Open House Tips for Buyers

Are you looking for a home? Here’s how to get the most out of your weekend open house tours before you make an offer.

  1. First, talk to at least one loan broker, or a couple direct lenders (like the bank you regularly deal with), or to your credit union. Ask each to tell you how much you can afford to pay for a new home and how much you’ll need for a down payment. There are two reasons for doing this.  One is you’ll be able to limit your viewings to homes in your price range which avoids disappointment and wasted time. Another is with a pre-approved mortgage lined up, your offer will carry more weight when presented to the seller.  In a strong sellers’ market, you’ll need all the advantage you can get.
  2. Be prepared when you head out for viewings. Have questions ready to ask the listing agent, and be sure to bring a notepad, measuring tape and camera. Measure closets and other spaces to see how much room they have for your belongings. Especially consider your larger furniture pieces, like an over-size bed or sofa. Take photos of key elements to remind you later of the positives and negatives in each home.
  3. Don’t rely only on your eyes. Stay awhile and listen for traffic sounds or noisy neighbors. Note any strange or musty smells – they may indicate underlying problems. Ask about “neighborhood nuisances” of any kind.
  4. Go outside. The outer condition of your home is as important as the inside. Talk a walk around the home to check for evidence of deferred maintenance. Look at the home from the street.  Is it a place you would be proud to call “home?”
  5. Travel light. Leave your children with relatives. Plan to show your top choices to family members after you have narrowed the selection. Family can provide valuable input, and can be a major distraction when you’re trying to gather as much information as possible.

Use your open house visits to determine if a house is suitable to be your home. Don’t worry about looking for physical problems. You’ll want to have an professional inspection anyway, to spot major issues. Use this time to decide whether the property overall will work for you and your family. If it will, then ask your agent for help in pulling the details together.

With over 25 years of experience, we can help you find your perfect home. Call us today.

Explore an Ancient Cave City in Armenia

Absolutely love Smithsonian.com! Many of the architectural wonders the Smithsonian brings to us are living arrangements; life styles, by another name; that demonstrate ways people around the globe have worked with nature and the materials locally available, to carve out a niche of their own in the world.

On our last trip to Armenia, our guide jokingly stated that “Rocks are Armenia’s greatest resource.” This article about Old Khndzoresk, a multi-level village built into volcanic rock, testifies to the underlying truth of his claim. http://tinyurl.com/kcjh4z5

 

New Tech for Housing Construction on the Moon

We’ve come a long ways from the days of Conestoga wagons crossing the plains so settlers could put up log cabins in the mid-west. This link to the European Space Agency details an ongoing project designed to provide building materials for the day when humans begin populating our moon. It outlines one more use of 3D printers.

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/Printing_bricks_from_moondust_using_the_Sun_s_heat

Spring Quarter 2017 News

The Brokers’ Open House: Step One of Marketing Your Home

By: Tara Mastroeni

If you’re trying to sell your home, it’s likely your real estate agent has suggested hosting a brokers’ open house. But, what is that, exactly? Long story short, it’s an open house not for home buyers, but for their agents so they can determine whether your home is right for any of their clients.

A brokers’ open house is different

The biggest difference between a brokers’ open house and a standard open house is who ends up on the invite list. While standard open houses are quite flexible about who can stop by—and might include anyone from potential buyers to curious neighbors—the guest list for a brokers’ open house is strictly limited to other real estate agents and industry professionals.

Time is another differing factor. Usually, standard open houses are hosted on Sunday afternoons, because the vast majority of potential buyers have weekends free for house hunting. On the other hand, because a brokers’ open house caters to agents—whose weekend schedules are often packed with home showings for clients—it is often held midweek, when agents are more likely to be available.

What happens at a brokers’ open house?

At its core, this is another tool that real estate agents use to help market a home. In addition to internet marketing systems like the multiple listing service, it’s a method of debuting your listing to industry professionals in your community.

Once your agent schedules a brokers’ open, he will advertise it to his network of industry contacts. Usually a free lunch is also offered as an incentive to show up. On the day of the event, the other agents will be given a chance to tour your home, enjoy the free lunch while catching up with colleagues, and offer your agent their opinions on the property.

Typically, brokers’ open houses are held within the first few days of a home being put on the market in order to capitalize on the initial burst of interest that often accompanies new listings. But if there is ever a dramatic adjustment to how your home is being marketed—such as a significant drop in price—your agent may suggest hosting another brokers’ open house in order to spread the news.

