Eileen, Jackson, Connor and Chris from September 2019

Comprehensive | Intelligent | Personal

If you’re selling your home, our 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and 8 years of flipping houses together can be used to your advantage. Chris’ former role as Director of Marketing for Bradley Real Estate has given us the inside track on all the best marketing tools in the business. Our listing style is full-service, and our experience and ability to price, negotiate and successfully sell homes for top dollar will shine through.

If you’re buying a home, we have the local knowledge and market awareness to help you find the right home and complete a successful purchase. We also have great resources and connections that have been built over the last 16 years that will benefit you throughout the entire process.  The most important thing is that you’re confident and happy with your sale or purchase. Openness coupled with direct and regular communication helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and special attention to detail will assure you that we’re there every step of the way.

Here’s to the Successful Sale or Purchase of Your Home!

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Who Not to Listen to When Buying or Selling Real Estate

Published 8/15/18

When you’re buying or selling a house, real estate is going to be a hot topic of conversation in your daily life. It’s going to be at the forefront of your mind so it will inevitably come up everywhere you go, whether you’re at work, the grocery store, a friend’s house or a family gathering. When you’re having all of these conversations, remember this one extremely valuable piece of information: Don’t listen to the advice from anyone! Unless you run into someone who buys and sells property on a monthly basis, your best bet is to smile and nod when anyone starts to give you advice about real estate.

If you have the right team on your side, i.e., a great realtor and a great mortgage broker, they will be able to listen to your wants and needs and then guide you appropriately. They will be able to answer all of your questions and address all of your concerns. They will also be able to give you real-life advice based on all of the information and facts, and all with the expertise that years of experience have given them.

Who do you think knows what they’re talking about? Is it your parents who have only bought 3 houses in their entire lives and haven’t bought a house in the last 20 years, or the person who buys and sells property for themselves all the time and who represents clients buying and selling property on a daily basis? I’m not sure why real estate creates such a strong desire for people to share their “expertise” in the field, but it seems like everyone has an opinion, and, unfortunately, that opinion is usually only loosely tied to reality and facts. One of the worst offenders is the wannabe investor who has spent thousands of dollars on seminars and who pays monthly fees to be a member of a real estate investor group. To this day, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who attended a seminar on how to flip houses who actually ever bought an investment property. Those seminars are scams that sell you the dream of using other people’s money for your own gain. I’m not sure what world you’d have to live in for a stranger to give you their hundreds of thousands of dollars for you to profit from, but it’s definitely not this world.

The secret to real estate is knowledge and experience. Knowing how everything works and why is extremely useful, and being able to understand the different scenarios, personalities, trends and psychology is where success will be achieved.

Real estate is expensive so you don’t want to make a mistake, but there are people out there that don’t have a complete understanding of what can and should be done that can either push you into something that isn’t a good fit or convince you that something that is perfect for you is not a good idea. Yes, you should be cautious, but there’s a difference between being cautious and being unrealistic. You or someone you know can caution you out of everything. There’s always some negatives to every home and every property. Even if you had 20 million dollars to find the perfect home, it doesn’t exist. There is nothing, no matter how much money you have, that will be 100% perfect, so don’t waste your time looking for it, and don’t miss out on a great opportunity because there might be something better.

It all comes back to finding a really good realtor who has put in the time and effort to becoming an expert in the business. A great agent along with a great mortgage broker is the winning combination. Utilize their knowledge and listen to what they’re saying. It’s okay to question, but if you don’t trust what someone is telling you, then it’s probably time to find someone that has all the pieces to the puzzle.


The Biggest Key To Buying Real Estate 3/1/18

The number one thing you should do when purchasing real estate is this: Know the inventory. If you’re in the market to buy real estate, you must be extremely familiar with all the properties out there. This goes for buying your first home, your forever home, an investment property and everything in between. Don’t rely on your realtor or anyone else to tell you about the available properties. You must get out there and physically see the properties for yourself (preferably with your agent so you can discuss them together). Once you know what’s out there, you will know what different properties are worth, and you’ll be able to make an educated and informed purchase.

The time you spend viewing properties that are for sale and following the market during the time you’re buying will pay off. Yes, it is time consuming, and you might rather be doing something else, but that understanding and knowledge you will have will allow you to make wise, informed and hopefully lucrative decisions.


