A Big Day For Conejo Valley Buyers And Sellers  

OK, so maybe a Big Day for the Conejo is a bit of an exaggeration.  Still, it’s worth noting that today our total number of units stands at 497.  The reason this is significant, is that with 3 more available units, we’ll mark the first time in two years that we are at 500 total properties available for sale, leaving little doubt that we are no longer in a seller’s market.  Taken with the monthly sales numbers we have now, we are creeping above 3 months inventory.  In other words if no new homes came on the market it would take us just over 3 months to sell out.  The National Association of Realtors states that a balanced market is 6 months of inventory.  I maintain that California has to be in a state of perpetual shortage or else why would a home in Malibu sell for any more than one in Kansas?  Obviously there has to be a shortage of Malibu homes for sellers to command such a high price like Malibu enjoys.  For me that magic number is 3 months inventory, and that’s what we have.  So by my rule, we are now in a balanced market; one that neither favors buyers nor sellers.  This of course is a good thing… usually.  Let me explain.

Everyone agrees that it was in no one’s best interest for us to have a repeat of last year’s chaos in housing.  A 20%+ jump in prices in 6 months is crazy.  Repeat that and we’re no longer crazy but in a bubble and when bubbles burst, they leave a big mess for everyone to clean up.

You would think therefore, that everyone should be happy with the current market.  Not so.  There is evidence that certain neighborhoods are experiencing record breaking prices; prices that exceed the last bubble in 2006-7.  I recently saw a home sell for a price similar to an offer I wrote for the same model two doors up in 2006.  However, I am also seeing homes sit on the market getting very little traffic.  Why is that?  It’s difficult to say for sure, but newer homes seem to be selling best, that and ones that have been completely redone.  Flipped homes are moving well and at high prices, so too the remodeled beauty or the rare entry level home.  Conversely, homes that require some work are just sitting and sitting.  I believe this is due in part to the fact that buyers today don’t want to do any work.  They want finished and upgraded.  I suspect this has as much to do with our crazy lives as it does to the fact prices rose a lot last year and don’t forget that remodeling takes cash and can’t easily be wrapped into the loan.  When prices rise like they did, it puts homes out of reach of many would-be buyers.  A buyer I’m working with for example told me he missed the jump in values and super low interest rates so the motivation to buy, just isn’t there.  If the dream home were to come up, he’d write, but he suspects that a home with that criteria would be beyond his top end price point; the market has moved that much.

OK, so buyers aren’t motivated and aren’t happy with the selection at current asking prices.  Even with more inventory coming on, they just aren’t bending over backwards to buy anymore.  The sellers aren’t happy either though which is interesting.  I am seeing higher and higher asking prices and that in part is why homes are sitting.  The higher asking reflects the changed market and the entrance of new sellers into the market.  They come loaded with an inflated value of what their home is worth.  The fact that home prices went up 20% last year is great, but they want even more this year.  This is the mentality.  The thinking seems to be, “Why should I sell if I can’t get my price, I’ve waited this long?”  There’s an old adage in negotiations that states a good transaction is either a win-win or a lose-lose.  A bad one is when you have a win-lose or lose-win.  I would characterize the current state of home market as a standoff between buyer and seller.  Sort of like a lose-lose in negotiating, keeping in mind that a lose-lose is still a good deal for all parties since neither is taking advantage of the other.  Maybe that’s why neither side is really happy with the current state of the market, neither is winning.  Go figure.  One thing is for sure, the market never stays static for long so expect something to change; one side or the other is eventually going to prevail.

So here we are; we’re in the spring selling season; inventory is rising as it should yet the market feels a little muddled.  Are prices going to drop?  Maybe, they certainly aren’t rising in most neighborhoods, so maybe they will give a little of the big 2013 run up back.  On Wall Street they call this a correction and a correction is always viewed as both healthy and a good opportunity if you are a buyer.  Will they crash?  Doubtful but we could see a little correction this summer and if you’re a seller, take note and make the adjustment now before everyone else does.  If you’re a buyer, now’s not the time to relax.  Have your check book ready because that home you wanted might be just around the corner and at a slightly better price than you may have thought.

