Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Next Downsizing Champ - Local Townhomes For Sale!

For the moment, busy local family leaders (we used to call them ‘parents’) don’t even have time to think about downsizing.

They are too busy being chauffeurs, homework enforcers, line cooks, weekend trip organizers, gardeners, housekeepers, and – oh, that’s right – breadwinners.

But ‘way out there in the future there really does come a time when the children will have left home. It may take a few months after that happens for the dust to settle, but when empty nesters finally look up, many find that the very same somewhat-cramped household that seemed barely able to accommodate the family now looks…sort of large. Large and a bit empty. An empty, echoing, dust-gathering, property tax-attracting void. Except for holiday gatherings, it’s beginning to look like an expensive, maintenance dollar-sucking- well, you get the picture!

It can happen at any time, but usually it will follow a moment (perhaps after a heater breakdown in one of the now-unoccupied kids’ bedrooms) when the homeowner begins to feel strangely attracted to one of the area townhomes for sale.

 “Small is the new big,” is the way one California real estate agent in a luxury community put it.   Not only is a townhome more practical when it comes to upkeep and maintenance, but as the long-predicted demographic tsunami of Baby Boomers breaks hard onto the shores of retirement, viewing townhomes for sale is actually beginning to become quite fashionable. Imagine: leaving behind the hassle of large home repairs and large utility bills in favor of community-manicured walkways and (pat self on back) a smaller eco-footprint.

Many of the townhomes for sale in today’s market are in truth the size of a small house.  As such, townhomes can be a nice compromise between the big house you are selling and other options for downsizing like condos or apartments. On the plus side, a townhome is often more private than a condominium and can feature 1- or 2-car garages, private decks or even small patios or yards

Despite the financial and practical advantages, sometimes sentiment can prevent those family leaders from making the change. It is, after all is said and done, most important to call ‘home’ the place where you can find a peaceful and happy life. It’s a uniquely personal decision.

If you are considering downsizing and would like to learn more about townhomes for sale in town, call me today.  I can show you listings that fit your style and budget – ones that might just turn into the next important step in your life!

John Doan

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Selling a House & the Art of the Kitchen Remodel

Local homeowners who happened to read last Wednesday’s Associated Press article were certainly cheered up. “Most economists,” it read, “said that the January report was encouraging, especially when viewed with other recent positive housing data.” The A.P. was discussing the most recent NAR. report that sales of homes had increased 4.3%. The same report indicated that although prices were still depressed, the pace of decline has been slowing markedly. 

So, for anyone who has been putting off selling a house in our area, it is becoming clear that the overall market is headed back up. But what to do about those prices? Sit and wait? For those who have waited long enough, there are positive actions that have long been used to affect the market value of homes. Prime among them: the low-cost kitchen remodel.  


One kitchen-remodeling shortcut is to simply replace old appliances with new energy-efficient ones. A new range, oven, dishwasher and refrigerator are straightforward kitchen upgrades that can’t help but increase the odds of selling a house. To save money, consider buying from appliance warehouses or even online. Another idea is to reface appliances that are more serviceable than they look – an especially apt approach for stainless surfaces that just cannot be revived.  

Kitchen Cabinets

Putting a new face on old cabinet doors and drawers give a kitchen a fresher look. Experienced hands choose classic designs in neutral colors to appeal to the greatest number of potential homebuyers. Check the home improvement stores. They usually have a wide range of low-cost panels that fit most cabinets. An even thriftier option is to simply change the hardware on cabinet doors and drawers. New hardware gives a kitchen a different look – but please -- instead of gold, go for stainless steel or brushed nickel (a look today’s local buyers generally prefer). 

Sinks and Faucets

A gleaming new sink and faucet can also improve the chances of selling a home. Many people favor a stainless steel sink, but it is the fresh caulking and shine that really screams “new”.  New faucets that are stylish and functional also improve a kitchen's salability and are one of the absolute cheapest quick fixes for any kitchen. Just be careful that any new purchase is compatible with the existing fittings.  

When it comes to selling a house, there are many things the homeowner can do to improve its salability yet don’t cost an arm and a leg. Simple kitchen remodeling efforts needn't be overly expensive, but can greatly improve the walk-in appeal of the entire property.  If you are considering selling a home in town, give me a call today to discuss a price evaluation.  We can also talk over some quick improvements you might make to take advantage of the upcoming spring market. Call me today and I can review you rproperty to give you my best opinion on how we can get more money for the house! 714-908-4114.

Friday, February 24, 2012

With Mortgage Rates Tumbling, Find a Local Mortgage Broker!

We have all been reading about how mortgage rates fell again in January.  It seems as if half the time news like that is accompanied by some phrase like, “encouraging new buyers to dip their toes into the housing market." 

