There’s a lot of buzz surrounding speculation that the Federal Reserve will be raising the cost of borrowing money.  For nearly 10 years, the Fed has continuously moved to lower interest rates, spurred by the then pending housing bubble.  That was back in the summer of 2006.  A lot has happened since the summer of 2006: a first grader is now a Freshman in High School and the world didn’t even know the iPhone in 2006.

Meetings amongst the Fed and its policymakers in the past few weeks have traversed the tight rope on a rate increase.  The change, should it happen, could jar borrowers, and move to affect markets.

But, why? Why would the Federal Reserve even hold meetings with policymakers to raise rates? High interest rates would discourage business expansions and purchases.

Few things:

The Fed is typically a reactionary entity.  The Federal Reserve leverages its power to lower rates when economic growth is accelerating so quickly that demand outweighs supply, causing inflation amongst prices and wages, on say, for example, big-ticket purchases.  When the economy is in trouble, having the nations central bank cut rates can help produce economic growth.  If rates are already at extreme lows, the power of lowering rates won’t help–there’s no where to go.  Raising interest rates could give the Fed the chance to reload its weapon.

Low mortgages, lead to more housing bubbles.  The previous housing crisis taught us many lessons.  When housing markets are hot, such as in Manhattan and Silicon Valley, prices shoot to levels so high they could spur another bubble.  Raising interest rates combat the impending inflation.

The Fed’s decision hinges on whether inflation is actually, and currently, a symptom of our economy.  Federal policymakers meet to weigh whether to systematically begin pushing rates to more normal levels.

We’re big fans of the diced bananas dipped in dark chocolate at Trader Joe’s.  We’re also big fans of the fact that Trader Joe’s is a stone’s throw away.  We’re even bigger fans of the thought that home appreciation may have a direct correlation to Trader Joe’s and Whole Food’s locations, and maybe our chocolate covered bananas.

Two of our most basic needs as humans are food and shelter.  RealtyTrac looked at home values, their appreciation and their adjoining property taxes in U.S. Zip Codes with a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to determine the best combination of food and shelter.  Both stores have a cult following, but does that cult follow lead to greater appreciation?

The study found that homeowners near a Trader Joe’s have experienced better home value appreciation since their original purchase, but also pay higher property taxes on average.

Here’s what we also found in the report:

Homeowners near a Trader Joe’s have seen an average 40 percent increase in home value since they purchased, compared to 34 percent appreciation for homeowners near Whole Foods.

Homeowners near a Trader Joe’s pay an average of $8,536 a year in property taxes, while homeowners near a Whole Foods pay an average of $5,382 per year.

Included in the methodology of the report is the fact that only zip codes with at least one OR the other were taken into account.  Neither zip code had both.  There’s much more to take into account in considering average home value and appreciation, but the thought is interesting.

For more information visit www.realtytrac.com

Buying a home may be the biggest purchase you ever make.  It’s natural to want to try different ways to save some money.  You want the best house, in the best neighborhood, at the best price.  If you’re bargain hunting, scouring the internet for FSBOs and running the miles on your car , consider a few things:

Low balling doesn’t work.  Put yourself in the shoes of a seller.  They bought their home with the hope that it will appreciate in value over time, the same hope you have now.  They want to net as much as possible, just as you hope to.  They took financial risk, just as you will.  There’s an art to submitting an offer–you want a seller to know you’re serious, well informed and viable.  A low ball offer based on nothing is likely to insult a seller.  Keep in mind what they need, and know what you need.  Be open to comprise.

If you’re putting wear on your tires, driving neighborhoods and calling sellers when they aren’t home, because you think negotiating out of commissions will help you get a bargain, you aren’t in the game.  Ninety-five percent of homebuyers are working with a real estate professional.  You’ll notice that homes you’re watching are going under contract with other buyers.  Get the help you need and deserve.

Sometimes a distressed home will impact the perceived prices of other homes.  These homes are typically discounted about 17 percent.  If the home you’re looking at isn’t in distress, don’t expect to negotiate as if it is.  Be realistic of what you’re looking at.  

If a home has been on the market for a long time, without a price reduction, there’s probably a reason.  You’re dealing with an unmotivated, unrealistic, or upside-down seller who will waste your time with no result of a purchased home.  Move on to a deal that will be worth your time. 

You may come across a home marked “as is” during your search for the ultimate bargain.  You could be looking at a money pit.  Execute your due diligence.  Get a home inspection and then get bids from contractors who can help you bring the home up to date.  If the purchase price and repairs come to approximately the same price as an updated home in the same area, then go for it. 

More people are taking the leap to homeownership as a result of rising rent prices, job security, low interest rates and generous home loan programs.  And that just might be your dilemma, that many people are doing this, and for good reason, but it might be making the market a bit more competitive.  In areas where inventory is low, homes are being snatched up in a matter of days.  To help you land the home you want, follow this guide to give you the edge in a competitive market.

Get a pre-approval letter.  A pre-approval letter shows you’ve been vetted, you’re serious and you’re ready.  This also gives you a realistic idea of how much of a mortgage you can afford so you can limit your search to houses in your price range before setting your sites on properties out of reach.

Make sure your agent gets the scoop.  A good agent will find out the scope of interested parties in a house before writing an offer.  Knowing how many people have seen it and written offers on it will tell you how aggressive you need to be.  Knowing the seller’s story and timeline can also work to your advantage.  Something that doesn’t match up with the sellers timeline might get rejected.  It also lets us know in advance to start preparing for a bidding war.

Be flexible with timing.   That being said, you can improve your chances of landing the home you want if sellers know that you are willing to work with their schedules in as quickly– or as slowly–a manner as necessary.