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Home Inspection: What To Expect

Most people I meet don’t know that in California, every home is sold as is.  It’s sort of a presumption that the seller will make repairs but this is not always the case.  Why should a seller make any repairs then, if they are not required to?  The obvious answer is that they want to sell the home and given the choice of some small fixes or having their buyer walk, sellers in general opt to make some repairs.  Another common misconception is that the inspection is always paid by the buyer.  While almost always true in Southern California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is actually the other way around.  In San Francisco for example, the seller will pay for the inspection, make any repairs they want and then include the inspection report and repairs made with the original listing information.  From there a buyer will probably not do a full inspection and unless there is something incredibly wrong with the property, write their offer as is.  It’s actually a fairer way to sell and buy when you consider the requirements of full seller disclosure and the oft misguided use of the Request For Repairs as a means for a buyer to renegotiate the original offer (by asking for some huge cash credit to close).

When I have a buyer write an offer, we discuss the issue of inspection and disclosure.  I explain that the seller is required to disclose anything that can materially affect the value or desirability of the property.  I recently sold a home that the seller repaired a ceiling leak a week before we went on the market.  A pipe all of a sudden started to drip, a stain was formed and the seller repaired it.  In doing so they painted the spot on the ceiling.  Thus the repair was invisible.  Why they asked, should they tell the buyer about it then?  I explained that any buyer that would back out because of this disclosure, is the very buyer we want to tell, for if we didn’t and they found out later, we’d all get sued.  So tell them and let them back out if that’s what they want to do.  Disclosure is the best way to stay out of trouble.

Every home, even a brand new one, should have a home inspection.  I tell my buyers that the inspection is our “first line of defense.”  If for example, on the inspection the inspector points out staining in the attic, this would trigger a roof inspection.  A roof inspection costs about $350.  If there is no evidence of leaking and either the home is less than 20 years old or the roof is, why spend the money?  If the inspector doesn’t find evidence of water intrusion, why do a mold inspection?  On the contrary if the find a sink appears to have been leaking for a long time, now a mold inspection may not be a bad idea.  If there’s no major cracking or all the doors close just fine, why pay $500 for a structural engineer?  You see, the inspector is going to go through home with a fine toothed comb.  In doing so they will find things and depending on what they find, will determine whether there’s a need for subsequent investigation and inspection.  That said, if a client has a child with asthma or some other specific health concern, things like mold inspections may be a good idea if for nothing else, piece of mind.

How does one choose an inspector anyway?  Naturally I have my list of preferred vendors and more often than not my clients defer to my judgment.  Is there risk in this for me as the referer?  You bet.  However I believe that the risk is lowered by my knowing a host of good inspectors from which my clients rely, as opposed to the Yellow Pages, Yelp or “my friend is a contractor and he’ll check it out for me.”  A good thorough inspection should take about 3 hours on an average 4 bedroom 2000 square foot home and cost between $400-500.   If the home is a raised foundation it will be more.  If it significantly larger or has a pool it can go $600 and if it is a giant 7000+ square feet, expect around $1,000.  Interestingly I have seen inspections take as little as 45 minutes.  When this happens and it only happens when I represent the seller because I don’t use that kind of inspector, I tell my seller that this kind of inspection is great when you’re the seller, not so great if you’re the buyer.  Like a doctor or attorney or even a Realtor, you really don’t want to go with the cheapest one out there.  Money spent on an inspection is some of the best money you’ll ever spend.

So what types of things typically show up on an inspection?   Obviously the age of the home has a lot to do with this.  A home built in the 1990’s is going to have different issues than one built in the 1940’s.  Where I sell, most of the homes were built after the 1960’s so by and large they have a lot of the same issues.  If it was a Viet Nam era built home, there is always concern over aluminum wiring.  Copper was in short supply in the late 1960’s early 1970’s and many builders turned to aluminum and a substitute.  Aluminum would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that it heats at a different rate than the electrical panel and this can cause a gap between the wire and the screw causing arcing and this can cause a fire.  Galvanized plumbing is notorious for building up deposits that eventually slow the flow of water.  Clay sewer lines crack; tree roots can be an issue in older homes too causing slow drains and back up.  What about in newer homes?  Typical problems here have to do with builder’s contractors who take short cuts or City inspectors who don’t read manufacturer specs.  For example many attic forced air units (furnaces), are set directly up wooden platforms.  Most manufacturers want a sheet metal barrier put down and metal supporting feet.  Is this something that is commonly asked for?  Yes.  Double lugging, though really common,  is not allowed either.  This is where the electrician put two wires on the same screw in the panel.  An easy fix but one that is important.  Sprinklers spraying the house, that’s a commons one.  Does the seller always fix?  Not so much.  Water heaters, air conditioning, the list of possible corrections is seemingly endless, so where does a seller draw the line and what should a buyer be asking for?

