to the test. It’s always better to deal with a roof when it’s dry than when damp spots start appearing on interior ceilings; by then, damage has already occurred. Most Realtors can provide referrals to honest, competent and certified inspectors.

  1. Clean your gutters and downs.

Clean your gutters, especially if you have trees close by. Clogged gutters cause water to pool on your eaves and could force moisture into the interior of your home, even if your roof is in perfect condition. Make sure nothing is clogging your downspouts as well – a blast of water directed inside the pipe will usually suffice.

  1. Direct water away from your home.

Downspouts need to direct water well away from your home. Elbows and extensions can be purchased from most home improvement centers or hardware stores. The further water is channeled away the better.

  1. Trim vegetation.

Cut back vegetation that touches the house and prune tree branches that are touching your roof. Vegetation traps moisture against your home and branches moving in the wind can cause damage.

  1. Check your heating system.

Colder temperatures are on their way. Regardless of the type of heating system you have, get it checked before it provides a chilly surprise. PG&E offers free inspections – call now because they will be very busy once it gets colder. Check weather stripping on doors and windows to hold heat in. This also might be a good time to replace old, tired single-pane windows with new dual pane products.

Get ready now! When the storms hit, snuggle up with a book and hot beverage, confident that your preparations will keep you warm and dry.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.

Moving? 5 Things To Not Forget

You’re in escrow and the days are counting down to moving day. While most can handle the actual “moving” part, many forget the little details that can ensure that your relocation is successful. Miss any of these Top 5, and you may end up with some unintended aggravation.

  1. Update your address

Whether you visit your local post office or go to the USPS website, make sure the US Postal Service knows your new address. Do it as early as possible so that the transition will be a smooth one. Tell your postman as well – they can help make sure everything ends up in the right place. For key accounts, don’t wait for the post office notification to alert them – be proactive and visit their websites to change your information right at the source. Banks, venders, services, publications and more – let them know where you are going. The sooner they know, the better.

  1. Prep your new home

Make sure your home is ready to move into. Change the locks, hire a cleaning company to deep clean, shampoo any carpets and, if you see any hints of unwanted critters, have an exterminator do an inspection and any necessary treatment to rid your new digs of any unwelcome “guests.”

  1. Change your utilities

Most cities have sections on their city websites that identify local utility companies. PG&E, water, trash and internet are the big ones. Don’t leave it too late – you may end up driving somewhere to use a restroom. While you are getting your new utilities lined up, make sure you get the existing ones turned off at the right time.

  1. Disconnect existing services

Currently have a landscaper, pool serviceman, pest control company or other service provider? Don’t forget to tell them you are moving – you don’t want to pay them for servicing a home you no longer inhabit.

  1. Declutter your belongings

Moving can be a wonderful time to thin out the amount of stuff you own. You are going to pay to move everything – make sure the value of goods you are transporting is more than the cost to move it. Consider getting rid of things you haven’t used for a long time.

Plan carefully. If you do it right, not only will you show up at your new home with your belongings, your internet, utilities, magazine subscriptions, statements and correspondence will be there waiting as well.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com. This article originally appeared in Castro Valley Forum Newspaper

Let There Be Light

Growing up on the Canadian Prairies, everything was flat, farms were massive and towns were infrequent. In practical terms, there were typically no visible obstructions or light sources in any direction.

Visiting the farms illuminated a common theme: a farmhouse and barn connected by an overhead power cable that included a single 100W light bulb suspended over the yard. Flying at night changed my perception of these solitary bulbs. From 35,000 feet I could pinpoint every farm’s location by those 100W lightbulbs twinkling like diamonds on a black velvet blanket.

Light is amazing. It lifts the spirits, provides hope and a feeling of spaciousness. Buyers entering dark rooms feel oppressed and want to leave immediately. Since it’s important homes feel open and inviting, sellers must understand the importance of light.

Historically, homes had heavy curtains and limited lighting. Newer decorating styles have abandoned curtains, opting for slim blinds or shutters and a swag or slim panels for color.

Some sellers have safety concerns – they don’t want anyone outside seeing in. Unfortunately, this means they can’t see out either – a huge problem when showing a home. Buyers want to be able to walk through the rooms, feel light pouring in and see what’s outside each window. It’s why savvy Realtors open every blind while hosting open houses.

After showing buyers thousands of homes, I’ve concluded the following:

  1. Keep the rooms light and airy. Remove clutter and excess belongings so light can hit the walls.
  1. Paint appropriately. While it’s OK to have color, only one wall should be a dark color, if at all. The remaining surfaces should be warm neutral tones, not stark white. Kelly Moore Swiss Coffee is a great color for trim, doors and ceilings.
  1. Remove heavy window coverings. The less on the windows the better – homes we stage typically have mini-blinds that can be pulled up and a swag for color.
  1. Bring in the lights! Corner and table lamps will bring light into a room, and for the best effect, use warm white bulbs, not fluorescents or LEDs. Once a home has sold, the new owners can bring in whatever energy efficient lights they want.

While it’s ok to live with curtains closed and lights off, when a buyer is headed your way, it’s Show Time! Light it up, open it up … and watch the interest go up as well.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com.

No Boom Or Bust on the Horizon

Any hope the market will slow has been erased as of late with the continued lack of inventory and relentless flow of buyers trying to score a transaction. Although there are many factors contributing to the trickle of listings, the effect is singular: buyers are pushing prices upward with multiple offers on almost every home that appears.

With the continued upwards movement comes a siren song echoed repeatedly throughout the Bay Area: “This is a bubble, it’s going to crash, the current market cannot sustain itself.”

Bunk, I say.

To be sure, there are neighborhoods that are dipping and bobbing like a drunken sailor on a storm-ridden deck. This goes without saying – the Bay Area has as many micro-housing markets as we have micro-climatic zones. On the whole, however, values are pounding upward.

Students of real estate understand that markets move in ten year cycles. Follow the trends over the past 50 years and you’ll see an ebb and flow of values in almost perfect symmetry. Values head upward, adjusting and counter-adjusting as they go, peaking in the middle and then wending back down to begin the cycle anew. Each time, however, the bottom is higher than the previous cycle resulting in a steady overall gain over the years.

Then came 2004. As the Fed relaxed lending guidelines, prices shot through the roof as loans became available to those who should never have received them. With constraint thrown to the wind, a feeding frenzy ensued, pushing prices ever higher. Built on fraudulent lender practices and junk loans, in 2006, the wheels came off the bus and the whole thing came tumbling down.

The resulting financial catastrophe did something not seen in the previous 80 years: it disrupted the 10-year real estate cycle. The result was a one-time five year cycle beginning with boom and ending with a bust. And here is the key: with banks returning to normal pre-2004 lending practices, it is reasonable to assume that we should also see a return to the standard real estate cycle as well.

If that’s true, and I believe it is, we are currently in year three of a cycle that began near the beginning of 2012. I believe we can expect the market to continue to increase for at least two more years – although perhaps not at the same rate we’ve seen these past three years, but increase just the same.

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com

Neighborhood and School District Maps for Fremont, CA

I’m frequently asked where one neighborhood ends and the next one begins.

This post should help: The City of Fremont, CA has done an excellent job of providing maps for the many facets of the city. The links below will help you find the maps you are looking for and hopefully help you in your search for the perfect home in the specific neighborhood and / or school district of your preference. It would be great if other cities followed Fremont’s example!

Click here for the City Of Fremont, CA Map Page

Click here for the City of Fremont, CA Neighborhoods Map.

Click here for an Interactive School Boundaries for every school located in the City of Fremont,CA:

http://schoollocator.jasabe.com/fremontusd/