Are You Chasing the Real Estate Market Up? (1/5/18)

If you’re certain that buying a house is a goal within the next couple years, then stop wasting time and make that goal happen as soon as possible, otherwise, all you’re accomplishing is chasing the market up. In this chase, you’re ensuring that you’ll be paying more money for the same house at a later date. You’ll also be losing any equity you could have been building during that “waiting” period. Chasing the market up will work out great for your future seller who gets to sell you the exact same house for significantly more money just because a few more months have passed. You could have been the one enjoying your house and benefiting from the appreciation.

If you’re not in a position to buy, e.g., you still have 6 months left on your lease, you’re not financially ready or you’re not sure if you’re going to have a job in a year, then you have no choice but to wait, however, if you’re financially ready and have nothing holding you back, then you should definitely make your move.

People often say that they want to continue to save in order to put more money down, which is great in theory. Most of the time, however, when we look at the numbers, that strategy has a major flaw. The big question you have to ask is how much more money can you save and over what period of time. Some people think that if they keep saving an extra $1,000 or $2,000 a month, they’ll eventually have a larger down payment to put toward their house. The idea is that the more they put down the lower the monthly payment. That strategy could work in a declining market, however, in a market that’s appreciating (even at a modest rate), chances are your ability to save on a monthly basis is going to be far exceeded by the market’s appreciation.

Even if you’re saving an additional $2,000 per month or $24,000 over a year, if the market goes up 5%, you’re going to be way behind. Let’s say you’re looking at buying a house for $700,000. If the market appreciates 5% over a year, then that 5% increase would cost you $35,000. While your savings account might have more money in it, you’re now paying $35,000 more for the same house, which completely negates the year of hard work and saving, and you’re now even farther behind because the $24,000 you saved is still $11,000 less than the new price. In addition, you were probably also paying to rent your existing home, so any money spent there was not being paid toward your own equity. And, to top it all off, had you bought the house at the $700,000 price at the beginning of the year, you would now own a house that’s worth $35,000 more than what you paid for it.

Unless you have the ability to save at a pace that is faster than the market appreciation, you should never wait. And, even if you can save at a faster pace, if you know you’re going to buy, why would you wait to pay more for the same house at a later date?

The Difference Between Condos and Townhouses Explained 10/5/17

Over the years, the lines have been blurred when trying to define whether a unit is a townhouse or a condo. The simplest way to separate the two types of properties is by land ownership. If it’s a true townhouse, the land that the unit sits on is owned by the homeowner, whereas, if it’s a condo, the land is owned by the Homeowner’s Association (HOA). In Marin and Sonoma, true townhouses are often set up as Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s), and that’s how we define the land ownership structure of a particular development.

*Each development and HOA is set up differently, so you will need to verify the specific responsibilities of the owner and the HOA when buying a condo or townhouse. The following outlines general responsibilities and aspects for each type of property.

Typical Townhouse/PUD Features

  • Owner is responsible for the exterior of the building as well as the interior. This includes the roof, siding, patios, decks, balconies, driveway and landscaping within the footprint of the property.
  • The HOA is responsible for the communal areas, e.g., pool, gym, clubhouse, parks and landscaping outside the owners’ properties.
  • Often built in rows so that the units share walls but there are no units above or below.
  • HOA fees are less because individual owners are responsible for more of their own repairs.
  • Insurance is higher because individual owners are responsible for more of their own repairs.
  • Can be larger in size.

Typical Condo Features

  • Own the unit up to and including the interior walls. The HOA is responsible for the exterior of the. This includes the roof, siding, patios, decks, balconies, driveway and landscaping.
  • The HOA is responsible for the communal areas, e.g., pool, gym, clubhouse, parks and landscaping outside the owners’ properties.
  • HOA fees are higher because they have to cover all the additional expenses for maintenance on the exterior of the units.
  • Insurance is less because the HOA covers the replacement and repair costs for more items.
  • Generally smaller in size.

How to Hold Title to Your Property 8/15/17

One important question you’ll need to answer during your real estate purchase is how to take ownership of the property, i.e., how to hold title. How you hold title has a significant effect in the event of death, so it is important that you have it set up so that it’s the most advantageous to you, your spouse, family, partner or company.

Sole Ownership—Ownership by an individual or other entity

  1. A Single Man or Woman. A man or woman who is not legally married or in a domestic partnership.
  2. A Married Man or Woman as his or her sole and separate property. A married man or woman who wishes to acquire title in his or her name alone. In this case, the title company insuring title will require the spouse to sign off on the fact that they will have no legal right to the property.

Co-Ownership—Ownership by two or more people.