Checking into it, I found that the average interest rate on conventional 30-year mortgage loans decreased eight basis points (to 4.32%) in December. That came from FHFA in their last full report.  And by this past weekend, their site showed it was down to 3.87%.  It looks like some of that toe-dipping might be about to start in earnest! 

Just in case you are one of those ‘new buyers’ who might be feeling some of that ‘encouraging’, sooner or later you will learn that the government’s national rate is not the final word on everyone’s situation. It’s why I would suggest you consider making a call to one of our local mortgage brokers. Here are some reasons why that’s a good idea:
A great mortgage broker can help you unearth the best mortgage; go rate shopping on your behalf. They spend their days keeping track of banks, credit unions and other sources of finance on behalf of their clients, so they are perfectly placed to access a wealth of mortgage data. 

Brokers keep mortgage rates competitive by providing multiple points of view and offering alternatives when needed. Were it not for the efforts of diligent mortgage brokers, banks and financial institutions would be able to keep their rates higher. And in this climate of falling mortgage rates, they can save you a lot of the time it would take to go shopping for a great deal.

Good mortgage brokers are there to work to for you. They organize your financial picture, credit rating and future plans to come up with the mortgage that is right for you. They are motivated to work on your behalf because they know that at the end of the day it is by doing a great job for their clients that they are going to earn the reputation and word-of-mouth that keeps them in business.

If you are intrigued by the recent falling mortgage rates and are considering buying a home in our area, call me for a complimentary, no-obligation buyer’s consultation.   I can introduce you to a great mortgage broker -- and we can help you to get prequalified.  We can run the numbers that will help you decide if now might indeed be the right time for you to get into this market!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Buying a Home in Town: The Hunt Begins!

Part of the fun of beginning the house hunting process in town is attending open houses. For many buyers, especially those who haven't yet sought out a buyer's agent, it's a leisurely, no-pressure way to shop. That is, once you have mastered the art of finding out where the open houses are.

The first step is to know when to look. Most open houses are held on Sundays, here as in most other areas of the country. The reason is no secret: universally, Sunday open houses are better attended than those held on Saturdays. And weekdays aren’t even in the running. One writer reports a typical experience: Dan Malloy, an agent in Westlake, OH, reports that twice as many visitors come to his Sunday open houses.
While newspapers used to be the golden standard for locating open houses, these days the Internet has become the leader. Brokerage websites, real estate sites such as FrontDoor's and Trulia, as well as Craigslist and other classified sites, are all excellent places to visit when it's time to organize your open house safari. I find can be especially useful because it does such a good job of removing out-of-date listings (the ‘wild goose chase’ elimination factor).

And low-tech methods can still be effective. Why not take a Sunday morning drive through the neighborhoods you might be considering? By 11 a.m., you will find plenty of yard signs advertising the day’s open houses. They’re hard to miss -- often festooned with plenty of balloons and arrows to point the way.  Since many agents still do advertise their open houses in the weekend classifieds, take along a copy in case you don’t find as many open houses as you were expecting.

Any way you find them, open houses are a great way to start a February home hunt.   The next step is to find an experienced local agent to take you all the way through to your next home. Give me a call anytime -- we can start planning your next step! 714-908-4114.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time to Buy Your First Investment Property?

If you are a newcomer to local real estate investing, finding your first income-generating property can seem like a fairly daunting task.  How can you be sure that a property will generate enough cash flow?  How will you estimate your costs to put potential homes for rent into the profit column?  Altogether, how will you know when you find the right opportunity?  

First, you have to view the competitive landscape in town this season, which means doing some targeted research.  You might start by attending local seminars or looking into an area property club.  These types of groups can help arm you with the economic trends that will serve as a guide.  You will also want to call one or two reputable local property management companies to get a general idea of the costs you should expect when listing homes for rent with their firms.

In today’s market, the demand for quality homes for rent and the rents they command are generally up.  Given an increased demand for rental properties, it is reasonable to predict that even as a new investor you should be able to find qualified potential tenants within a reasonable timeframe.  However, the tenant qualification process can be tricky. It is peppered with legal and Fair Housing rules, so you should be prepared to either educate yourself thoroughly on the laws or hire a professional property manager or leasing agent to handle this aspect.

 Overall, the market in homes for rent has trended higher, but your new business will prosper or not based on the cash flow for the property type you choose to enter. Many neophyte real estate investors consider beginning with a condominium, and for practical reasons. Homes for rent can bring with them a multiplicity of unique –sometimes unexpected-- problems, whereas most condos come with HOAs that handle roof, exterior maintenance, and even many more problem-preventing features.  

Experienced real estate agents are there to help you find prospective properties and to furnish professional advice along the way.  Please feel free to call me anytime for market advice if you have ever considered looking into the local homes for rent market.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Buying a Local Home: What Makes a Great Realtor®?

