While the year unfolds and we watch as a number of potential economic policies from a new administration are signed into order, more insight into 2017’s housing market begins to unfold.  Last month we talked about housing appreciation and interest rates.  Now, experts are weighing on new trends for the new year.

Redfin is expecting 2017 to break the 2016 record as the fastest market on record, measured by the average number of days homes spend on the market before going under contract.  In 2016 the typical house stayed on the market for just 52 days, about a week faster than in 2015 and the fastest year since Redfin began tracking in 2009.  Redfin is also predicting 2017 to be even faster— data taken from demand for short-notice tours of homes for sale, including same day tours, and the number of home tours completed, which has grown 19 percent.  Redfin also recognizes a new approach for many buyers, one that seeks an efficient transaction.

In 2016, Millennials showed no signs of their ability to influence the housing market.  Now in the new year, experts are predicting that millennials and boomers will greatly move markets, the two largest American generations in history.  Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke cited on realtor.com predicts that millennials alone will make up 33% of buyers in 2017 as they approach life stages that typically motivate people to buy homes: marriage, children, job security.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have begun to back bigger mortgages for the first time since 2006, a major sign of recovery from the past housing crisis.  This will make it easier for more homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage in higher-priced markets.  While the new administration has alluded to many changes in the structure of Fannie and Freddie, we don’t imagine that happening until 2018, as Redfin reminds us of a lengthy and political process to repeal that charter.  We also expect increases in the availability of low downpayment mortgages from big lenders.  These larger institutions introduced mortgages requiring as little as 1-3% down, drawing more millennial buyers into the housing market.

All signs point a great 2017 for the housing market, with much buyer demand and new inventory.

We’ve been looking at solar energy a lot these days, particularly roofs, and have even written about them before here on our blog.  We look at solar panels as an investment on your home that will give you plenty of savings in the future and add value to your property.  The biggest barrier to getting a solar roof is the cost of the equipment, in comparison to the benefits, so when Tesla announced a new solar roof that would cost less than a normal roof, we were floored.

The roof looks good, there’s no doubt about that.  There are multiple finish options, including “Tuscan” and “slate”, which allows for a solar panel roof that actually looks like a normal roof.  But aside from aesthetics, most of us are wondering if a Tesla Solar Roof is worth it.  Namely, we’re more concerned about the return.

The cost of the roofs is estimated around $50,000, so when Tesla says it’s price point is around that of a “normal roof”, they mean a roof with high end materials.  At this rate, it’s more a competitive alternative to other luxury solar installations, but with more of an unknown return.

Performance and efficiency are everything when it comes to solar equipment.  The company itself has admitted that the aesthetic reduces efficiency by 2%, which is a lot.  Tesla’s panels are actually roofs, or “roof integrated”, unlike other panels that are mounted to the roof.  This design doesn’t allow for airflow between the panels and the roof and thus reduces energy and efficiency.  Also, because of the design, you wont be able to install around shaded areas, which will lower your production output.  There’s even a lot of talk about fire hazards because of the roof integrated design.

We certainly admire the look of Tesla’s new solar system, and are excited to see these concerns addressed over the years, as we know they will be.  If you’re thinking of adding solar energy to your home, let us know, we’d be happy to share our experiences with you.

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.

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