I always advise my clients that “health and safety” is and should be a point of discussion.  If something is a fire hazard, could cause mold or cause someone to get hurt, these are things a seller should be responsible for.  Cosmetic things like bad caulking are Ok to ask for but cracked tiles, chipped stucco or a difficult to operate door handle, again, not so much.  Do buyers sometimes ask for the moon and stars on their request for repair?  Yes they do.  How a seller responds really depends on the market condition at the time; is it a buyer’s or seller’s market?  Also how difficult are the fixes?  Many times the nickel and dime things are one afternoon with a handyman and a few hundred bucks.  Hardly worth fighting over.   Your agent should be there with you and have a working knowledge on the costs estimates or at least have the trades available to refer you to.

So if you’re buying be diligent and practical.  If you are a seller, ask yourself what you would want the seller to fix if you were the buyer.  I tell every buyer and seller that there are two negotiations with each transaction: first is price and terms; (what’s the price, how much down, what’s excluded, when do we close etc.?)  The second is the request for repair.  It’s always the more difficult of the two.  But if you keep your eye on the prize, the prize being a successful close, the repair request is manageable and a smooth transaction that much more likely.

Posted in Disclosures, Inspection, Real Estate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Latest Case-Shiller and Prices

When the real estate market was at its lowest point, prices had to by definition do what?  Either stay flat or rise.  After all we’re talking about the lowest point.  For argument sake, let’s say that low point was in early-mid 2011 and by the following year we’d have some year over year gain.  It could be modest, maybe a percent or two or maybe even mostly flat.  This was what happened in between 2011 to 2012.  Then in 2013 things changed and we saw substantial gains which continued for about 6 months hitting double digits. That is, until the Fed announced that they had thoughts on tapering their bond purchases.  Correspondingly the 10 year bond yield jumped as bond sellers dumped bonds in the single greatest bond selloff in U.S. History.  Within three weeks treasuries and mortgage rates rose 1%.  The brakes had been put home appreciation.  The market that followed could best be described as treading water.  This is not the least bit surprising given the previous 6 month, 20% run up and the shock to the system of a 1% jump in rates.  By fall there was a return to normalcy in the marketplace: Prices and activity sagged in the fall just like they usually do.  The holiday’s typical slowness ensued and naturally with the onset of the spring buying season, we expect a pick up again.  In looking back a year to what was then, already a month into the rapid acceleration in price of 2013, we see that the percent of gain as compared to this year is less.  In other words, by the end of February, prices were already higher than in January.  So February 2013 to February 2014 would be a smaller percentage increase than the aggregate increase of January 2013 to Feb 2014.  Confusing I know, but you have to remember as we compare prices on a 12 month basis, we are comparing to a time when each month was higher than the last; the year over year gain is going to decline with each month.  The only way it could rise at the same pace every month would be if the 20% annual appreciation trend were to continue and/or accelerate month after month, year after year.  We know that’s impossible.

We also know that 2013’s appreciation virtually halted about July.  That means that as we approach July 2014, we will see the percentage of year over year gain is going to get smaller and smaller and that if we were truly flat since July 2013, July 2014 would show appreciation at 0%.  That’s what a year of flat price appreciation would mean.  But that’s not what I think we’ll see.

OK, I know I’ve completely confused you by this point but what all this means is that since we saw big gains last year and this year shows only modest gains, it could be said that we are in a trend of moderation and so year over your gains will become smaller.  Slight gains some months, flat in others for an overall modest 3-5% appreciation.  We should therefore, neither be concerned nor surprised, that Case-Shiller shows a continued decline in year over year appreciation.  If we start to see month over month depreciation, then we can start to wonder about the sustainability and health of the real estate market.  I neither expect that nor worry about that.  I am happy we are entering a period moderation in property appreciation.  I don’t want another bubble.  And because I anticipate inventories will remain tight for many, many years to come, I see continued upward pressure on prices, not the other way around.  Why do I think we will be tight for many, many years?   In large part because we haven’t been building enough homes to accommodate a rising population and an improvement in the employment rate.   To quote John Burns from Real Estate Consulting, a company that examines and forecasts housing trends for Southern California homebuilder The Irvine Company, “Since the US has been adding more than two new jobs for every home built for the last several years and there are less than 1.2 jobs per household, we will clearly need to start building more homes soon.”  What could derail my hypothesis?  Recession.  You might think a sharp rise in interest rates too.  However, a rise in interest rates will almost certainly be in response to wage and inflation pressures which are a condition brought about by an overheating economy.  More income and higher rates of affordability equals higher property values.  After all, inflation does not affect everything except housing.  So short of recession, tight inventory shall remain and the market will remain stable and healthy.