The quality of your realtor can have unexpected impact on your life.  Think about the process of buying a home. First you explain your highest hopes and deepest fears concerning home ownership -- then you allow this person to take that knowledge to find an answer that will affect every day of your life for the foreseeable future!  The fact is that realtors help their prospective buyers make life-changing decisions. It’s no small responsibility.

One of the first concrete steps you take when the prospect of buying a local home moves from distant thought to concrete action is to seek a professional willing to provide the knowledge and support you will need to find a home that fits your needs.  A qualified and experienced realtor can give you excellent and efficient guidance, but only after you have made your wants and needs known. With that knowledge under their belt, a fantastic Realtor can help you into the home of your dreams. 

Integrity is arguably the most important characteristic for any realtor. Consider recent history: during the end-stage of the financial crisis in 2009, all
area homebuyers faced uncertainty, yet sales to first-time buyers rose to 47% (compared with 41% in 2008). With prices dropping to all-time lows, realtors helped first-timers get into the market that had eluded them previously.  That increase later declined, but the right opportunities were (and still are!) on the market for anyone willing to learn how to tackle home ownership. A realtor with integrity educates buyers and gives him or her the opportunity to make a sound choice.

local realtors have worked with all types of buyers at all kinds of price points. They have seen great deals -- and they have seen horrible deals.  Their experience can help red flag situations where something is not right, or can help when buyers are anxious and nervous about a decision. You do not have to face uncertainty on your own when your realtor is knowledgeable and experienced.

Great Listener
By the time you reach the concluding phases of a transaction together, great realtors "know" you. These professionals have taken the time to learn about you, your family, your hopes and your dreams. These realtors work within your budget, seek the best prices for potential properties, and advise you when to take a step back. Great realtors keep your criteria at the forefront.

People tend to overlook the very real ‘gentle’ side of real estate. Instead of facing the obstacles of securing property alone, consider working with an experienced realtor who can make you happy. Make a list of your goals, keep in touch with reality, and then contact me or another local professional who is willing to help you find your
local home. 

®Realtor is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The "Ebay of Real Estate"

I am thinking about writing a book on how real estate has evolved into an auction like bidding war when putting in offers for many homes today. I'm sure some of you agents out there would agree with me that it can be frustrating when you have an offer in on a home for a buyer and there are over 5 other offers you are competing against. I guess I wouldn't be so concerned about this but the fact of the matter is that homes are being listed under value to start with and then it's off to the races! For example, the last home that I sold was listed at $250,000 and by the time we went to close, we had outbidded 4 other buyers at a whooping $290,000 which was fair market value anyhow. This is how most of my offers look like today if the home is a desirable property.What happened to the good ol' days where you could negotiate a price down? The other part is that when you get most buyers today, you try to tell them how it works upfront and most people don't believe you until you're in it! Both my buyers both asked me how much "discount" we could ask for on several listings and now that we have gone through several offers, I now consider them to be savvy buyers. My advice to any other agent is to do a good job assessing what the homes market value really is and then submitting an offer at that price. DO NOT MAKE AN OFFER BASED OFF THE LISTING PRICE!

John "Ask John" Doan
CA Real Estate Broker & Mortgage Broker
Ph: 714-908-4111
Cell: 949-433-3184
Fax: 888-488-3229

Friday, February 17, 2012

Irvine Market Update

The median sales price for homes in Irvine CA for Nov 11 to Jan 12 was $505,000. This represents an increase of 0%, or $0, compared to the prior quarter and a decrease of 9.7% compared to the prior year. Sales prices have depreciated 27.9% over the last 5 years in Irvine. The average listing price for Irvine homes for sale was $814,957 for the week ending Feb 08, which represents an increase of 1.5%, or $12,228, compared to the prior week and an increase of 5.8%, or $44,881, compared to the week ending Jan 18. Average price per square foot for Irvine CA was $317, a decrease of 6.5% compared to the same period last year. Popular neighborhoods in Irvine include Woodbridge, Northwood, Turtle Rock, Lower Peters Canyon, Westpark, and El Camino Real.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Aliso Viejo Market Update

Average price per square foot for Aliso Viejo CA was $228, a decrease of 10.6% compared to the same period last year. The median sales price for homes in Aliso Viejo CA for Nov 11 to Jan 12 was $334,015 based on 174 home sales. Compared to the same period one year ago, the median home sales price decreased 10.9%, or $40,985, and the number of home sales decreased 13.4%. There are currently 335 resale and new homes in Aliso Viejo, including 10 open houses, as well as 337 homes in the pre-foreclosure, auction, or bank-owned stages of the foreclosure process. The average listing price for homes for sale in Aliso Viejo CA was $391,812 for the week ending Feb 08, which represents a decrease of 1.5%, or $5,821, compared to the prior week.