Alas, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not consider gluten-intolerance a protected condition, and thus I went hungry during today’s Menlo Park real estate tour, in which many homes offered tempting delicacies to lure us in.
Though the dearth of housing inventory remains an issue (see the 90-day rolling average chart to the left), the numbers have been increasing lately (per the 7-day rolling average chart on the right), and this was reflected in today’s tour which featured a surprising number of properties in the Willows.
But before stopping by the Willows I went to the Flood Park neighborhood sandwiched between Bay Rd and Highway 101 to see Corey Sijbrant’s listing at 1033 Ringwood, Menlo Park. Weighing in at $1,049,000, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1600 square feet, it’s been nicely done up and the master bedroom boasts a loft area, a touch I’ve always liked.
Moving on to the Willows, I started at 927 Arnold, a Tasha Standridge (Keller Williams) listing. This home is a classic “Timing is everything story.” On the market during last year’s doldrums, it just didn’t sell. Tasha wisely took it off the market, made some improvements, and now it shows even better than before and will doubtless sell within the week. With two stories, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and about 1750 sq ft, this home is listed for only $990,000. A home that large in the Willows for under a million dollars? What gives? Simple — it’s unfortunately only a stone’s throw from Willow Rd and from highway 101. The sound barrier wall deflects a lot of the noise, but there’s still enough noise to make the property’s yard a poor choice for a yoga meditation session. Check it out this weekend during the Saturday and Sunday open house.
Next was this week’s winner of the “great spread” award: 212 Chester St from mother-and-daughter team Gloria and Caitlin Darke (Alain Pinel). I had to content myself with the healthy stuff there — celery sticks and carrots — and pass on the undoubtedly delicious, but tragically gluten-ridden, breaded chicken. Oh yes, the home itself…Priced at a whisker under $1.3M, the home has been significantly redone, boasts a large lot over 7300 sq ft, and has nearly 2000 sq ft of living space. See it for yourself during this weekend’s open house on both Saturday and Sunday.
Next up was Karen Izzo’s (Coldwell Banker) listing at 3 Cleland Place. Also open this Saturday and Sunday, this $1,200,000 “Charming Willows Bungalow” has a surprisingly large back yard — complete with a nostalgia-inducing tree swing — and 1410 square feet of living space, including 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Her Realtor treats included some much-needed coffee and some undoubtedly also delicious, but sadly be-glutenized muffins. I had to pass.
From there the next on my list was local Keller Williams superstar Miles McCormick’s listing at 336 Concord Drive. Miles was in the business and web-savvy early enough that he snagged the domain name “HomesOfThePeninsula.com”. At $786/sq ft, this 1520 square foot property will set you back just under $1.2M, and you’ll get not only a spectacular Willows location — with proximity to downtown Palo Alto — but also a very nicely done up 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. Again, delicious treats. Again, not for the gluten-intolerant Realtor. Oh yes, this home is also open on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors
, Coldwell Banker
, Flood Park
, Home reviews
, Keller Williams
, Local information
, Menlo Park
, Miles McCormick, Open houses
, Real estate
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Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors · Coldwell Banker · Consumer · Flood Park · Home reviews · Keller Williams · Local information · Menlo Park · Miles McCormick · Open houses · Real estate · Willows
To Preapprove or not to preapprove…that is the question
February 8th, 2007 · 3 Comments
Well, nowadays, and at least in the Bay Area, that is no longer the question. Bay Area buyers have become accustomed to hearing agents, and their friends, emphasize the importance of being “preapproved”. But like many overused and underexplained topic, few people actually fully understand the power of a properly executed preapproval, and how to distinguish it from its more commonplace cousin, a prequalification.
If you are in the market for to buy a home, especially in some of the more competitive neighborhoods of the Bay Area (such as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Mountain View and San Carlos), your agent – if he or she is any good – will ask you to meet with a qualified mortgage advisor as soon as possible to get prequalified or preapproved. This will serve two main purposes: 1) the agent will be able to serve you best by understanding the range of your affordability and not waste anyone’s time, and 2) you will be able to focus your search on what you know you can comfortably afford and not fall in love with something that was not meant to be. The purpose of the initial meeting with the mortgage specialist is to get “prequalified”; however, you can also get preapproved at the same time. So what’s the difference, and who cares?