There it is, Case-Shiller is going to continue to show a slowdown but this shouldn’t be cause for concern.  Until housing inventory growth matches family and job creation, pressure shall remain on prices.  And should income grow, as a result of a vastly improved economy… well suffice to say, you’ll want to make sure you already own real estate, because that’s a horse that can run and leave the idle naysayer in the dust.

Posted in Economics, Real Estate, Remodeling, The Real Estate Bottom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On Choosing A Realtor

A friend called me up the other day asking me to help her sell her home.  I told her that even though I could technically list it, I really wasn’t the right guy for the job; that someone local would be better.  She then asked me for a referral to a Realtor in her area.  She knows I have been selling homes since 1990 and wanted me to help her make the right choice.  I asked if there was someone she knew specializing in her neighborhood?  Of course there was, she said, but in this case she wasn’t sure she wanted them because it was a father-son team, with the son having taken over the dad’s business and that the dad was mostly retired. Thus I set out to find the best match for her, with little or no knowledge of whom to interview.  This is a position that many would be buyers and sellers find themselves in: who to work with on this most important transaction and how to go about selecting the right representative?

The first thing I began my search with was finding a CRS, a Certified Residential Specialist.  In full disclosure, I am a CRS.  So what is that?  A CRS is a designation for an agent or broker who has sold $25M in real estate over a 5 year period.  Pretty easy for a decent California Realtor, not so much if you are in most of the other states.  A CRS also has to complete 75 transactions within that same 5 year period.  Easier if you sell $75,000 condos in Ohio, not so easy in place like Southern California.  But that’s not all. A CRS also has to take a slew of 2 day CRS classes as well.  So to become a CRS designee, you have to have completed additional educational reuirements, plus achieved a certain dollar and sales volume.  Fact: CRS represent just 4% of all Realtors yet they handle 80% of all transactions.  In other words, a CRS is a pro’s pro.

The second thing I look for is broker vs. agent (and yes, I am a broker too).  Though most Realtors are commonly referred to as a “Broker,” in fact most are only agents.  The difference?  Education, responsibility and liability.  To become a broker in California, an agent must have either a college degree, be an attorney or have been an active practitioner for at least 2 years.  A broker has to take a ton of additional classes and only then, be eligible to sit for the 2 part, 8 hour State Broker’s Exam.  A broker can hang their own shingle and sell whereas an agent must practice under the supervision of a licensed broker.  There’s a joke I like to tell my clients when I meet them for the first time: What’s the difference between a California driver’s license and a California real estate license?  Not everyone in California has a driver’s license.  Sadly this is not entirely untrue, however a broker’s license is down right uncommon and frankly hard to get.

Once I have pared my list to brokers and Certified Residential Specialists, I look at them on the web.  I want to see if they have a site.  I want to see if they are active on Trulia and Zillow; I look them up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Yelp.  I’m looking for someone who is somewhat on top of social media.  This is especially true for sellers because the days of putting a sign in front, placing the listing on the MLS, and getting top dollar are long gone.  Today’s agents need to be savvy, use professional photos, use social media to market properties and even use video through vehicles like YouTube.

Premier Service is another tool to use.  Premier Service is like the JD Powers for the real estate industry where clients review their experience with their agent.  The information is compiled by a neutral third party and then publicized. I have been a Diamond Award winner in the past, the highest possible ranking, but it’s very hard to achieve that distinction every year.  It’s requires great reviews, a minimum volume and a high percentage of client participation.  Many real estate companies don’t want to be responsible for dealing with bad reviews so they don’t participate in this industry leading survey group.  If nothing else, Premier Service is a good tool to weed out certain agents and agencies.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin the interview process.  Some people are going to want the “heavy hitter;” the agent that is doing 75 or more transactions a year.  While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I tend to prefer the agent who is going to provide more personal service.  I mean let’s face it, if I’m doing 100 transactions a year, you’re dealing with one of my assistants and not so much me as I am out soliciting new business.  Their operation may be completely professional, but I prefer a more boutique approach.  By the same token, I don’t want someone who used to be really busy and now is semi active.  You’ll find this a lot in real estate.  It’s said a Realtor never retires, they just fade away and I don’t want that agent either.  The internet and social media research should help to weed this type of agent out.  I also need to look at their dollar volume productivity.  If I am selling a $700,000 home, I probably do not want someone who is selling $75M a year. The reason is that this type of agent is likely specializing in the high end and wouldn’t be attentive enough to my smaller, lower priced property.  Conversely if I have a $5M estate home, I don’t want the agent who’s not doing big dollar volume because a property like this costs significant money to properly market.