The benefits of a brokers’ open house

If you’re the type who doesn’t relish the idea of opening your home to crowds of looky-loos who’ll tramp through your rooms and open every closet and medicine cabinet, then a professionally targeted brokers’ open may be appealing.

If all goes according to plan, the agents who tour the house will go through their mental Rolodex to see if your property would be a good fit for any of their clients. If so, they’ll likely bring those clients back for a private showing in the near future, especially if the brokers’ open was well-attended.

Even if an offer doesn’t result directly from the brokers’ open, it can offer a valuable critique of how your home looks in comparison with other properties currently on the market in your area. Since REALTORS® regularly have the chance to view a variety of homes, they have the ability to give your agent feedback on how your home is being perceived by others—and how to better attract buyers.

© 2017 California Association Of Realtors® All rights reserved.

Grow a beautiful South Bay garden this spring & summer!

Take advantage of the spring sweet spot! Edible flowers add beauty and liven up the palate. A number of flowers are edible (though not all!) and perfect for adding a visual and flavorful zing to any dessert or meal.

Spring

Jumpstart your collection with colorful choices like:

  • Honeysuckle or mint to complement dark chocolate desserts;
  • Marigold to add a bitter, tangy flavor to pastas & rice;
  • Nasturtium flowers to spice up salads or sandwiches; and,
  • Pansies to add sweet décor to cakes, or design fanciful watermelons.

Don’t forget fruit and vegetable staples!

This spring, plant:

  • Cantaloupes, celery, chayote, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes & watermelons in April;
  • Artichoke, lima beans and pumpkins in May;
    and
  • Broccoli & brussels sprouts in June.

Summer

Build your garden to thrive in the summer heat! Successful summer gardens require careful plant selection as well as proper design to keep vegetables moist and healthy.
Potted fruits and vegetables do best in deep pots and planters. Deeper pots allow for more soil, which means greater retention of moisture and less frequent watering, saving money and time.

Drip irrigation systems are increasingly popular. The system drips water consistently throughout the day to keep roots moist, but not saturated. It also uses less water than traditional methods as the water is targeted and less wasteful.

This summer, plant:

Cauliflower and rutabaga in July;

Lettuce, cabbage, chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, peas & turnips in August;

and

Spinach, peppers, green onions, beans & radishes in September.

Is Your Retirement Income Inflation Proof?

If you’re thinking about buying another home, you already know there’s a lot to think about. By the time you call a Realtor® you’ve already worked through the personal reasons … “We need a bigger house,” or “We want to be closer to the grandchildren.”

Another decision to be made is, “Should we sell our old home, or keep it and rent it out?”

It’s certainly a worthy goal. A rental property can provide an inflation-proof retirement income! Arriving at an answer requires working through some of the financial implications. How much cash do you need for a down payment? How much for reserves in case of a vacancy? Will the rent cover all the costs?

Residential income property is in high demand right now, with lots of qualified tenants looking for a place to live in or near the Beach Cities. We can run an income analysis on your current home and show you how much you can expect to earn, and how it fits into your purchase plans.

If you bought your home during the Great Recession, you could be well positioned to make that leap to being a landlord. Likewise, if you’ve owned your home for many years, the numbers should work for you.

An equally important question is: Do you want to be a landlord? Are you ready for late night maintenance calls, collecting rent from tardy tenants, and dealing with the various governmental taxes and regulations? While managing income property sounds imposing, there’s an easy solution that many people use.

For about 5%-7% of the income, professional property managers will locate & screen tenants, handle maintenance, collect rents, pay bills, give you regularly scheduled reports and send you a check every month!