Prequalified means that the mortgage specialist has taken a detailed discovery interview of your financial and credit background, along with your housing goals. Based on the information collected, s/he should be able to make a professional decision (based on his/her years of experience and the guidelines published by the lenders) whether or not you are “qualified” to get a loan and approximately how much you can qualify for. Let me stress that this is a decision that the mortgage specialist will make, NOT the person/organization who will ultimately lend you the money. Needless to say, the prequalification has the following weaknesses:
- There is no assurance whether you will actually get a loan or not
Preapproval, when done properly, is much more powerful. It is a prequalification taken to the next step. Preapprovals can take 2 forms:
CONFORMING LOANS ($417K and under)
For conforming loan amounts, the mortgage specialist can actually upload your file information into one of two national approval engines (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac sponsored), and within minutes, obtain a printed formal approval of your loan amount and any pertaining conditions. This approval, because it is governed by a set of approval criteria that is universally accepted by all lenders, can then be submitted along with the hardcopy of your loan file to your lender of choice. That lender’s underwriting department will in turn accept and adopt the findings generated by this online engine. Hence, once you received an from this online engine, you can be fully confident that your loan is essentially approved. The reason that mortgage specialist don’t automatically do this is because (sadly) most people in the industry are not properly trained financial advisors and simply don’t know how to use this application, or are not even aware of it! Those who are aware are often deterred by the extra work and/or upfront cost, and so simply downgrade their clients’ to a “prequalification,” assuming that they won’t know the difference anyways.
NON-CONFIRMING (AKA JUMBO) LOANS (Over $417K)
For Jumbo (non-confirming) loans, preapprovals are a bit more complicated, and controversial. Since the national (Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) engines that are uniformly accepted by all the lenders approve up to $417K – the conforming loan amount limit – many loan agents simply treat jumbo loan preapprovals like prequalifications. That is to say, they use their judgement to see whether a loan would be approved. In most cases, and especially if the agent is seasoned and dependable, the preapproval will not be at risk. But, if time permits and the agent has access to underwriters, it is always safer to discuss the actual loan package with a specific underwriter and obtain a verbal approval. In this case, the loan is not only in good shape according to the agent, but actually considered “approved” according to the person who would ultimately be granting the funds. This “preapproval” is very important – basically, as long as the borrowers can subsequently provide the required documentation (according to loan type) to support what was disclosed to the underwriter, than the written approval would be provided almost immediately upon submission.
Preapprovals, when executed properly, provide buyers with peace of mind when they need to go in with an aggressive offer, such as bypassing finance contingencies. If a loan is preapproved, either through the automated engine or verbally with an underwriter, buyers can be assured that their financing is confirmed within the payment terms of their comfort level, subject to slight market movements prior to locking a loan. However, if a preapproval was not done properly, and the buyers waived finance contingencies, they could be in a sticky situation. I have inherited many clients who have learned this lesson the hard way, having had to back out of a beloved house they won through multiple offers due to a prequalification error, and risking their deposit in the process.
Lastly, while it’s a hard sell, what people don’t realize is that a strong preapproval from a reputable mortgage specialist should placed the buyers in a more desirable position than even a 100% cash buyer. The sellers have no control over what a cash buyer will do with their money between offer acceptance and close of escrow. While not probable, it is possible that the purchase money could go down the drain through a big Vegas visit, or disappear through a bad stock day. Conversely, if the bulk of purchase money is coming from a reputable lender, and the lender has already preapproved, then sellers can have the comfort of knowing that the money is not going anywhere and not accessible to the buyers for any purpose except to buy the house. As a seller, I would much rather to see a strong preapproval than an all cash buyer.
- Make sure you know whether you are getting a prequalification or a preapproval (hint, latter is better!) If the person you’re speaking to can’t explain the difference to you – SWITCH!
