Archive for Real Estate

Cash is king!!!

Over the past 4 months, I am experiencing a great increase in real estate sales activities in the east bay and solano county, where we believe the market has reached its bottom.  Many contractor/investor buyers are snatching up these distressed homes at pennies on the dollar and then turning them around after fixing them up.  Of course, in order for these buyers to get the property at that price, the banks need to see CASH. 

In the foreclosure market, it’s not as important for you to provide the highest bid like it is in regular market.  Sellers want to get the most for their money, but banks want assurance that the buyer can pay.  In a situation where a buyer with 150k cash vs. a buyer willing to buy at 180k but need financing, the bank WILL take the 150k cash.

Distressed properties are selling like hot cakes because they are priced extremely low on the bank’s books.  For people that are afraid of going into the stock market right now and want a short time horizon to make money, this is the time to get in the foreclosure market, because the risk is extremely low right now given how cheap the homes are.  Even if you can’t flip it, it’s still going to serve is a good rental investment earning good cashflow.


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Good time to buy real estate in the east bay…

Where?  Concord, Antioch, Richmond, Benicia, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Martinez.  These are great places to purchase real estate if you are interested in living in the East Bay.  Prices have dropped over 30%, and most of the three bedroom/2baths single family homes are less than $3-500k.  A few areas are close to bart line and not too far away from the city.  Lafayette and Orinda have not dropped too much, but it’s a good time to buy either a rental property or you can live in it for 2 years and rent it out after.  Rent may likely cover the mortgage if you spend a little time to do some research.

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San Francisco Real Estate Report

Here are some data that might be useful.  This information is as of September 10, 2008 brought to you by an analyst…

Current Available Listings of ALL homes 2,061
QTY (not $) of all homes sold in past 30 days 393
Months of Inventory (based on above data) 5
Average DOM for ALL homes 62
Est monthly % rate of decline (if applicable) 4%

For the month of Aug 2008, the market has fallen 3.5% in price (Aug = $633/SF vs July = $656/SF) and 19% in sales volume (Aug = 393 sold vs July = 486 sold). The days on market increased by 19% from 52 DOM (July) to 62 DOM (August). These statistics are consistent with seasonal market trends. July has traditionally been the most active time for Real Estate in SF. Of the 2061 units available, 912 are SFRs and 1149 are condos/TH/TICs.  Although SFRs represent a smaller share of the market, there are more REOs than Short Sales for SFRs. Of the 912 SFRs, 43 are REOs and 84 are Short Sales. 13.9% of the SFRs are distressed listings. Of the 1149 condos/TH/TICs, 29 are REOs and 27 are Short Sales. Distressed listings only represent 4.8% of the condo/TH/TICs market. Overall as a county and city, only 8.9% of the market is represented by a distressed listing. These statistics do vary amongst the 10 sub-districts of San Francisco.   District 10 is the most severely hit with 24.9% of all active listings being a REO/Short Sale (354 Listings and 86 REOs/Short Sales).  District 7 is among the least hit with 0.03% distressed listings (132 listins and 4 REOs/Short Sales). As we approach the fall season, one can expect to see continued price and volume decline.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?

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How are energy prices impacting real estate values…

Here is a post that I thought was important so I decided to share it.  It’s actually something posted by Lisa Michelle Galley & Our Green Journey…

So I was at the Annual Fisher Center Real Estate Conference today, where the focus was “the state of real estate” from both an academic and practitioner point of view. The slant was residential, with high quality data and insights. A good bit of the perspectives  highlighted themes that are spurring the rise of interest in green development.

Robert Edelstein, Co-Chair of the Fisher Center, moderated a panel this morning on the state of the housing market. The panelists were James Saccacio of RealtyTrac, Bill Sumski of Paladin Pacific and Scott Ouellette of LandCap Partners. This question from the audience caught my attention:

“Do you think energy prices are impacting real estate values?”

Here’s a composite of the panelists’ responses:

Yes, energy price risk has been already been affecting consumers in significant ways. In the current wave of foreclosures, rising interest rates were the main reason that homeowners lost their homes.  Many people do not know the second reason – that the rising cost of gasoline and home energy also made the cost of homeownership too expensive, forcing people to give up their homes.

Energy prices are also forcing homeowners to reexamine the cost of their auto commutes. A panelist stated that he felt that homeowners are already starting to think that the tradeoff for a longer commute to be way less compelling.

Ken Rosen, of Rosen Consulting, provided his usual in depth economic analysis of U.S. real estate. Some of his comments also drew a thick black connector line between energy price increases and the threat to consumer and business viability. Highlights of his comments:

“Oil price increases are like tax increases. With oil prices at $122/barrel today, this is a huge tax increase on the consumer.”

“A year ago (April 2007), oil was $62/barrel, so its cost to the consumer has basically doubled in the past 12 months. At the same time in 2002, it was $20/barrel, a little over 1/6th of today’s price.”

“Official ‘core’ U.S. inflation is being reported at just below 2% currently. However, U.S. consumers, via buying so many products from abroad, are ‘importing’ a real inflation rate of 4%-4-1/2% p.a.. Part of that rate includes energy price increases. So the actual impact of energy price increases on the U.S. consumer and businesses is far greater than what is being measured and reported via the “official” data sources.”