Five Improvements You Can Make This Spring

Don’t let your tax refund go to waste: invest it back into your home! Here are five ways to put your tax refund to good use:

  1. Energy-efficient improvements. Invest for long-term savings by installing Energy Star appliances, ensuring your home has the proper insulation it needs, or simply swapping out old bulbs for energy-efficient lighting. Some energy improvements will even earn you a tax credit for next year.
  2. A fresh coat of paint. This is one of the easiest improvements you can make. Give your front door and porch a face-lift for the biggest impact. Inside, create a more spacious feeling by making the walls a lighter shade than the flooring, and the ceiling lighter still.
  3. Enhance curb appeal even more. Now that the door is freshly painted, consider a new look for your front yard. It can be as simple as buying some new plants or as complex as hiring a landscaper to design and install a xeriscape to conserve water and make your home stand out from the rest. A fun alternative is paying a professional to do the design, and making the job a weekend project for the family.
  4. Upgrade your garage. Donate the old furniture stored there, finish the walls & ceiling with sheetrock, paint the floor, install cabinets, and create a work area for the projects you never seem to start.
  5. Meld your indoor and outdoor living space. Arrange indoor furniture to allow easy access to the patio, deck or balcony during the warm spring & summer months. Lay down pavers to define relaxation areas, set up a grill to get out of the kitchen, create a play area for children and adults. Redondo Beach is a easy place to take advantage of the great SoCal climate.

Baked Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch thin asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • 8 teaspoons country-style or whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Directions
Preheat oven to 275°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss asparagus with 2 Tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper, then arrange in a single layer on one half of baking sheet. Bake asparagus 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread each salmon fillet with 2 tsp. mustard. Sprinkle fillets with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper total. Toss panko with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle panko mixture evenly on salmon fillets, then dust with smoked paprika.
Bake asparagus for 5 minutes, then remove baking sheet from oven. Place prepared salmon fillets skin side down on empty half of baking sheet. Return to oven and bake until salmon is firm and asparagus is tender, approximately 14–16 minutes more for medium rare salmon.

Redondo Beach SFR Sales

Sales from 1/1/17 to 3/31/17
south of 190th / Herondo

Address                        Bed   Bath   Sq Ft     Lot Size     Sold $$
418 S Guadalupe Ave	       2	1	   981	2,752	$680,000 
326 N Prospect Ave	       4	2	1,563	5,550	$810,000 
703 N Paulina Ave	       5	4	3,423	6,250	$1,200,000 
318 S Lucia Ave	       4	3	2,225	3,965	$1,225,000 
827 Avenue C	               3	3	1,944	6,081	$1,515,000 
730 N Paulina Ave	       4	3	2,770	7,231	$1,650,000 
410 S Juanita Ave	       5	4	3,155	6,003	$1,688,000 
724 Esplanade	               3	2	2,000	3,997	$1,929,000 
409 S Irena Ave 	       6	5	4,523	7,594	$2,150,000 
419 S Lucia Ave    	       5	6	4,350	7,000	$2,620,000

Residential landlords to provide bed bug disclosures

Beginning July 1, 2017, a landlord is required to provide a written bed bug notice to a prospective tenant prior to entering into a lease or rental agreement. Beginning January 1, 2018, the notice is required to be provided to both existing and prospective tenants. See this link for more details. http://tinyurl.com/memaa3u

Empty Nesting Thoughts

As I read this Houzz article, I kept thinking about all the people I know who would have been empty nesters if the economy was still as strong as it was 20+ years ago. Today, many of the people we meet are ‘doubled up’ with multiple generations living in the same home.  If you’re among those who have the option to downsize, here are a few thoughts on what that can mean for you.

http://www.houzz.com/r/1/81079236/ZmFhMWYy/n4766/v1/nllc/g10/u/uw5cTaIK4zYl2CEXVAwq9Luwnxcnz8q7SZG8t74BuPc

Coastal Cities Hardest Hit By Rate Increases

Courtesy National Association of Realtors
Daily Real Estate News | Monday, January 23, 2017

Home buyers along coastal housing markets are being impacted the most by rising mortgage rates over the past few weeks, according to an analysis by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage went up from 3.5 percent in November to about 4.12 percent in January.

Home buyers in San Francisco County, Calif., have felt the pain of that jump the most, with nearly a $375 increase to their average monthly mortgage payments, according ton NAR’s analysis. Other markets that are seeing costs rise the most are San Mateo County, Calif.; Nantucket County, Mass.; New York County, N.Y.; and Teton County, Wyo.

Housing costs in expensive coastal markets are seeing a rapid increase in prices, due to limited housing supplies mixed with a high demand from buyers as the job markets pick up.

“Unless you have unlimited funds, every little tick up in the interest rate lets you buy less and takes people out of the market if they’re struggling to buy their first home,” says Jeff Barnett, a real estate professional in Silicon Valley, told The Wall Street Journal.

