The past year has shown us a multitude of trends in the housing market—higher home prices, housing shortages, developer confidence and rising rent prices.  For 2017, we’re thinking three things: locations, appreciation and interest rates.

Urban areas are appreciating much faster than suburban areas, accounting for growth, and small homes have seen much sharper price growth than larger ones.  Nationally, home prices are expected to keep rising by 3.5% according to Moody’s Analytics projections.  If you have a smaller home in, say, a downtown area, your equity is going to take you further.  As home prices rise, more buyers will inevitably move to the suburbs to find affordable housing.

If you’re looking to trade for a larger home, you’re in the market’s sweet spot, and the first part of 2017 is going to be the best time to strike for that.  The equity from your small house will get you more—the average price on a two-bedroom house climbed 59% nationwide, while four-bedroom houses rose by about 41%, according to more of Moody’s Analytics.  Developers have also continued to add new inventory to the market by building new supply in demanded areas with price points between $500,000 and $750,000. So, if you’re selling a smaller home in the first part of 2017 for an upgrade, you’ll want to choose higher priced offers over offers with quicker closing times. The more cash you have to put towards that down payment, the better off you’ll be.

Following the housing market crash, mortgage rates remained at record lows for years.  Rates are expected to rise to more normal levels, levels seen before the market crash.  The Federal Reserve has already indicated that three more increases to its benchmark rate are coming in 2017.  It’s only advantageous to act sooner rather than later if you’re thinking of buying or selling, especially since future housing policies remain unclear.

Earlier this week, Airbnb, an online homestay network that allows people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential propreties, announced it’s recent expansion to experiences, not just accommodation.  The website now gives hosts the chance to offer tours, so people can buy packages such as a guided tour or cultural experience.  While the debate over short-term rentals is raging in all of America’s, we wonder about the opportunities for landlords and property owners, as well as the drawbacks to neighbors.

The cost of an Airbnb varies—by location, demand, time of year, size—but is always set by the property owner.  A property owner can rent out a room, a sofa, a bed or an entire home.  There are more than 2,00,0000 listings in 34,000 cities and 191 countries, and growing.

Property owners see the appeal in short-term rentals.  The owner of an apartment can rent out that unit for $2,000 per month, or rent it on Airbnb for $150 per night.  Some owners own and rent multiple properties through Airbnb and make upwards of six figures per year.  At 90% occupancy, a homeowner can make about $4,000 per apartment on Airbnb.  If such owner pays about $2,000 of that in rent and utilities, that comes out to $2,000 profit per month, per apartment, or $24,000 per year, multiplied by ‘x’ number of apartments.

The legalities of short-term rentals through Airbnb are still being processed and sorted, namely when it comes to rights.  Entrepreneurial landlords have the right to make a buck, while neighbors have the right to maintain the atmosphere of their locale.  Some apartment buildings prohibit brief sublets by tenants who might want to earn extra money while they’re away—a landlords right to prohibit that.  There are also controversial issues arising over taxes—full time rentals acting as hotels but not paying hotel-like taxes.

In vacation spots like San Clemente, Dana Point and South Orange County as a whole, Airbnb listings are rampant.  The opportunities for property owners, or would-be property owners, are huge.  If you’re thinking of purchasing an investment property with short-term rentals in mind, check with your GreenTree real estate agent to see which areas allow, or don’t allow them.

When the market is strong, as it is now rolling into 2017, basic principles of supply and demand start to surface and weigh in the real estate market.  With current demands, inventory has been historically low during the previous year, which is why new developments offer homebuyers new opportunities to own property in desirable areas.

Over the years, we’ve worked with homebuyers in their search for newly constructed homes.  One of the drawbacks we often encounter is the proximity to basic amenities—Target, Costco, Sports Parks, etc.  The new Avenida La Pata Extension in San Clemente is changing the game, and the opening of the much anticipated Rancho Mission Viejo development is alleviating buyer demand.

Rancho Mission Viejo is a new master-planned community in South Orange County.  Located just 2.5 miles from downtown San Juan Capistrano and 5 miles from coastal attractions of San Clemente and Dana Point Harbor, RSV is a collection of 12 neighborhoods, including inter-generational housing, ranging from the $300s to the 1.0Ms.

We recently spent a few days at the developments at Rancho Mission Viejo and the best part is also what sets it apart from other developments—the amenities.  RMV’s Ranch has “plenty of places to exercise, retreats to relax, trails to explore and more.”  The Esecnia Farm features crops, planter beds, orchards and even a chicken coop.  Canyon Coffee at The Canyon House is the neighborhoods very own coffee shop, brewing Peet’s Coffee and catering kitchen with a large activity lawn.  There are even plans for a daycare center, with infant and toddler supervision planned down the street from the Esencia K-8 grade school.

