Friday, April 6, 2018

More Buyers Gamble with Sight-Unseen Offers

I was really surprised to read this article in the Realtor Magazine (National Association of Realtors) about the number of people making offers without seeing the property first.
The source of the article is a survey of more than 1,500 home purchasers by the real estate company Redfin.

The figures are, I think, somewhat staggering:
in June of 2016, 19% of purchasers made an offer sight-unseen,
in May of 2017, it was 33%, and
in November/December of 2017, it was up to 35%.

It has happened to me to have a client make a purchase "long distance", so I understand the circumstances under which it can happen, but this number still surprises me.  I guess with the market going up so much, and properties selling so fast (especially in the Silicon Valley), one can see how some home buyers may have to cut some corners.

You can click on these links for more details on the article, and the original article on the Redfin web site.

Nationwide, US home prices are up 6.7% year-over-year in February.   

Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Difference Between "Deed" and "Title"

What is the difference between a “Deed” and “title” to a property?

From our specialists at Cornerstone Title, the Title Insurance branch of Coldwell Banker, here are some pointers for buyers and real estate owners in California. (adapted from an article by Audrey Ference on

A deed is a legal document used to confirm or convey the ownership rights to real property. It must be a physical document signed by the seller/ grantor.

Title, however, is a legal way of saying you have ownership of real property. Title is not a document, but a concept that says you have the rights to that property.

So when you buy a property, you will receive the deed, a document that proves you own it. That deed is an official document that shows that title to the real property has been conveyed to you as the grantee.

How to get the deed and take title of a property?

To get the deed and "take title," or legally own the property, your title company will perform a title search. This ensures that the seller has the legal right to transfer ownership of the property to you, and that there are no liens against it. If everything is clear, then at closing the seller will transfer the title to you, and you become the legal owner of the property.

In California, the title company will ensure the deed is recorded at the county recorder’s office or courthouse, depending on where you live. You'll generally get a notification a few weeks after closing escrow, that your deed has been recorded. At that point, you have the deed and title to the real estate and the property is all yours.

What is title insurance?

Even with all of the due diligence a title company does before closing, there can be rare instances when title problems can pop up later (e.g., missed liens and other legal issues that can be very costly to resolve). To protect against any financial loss, two types of title insurance exist: owner's title insurance and lender's title insurance.

Unlike other types of insurance that protect the policyholder from events that may happen in the future, an owner’s title policy protects the buyer from events that have happened in the past that may jeopardize your financial interest, such as title defects, fraud, and unpaid liens against the property, or claims that someone else is the real, legal property owner.  On the other hand, when you secure a mortgage, your lender or bank will require that you purchase lender's title insurance to protect the lender in case any title problems arise. Lender's title insurance protects the lender's interest in your property until the loan has been paid off.
Thank you for reading!

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Property Tax Fairness Initiative

The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) is embarking on an historic effort to increase homeownership opportunities. C.A.R. is going to qualify an initiative - the Property Tax Fairness Initiative - for the November 2018 ballot which will allow senior homeowners (55 years of age and older) among others to keep all or most of their Proposition 13 property tax savings when they move.

I think this is important, because seniors, who are often on a fixed income, fear they will not be able to afford a big property tax increase if they sell their existing home and buy another one, discouraging them from ever moving. As a result of this “moving penalty” almost three-quarters of homeowners 55 and older haven’t moved since 2000. C.A.R.’s portability initiative would allow senior homeowners to transfer their property tax base from their current residence to a replacement residence located anywhere in California.

The measure, if approved by voters, will let thousands of seniors, currently “locked into” their homes by low property tax rates purchase a home that will better suit their needs while expanding the housing inventory for young families seeking to buy a home.  According to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, tens of thousands additional homeownership opportunities will occur annually.

The initiative would remove the “moving penalty” for seniors 55 and older, and also for the disabled and victims of natural disasters, allowing them to carry their current Proposition 13-protected property tax assessment level to another home of any price, anywhere in the state, any number of times.

Let me know if you are interested in more information on this subject or if you would like to sign a petition to place this initiative on the November ballot.

Thank you for reading!

