Are There Opportunities for Seller’s in Today’s Market?

The KMC Blog, February 25, 2013

According to the National Realtors Association’s (NAR) report released on Thursday, February 21, 2013, the January exsiting homes sales shows a steady increase in home prices. One reason for the uptick in home prices is the current inventory constraints, not only in the Bay Area, but limited inventory throughout the US and Canada.

Some highlights of the report:

* Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 4.9 percent to 1.74 million homes available for sale. This represents a 4.2-month supply, down from 4.5 months in December.

* We are at the lowest housing supply since April 2005 when it was at 4.2 months.

* Listed inventory is 25.3 percent below a year ago when there was a 6.2-month supply.

* Unsold inventory is at the lowest level since December 1999!

* The national median home price in January was up 12.3 percent from January 2012, the strongest since November 2005.

Are there opportunities for Seller’s in this type of market? Absolutely! NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun is quoted to say “Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady,” he said. “In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We’ve transitioned into a seller’s market in much of the country.”

To read the entire KCM Blog, click on http://tinyurl.com/benzv2o
To read the entire NAR article, click on http://tinyurl.com/a4lgnop

Posted in Advice On Home Ownership, Aging in Place, Baby Boomers, Finance, Home Buying/Selling, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Inspect to Save

Most homeowners believe a home inspection from time to time is a necessity to avoid home maintenance problems and save money. About two-thirds of homeowners surveyed said a home inspection helped them avoid potential problems and saved money in the long run because the inspection uncovered minor issues that were easily remedied.

Many believe, however, that a home inspection reviews all things in and outside the home. Unfortunately, that is not true. A standard home inspectors checks for visual and mechanical defects, but does not do invasive or destructive testing. So, items like septic systems, electrical wiring, plumbing behind drywall and swimming pools are not included in a standard home inspection. If you need a septic, pool, foundation or chimney inspection, you can order these independent of the home inspection. There are specific trades’ people for hire to perform these inspections.

Remember, it is a good idea to get your home inspected periodically, including a pest inspection. Do not wait until you are ready to sell. And for buyers, make sure to do inspections upfront so you know what to look out for while owning the home. I can help you in this area if you have any questions or concerns.

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Looking for something to do this weekend? Check this out: The Intero Weekender, February 15-17th

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check this out: The Intero Weekender, February 15-17th

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Identity Theft – What is it? How to prevent it!

Did you know that according to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has become the fastest growing crime in the United States? It’s estimated that almost 10 million people like you and me will have their identities stolen each year. That accounts to almost 30,000 identities stolen each day! I myself just had to cancel my credit card, YET AGAIN, because someone stole our number and began using it! It is amazing how easy it seems for people to steal one’s identity.

What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a crime that occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Stolen identity enables criminals to open credit lines, get driver’s licenses and other documents in your name. This can result in destroying your credit and cost you dearly in time and money to get your affairs straightened out. The average time to resolve cases of fraud was 21 hours in 2009.

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft:
1. Protect your Social Security number. Memorize it and then put it away in a safe place.
2. Shred any and all personal documents. Buy and inexpensive shredder and shred anything you discard that contains personal information. This includes items such as financial records, pre-approved credit offers, ATM receipts, and medical statements.
3. Require photo ID verification. Rather than signing the back of your credit cards, write “See Photo ID”. This will give you a little extra security of having to have your picture match the name on the credit card.
4. Watch for shoulder-surfers. When entering a PIN number, be aware of who is nearby and peering over your shoulder.
5. Select strong and unique passwords. Password protect all of your accounts with a combination of letters and numbers. If you make up a word or phrase that does not exist in reality, then your password is much stronger.
6. Be internet savvy – Be on guard. Never give out personal information or account numbers over the phone, the internet or through the mail unless you know for certain whom you are dealing with.
7. Inspect your credit report annually. Running your credit report on an annualized basis will not affect your credit…be safe rather than sorry.
8. Know your payment cycles. Call if your statements are late; identity thieves could have requested a change of address.
9. Secure your computer. Be sure your anti-spyware/anti-virus software programs are up to date.
10. For more information, please visit http://www.ftc.gov