Lastly is the issue of personality.  This is pretty hard for me as a referring broker to assess, but something you are going to want to take into account.  My wife for example will run from anyone who’s a fast talking salesperson.  She wants someone who listens and carefully explains the process and importantly doesn’t talk down to her if she doesn’t understand something.  If you don’t feel a connection with the agent you are interviewing, as hard as it is, you need to thank them and let them know that you don’t think it’s a good fit.  When you hire someone to sell your home, the listing agreement will lock you up for 6 months or longer so you have to feel good about the person you hire.  Can you get out of it?  Maybe, but a contract is a contract so you don’t want to assume you can cancel at will.  When you engage an agent to help find a home, though such a contractual agreement is not that common, it’s still not easy to fire an agent.  In fact it’s downright awkward.  Honesty is always the best policy, so if you start feeling that your agent isn’t doing what it is you want, let them know what you’re expectations are and if you don’t like how they respond, email them and let them know, you’ve decided to go a different direction.

Though this process as I’ve described it is a bit time consuming in the beginning, it will pay off in the long run with better satisfaction and most importantly, success. Thankfully with all the information available for you to do research, hiring the right agent has never been easier if you just take the time.

Posted in Dual Agency, Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Long And Winding Road: Real Estate Through The Music Of The Beatles

Over the next week we are going to be getting our fill of The Beatles.  The reason?  February 9th will mark the 50th anniversary of their earth shattering appearance on The Ed Sullivan show.  Much will be made of their impact on popular music and on American culture.  Surely it is unlikely any entertainment personality will have the kind of impact that The Beatles had.  With that as my backdrop, I’d like to suggest another way to appreciate their music…

Penny Lane                                                                                                                               You’ve stumbled on a quaint little neighborhood and it gets you to thinking.

I Want To Hold Your Hand                                                                                                         The feeling you get when you walk into an open house and it hits you, “This home is for us.”

She Loves You                                                                                                                             The response you get when you agree with her that this is the right home for you.

You’re Going To Lose That Girl (or Guy)                                                                             Better figure out what to do next and in a hurry.

Tell Me Why                                                                                                                               What your parents say when you inform them you’ve found a house.

I Should Have Known Better                                                                                                     The feeling you have after hanging up with your parents (just kidding).

A Hard Days Night                                                                                                                   Pretty much sums up the evening after you realize you don’t know the first thing about buying a home.

Help!                                                                                                                                               And you say to yourself, “Now what?”

If I Needed Someone                                                                                                                     You start making calls and interviewing prospective agents.

Nowhere Man                                                                                                                               The agent won’t call, text or email you back… next!

A Little Help From Your Friends                                                                                             Your friend refers you to their amazing Realtor.

I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party                                                                                               Your Realtor informs you that there are multiple offers.

It Won’t Be Long                                                                                                                           You wrote the offer and your Realtor says “We’ll know something tonight.”

We Can Work It Out                                                                                                                   The seller counters your offer, but your agent assures you, it’s yours if you come up just a little more on your offer.

Don’t Let Me Down                                                                                                                   “Come on baby… make it happen!”

I’ve Got A Feeling                                                                                                                 Fingers are crossed, the stars are aligned and the you’re sure the real estate God is smiling on you.

Here Comes The Sun                                                                                                                 Yes!  You got it!

I Feel Fine                                                                                                                                       You realize, that you really can do this.

When I Get Home                                                                                                                          Can’t hardly wait to say it!

Taxman                                                                                                                                         Yeah that’s right, you’re a homeowner and now have an amazing tax write off.

A Day In The Life                                                                                                                       Your feet are up, the coffee is brewing and it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Fixing A Hole                                                                                                                                 Yes, a home does require some maintenance.

Little Child                                                                                                                                 You’re thinking, “Good thing we bought a 4 bedroom.”