Strong market conditions, new road extensions and price points to fit every new buyer, Rancho Mission Viejo is a favorable option for those of us in the market.  For more details, or to learn more about buying a newly constructed home, ask your GreenTree real estate agent.

A lot of our clients ask about buying a newly constructed home.  They often weight the pros and cons of buying new vs. buying old, and we’re happy to be able to steer them along that road.

But many ask, if I buy new construction, am I still able to work with a realtor?

They answer is, yes.  In fact, you should be working with a realtor that does not have relationships or ties to the builder.  This will allow the realtor to have your best interest in mind, and protect that interest.

Model homes are typically staffed by a real estate agent, employed by the builder and tasked with a specific goal.  These reps represent the builder, as they are contractually obligated to do so. It’s important to have an agent to represent you that can advise you on how to structure your offer and in making choices that can affect your home’s resale value.

If you’re thinking of touring a new construction, don’t walk into the sales office without your agent.  Some developments have site registration policies that require your agent to accompany you on your first site visit.  If you walk in without them, you won’t be able to have the support of your agent during the transaction.

Your real estate agent is going be trained in negotiations, and can help with negotiations for possible upgrades or credits towards:

 – flooring, stone materials and finishes

– contract terms

– price

– warranty packages

– closing costs from the in-house lender

Buying new construction is a complex process with many moving parts.  An experienced agent will also have the know-how to keep the transaction and construction on track.  Depending on factors such as size, weather and the builder itself, your agent is going to be there along the way to let you know what to expect and how to navigate the process.

Talk with your real estate agent before visiting a new construction site and make sure you get the representation you need for the process.

They’re called boomerang borrowers, and they could be changing the housing market in the coming months and years.

The timeframe for borrowers who were significantly hit after the Great Recession between 2007 and 2010 to improve their credit score is about the happen, opening the door for a lot of consumers to re-enter the housing market.

Foreclosures, short sales, and bankruptcies remain on a credit report for seven years, which means these items are due to fall off the credit files of 2.5 million consumers by June 2017, the largest of the group over that time frame.

With millions of borrowers coming back into the housing market, should this be the time to sell?

Consider low inventory.  There is a shortage of homes for sale in many markets throughout the country in relation to buyer demand.  This is economics 101 and happens to create a highly desirable atmosphere for sellers to obtain the best possible sale price and terms.  According to Redfin, buyer demand rose by 13.3 percent over the month in September, it’s highest level in three-plus years.  We’ve seen buyer demand gain momentum since Labor Day, when a pop of fresh listings hit the market.

Home prices are on the rise after several years of dealing with distressed and foreclosed inventory.  As of August 2016, foreclosure inventory included only 0.9 percent of all homes with a mortgage.  As foreclosures drop, home values rise, which could mean higher appreciation for home owners.

Low interest rates hovering around the 3.5 to 3.7 percent range make the cost of borrowing money extremely attractive, especially for those boomerang borrowers who are re-entering the market with now above average credit.  Modern day loan programs offer a wide variety of options to buyers at various price points and stages to purchase property, so you know that when you accept an offer, the loan process isn’t going to diminish on your buyer, thus securing your sale.

Chances are, it’s been a while since you’ve sold your home—at least 7-10 years.  Predictive analytics help optimize buyer searches.  Social Media marketing brings visibility to a whole new level.  Drones and video tours help create powerful story telling campaigns.  All done to attract buyers across the market and secure sales.  Welcome to modern day real estate!

Make yourself ready for boomerang borrowers by preparing your home to show in the best light possible.  Talk with one of our real estate professionals if you’re thinking of selling your home and find out what they can do for you.

Whether you’ve just moved in or you’ve been settled for a while, consider these GT Tips before you’re next hard surface flooring installation.

  1. Decide whether you’re keeping the baseboards or getting new baseboards.  Most flooring types require a small gap between the wall’s edge and the flooring’s edge, as with hardwood, to allow for movement.  If you’re keeping your existing baseboard, you may need a quarter round to cover this gap.

2. Is it level? The foundation, that is.  What you can’t see may hurt you.  Any major divots in the flooring may compromise the floor’s integrity, especially tile.  Uneven flooring could lead to cracks and breaks that cost money to repair.  If you’re demo’ing old floors, allow for time in between the demolition of the old floor and installation of the new in case repairs need to be made to make the floor even.