  1. Community Property. Property owned together by a married couple.
  2. Community Property with Right of Survivorship (most common for married couples). Property owned together by spouses. If one person dies, that person’s interest ends and the property is entirely owned by the surviving spouse.
  3. Joint Tenancy. Property is owned by two or more people who may or may not be married and in equal interests. When a joint tenant dies, the property is automatically conveyed to the surviving owner(s).
  4. Tenancy in Common. Property is owned by any two or more people in undivided fractional interests. These fractional interests may be unequal in quantity or duration and may be executed at different times. Each tenant in common owns a share of the property and may sell, lease or will his or her share of the property.
  5. A corporation is a legal entity made up of one or more shareholders but is regarded under law as having an existence separate from the shareholders.
  6. An association of two or more people who can conduct business for profit as co owners.
  7. Trustees of a Trust. Legal title to property is transferred by the grantor to a person called a trustee. The property is held and managed by the trustee for the benefit of the people in the trust agreement.

Limited Liability Companies (LLC). An LLC is a legal entity considered to have a separate existence from its owners. The LLC will have an operating agreement that will determine how it functions and is taxed.


Update to Google Moving to Marin County: April 2017

Here is a quick update on the prospect of Google moving to Marin County. If you’d like to read my original post from August 2015, you can scroll down to see what I had to say then. Somehow this rumor continues to persist and remains my most popular blog post despite every piece of evidence clearly proving that it was nothing more than a rumor that doesn’t seem to have ever had any merit. The bottom line is that it’s over, and we can safely say that it was never going to happen. I’m still waiting for all those people who were so adamant that it was true say that they were wrong, however, I don’t think that’s going to happen either. There were so many stories from countless people that insisted that they had inside information, but there’s been nothing but crickets from them for the last year and a half. At this point, I don’t believe the story warrants any more attention than this quick paragraph, and we can now safely move on to more important things 🙂


How to Score the Best Deal When Buying Your New Home or Investment Property

Published 10/11/16

The single most important thing you can do to score a good deal, even when submitting offers in a market favorable for sellers is this: Be Active. There are a couple different aspects to this concept, but, once you’ve decided to buy a home, you need to be ready and you need to be willing to put in the time, whether that’s submitting documents to your mortgage broker, looking at houses the day they become available, or taking the time to get your offer submitted, even if you’re busy with work, family and other obligations.

Part of being active begins with having your financial house in order, i.e., have your loan ready to go by submitting the necessary financial documentation to your mortgage broker and have them run it through underwriting. By doing this, there shouldn’t be any hiccups during the loan process, which is attractive to any seller considering an offer from you because it shows your commitment to the property and the process. By taking care of this step prior to submitting an offer, you can also tighten the time period you’ll need to get your loan to go through. This timing can be the difference between your offer and another offer so make sure you’re on the positive side of that equation.

Being active also means staying on top of the market. Your agent (hopefully me) should have his eyes and ears open for possible off market listings as well as listings that are coming up in the near future. A little advanced knowledge can mean the difference. Realistically, however, you’re going to buy a home that is on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) because the overwhelming majority of sellers utilize the active market exposure to reach the most buyers and obtain the most money for their home. Wouldn’t you?

A common misconception the public has is that the only way to get a good deal is by buying bank owned properties, which are basically nonexistent in today’s market. Out of the 2,148 houses that have sold in Marin County year-to-date, 13 of them were bank owned. That’s .6% percent of the market. Oh, and those 13 REO’s that did sell this year were sold for market value. Do you really want to continue to focus on REO’s?

We then have the other public misconception, and that’s the secret house for sale that sells for some ridiculous price well below market value. The truth is that, on the rare occasion those off-market sales for low prices do happen, there is ALWAYS a reason. If you looked at the details of the transaction and the property, you would find out that the property had some major flaws that are not apparent on the surface and the buyer had to buy the house with cash, and they’re going to have to put a ton of cash into it just to get back to even, so, unless you have $500,000, $700,000 or even a million+ in cash laying around, that property was not an option for you. And, you’re not a contractor, have never even remodeled a bathroom, let alone an entire house, and you have a full time job and two kids. You could never have bought that house. Is that a little harsh? Maybe, but the faster you are able to deal with reality on reality’s terms, the better off you’ll be. There’s no sense in wasting time waiting for something that doesn’t exist, so it’s better to get to work as soon as possible.

