Monday, February 25, 2013

City of El Cerrito cracking down on homeowners! Beware

Rumor has it that the City of El Cerrito of "cracking" down on non-permitted work. "How," you ask? Apparently, during an open house a code enforcement officer will stop by and if he notices that there was a major remodel job like a kitchen or bathroom, he will investigate to determine if a permit was pulled for the work.  If the owner did not pull a permit then they will issue a fix-it fine to the seller. I have yet to see this happen and it is only hear-say but apparently that is the rumor.

Given that there is no city transfer tax in El Cerrito and they just built a brand new city hall and the downturn of the economy it doesn't surprise me that the city needs to find other ways to collect revenue.

written by Gina Odom

Cracked Glass Found in Home Prices Crystal Ball

Who doesn’t want to know what will happen in the future? That’s a very small group, for sure, since good planning is a cornerstone of good management -- for households as well as for organizations of every kind.

So, whenever Bay Area homeowners see headlines like “Home Prices Up ‘Unsustainable’ 5.9% in 2012,” above a MarketWatch article that explains that price growth is expected to slow, they probably would like to gauge the reliability of the forecasters.

In this case, MarketWatch is part of the relatively stalwart Wall Street Journal, so credibility goes up. But closer examination finds that the author is just reporting information real estate site Zillow compiled. Zillow is indeed an internet behemoth -- but can East Bay homeowners rely on its national predictions to gauge East Bay home prices?

My own take is to find out how well has this source done in the past… 
Looking back a very short while ago (to December 26 of last year), I find that Zillow’s survey of 100 economists and forecasters “said they expect home prices to increase in full-year 2012 by 4.6%.”

Hey! Hold it! This is only February, but now the same outfit is telling us that the actual home prices gain last year was 5.9%. Doing a little arithmetic, it seems that the 100 economists and forecasters, faced with the task of estimating home prices for a year that had just a week left, were off by 28%! (They also acknowledge that the same panel had predicted the rise would be 2.3% only three months earlier).

So I guess it’s not that surprising that they feel home price rises like last year’s are going to be ‘unsustainable’ in 2013. Apparently the actual home prices were unsustainable last year, too!
Since real estate and home prices in Berkeley or Oakland are inherently local, it takes on-the-ground expertise to keep up with them.  If you’d like to know where your home falls in today’s market, contact me now to schedule an initial consultation.  I think we’re getting ready for an interesting spring season —and I’d love to help you explore your options!

written by Gina Odom

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oakland Home Sellers Think 'Staging'

We all know the feeling – the one where guests are due and you haven’t had time to clean the house.  You shove all the…well… stuff into the back bedroom and shut the door (you’d lock it if you could). 
Now imagine that feeling times 10.  If you are trying to sell your home this spring, and you have rooms full of that…well…stuff -- you’re in for exactly that.  

You can prevent it all with just a touch of the staging approach for your Oakland home.  Not everyone has $5,000 or more to spend on professional staging, but then again, you can’t offer your home in “lived in” condition and expect to have buyers racing to write you their high-priced offers. There are many staging companies that can work within your budget as well, so, if you only have a few thousand to work with that is better than nothing. And often times, a stager or Realtor can incorporate your stuff to save on costs.

Real estate is in large part an emotional selling proposition – beyond their basic housing requirements, buyers want to see themselves living a better life in their new East Bay home. The quickest and easiest way to make that possible is to simply get rid of that same stuff! 

Here’s an easy example: while a messy home office – one stuffed with papers and files – will cause many potential buyers to think too cramped for me, a well-staged home office helps them imagine their own paperwork in control. To achieve a look that’s clean and simple, box up your files and clean out the dust bunnies.  If you have allowed extra furniture to accumulate (like that folding table in the corner that holds last year’s tax records), go ahead and de-accumulate it!

Staging of any kind may not be your first choice for how to spend an afternoon, but selling your Oakland home is a business transaction, and when you approach the process confident that a little elbow grease will go a long way, your pocketbook will register the difference. 

If you are, in fact, preparing for this spring’s selling season, contact me to discuss practical strategies for economically handling the repairs, remodeling, and staging that will speed the sale of your East Bay home.

written by Gina Odom

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rental Increases Motivate Investors, 1st-Time Homebuyers

To the extent that Oakland rentals reflect wider real estate movement, there is good news and bad news for Bay Area tenants. It all depends on how they view it (and how they chart their personal housing strategy). The bad news was not unexpected: for the third straight year, rents were up across the nation in 2012, according to apartment housing industry expert MPF Research.  

Although rents rose at a slightly slower pace than in 2011, national forecasts are calling for rent increases in 2013 that match last year’s. The research firm said that apartment rents climbed 3.0% in 2012, down from 4.8% in 2011, but again were above the long-term norm of 2.5% registered over the past 20 years.

For tenants currently in Bay Area rentals -- both apartments and single-family homes -- rents may be heading up, but the good news is that this price pressure has not yet resulted in a less friendly home buying environment. “Loss of renters to purchase in the now-improving for-sale housing market is having only a very small impact,” according to MPF’s report. In other words, rentals are not being lost in large number even though rents are rising, so floods of first-time homebuyers are not yet adding significant upward pressure on single-family home pricing. 

Even with housing prices on the rebound, first-time homebuyers who decide to leave the world of Bay Area rentals to buy a home now will still benefit from the record low interest rates and distressed property bargains that result in historically affordable home prices.

Another group that would hail rising Bay Area rental rates are investors.  "Most places are starved for new product right now, so properties that will complete over the coming year appear likely to do incredibly well, generally without hurting the results for the existing stock," according to Greg Willett, MPF’s vice president.

Whether you are looking to buy or sell a rental home in Oakland, conditions warrant a thorough look at the opportunities available now and those opening this spring.  Call me to get started on a plan of action!

written by Gina Odom

Thursday, February 07, 2013

California home prices up 12.6%!

According to CoreLogic, home prices have had a huge increase in purchase price since 2006. Inventory remains low and there is a ton of investor money going into real estate. It's been obvious in our area with buyer competition and with low interest rates it seems like everyone wants in on the action. Now, we just need inventory to pick up!

written by Gina Odom

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

I am now a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE)!

After many hours of studying and test taking, I am now a Certified Distressed Property Expert. Should you know of anyone who is having a hard time making their mortgage payments, please have them call me. I can help! It's always best to know all of your options before considering a foreclosure. I have helped many sellers in this tough market and may even find a way for the homeowner to stay in their home with a modified loan payment.

Gina Odom, Realtor
Certified Distressed Property Expert
Green Certified
415.307.1423 cell