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A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Tiny Homes in the Bay Area?

I like to read about the progress of the "Tiny Homes" movement in the Bay Area.  It is such a fascinating concept to allow more people to have a home, even if it is a small one, since the alternative for many is often to have none at all.

There have been several newspaper articles written recently on the subject as the concept applies to the homeless population of San Jose.  This is a movement that tries to mitigate the scarcity of land in this part of the Country and allow more people to have a home, albeit a small one, instead of living on the streets.

The latest articles I read were in the San Jose Mercury News by Barbara Marshman, recounting the back and forth in the movement at the level of the San Jose City Council.  Many forces at are work here, among them a concern and push back from local residents, afraid of the proximity of new neighbors living in this kind of housing arrangement, but also a quest to find a solution to the homeless situation in the County.  A follow up article on 12/13/17 by Ramona Giwargis reports that the City Council voted 9-2 to build one tiny home village of 40 units.
Another push back is from people advocating that faster results can be had for the benefit of homeless residents, with the money allocated to the project, in the form of a program to lease existing apartments (to house some of the homeless people).

Even if it is not for the homeless population, Tiny Homes can be such an attractive concept for reducing one's carbon footprint and simplifying one's life, or for vacationing.  I believe there is a lot of future for this concept in an environment like the Bay Area where there is so little land to build new housing.  With some zoning changes, I can see that whole developments could be built for tiny homes: cheaper homes to buy, with smaller land, allowing home ownership to a whole range of population currently coping with the cost of housing, with the possibility to create interesting forms of new residential neighborhood arrangements.  It is very easy to imagine that smaller homes can present various advantages to several subsets of the population.

More information can be found on several web sites, among which: Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, Architecture Art Design, and for the Bay Area, Delta Bay Tiny Houses, claiming to be the only Tiny House Community in Northern California.

Thankyou for reading.

Silicon Valley real estate specialist
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

LASD to expand? - And create a new school close to the San Antonio Center?

Will LASD be successful in its bid to create a new school at the site of the old Old Mill shopping center?  The location is right next to the Parc Crossings complex and a stone's throw to the Old Mill complex of homes.

This 12/12/17 article from Kevin Forestieri of the Mountain View Voice goes into the complexities of the proposition, some historical perspective and future possibilities that it opens.  The comments below give an idea of how controversial the various use choices for the location will be (should the project come to fruition).

Thanks for reading,


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A worthy local non-profit: Community Services Agency in Mountain View

Friday, December 8, 2017

College Debt is Postponing Homeownership

This is not new news, and I already wrote about this earlier on this blog, but it is worth noting it again: college debt is a factor in postponing homeownership and a lot of other life decisions.

I just read this article from RISMedia, written by Suzanne De Vita (online news editor) which reiterates with fresh figures this pressing problem facing our youngest generation.  The National Association of Realtors is actively supporting efforts to find solutions and educate students as they take on new debt.  See the following NAR report on student debt.  As a result a majority of millenials are postponing several significant aspects of their life, such as marriage, starting a family, or starting any retirement savings.

Do you think getting a loan for your education should be more expensive than getting a loan for a car or a house?

Thank you for reading,

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A worthy local non-profit to remember: Community Services Agency in Mountain View

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bay Area Real Estate Continues to Demand Top-Dollar

Market Watch | Bay Area Real Estate Continues to Demand Top-Dollar

In September, the Bay Area maintained its position as California’s most in-demand region for real estate. According to the September California Association of REALTORS® report, six of nine Bay Area counties had less than three months’ supply of inventory, and of the six – two had less than a two months’ supply. The report indicated that San Mateo took the No. 1 spot with the highest price per square foot at $883/sq. ft., followed by San Francisco ($875/sq. ft.), and Santa Clara ($687/sq. ft.). Read more about what’s happening from our Silicon Valley offices.

SF Peninsula – Half Moon Bay reported an all-time low in inventory supply. Although this makes the housing market tough for prospective buyers, many were still encouraged by low interest rates. Palo Alto downtown also saw low inventory that led to multiple offers on most, if not all properties.
Redwood City experienced a healthy demand and saw many sales exceeding asking prices. One instance was an uninhabitable house in southern San Francisco that listed for $550,000 and received 29 offers, selling well above the listing price. The luxury market remained active, although properties did not move as quickly.
San Mateo saw an increase in both inventory and prices. The luxury market was active, but slower with properties priced above $2.5 million. 