She’s Leaving Home                                                                                                               Where did all those years go?

When I’m Sixty Four                                                                                                                You start thinking “Honey, maybe we should down size.”

Golden Slumbers                                                                                                                     You’re all packed up.  The moving truck is ready, you hug each other and say goodbye to the place you’ve called home for so many years.  It’s bittersweet, but you think, “You know, it really was a great home.”

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Home From Vacation And Preparing For 2014

Having just returned to sunny Southern California after a week of much needed R and R in the frozen tundra of the Northeast, New York to be specific, I find myself in need of a refresher course to get ready for the new year in real estate.  I now know from firsthand experience, that the weather influences markets throughout many parts of the country.  When the wind chill is below zero, I cannot imagine getting in the car and driving anywhere with my Realtor, in search of anything.  In fact even though I was on vacation, I found myself thinking, “I’m not going outside today…”  Thankfully for Southern Californians, this is not such a problem.  It is for this reason that the real estate market here doesn’t pause for inclimate weather.  Oh sure, if it’s pouring rain for a few days, we might postpone our house hunt until it stops, but given we’re in the throes of a never ending drought, even that is a distant memory.  No, house buying and selling really doesn’t have much of a weather season here.  There are still however seasonal trends and strategies for when to buy and when to sell.

It should come as little surprise that the spring is the peak buying/selling season pretty much everywhere.  People want to move toward the end of school and so they start thinking about buying or selling right around February.  In this way, Southern California is no different.  I tell all my clients that Super Bowl, literally is the kickoff of the real estate season.  In spring, selling prices are higher favoring sellers but selection is better, favoring buyers.  It is for this reason that I encourage all my sellers to get on the market before Super Bowl if possible, to take advantage of low seasonal inventory, but to set their pricing as if it were mid-March.  This is a strategy that has proven very successful for my sellers.  Less competition means shorter marketing times to sale.  It also means better offers and typically closer sales-to-list-price ratios.  And since so few Realtors think this way,  I also encourage my buyers to buy early in the year because they can take advantage of lesser informed sellers who price their homes with an end of year mentality, thus not anticipating the prices of the coming months.  This equates to better buys for my buyers.

Strategies abound in real estate.  There’s strategies for negotiating; approaches to pricing and methods for home preparation that give a seller an edge over their competition.  Presently I have two sellers in prep-mode.  They are actively decluttering, giving to Good Will and cleaning.  I’ll bring in my decorator as I am doing for one client this afternoon, to put the final touches on our project so that we can hit the ground running and enter the market before Super Bowl.  For another, that timeline just wasn’t realistic, but they are pushing hard to be on the market before the 3rd week of February.  Between now and then, they will do all of the above along with painting and new carpet and even some tile floors in the bathrooms.  Total cost?  I estimate less than $10,000.  Yes they’ll need to come up with that money somehow, but net return on investment?  I told them I will at least double their money if not quadruple it and lessen the selling time by weeks if not longer.  Like I say, strategies abound in my business, it’s just that so few actually implement them.  And by the way, if this market holds to the latest trend, buyers want finished, move in ready properties.  If a home is not truly ready to go, the final sales price is going to be substantially lower and it could take a long time and several price reductions before it sells.

As I prepare for 2014 and try to get my “sea legs” back after a week of vacation bliss, let’s take a quick peek at some numbers for my local market…

The Conejo Valley has yet to break 400 available homes on the market (393).  That’s still anemic by historical measure.  Good for sellers, not so good for buyers.  Let’s also look at the first 25 days of 2014 (111 closed escrows) and compare that to 2013 (115 closed escrows).  This means what?  I conclude, it looks like it’s going to be another good year for real estate.  Further, I anticipate that inventory will eventually break 400 total units for sale at some point in the not too distant future but I think I should have my newest listings on before that happens.  Am I the only Realtor who thinks like this?  Heck no, there are many in every community.  However given the high number of people that carry a real estate license, I would suggest that as a percentage it’s not very high. So pick your Realtor wisely if you want to get the highest price, in the least amount of time and if you want to pay an under market price with the least amount of competing buyers.  There is no shortage of licensees in my business but like any business, they’re not all created equal.  The good news is that you choose who you want to work with.  I encourage you to choose a top agent and take advantage of this market, it’s going to be a good year so make the most of it.