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Kitchen Redos – 5 Low-Cost Ideas Buyer Will Love

The kitchen is the focal point of the home.  And it’s one space buyers compare closely while looking for a home.  No wonder kitchen remodeling sales were up 36% compared with a year earlier. Here are some cost estimates for some of the low-cost kitchen upgrades that listing agents often recommend to sellers.

1. Hardware:  Replacing cabinet handles, knobs and hinges is a quick, DYI way to upgrade a kitchen space.  With an average of 40 handles and knobs per kitchen you can estimate anywhere from $80 to $800 for this enhancement.

2. Faucet:  There are lots of options today in terms of height, spouts and pullout hoses with quality faucets starting at around $200.

3. Lighting:  Adding an LED undercabinet light can have a dramatic effect for about $40.

4. Organization:  Today buyers choose function over elaborate decoration.  Practical storage in the kitchen will go a long way.  Drawer organizers, wall hooks, stackable shelves for cabinets and baskets in the pantry will add appeal, usually for less than $100.

5. Countertops:  Laminate can give you the contemporary look of granite at a lower price point.  30 Linear feet of laminate countertop is about $1575; the same counter in granite would be about $2400.

Enjoy your new look! If this information is helpful, pass it on.

Posted in Advice On Home Ownership, Baby Boomers, Home Buying/Selling | Leave a comment

Paying Appraisers – Who Gets the Cash?

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is currently reviewing appraisal charges.  While these fees seem fairly standard, the truth about who exactly gets the money is somewhat murky to homebuyers. In addition, I have seen appraisal fees range from $350 to $1000. That is a very wide gap. What is reasonable?

According to industry estimates, in most cases, the person who visits, inspects, measures and puts a market value on your property is receiving only a small portion of the fee you pay.  Some appraisers get less than half of the fee and the rest goes to an appraisal management company, who in turn, may be owned by or in a joint venture or affiliate relationship with your lender; which may be pocketing a significant portion of your appraisal dollars.

The CFPB is deciding whether or not to mandate two new disclosures – what the appraiser is paid and what the management company is taking. It would be very interesting to know and why the discrepancy in the fees as well!

Posted in Advice On Home Ownership, Baby Boomers, Finance, Home Buying/Selling, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

4 Home Technologies for Energey Efficiency

Our energy bills are “HUGE” and seem to be growing every year. Are you interested in shaving off $200-$400 off your energy bills annually?  I am! Here is what the National Association of Home Builders offers as some high-tech tips:

  • Automated HVAC Systems. Programmable thermostats can save you about $180 per year in energy costs.  Automated systems can be set to reduce usage when you are out, adjust temperatures throughout the day or night or to create heating and cooling zones within the home.
  • Water heaters. Tankless gas water heaters turn on and off depending on when the homeowner is actually using the water which can reduce water heating costs up to 35% annually.  Water heaters with a timer can be programmed to turn off when the homeowner is away.
  • Lighting. Automatic dimmers adjust lighting based on the time of day, which is especially beneficial for exterior lights.
  • Blinds & Drapes.  Automated blinds and shades are an eco-savvy window treatment.  Program these to close during the hottest part of the day in summer and let the sun in during winter.

I hope this information is useful, and if so, pass it on.

Posted in Advice On Home Ownership, Aging in Place, Environmental Friendly, Finance, Home Buying/Selling, Los Altos Community, Mountain View Community, Palo Alto Community, Senior Community, Sunnyvale Community, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Local Day Family Trips

Now that summer vacation is upon us, looking for something to do?  How about a trip to a local animal park or zoo.  Here are some good ones.