But not all cities are feeling the burden of rising mortgage rates. For example, NAR’s analysis shows that Cochran County, Texas, is seeing the smallest impact from rising mortgage rates. Since the rate increases, mortgage payments have gone up just $13 a month there.

NAR is predicting further rate hikes on the horizon. They expect mortgage rates to increase to 4.4 percent by the end of 2017 and 4.8 percent in 2018.

Los Angeles County — Beach Warnings

Beach Hazard Statement
Issued: 1:34 AM PST Jan. 18, 2017 – National Weather Service

… Beach hazards statement remains in effect from Thursday
morning through Monday evening…

* hazards… another large long period west swell will bring high
surf to area beaches Thursday through Monday… with a chance
of much larger… damaging surf late Friday through Saturday.
Surf of 8 to 13 feet Thursday and Friday will possibly build
to 15 feet or higher late Friday and Saturday. The surf will
begin to subside Sunday into Monday… but is expected to
remain above high surf thresholds.

* Impacts… large… powerful and potentially damaging surf will
create dangerous ocean conditions. Coastal erosion and coastal
flooding will be possible. Frequent strong rip currents and
long-shore currents are expected. Much larger waves may occur
without warning… which can wash people off their feet in the
surf zone or off of rocks and jetties. West-facing Harbor
entrances such as Ventura Harbor may see breaking waves across
the entrance.

Economic Response to Trump Presidency

Following the Federal Reserve Bank meeting last week pundits around the globe have been working at predicting future financial markets under a Donald Trump presidency.  Personally, I’m holding my tongue.  However, the following comments come from one of the many mortgage brokers who keep me aware of changes in the lending market.

Not only did the election of Donald Trump rock the U.S. political establishment, it has had a major influence on interest rates as well—resulting in the economy’s single biggest post election shift. Interest rates on 30-year conforming mortgages have moved up by more than 50 basis points since the election on Nov. 8. (A single basis point is 0.01%.) That means that within just a few weeks, mortgage rates have moved to levels we haven’t seen in more than two years.

So what does that rate shift mean? Well, it indicates an economy with very low inflation moving to one with more significant inflationary pressures.

In real terms, the movement in rates so far has increased mortgage payments by 7%. On a median-price home, that shift amounts to more than $750 in additional interest per year. Make no mistake: That is bad news for future buyers.

This week, the average 30-year mortgage had a rate of 4.27%. Over the past five years of the housing recovery, rates have failed to stay above 4%. But things look different this time around. Rates are more likely to go up from here rather than down. And that means that now more than ever, potential buyers need to be working hard to secure the best rate possible on their own mortgage.

It’s easy to see the immediate impact on buyers.  There are also work-around plans that can help buyers achieve their goals despite the higher rates.

Interest rate increases generally hurt sellers at least as much as buyers, and in some very diverse ways.  Over the next few publications we hope to discuss how sellers can mitigate the impacts.  Keep in touch and we’ll be certain to let you know about those special releases.

How Valuable are Open Houses?

This is a “thought in process” kind of post. One of my clients isn’t ready to buy yet, but wants to “size up the market.” To make that easier, every weekend I send over a list of open houses with the right size, location, etc.

A few weeks ago, that list started getting very short. What had been 8-12 homes, dropped down to less than half that. Today the list was only 4 properties. The number of open houses on any given weekend varies, of course. Holiday weekends are typically very light, for example.

When there didn’t seem to be a common reason for the short list, I started looking around. Have the prices gone up enough to price the client out of the desired market? Are homes in that price range selling before the open house?

Changing the price range didn’t help. Prices are up a tad, but overall sales prices are leveling off, with very low rate of increase. The number of sales hasn’t gone up dramatically, so the homes my client wants are out there, for sale. Agents just aren’t holding them open.

There are probably a lot of reasons for that. I’ll start asking around to see if there’s a consensus on why it’s happening. It could be crime reports. It could be the election year. Probably, it’s a combination of several disparate things.

More important is knowing that only about 15% of the available properties are actually showing up on the weekend open house list. And, making sure my clients, both seller and buyer, understand the situation.

From a seller’s perspective, this could mean a longer time to sell. To a buyer, it could mean we need to schedule “buyer tours” on the weekend instead of visiting open houses.

All in all. It means I need to do some research to better serve my clients, on both ends of the transaction.