3. Are you installing on a second story? Many bathrooms using tile are going to be located upstairs, which means you’re going to need a waterproof subfloor when it’s installed on say, plywood.  When wood gets wet, it swells and could likely break or crack your tile.  A cement board will help ensure that this doesn’t happen, just be sure to think about this material when budgeting your project.

4. Consider the pattern.  If you’re installing hardwood floors, or plank style tile, you’ll typically want the pattern to run the length of the house, to make hallways and other longer rooms look larger.  More complex patterns, such as herringbone, may require more material to allot for more complex cutting.

5. Know your grout.  There are two types of grout, non-sanded and sanded.  Typically, sanded grout is using for flooring, while non-sanded grout (grout without sand) is used for walls.

6. Seal it.  Natural stones such as slate and granite are going to require a sealant every six months.  Without it, a white film could develop over the tile and diminish the sheen.

It’s no secret that more buyers are on the prowl for turnkey homes in today’s market.  Ongoing research shows that 71 percent of buyers, in fact, are looking for move in ready conditions, and are more willing to put in offers on homes that require less work or updating.  The term “updated”, however, is starting to become subjective, but while any two buyers may have different “update lists”—a list of items that they believe will need to be done once they move in, and thus subtracted from their offer price, at cost and convenience—there are ways to hit those marketing buzzwords and appeal to more buyers if your putting your home on the market.

One of these ways? Making your home smarter.  Of those buyers looking for turn-key homes, 57 percent of those buyers said they would consider a home “updated”—and thus more appealing—if they have smart-home technologies and features already in place.  Fifty-four percent said that if given two otherwise identical homes to place offers on, one with smart-home technology, the other without, they’d buy the smart home, and they’re willing to pay more for it.

Previously, interest in smart-home technology was primarily found in the more expensive segments in the market.  Now, it’s seemingly at every price point, in both new construction and renovations, old homes and new homes.

But what makes a home “smart”? According to CNET, a smart home is a home that is equipped with network-connect products (WiFi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or other operating system.

In order to be categorized as a smart home, the property must have a smart security feature that either controls access or monitors the property, or a smart temperature feature, controlled over a reliable internet connection.  It must also include at least two additional features below:

lighting (smart light bulbs and lighting systems)

safety (smart fire/carbon monoxide detectors and nightlights)

entertainment (smart TVs)

appliances (smart refrigerators, washers/dryers)

heating/cooling (smart HVAC, fans or vents)

outdoor (smart plant sensors, watering systems)

security (smart locks, smart alarm systems or cameras)

temperature (smart thermostats)

We’ve rounded up a few useful and appealing smart systems to help bring up your home’s IQ, whether you’re getting ready to put your home on the market or not.

Nest Home Thermostat- Nest learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule around yours.  It can turn itself down when nobody is home to help you save energy.  New features monitor your heating and cooling systems, sending notifications to your phone if it looks like your furnace is acting up or if it’s so cold you’re pipes might burst.

August Smart Lock – The August Smart Lock turns your phone into a key, locking and unlocking your door through the systems connectivity.  While you’ll need to make sure it configures with your current deadbolt system, and shell out $199, a smart lock could be an attractive feature to any home.

SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell System – This smart video doorbell lets you see, hear and talk to the visitor at your door, whether you’re home or not.  SkyBell sends your alerts, snaps photos and records video.

Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator – This connected fridge lets you view notes, schedules, order groceries, play music and even watch video.  The cameras inside will take photos of the refrigerators contents and e-mail them to you when you’re at the grocery store – in case you were wondering if you were out of ice cream.

If you’re selling your home with us, we’ve probably asked you to be as accommodating for showings as possible, and for good reason.  Accommodating for showings lets potential buyers know your motivated and serious, and gives a glimpse into what the escrow process might be like with you as a seller.  It’s a first impression in many ways—of you as a seller, and of your home.

We know how tough frequent showings can be, especially when you’re trying to live your life!  We’re sharing a few of the tips we often share with our clients to help them live as normally (and sanely) as possible.

  1. Make yourself a pre-showing checklist.  It’s easy to forget things when you’re in a rush.  A checklist can help ensure that your home is putting it’s best foot forward for potential buyers.

Some items to include:

Make the beds

Puts dishes away or in the dishwasher

Clear countertops

Bathroom sink and mirrors wiped clean and toilet seats down

Toys put in baskets and bins

Messes from pets cleaned and deodorized

Entry clear of shoes and backpacks

Lights on and window shades open

Take out the trash

2. Show some self love.  Think of this selling period as your opportunity to have your home as you’ve always wanted.  Show yourself some love with fresh flowers, a bowl of fruit or that “fancy” soap.  They make your home look extra lovely for potential buyers, but you’ll enjoy the daily benefits after the showing is over.  GT Tip: If you’re working on a tighter budget, use succulents and bowls of fruit that don’t require much maintenance and refreshing.