SAN FRANCISCO ZOO: San Francisco; Feeding time for the grizzlies and penguins is great fun; or try the carousel and steam train. (415)753-7080, www.sfzoo.org.

FOLSOM CITY ZOO SANCTUARY:  Folsom, Calif.; Not a typical zoo; Includes rescued wild animals such as golden eagles, hawks, coyotes, cougars and even a feral cat. (916)351-3527, folsom.ca.us/depts/parks_n_recreation/zoo.

OAKLAND ZOO: Knowland Park, Oakland. Very family friendly with 660 native and exotic animals; open evenings durring the holidays with lighted pathways and holiday music.  Train rides too. (510)632-9525, oaklandzoo.org.

SACRAMENTO ZOO: William Land Park, Sacramento. All the usual animals except elephants.  River otters and reptile house are favorites. (916)808-5885, saczoo.org.

SAFARI WEST: Santa Rosa, CA. A fun safari ride in open vehicles with some 800 animals, including giraffes and cheetahs. (707)579-2551, safariwest.com.

Enjoy and have fun!

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The New Retiree

65 has been the magic age at which an American worker is supposed to leave the workplace behind and retire.  Given relatively recent economic conditions, Baby Boomers who watched their parents retire comfortably are now left wondering if they will be able to do so too.

During the “Great Recession”, working adults between ages 50 and 64 have taken a substantial hit to their retirement savings and in some cases their home values.  To make matters worse, they are projected to be among the first who will not receive full Social Security benefits until age 66 (67 if they were born after 1959). Many are now rethinking how they will retire.

Baby Boomers are starting to rethink their plans for post-work years and adjusting their attitudes about this next phase of their lives.  They are retiring later, working longer and/or thinking about part-time jobs after retirement.

Aging Boomers are still trying to hold onto their dreams.  Though most are concerned about retirement, the majority still think there may be one more move in their future.  About 40% still think they may stay in their current home. Still others may down-size their home or even move to a new community or state to adjust their living situation to accommodate their retirement financial goals. The numbers indicate that seniors’ relocating is on the increase.

The main reasons for relocation may be proximity to family, reduction of household expenses or lifestyle needs.

Though Boomers and recent retirees are active and would like to stay that way, they are proactive in looking for features that will make their lives more comfortable, convenient both now and in their future.  Important considerations in choosing a community are:

  • proximity to current employment
  • access to part-time employment
  • a community with quality design
  • high quality health care facilities
  • good access to transit
  • recreational areas like parks
  • nearby shops and restaurants

Important considerations in choosing a home:

  • services that will free up time
  • one-floor living or downstairs master bedroom
  • high-speed internet
  • security system
  • energy-efficient appliances and systems
  • design features like wide doorways, bigger bathrooms and grab bars
  • luxury on a smaller scale

Boomers and recent retirees are facing the worst economic climate in 80 years. They still want to spend their later years in a home and community that gives them comfort and convenience that they are accustomed to.  They may have to work longer than planned but they still plan to achieve the American Dream.

Posted in Aging in Place, Baby Boomers, Finance, Home Buying/Selling, Senior Community, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First-Time Homebuyer Credit – Repayment Time!

It’s repayment time if you bought a house in 2008 and claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Credit. Luckily the IRS has a tool to help you manage these repayments.  The IRS will no longer send reminder letters to taxpayers who need to repay the credit, but an online lookup tool on the IRS website allows you to check out what you owe.

This credit is similar to a no-interest loan and must be repaid in 15 equal annual installments that began with your 2010 return.  If you sold your home or stopped using it as your main home you may have to repay the entire credit.  This is true whether you purchased it in 2008, 2009 or 2010.

To access this tool, you need your Social Security number, date of birth and complete address.  The tool will show the original amount of the credit, annual repayment amounts, total amount paid and the total balance left to be paid.

Repayment should be reported on line 59b on Form 1040.  For more information or access this tool, visit the www.IRS.gov website.

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