Silicon Valley 
Cupertino saw an active market, at times with more pending sales than active listings.  Buyers are encouraged to start house hunting as Silicon Valley is a uniquely strong region with exceptional demand. The luxury market remains active with several sales exceeding $6 million.
Gilroy and Morgan Hill saw low inventory and over 65 percent of the 54 available homes sold for over $1 million. Entry-level homes can be challenging to find, although the average list price of Gilroy is slightly lower. Overall, the area remains a sellers’ market with multiple offers and homes selling for above asking.
Los Altos experienced a continued sellers’ market with low inventory and multiple offers on most listings. The average days-on-market remained low, ranging from 13 days in Sunnyvale to 35 in Los Altos Hills. Sellers need to ensure their homes are priced and primed for a competitive sale. And buyers must be prepared with financing and a knowledgeable, trusted agent to represent their best interests. Buyers must also be aggressive as the market is highly competitive and sellers are more responsive to solid offers. The luxury market priced above
$4.5 million in Los Altos is steady and flat. On average, time on market is 44 days. Inventory is steadily increasing and the number of sales in the high-end market is down slightly.
Los Gatos saw a sustained sellers’ market, and luxury activity remains strong and active.
San Jose saw inventory at a record low. That coupled with low interest rates has created an increasingly competitive market for buyers. Even with the strong demand, sellers are encouraged to price their home competitively – at or slightly below market price – to avoid pushback from buyers. Because of the current competitive landscape, buyers should be ready to make an offer quickly because hesitation may cost them a great opportunity.
Saratoga saw multiple offers on most of its listings and a continued sellers’ market.  Buyers who are ready to make a move should have all financing in order. The high-end luxury market experienced an increase in listings with 24 properties for sale in September, a 9.1 percent increase from August 2017, and a 71.4 percent increase from September 2016.

Any questions about your real estate situation? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!

Francis Rolland

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Real Estate Ownership: how to hold title to your real estate

The question of how to hold title to your property comes up every time as you get ready to finalize the process of buying a home, "sign off", and tell the escrow/title company how to register that new home that you purchase.
This is not something that a Realtor can advise you on (nor the escrow officer BTW), because it is definitely a legal matter, and it does also have tax implications.  The various ways to hold title can be in good part summarized as indicated below:

-  Sole ownership –In this scenario, property is owned entirely by one person, who can do whatever he or she wishes with it without permission from another party. If the sole owner dies without a will, the property passes according to the state law where it is located. In some cases, the court that has jurisdiction will appoint an executor to oversee disposition of the estate.
-  Joint tenancy – As joint tenants, each person who has a share of ownership owns an equal share of the property. If one owner dies, that share passes automatically to the remaining owner(s).
-  Tenants in Common – In this case, a property is owned by two or more people at the same time, but the proportionate interests and right to possess and enjoy the property need not be equal. The owners can sell their share of the property if they wish and, upon death, the decedent’s interest passes to his/her heirs who then become new tenants in common with the surviving owners. (None of the tenants in common automatically receive, by default, the share of the decedent.)
-  Community Property – In the nine states that recognize community property, including California, any property you acquire while married is considered community property, and is equally owned between you and your spouse. This becomes especially relevant in the event of divorce.
-  Community Property with Right of Survivorship - this (more recent) method is very often used nowadays around here in California, as it combines some of the advantages of owning from both Joint Tenancy and Community Property.
-  and there are many other ways of holding title, among others in an LLC, or an LLP, or also, very common around our areas where properties are so high in value, in a Trust.

This is why it you are not certain how you want to hold title to your real estate asset, it is best to inquire ahead of time, ideally with a licensed California real estate attorney. 
I have found that even people who've owned a property for a long time should revisit this important matter, as needs and life situations change over time.
Contact me if you need some resources, and do not just base your decision on the information above ;-)

As always, thank you for reading!


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