Luxury Home Values Going Up

In California, the value of luxury homes is on the way up. The prices are climbing in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

During the 3rd quarter of 2012 when compared to last year, the prices of luxury homes in the major metropolitan markets in California rose.

The Index shows that in the San Francisco Bay Area home values rose 8.1 percent from the figure seen in 2011 and was a 2.4 percent over the second quarter of 2012. The average price in San Francisco is $2.73 million.

In the Los Angeles area, home values rose 1 percent from the third quarter of 2011 and declined a small 0.8% from the second quarter of 2012. The average price of a luxury home in Los Angeles is $2.02 million.

In the San Diego area, home values rose 2.2 percent year-over-year and increased 0.8 percent from the second quarter of 2012. The average luxury home price in San Diego is $1.66 million.

"Luxury home prices were particularly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area during the third quarter of 2012," President and Chief Operating Officer of First Republic Bank, Katherine August-deWilde stated and went on to say, "The Bay Area economy is healthy, inventory is limited, and multiple offers are increasingly the norm. Values in Los Angeles and San Diego are rising, and some neighborhoods are experiencing strong demand. Historic low interest rates have resulted in an elevated level of activity in luxury markets throughout California."

San Diego Area Home Values

San Diego luxury homes values is the growing trend with a higher value than what was seen a year ago. Prices in the area have increased for the last three quarters on a year over year basis, which includes a 2.2 percent gain during the third quarter when compared to last year.

Michael Taylor of California Prudential Realty in Rancho Santa Fe explained, for properties over $3 million, sales activity is picking up. "We have had a higher number of units sold this year than last year for homes over $3 million," and went on to say, "To me, that indicates fear has been wrung out of the market. People are now willing to spend more to buy a home, and they’re getting significantly more home because of the recent price declines. The perception is that we are at the bottom of this market."

Farid Khayamian of Bluxen Real Estate in La Jolla stated, "There are a lot of people who want to buy," and went on to explain, "We see multiple offers everywhere, particularly when the property is priced right. A year ago, there was more inventory due to short sales and foreclosures, but that has dried up. Right now, you have to buy at the asking price. In January, we will have more inventory and possibly lower prices."

San Francisco Bay Home Values

The San Francisco Bay Area reported its second consecutive quarter of gains on a year-over-year basis. The 8.1 percent year-over-year rise in the third quarter of 2012 was the highest since the first quarter of 2006.

Malcolm Kaufman of McGuire Real Estate in San Francisco stated, "Prices for luxury homes have been strong all year," and went on to say, "There is limited inventory, the economy here has returned better than anywhere in the country, and employment is up. Lots of money is being spent on $5 million homes and $10 million homes. For some, it feels like 2005 again."

In Silicon Valley, Pat Kalish of Intero Real Estate Services in Menlo Park stated, "People have secure jobs and stable incomes," and went on to say, "Except for the highest end of the luxury market, there is strong competition for properties. We have scarcity of homes, historic low interest and an optimistic outlook. When you are out in the market, you feel the optimism."

In the Marin County, Pat Montag of Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty in Mill Valley said, "Marin has not seen the increases that have happened in Menlo Park or San Francisco," and went on to say, "We typically lag a quarter behind San Francisco. We did see an uptick at the end of third quarter in the $3 million to $5 million range. Many people are still waiting until they see what happens in Washington D.C. in the first quarter."

Los Angeles Area Home Values

In the Los Angeles area home value rose 1 percent from last year but did drop just a bit from the second quarter

Dan Weiser of Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills South stated, "On the west side of Los Angeles, inventory is scarce and demand is high. We’re back to 2007 sales volume. Prices are probably within 10% of the height of the market. Sellers are getting incredible prices for properties in the highest end of the luxury market."

Michele Hall of Coldwell Banker in Brentwood explained, "New construction is flying off the shelf, with all cash and multiple offers. We’re seeing multiple offers in every price range, and there are fewer foreclosures and short sales. Inventory opened up, but was then snapped up."

In Santa Barbara, Joanne Schoenfeld of Santa Barbara Living Real Estate Brokerage explained, "The luxury market is very strong in Santa Barbara and Montecito," and went on to say, "There is a lot more activity and closed sales than last year. Prices continue to rise slightly, and I don’t see them going down any time soon. It’s a good, strong market."

Getting your home ready for Autumn

We know it is getting that time of year to put up those summer clothes and get out the jackets and long pants. One thing you must remember is that your home also needs some changes and checks before autumn begins. It is now time to check your appliances and other home systems so you do not have to repair these items when you need them the most.

American Home Shield has prepared a list of tips to help families prepare their homes for autumn and winter, which includes maintaining your heating unit and plumbing system before those temperatures drop down to freezing.

To get your heating system ready:

Your heating system should be inspected and cleaned by a professional
If you have furniture over the vents in the floor, it is time to move them so you can receive clear air flow.
Check your air filters, clean or change as needed.
Before doing any type of maintenance, read the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you do not have the owners guide any longer, you can always find it online.
Do a test run. Do not wait until the temperature is cold outside, do a test run. Turn on the heat and let it run for thirty minutes and listen for strange or unusual sounds or noises while making sure it is working correctly.

