Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Few Helpful Hints Before Buying a Cliff Side Home

Few sights are as beautiful as a home perched on a craggy cliff, overlooking the ocean—except when that cliff starts to crumble. That’s what frightening video footage has shown is happening to the coastline in Pacifica, CA, just south of San Francisco.

Ten days of El Niño rains battering this bluff have caused portions to collapse into the sea. And since some people’s apartments are situated so close to the brink, many lost their backyards and porches, and now must be wondering if their homes are next.

The city of Pacifica has declared a local state of emergency. So far, it has condemned 20 homes as uninhabitable, ordering its inhabitants to vacate the premises. More may follow, because El Niño is far from over.

As sudden and dramatic as this may seem, the U.S. Geological Survey—which studies the impact of storms and erosion on shorelines—has found that the cliffs in Pacifica have been retreating at an average rate of about 2 feet per year since 1950. But it’s hardly the only area at risk; coastal erosion affects many areas.

So if you’re pining for a cliff side retreat of your own, is there anything you can do to keep it from slipping out from under you?
According to environmental designer and science teacher Pablo Solomon, certain beaches are indeed safer than others. 

“There are basically two types of beach fronts: those in which the ocean is depositing sand and creating more beach, and those in which the ocean currents and waves are steadily eroding them away,” he explains. Buying a home on the former is way better than the latter.

You just do not build on an eroding beachfront and expect to not end up in the ocean sooner or later. When you are building on dirt cliffs, it makes no difference if they are 8 feet tall or 80—they will eventually erode and collapse. In fact, building on stone cliffs is not always a sure answer. Give the ocean enough time, and castles, forts, and anything can fall.”

The USGS features a map identifying areas most vulnerable to coastal hazards such as erosion. And if you do find yourself swooning over a home near the ocean, you’ll want to bring in some additional experts to assess if it’s a solid purchase, so to speak.

“Buyers considering these types of homes really need to bring in structural and environmental engineers as part of their due diligence.”  “Depending on the makeup of the land, it may be that some terrains simply can’t safely support a structure on them for the very reasons these homes are collapsing. But other areas could be fine.”

So until you’ve done your research, don’t let the crumbling cliffs in Pacifica scare you away from a home with an ocean view. In the words of one Pacifica renter, there is a slightly brighter side to the situation:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Typically Seasonably Slow Bay Area Real Estate Shows Hefty Gains

December 2015 single family home sales showed unseasonal gains in nearly all MLSListings counties, compared to November 2015. Santa Clara had the largest gain of 20%, San Mateo 14%, Santa Cruz sales rose 9%, and Monterey 5%. Only San Benito sales dropped 17%. December year-over-year sales remain above 2014 levels in four of the five MLSListings counties. San Benito sales rose 20%, both Santa Cruz and Santa Clara grew 16%, and San Mateo increased 7%, with Monterey showing the only decline at 2%.
Month-to-month inventory tells a different story, continuing to decline across all counties compared to November 2015. Inventory dropped 52% in San Mateo, 46% in Santa Clara, 45% in Santa Cruz, 15% in Monterey, and 3% in San Benito. It remains split among the counties compared to 2014, with San Mateo up 14%, San Benito up 4%, Monterey up 2%, and Santa Cruz and Santa Clara down 16% and 1%, respectively.
Compared to last month, median sales price dropped 20% in San Mateo County, 7% in both Monterey and Santa Clara Counties, 5% in San Benito County, and grew 4% in Santa Cruz County. Compared to 2014, the median sales price remains relatively positive, with the counties of San Benito up 11%, Monterey up 9%, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties up 6%, and with San Mateo up 2%.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Tips for Selling Your Home in 2016

If you’re planning to sell your house this year, well, you’re in luck.“The 2016 housing market is forecasted to be mainly a seller’s market, filled with increasing home prices, relatively low inventory, and fierce competition between buyers,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for®.
But you could still make missteps on the way to the bank. Yes, your house will likely sell, but when? Remember, time is money.

“For sellers, it’s about understanding the ins and outs of their local market so they can optimize the price of their home and close quickly,” Smoke says.
Smoke and his team analyzed market trends to distill their best advice for homeowners looking to sell in 2016. Follow these tips to get the most out of your home sale.

Price your home to the market

“What Realtors® tell me over and over again, and from the analysis that I’ve seen historically, the most important thing is getting the price right,” Smoke says.

In 2016, prices are expected to increase nationally 3% year over year. Local price changes are anticipated to be more dramatic, with markets such as Stockton, CA, and Las Vegas, NV, expected to increase by 10%. But that doesn’t mean those stats are true of your town, or your neighborhood.
“Making the error of going for a price that’s well above the market price is a recipe for being let down and potentially not selling the home at all,” he adds. A home that sits on the market eventually will turn off buyers, who will suspect that something is wrong with it.
Sellers who work with a local Realtor to optimize the price of their home based on its unique features and surrounding neighborhood are often able to receive the highest price for their market and sell more quickly.

List during peak season

 Unlike buyers, who want to minimize competition, sellers benefit from demand. Prime home-buying season begins in April and reaches its peak in June, according to analysis of home sales. Sellers who list their home during the prime spring and summer months benefit from a larger population of buyers and potential bidding wars, which often result in higher prices and faster closings.

Offer incentives

This one seems counterintuitive, given what we’ve said about a seller’s market, but hear us out. Last year—the best for U.S. home sales in nearly a decade—37% of all sellers offered incentives to attract buyers.
“The nature of this market is that you’re going to have more first-time buyers, who are more dependent on financing,” Smoke says. Getting a loan is one thing; coming up with a chunk of cash for closing costs, on top of the down payment, is another.
“If you’re a seller and you’re able to offer some money toward closing costs, you’re actually making it easier on that buyer, and they might be more willing to give you the full asking price,” Smoke explains. You could end up with a faster sale and more profit.

Best place to sell a home: California

This isn’t really actionable advice since if you don’t already own a home there you won’t be selling one, but FYI: California markets are accelerating past the already strong national averages and showing extremely favorable conditions for sellers.

Robust job growth, increasing prices, and limited inventory have sellers ready for big gains in the greater metro areas of Stockton, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose. Once you’ve sold, though, you may not be able to afford to buy again in the area—we’d suggest looking in the Midwest or South.