3. Get non-transparent bins and baskets (with lids!) In a pinch, these can serve as a catch-all of items without making the house look cluttered.  Laundry baskets with lids and non-transparent containers will make it look like you’re as organized as your Pinterest makes you out to be.

4. Make your bed as soon as you wake up.  This simple task can make you feel accomplished, set the tone for the day, and make that last-second showing a total breeze.  If you have kids, make their beds too or get them in the habit of doing so.

5. Keep a spare rack of fresh towels on hand.  It seems fussy, but having nicely folded white towels can make a bathroom feel cleaner and more spa-like.  Keep clean towels that you’ve already folded in the cupboard, or somewhere you can easily pull them out.  This will help eliminate the stress of worrying about whether the towels are clean all the time.

6. Know this—it only takes 30 days to make a habit.  If you can get through the first month, then going through that pre-show checklist will be a breeze, and the stress of last minute accommodations will have dwindled.

Solar panels are becoming increasingly beneficial with the rising costs of electricity.  You’re probably feeling that high cost over these summer months when the air conditioning is running high and the kids are home from school using more electricity than normal.  With rising utility costs, there are more government and economic incentives to reduce your carbon footprint and lower your monthly bill, not to mention the increased value added to your home.

Depending on your method of purchase for the equipment, solar can be a long term investment with a sizable return.  Many people lease their energy system from a third party developer, at no upfront deposit or downpayment, and pay the electricity produced by that solar system, at a lower cost than the current rate.

When you invest in your own energy system through a cash deal, you gain complete ownership of your system and electricity produced from day 1.  Cash deals have government tax credits, up to 30% of the cost of your energy system.  While the upfront costs are high, the long term return is even higher.  For example, a $30,000 investment would cost you $21,000 after a 30% tax credit.  Taking into account a $3,600 savings (based on an average $300 utility bill), the system is paid off in 5.8 years, and you save $90,000 after year 25.

Even if you don’t plan on staying in your home for 20 years, a solar energy system adds incredible resale value.  In the same way that swimming pools typically garner larger sales prices, so too, does an energy system.  Best case scenario, your system cost $30,000 to install (before government tax credits), and sells for $30,00 higher.  All the while, you still enjoyed the benefits from eliminating your electricity bill.

The maintenance? Solar panels don’t have moving parts, so much maintenance isn’t required.   You’ll want to occasionally rinse the panels with soft water to eliminate any bird droppings, dust or leaves.  In most areas, a little rain does this nicely.

We’ve had an amazing experience ourselves with solar energy.  Tell us how you feel about solar, if you’ve thought about it, or some of the experiences you’ve had!

Source: Barnes Solar Engineering & Installation CSLB #943909

There’s a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding your need for a new lease.  “Maybe the next one will be better than the last.” There’s also a lot to realize.  Over the course of your last lease the lease market may have changed.

Fortunately, a lot of the issues that plague renters can be avoided just by being aware of the current market and choosing a lease a little more carefully.  We often work with renters who have had success in setting realistic goals to obtain that new lease, so we’ve outlined a few tips to try:

  1. The grass isn’t always greener.  Be honest about why you’re moving.  Aside from common relocation reasons, ask yourself why it is you’re really looking for a new lease.  Moving is stressful and carries a long list of expenses.  Every living space has its pros and cons, especially in the lease market.
  2. Stop falling in love too soon.  Looking for a lease online is kind of like dating online.  Landlords and agents have ways of manipulating photographs of their units to make them appear cozier and more attractive then they are.  Before you get caught up in the idea of a rental, take the time to schedule a showing and be realistic about it’s affordability and your budget.  Even so, chances are, if you’re in love with it, there might be 10 applications in from 10 other people who love it too.
  3. Craig’s List? Move on.  It’s tempting to answer posts made on Craig’s List, we know, but signing a lease without proper vetting puts you in a dangerous position.  Doing so without representation also does not give you any chance of protecting your interest.  Most Craig’s List listings are fraudulent and out to separate you from your hard earned money.
  4. They’re vetting you, vet them.  Some landlords care about their properties and their tenants while others… not so much.  A good landlord will take your calls and fix leaking toilets and send an exterminator in to deal with an ant problem, all within good reason.  Be sure to run a check on your landlord before signing a rental agreement.  Do a Google search, ask your agent if you can call previous tenants or check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the landlord or property management company.

If you’re looking for a lease, ask us how we can help get you started.