- If you are getting a preapproval, ask which lenders you have been preapproved with (and why those were chosen)
- Before you waive finance contingencies, make sure that the person doing your preapproval has verified your credit, your cash reserves, and your household income
Tags: Financing-Process, For buyers
, Good realtors
, Home buying
, Loan Application, Menlo Park
, Mountain View
, Multiple offers
, Palo Alto
, Real estate
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Tags: Financing Process · For buyers · Good realtors · Home buying · Loan Application · Menlo Park · Mortgages · Mountain View · Multiple offers · Palo Alto · Preapproval · Prequalification · Real estate · Willows
Draped throughout with ancient, elegant Willow, Eucalyptus, and Oak trees, the neighborhood affectionately known as The Willows is part of Menlo Park. It is bordered on the southeast side by the San Francisquito Creek, which serves as a border between Menlo Park and Palo Alto, and between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Its west border is Willow Road – an easy link to the 101.
The southern part of the Willows by Middlefield Road is the most sought after area, with prices reflecting its desirability. Visitors inevitably get lost in the curving streets, especially at the X-chromosome shaped intersection of Pope and Laurel – right in the middle of which a magnificent old Redwood tree, a veritable landmark, was felled by a lightning strike.
Further north the homes become more modest, with the occasional new home thrown in for good measure, the most recent example of which is a small new four home development at the corner of Menalto and Gilbert. A small portion of East Palo Alto spills across the 101, wedged between the sound barrier wall and the northern half of East O’Keefe street.
A casual walk through The Willows reveals a wide range of home styles and sizes – small wooden cottages, stucco ranch styles, “Simon Homes” – an early developer of the 50’s, and newer mini-mansions with elaborately manicured yards.
A delightful, picturesque bike path connecting The Willows to Palo Alto makes a trip into downtown Palo Alto an easy 5 minute bike ride over the San Francisquito Creek, and an easy 10 ride to Stanford and the Stanford Shopping Center.
Tags: 94025, Menlo Park
, Real estate
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Tags: 94025 · Menlo Park · Real estate · Willows
December 26th, 2006 · 2 Comments
Lying across the San Francisquito Creek and just to the north and west of its bigger, brasher neighbor Palo Alto, Menlo Park is the epitome of upscale suburban Silicon Valley living. Bounded roughly by Highways 101 and 280 and the cities of Palo Alto, Atherton, and Redwood City, Menlo Park is as well-manicured as it is wooded.
Apart from its natural beauty, Menlo Park’s denizens are proud, and rightly so, of its school system, which include the eponymous Menlo Park Elementary School District and the Las Lomitas School District (both of which it generously shares with Atherton) and the Sequoia Union High School District for the older students.
The shopping district centers around Santa Cruz Ave from El Camino Real to University Drive and boasts furniture stores, upscale salons, a toy store, numerous high-end restaurants (including The Left Bank), a wonderful 70’s vintage breakfast hangout named Anne’s Coffee shop (where one devotee has taken the time to upload a Youtube video), and Drager’s, which performs the amazing feat of making Whole Foods look like an inexpensive Safeway clone. Santa Cruz Ave is pretty quiet after 8:00pm, a sure sign that Stanford students prefer the glitz and glamor of Palo Alto’s University Ave.
While Palo Alto boasts the world-class university Stanford, Menlo Park’s contribution to Silicon Valley’s unique entrepreneur-laden business ecosystem is the venture capitalist heaven Sand Hill Road, an otherwise nondescript stretch of road running from El Camino Real to Highway 280.
The neighborhoods to the north and west of Menlo Park — Fair Oaks, Flood Park, and the Willows — are where you’ll find the city’s starter homes adjacent to Highway 101, with prices for a 1400 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home starting in the mid-$700,000’s. Prices rise rapidly each block south and east of the highway, with the nicer and larger homes deep in the Willows running a tidy $1.6 million.
The Menlo Oaks neighborhood, bounded roughly by Bay, Willow, Middlefield, and Ringwood, boasts some of the largest homes and lots in this area of meandering streets and wonderfully old and large Oak trees. Crossing Middlefield, you come to the Allied Arts/Downtown neighborhood which includes the Allied Arts Guild. Further west brings you to the West Menlo and Alameda neighborhoods.
, Fair Oaks
, Flood Park
, Menlo Park
, Real estate
, Redwood City
, West Menlo
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Tags: Alameda · Atherton · Fair Oaks · Flood Park · Menlo Park · Real estate · Redwood City · Stanford · West Menlo · Willows