Make it personal.  Real estate is a visual industry: you look at homes, you look at neighborhoods, you look at the numbers, sellers look at offers.  All of this can get cold and impersonal.  Consider adding a personal letter that shows why you love the house and what you plan to use it for.  Some people with an emotional attachment to the home they’re selling may be inclined to sell it to someone they know will take care of it and appreciate it the way they did.

Pay more upfront.  Money talks.  You can beef up your offer by providing more money up front in your earnest money deposit.  The cash works as insurance for the seller in case the buyer backs out of the deal.  Knowing you have more skin in the game might make take your offer as the safe bet.

We’ve always been taught to look at data with a discerning eye and an eye for the logistics.  If an outlet cites an increase in home sales, there are more questions that need to be answered: home sales where?  during what period? based on what? homes of what value?

The number of pending home sales has, in fact, been on a steady rise.  Logistically, there need not be an increase in the number of homes for sale between the last year and the current data.  There could have been 5,000 homes for sale in both years, and of that pool of homes for sale, one year reports more sales.

As is the current similar case.  There are actually 11 percent fewer homes listed for sale this year in Southern California, as compared to last year. It is the time period between the start of 2015 and the current time, where reports show 35 percent more homes listed for sale.

Inventory is rising, and over priced homes are sitting on the market with no offers.  With 10 percent of the active inventory reducing their asking price, many sellers begin chasing the market.

Price reductions demonstrate motivation, and a commitment to the reality of the market.  Talk with one of our agents about how to strategically make these reductions to ensure you don’t end up chasing the market.

mango1

When it’s hot out, we’re still inkling for some hot bbq, but this super fresh mango salsa keeps things cool and adds a little sweetness to our dish.  Our favorite thing to put this over is grilled chicken, or with grilled mahi.  People always ask us for the recipe, and we’ve kept it under pretty tight wraps, until now.

Mango Salsa

1 1/3 cups diced mango

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup cilantro for garnish

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons grated lime peel (zest)

1 tablespoon chopped serrano chili

Combine ingredients, season with salt and pepper.

You’re welcome 😉

ENJOY!

Here’s the nitty gritty:

Orange County Home Sales are up 20% this month.  We weren’t kidding when we said this was the busy season, but that number comes from zip codes with million dollar price points.

Resale homes are up almost 4%, while condos resales are up 5% and new home sales UP over 10%.  If you’ve been tracking the numbers, don’t be surprised at the large jump.  Developers push grand openings during this time of year to capture the summer buying rush.

Things are going fast this month, especially if it’s priced right.  A home in Orange County will be on the market 62 days on average, so if you find yourself in a hurry, feel free to give us a call and we always guide you through the process.

So often we get into conversations with homebuyers who are thinking of putting in synthetic grass.   They want to know what we think, what we know and if it makes sense for them, so here’s the real deal on fake grass.

Synthetic grass has made huge strides in the last few years and is definitely more common in home landscapes.  It works well in putting greens, areas where there are inhospitable conditions for growing real grass (such as perpetually shady areas) and areas where small pets relieve waste.

The pros: Low maintenance (obviously): no trimming, no watering, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no mowing.  Most of your household water use is taken up by landscaping, so if there is no need for watering, you’re not going to be running up a bill.  Synthetics look great year round, and with the strides in aesthetics, it’s almost impossible to tell fake grass from real grass unless it’s closely inspected.

The cons: Cost.  Fake grass is expensive and takes skill to install.  The less expensive types can look cheap and unnatural, though in time, you could recoup your investment.  You can expect to pay $2-$3 per square foot for material, and $20 per square foot with installation.  This stuff gets hot, too.  Real hot.  Synthetic material is usually stronger than natural materials, so the polymers that bind it together tend to heat up to degree that sand does.

For us, function over form when it comes to aesthetic grass.  If you can come up with a good reason to use it, then we say do it!

It’s not because someone has left a hurtful comment on their latest selfie, or because their skinny jeans don’t fit anymore, but many millennials these days are having legitimate concern over their future, and where their future will take place geographically.

It’s no surprise that cities with most economic prospect draw residents from all over the country.  You’re going to go where the jobs are, and where the money is.  Young couples looking to buy a home, raise children and achieve the American Dream are facing a broad dilemma in California.  Macro-economics teaches us that the cities with the least affordable housing often have the best social mobility.  Inversely, cities with the most affordable housing have the worst social mobility.  California is home to six of the seven least affordable housing markets, though has four of the 11 best cities for upward mobility and job opportunity, including Southern California, according to Kolko’s affordability metric.  (Kolko/Chetty 2015)

High-income metros often have greater influence over planning commissions, and rightfully so at times.  The coastal communities, for example, often deter and vote against new construction, as opposed to lower income metros.  The unique thing about Southern California, is that may of these high-income metros and low-income metros, seem to live in symbiosis.  The best advice to give your millennial seeking the American Dream? Uh, we’ll let you know when we find it.  Until then, we’re open to suggestions.

Here’s what you need to know:

A pocket listing is a property for sale that is not listed on the MLS.  These off-market properties carry unique benefits for buyers and sellers in today’s market.

Buyers may seek the help of a real estate professional in search of off-market properties, or properties that have yet to hit the market, in low-inventory markets.  When inventory is low, buyers may find themselves in steep competition, and may grow tired of being outbid.  Pocket listings allow for an added ease in buying a home, since there’s less competition and less stress.

For homeowners undergoing construction, or prior to construction, the decision to list your home as a pocket listing gives you the added benefit of early exposure without the stress of managing showings.  Traditional marketing strategies strive to obtain as much interest in a home as possible.  For high profile homeowners, implementing an off-market strategy to selling their home allows them to maintain privacy, allowing only qualified buyers to preview and tour the home.

Want to know more about pocket listings? Ask us how they might benefit you here.