The bottom line is that we’ll keep all options open, including REO’s and off-market opportunities, but, realistically, you’re going to buy a house that’s on the MLS and other buyers just like you are going to know about it. Being proactive can increase your chances and staying on top of the market could pay off. This means, if you’re actively looking to buy a house, your agent should be watching the market all day every day, including weekends. If something comes on that’s available, go see it right away, even the first day it’s on the market. If you like it and want it, submit an offer immediately. Depending on the situation, a seller may set an offer date, in which case you might want to wait to get a sense of the competition, but this scenario will have to be evaluated for each individual property.

Now, here is the best real tip I can give you for getting a good deal. Keep in mind, though, that you should never only focus on these scenarios. You do, however, need to be able to recognize them when they present themselves and act quickly to utilize them to your advantage. The two scenarios I’m referring to are the times directly following a price reduction or when a house falls out of escrow with another buyer. There’s no better time to submit an offer with a chance for a good deal than the immediate hours following one of these events. If you wait a couple days, you’re probably going to lose your window. If a homeowner has to reduce their price, then they obviously missed the mark with the initial offer price and are probably still questioning whether the new price is going to work. At this point, they’re dealing with lots of emotions and a degree of uncertainty. The same goes for when a seller loses a buyer. There’s no way they can be confident that they’ll be able to find another buyer for the same price, so quick action on your part could work in your favor. An experienced agent will navigate all aspects of this process for you, but you’ve got to be willing to put in the time and pull the trigger.




Is Our Real Estate Market a Bubble?

I have a client who insists the current real estate market is a major bubble getting ready to burst. He believes that the lending practices are still unstable, which will cause people to default on their loans and drive us back into the depths of foreclosures and short sales. He also asserts that unemployment is going to skyrocket and that the volatility of the global economy is going to cause housing prices to tumble.

After watching the real estate market closely over the last 12 years and witnessing the ups and downs, I completely disagree with his assessment. What’s currently happening is not indicative of a tumultuous market and what I’ve been seeing over the last 3 years has been solid growth and stability based on low inventory and stringent lending practices. To say that what’s happening with the economies of countries around the world, gas prices, the stock market, unemployment and the election doesn’t or isn’t going to affect the real estate market would be ignorant, so I’d like to make it clear that I’m not ignoring any indicators from any of those things. I am taking everything into consideration and watching how they influence our real estate market (or not) over months and years. Unemployment has continued to decline and is only 3.2% in Marin and 3.8% in Sonoma, which is the lowest it has been in 8 years. This means that people have jobs and are overall fairly confident in the economy and their current situation. When we have this stability, we have people that are ready to buy. The difficult thing with the current market, however, is that there isn’t enough inventory for the number of buyers.

One of the most important aspects of the real estate market is how property is financed and the equity owners have in what they own. The rigorous financial assessment that each buyer goes through before they’re given a loan by a bank is the single best reason I can give to explain why the current market in no way mirrors the bubble we were in before the housing crash. The lending practices are drastically different today, which means that everyone who buys a house is financially capable of affording that house. I would even take it a step further and say that banks have been so tight in their lending that they’re actually approving people for less than what they are capable of affording, however, this is a good thing since it will keep us from having a boom and bust like we had in the past. In addition, investors have been snatching up property since the crash and a lot of houses have been bought with cash, which gives the owner 100% equity and means that, even if property values go down, there’s no loan from a bank to default on. The investors could lose money, but that loss would be recognized by them individually and not collectively as a country like we saw with the crash and subsequent bailout.

Not only is this what I’m seeing while working with clients, but my wife and I have experienced this for ourselves with our own investment properties over the last few years. Most recently, we were able to capitalize on the market last spring with the successful sale of a renovation project. We quickly utilized part of that gain to invest in another property. That new property, with a lot of sweat equity, and decent appreciation has proved to be a solid investment. In addition, we’re looking to purchase another property in the first half of 2016. I raise these points so that I’m not just preaching but actually practicing. I want my clients to know that I am actively involved in our market and putting my own money on the line so they know that I truly believe what I’m telling them. Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch about how the best time to buy is NOW, although I do believe that now is a better time than it will be a year from now and probably a year after that.

There are always plenty of reasons to convince yourself to not do something–that’s why some people are doers and others are watchers. Overwhelming negativity can be stifling and a sky-is-falling attitude will render you forever stagnant. Buying a home for your family or investing in real estate is always a risk, but you can limit your exposure by making smart and informed decisions. On the other hand, if you’re going to lose sleep every night by putting your money into a property, then real estate is probably not for you and you would be better served putting your money into something else.

The bottom line is that either I’m going to be very wrong or my client is going to be very wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be me.PointCounterPoint