December 18th, 2007 · 4 Comments
With all of the media coverage about the implosion of the real estate market and the rising rate of foreclosures, every time I turn around someone is asking me about the health of the local real estate market in and around Palo Alto. They seem to expect me to echo what they are seeing on TV and reading in the newspaper. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in Palo Alto, which is still enjoying a Seller’s Market with prices maintaining their stratospheric levels as hordes of well-qualified buyers patrol the city in hopes of seeing something new to look at. Last week there were a whopping three (that’s 3) new homes coming on the market in Palo Alto.
When hearing this unexpected good news on the health of the largest investment and asset that most non-Google employees have, a few folks have asked me if I think this market will continue (I do - subject of another posting), and that they are considering selling their homes in the Spring.
Spring, like April 2008? I ask
Well, that is when all the houses seem to come on the market, so that must be the best time to sell . . .
I have gotten better at controlling my reaction (giggling is a great way to start off on the wrong foot). But I then usually explain things in economic terms of Supply and Demand.
If you are a lemming seller and put your home on the market when everyone else does, how do you make it stand out from the competition? You can spend more on preparation (fresh remodel, landscaping, staging, etc.), more on marketing (more advertising, open houses, etc), or you can price it below the competition, or a combination of all three.
These approaches all result in less of a return for the homeowner at the end of the day, much like the price of oil usually drops in May because demand for heating oil has dropped off and the summer driving season hasn’t started yet. Alternatively, when oil is scarce like during a particularly cold winter, or if oil producers reduce production, prices go up.
What if you could make a house scarce? Would that increase the relative interest level and selling price?
Generally, we see the number of homes in Palo Alto for sale increase in mid-February and be high until around Memorial Day, then there is another seasonal increase after Labor Day until late October. Seasonal lows in inventory run from mid-November to mid-February, and then there is another drought in late Summer. Selling prices tend to run inverse of these seasonal inventory fluctuations, as greater scarcity creates greater perceived value for Buyers.
In Summary, an easy way to get your property to stand out is to put it on the market during one of the low inventory times. Serious buyers are always looking, and who would you rather have trooping through your home, serious, qualified Buyers, or people who like to look at houses on a pleasant weekend afternoon?
If you are considering selling, don’t be a lemming and wait until Spring, contact your real estate professional and have him or her show you market data and discuss how to get your home on the market during one of the “off-times”.
Skeptical? Don’t believe me? You can see objective market data for your area, courtesy of Altos Research here, or sign up for a customized report on the market in your area here.
Thanks for reading.
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Tags: * Type of Content · Analysis · Business of real estate · Buyer and seller tips · Consumer · Real estate
You longtime readers (since March 29th) will remember my original Mortgage Mania article “Subprime Loans - Should Palo Altans Care?” that discussed some potential ripple effects of the subprime lending boom and bust, and the resulting changes in lending requirements for purchasers of million-dollar plus homes in Palo Alto and surrounding communities.
In that article I mentioned that tougher lending standards were on the horizon. Since major lenders do loans all across the country, they take a one-size-fits-all approach to guidelines, and in attempting to shelter themselves from risk associated with rising loan defaults in free-fall markets like Detroit (or Antioch, Gilroy, etc.), for example, they are making changes to lending guidelines that will make it harder for high-income folks with strong credit to buy homes here.
For some in-depth knowledge on this issue, the changing guidelines, and what you can do now if you are in the market for a home, I turn to Curt Van Emon of OPES Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in Palo Alto, San Mateo and now Los Gatos. OPES is latin for wealth, and my go to source for analysis of what changing lending rules mean to my clients.
Curt is a fellow blogger, so you can read all of his analysis here at financeambition.com. I’ll just give you the summary here.
- As I mentioned back in March, guidelines are changing, and so buyers wanting to use interest-only loans for purchases will need to qualify based on their ability to make payments including principal AND interest.
- It will become harder to qualify for an adjustable rate mortgage than a fixed rate mortgage
- Buyers will qualify for lower loan amounts, meaning less buying power. (Goodbye 4-bedroom house, hello 3 bedroom)
When do the new guidelines take effect? July 22. So, read Curt’s recommendations, mark your calendar and contact your Realtor if you are planning on buying a home anytime soon.
If you aren’t currently working with a Realtor who is financially savvy and can explain what these changes mean to you, I know where to find some.
Stay tuned for updates on if and how these new guidelines affect buyers and the local real estate market in and around Palo Alto.
Thanks for reading . . .
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Tags: Real estate
December 20th, 2006 · 1 Comment
One of the hidden treasures of Menlo Park is the Fair Oaks neighborhood, nestled between Middlefield Rd, Marsh Rd, and a seldom-used industrial rail track. Squashed between the three neighboring towns of Atherton, Menlo Park, and Redwood City, it nonetheless manages to have a character all its own.
A stranger walking the streets of Fair Oaks wouldn’t help but notice a lack of sidewalks and proper drainage, and an abundance of little British-style roundabouts. Both help create the unique sense of neighborhood for which Fair Oaks residents are justly proud — a uniqueness that comes from a peculiar combination of benign neglect (as part of unincorporated San Mateo County instead of Menlo Park proper) and a strong neighborhood association (which installed the roundabouts to slow down commuters who use the neighborhood as a way to avoid the traffic on Marsh and Middlefield).
The neighborhood association also oversees Fair Oaks Park, a little gem maintained without a cent of public money and situated on a Hetch Hetchy right of way; residents keep their fingers crossed that the massive water system’s pipes will never need to be dug up.
Being part of unincorporated San Mateo County — “Menlo Park” in this neighborhood being technically only a mailing address — is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Fair Oaks residents don’t have the luxury of access to Menlo Park’s phenomenal elementary school system; on the other hand, property values are a good 20% to 30% lower than nearby Menlo Park proper, most of the difference being accounted for by…the poorer schools. What you would pay just under a million dollars for in nearby Flood Park would set you back a mere $800,000 or so in Fair Oaks.
Many of the homes are small — 1200 sq ft or less — and sit on small lots of 4500 sq ft or less, a testament to Fair Oak’s origins as weekend country homes for rich San Franciscans and San Jose-ans in the 1920’s. There are a smattering of larger lots left, mostly a relic of spillover estates from nearby Atherton, which technically the southeast corner of Fair Oaks is still part of.
Conveniently located only minutes from the bustling downtown of Palo Alto, as well as Menlo Park’s more bucolic downtown, Fair Oaks is also only a vigorous stone’s throw from highway 101, making it a convenient location for commuting to many of Silicon Valley’s top high-tech employers.
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