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Your Home’s Holiday Wish List

When I was a kid, right around Thanksgiving we would get the Sears catalog in the mail.  Back then there were a dozen TV stations, not hundreds so there weren’t tons and tons of commercials from which to glean you holiday wish list.  If you were like me, it was through the catalog that you could begin creating your list for the holiday gift season.  The latest train set, or Panasonic cassette player; Barbie’s newest car or Easy Bake Oven, you made your list and handed over to the powers that be.  So in honor that nostalgia, I’m going to create, in no particular order, a holiday wish list as if I were… your home.

  1.           Carpeting.  As your home I want you to know that you can re-carpet for as little as a $3,000 to $4,000.   You know our carpet is starting to look kinda worn; it’s turned black at the edges of the baseboards and stairs and it’s even buckling in a couple spots.  And remember that place near the dining room table that Sasha the cat threw up last year? Well, it never really did come clean…
  2.           Paint.  It’s been 7 years since my last face lift and red dining rooms are looking just so, turn of the century.  I hear gray and taupe are new hot colors… If that’s too much, how about the just the front door, the trim and the garage door?  Our chain opener is leaving a black discoloration right down the center of the roll up garage door and the paint is really looking shabby and faded; even the shutters are peeling…
  3.           Ball Valves.  I know how you like those practical gifts so how about you replace my valves?  Those are the plumbing knob thingy’s under every faucet and at every toilet.  When I was built the valves used were the screw kind that you had to turn all the way to shut me off.  The new ones only require a quarter turn and are much less prone to leaking, especially important when we are away on vacation.
  4.           Variable Speed Pool Pump.  Yes, it’s true we hardly use our pool anymore, but that’s all the more reason for us to get energy efficient.  A new variable speed filter pump costs around $1,000 but will pay for itself in less than a year because the old pump you’re using is like a 10 MPG 1975 Oldsmobile Toronado, just sucking energy and costing you thousands in electric bills unnecessarily.
  5.           Dishwasher.  Now that the kids are all gone, you hardly wash dishes more than once a week but the dishes just don’t come clean after sitting all crusty in the dishwasher until it’s full enough to run.  It costs around $1,400, but the Fisher Paykel dual drawer dishwasher lets you wash half a load.  It saves water, adds value if you sell and is soooo quiet, you can still hear them game when it’s running!
  6.           Tankless Hot Water Heater.  At this point, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll have to replace our old water heater anyway, so why not start saving now?  Being that we live in a desert here in California and we’re in a period of drought, think about all that water you waste every morning while waiting for the shower to get hot.  Remember back in the early 90’s when you had to use a bucket to catch all that water just so you could water the roses?  Remember 3 minute showers?  What was it the kids learned at camp, “If it’s yellow it’s mellow, if it’s brown flush it down?”  If you had a tankless, you would have instant hot water saving gallons daily, plus you would save on the gas bill because you wouldn’t have to heat up that whole 50 gallon tank just to have hot water.
  7.           Windows, Doors, Door Knobs, Faucets.  OK, maybe these are kind of like asking for the $4,000 electric Corvette from Neiman Marcus, but dual pane windows sure would be nice.  Not only would you save on energy but when Harley and Velma start their shouting match next door, we wouldn’t hear them!  And nothing looks quite as modern as new 6 paneled door with nice new handles.  Gold may make a comeback someday, but I’m not holding my breath and those crystal sink handles? They’re looking seriously grodie too… Delta makes some pretty sweet faucets that won’t break the bank… just sayin’…
  8.           Wifi Enabled Light Bulbs.  Pleeeez?  They’re are soooo cool!  They only cost around $90 per bulb, but they change colors and you control them from you iPhone.  You can create a museum quality lighting experience for all different times of day and seasons.  Pleeez?
  9.           Epoxy Garage Floor.  Come on Bill… you know you want it.  You’re out there puttering every weekend.  You’ve got all those baby food jars with every screw size imaginable but you’re always having to use the shop vac to clean up that dusty concrete floor.  Imagine, with an epoxy floor you could instead, mop it up!  Just think of the possibilities!
  10.           Drip System for the Planters.  This is really a stocking stuffer, but with the drought and all… it would be way better for our water conservation and besides, have you looked at the sprinklers lately?  You’ve been spraying the side of the house for years.  The stucco is discolored and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have dry rot and mold by now!

So there you have it, your home’s holiday wish list.  Not only will you enjoy these changes, but you’ll save money and add value to your most important asset.  Winner, winner turkey dinner!

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