But wait, (sadly) there’s more:

“For low income individuals, the real inflation rate is 7%-10% p.a. due to their greater exposure to food and energy price increases combined.”

So yes, the opinions were that real estate, including its value, is being directly and indirectly affected by consumers and businesses paying more for energy. This whole discussion did not even touch upon the increased cost of energy consumption of the buildings themselves.

A central thesis behind high-performance building is that the way a building gets built and is operated can lower its risk and preserve its value. Today I heard energy price increases  being called a direct tax on consumers and businesses. So to the extent real estate investors are tolerating energy inefficiency within their control, then they are also accepting a tax on their own return and forcing it on their tenants and shareholders. And this type of cost has a direct impact on a building’s ability to maintain or grow in value.

A green building may not totally eliminate the “energy tax”, but the methodology goes a long way in helping owners and tenants get smarter about operating and managing their real estate in a way to minimize negative impacts on their cash flows and property value.

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Building green 101 for “Non-Building” people!

Lately I have been asked by a few home owners that have a strong desire to make their homes “GREENER”, but are lost about where to start.  Much of the information out there about designing and building green homes, but for people, while it’s nice to admire these beautifully designed green buildings, we are bounded by our existing homes and have only so much to work with; and while the idea of creating more natural light is great, it’s rather costly and difficult (not to mention the process it takes to get permits, etc) for most people to do that with where they live.

So I’ve decided to provide a list of simple things we can do as people who care about being green…

  • Buy Energy Star* appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc)
  • Replace single pane with high performance windows
  • Upgrade to high efficiency water heater
  • Upgrade to energy efficient lighting
  • Install low mercury florescent lighting
  • Use building materials from companies that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council  (
  • Use low to non-VOC paint for your interior and exterior walls (volatile organic compound)

For those of you that want to know more about green remodeling, I highly suggest you to go through the 2007 Remodeling Guidelines put together by

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Who lives in San Francisco and how can people afford properties in SF?

In the process of understanding the demographics of people in SF, I came across some data that I thought people might be interested.  This data was recently compiled by Info USA, a company that provides consumer databases.  Here is a breakdown in terms of age groups…  Not to my surprise, there are very little seniors living in the city and with the cost of living, it’s probably also more difficult for people under 25 to live here.  However, with all these people, there are over 260,000 people that make less than 60k, 86,000 people that make between 60k to 100k, and only 108,000 people make over 100k a year.  With more than 40% of homes costing more than 500K and how strong the real estate market is in San Francisco, I wonder if the single people out there would try to obtain home ownership by partnering up with friends.  It might be a good strategy for some people so that they can start the process of wealth accumulation.  Thoughts?

Age Group No. of People Percentage
under 25 13915 4%
25-39 118779 30%
40-49 111251 28%
50-64 102275 26%
64+ 45368 12%

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Who’s who in real estate?

It takes many players to put a real estate deal together and take it from contract to closing. As a buyer/seller in real estate, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with each of these players so that you become more educated regarding the buying or selling process, but also know that many of the roles in a real estate transaction are managed by your Realtor.
A professional who estimates the value of a home to be purchased. In the purchase of a home, the appraiser is usually hired by the mortgage lender to determine whether the price paid is in line with fair market value and therefore justifies the mortgage amount.

Buyer’s Agent
A Realtor who represents the buyer(s) in a real estate transaction and help the buyer purchase a home.

Home Inspector
Most purchase contracts allow a buyer to have a home inspected within five days of signing the purchase contract. A home inspector performs an inspection of the home to be purchased on behalf of the buyers in the transaction. The inspector examines the home for structural soundness and identifies recommended repairs in his or her report. Depending on the area of the country where you sell, common practice may include other types of inspections, including a termite inspection and a radon inspection.

Insurance Agent
A person who sells insurance policies, such as homeowners’ and automobile insurance. Typically, homebuyers need to show proof of homeowners’ insurance before or at the time of closing on the purchased property. Without this, some closings can’t move forward as planned. If you represent buyers, make sure they have secured a homeowners’ policy prior to closing.

Loan Officer
An employee of a mortgage lender who helps borrowers secure financing for a home purchase.

Mortgage Broker
An independent contractor who helps bring borrowers and lenders together by originating residential and/or commercial loans offered by multiple wholesale lenders.

Mortgage Lender
A mortgage loan company that originates, services, and sells loans to investors or purchasers.

Seller’s Agent
The seller’s representative to help sell a home (also often known as “listing agent”).

Title Companies
Once the purchase contract on a property is completed, terms are agreed upon, and financing arrangements have been made, the lender orders a title search of the property to be purchased. Depending on the region, a title company or practicing attorney can conduct this search. A title search is the examination of public records to determine that the person selling the property has the right to sell it and the buyer is getting all the rights to the property. The title search seeks to uncover any liens or other problems with the title. The title company then works to fix any problems with the title before issuing lender’s title insurance, or the loan policy. The loan policy protects the lender’s interests in the property. Buyers also may obtain an owner’s policy to protect their interests.

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