To get the plumbing system ready:
Insulate all pipes that may be prone to freezing like those that are close to an outside wall, exposed pipes such as an outside faucet, or any pipes that are found in unheated areas of your home.
Make sure your water meter box’s lid is closed to stop the meter from freezing.
Know where the master shut off valve is located so you can turn off the water in the event of a leak or if a water line breaks.
Use electric heat tape or even insulation on any pipes in crawl spaces or outdoors to stop them from freezing.

Dave Quandt, Senior VP of Field Services for American Home Shield stated, “Plumbing and heating systems are like any other machinery; they require some basic maintenance to keep them functioning properly.”

“Unfortunately, if regular maintenance doesn’t take place and a system or appliance fails, it’s usually at the time of need and you’re left with a crisis which can require a quick and more expensive decision.”

Copyright© 2011 RISMedia, the Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.

Steps to a safe open house

A real estate agent in Ottumwa, Iowa was assaulted and tied up when they arrived to a showing of a home. The attacker robbed the home and left the real estate unharmed. In just a couple of month in West Des Moines, while working at a model home, Ashley Oakland was shot in the head and chest and died from the injuries. The criminal has not been caught.

Les Sulgrove, president of the Des Moines Area Association of Realtors stated, “Prior to Ashley’s death, we had started to talk about Realtor safety and distributed safety materials to our members. This was in response to the Ottumwa, Iowa, agent being assaulted,” and went on to say, “It still never hit home that it could happen to us.”

Due to the attacks, the Iowa Association of Realtors invited safety instructor Andrew Wooten to conduct safety seminars throughout the state in June of 2011.

Wooten is a certified crime prevention practitioner and president of workplace safety firm Safety Awareness Firearms Education (SAFE). Wooten has worked with real estate professionals for 25 years and has partnered with the National Association of Realtors as a safety trainer.

The majority of his clients are real estate associations and large brokerages like Coldwell Banker and Century 21, he explained

Re/Max established its own safety program in 2003 known as, Safety Awareness for Every Realtor (SAFER), after the murder of a young sales associate in British Columbia. The program offers live sessions, online video streams, satellite broadcasts, and DVDs, the company reported.

Moby, a company that develops personal safety mobile applications performed a survey that found 61 percent of more than 450 surveyed real estate professionals reported that their office, firm, or local or regional association offers safety presentations at least once a year. The rest stated they were never offered any type of safety training.

According to this survey, close to 42% of respondents stated it was the responsibility of every organization in the real estate industry to provide safety training for their agents.

Moby just happens to be one of several safety apps now available on smartphones. The free app provides users the opportunity to alert chosen contacts with their GPS location should users need assistance. The app is available on the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms.

At the time of this writing, Moby has partnered with Michigan’s MiRealSource multiple listing service, the Iowa Association of Realtors, the, franchisor Keller Williams Realty, and the Women in Default Services trade association to promote the app to their members and agents.

Other apps include FORSSE, a subscription-based app available on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphones and Real Alert, a $1.99 iPhone app developed by Austin real estate agent Michelle Jones.

Being a real estate agent can be hazardous

A major part of being a real estate agent of course is attracting and meeting strangers in vacant homes for showings.

Wooten explained, “Anybody who works with the general public faces a higher degree of victimization than somebody who’s in the office all day.” The majority of his advice is from insights that he has learned from interviews with prison inmates that attacked agents and rape survivors. His #1 advice is to trust your gut.

“Ninety-nine percent of all my survivors all say the same thing: ‘Andrew, I knew something wasn’t right. When I was doing the open house (I heard) that little voice. I didn’t feel good. But I ignored it,’ “he stated.

“Listen to yourself, trust yourself. Unfortunately, the little voice … may be the only warning sign you get. If it says, ‘Something’s not right,’ get out.”

One of the best safety measures agents can take is to check out a property and its neighborhood before showing a home or having an open house, he explained.

His advice includes introducing yourself to the neighbors, checking for cell phone reception, noticing any animals around, looking around the house for hiding places for criminals, and visiting the local police and fire stations and tell them you’ll have refreshments if they should stop by.
For agent that do not have the time to check out the house or the neighborhood he provides 10 safety measures agents can do on the day of the open house or showing.

These tips can be found in a safety video offered in the Realtor Safety section of the Realtor.org website:

1. Park when you can easily get to your car without walking far and be sure you cannot be blocked in.

“Before you exit your car, look around. Can you see the front door? Are there trees or shrubbery within 10 feet that can serve as a hiding place? When getting out of the car, keep looking around. When you get to the front door, turn around and walk back — are there places where someone could surprise you?” Wooten said.

2. Visit the closest neighbors, introduce yourself, point out your vehicle, and invite these neighbors to the open house.

“Meeting the neighbors will drive people to the home and is a great source of referrals,” Wooten said.

3. Talk to your clients about their valuables. Before you have a showing of a home, ask your clients to help you create a list of the valuables in the home and ask that they put them in a safe place including extra sets of keys, mail, prescriptions drugs and other items. You can always ask the client to meet you an hour prior to the showing to ensure these valuables are placed in a safe place. This can help you protect yourself in the case of valuables being stolen or tempting a robber from attacking you to steal these items.

4. Pay attention and when possible work in teams. The most common place for a real estate agent to be attacked is at the front door while they are opening the lockboxes. If you cannot have someone with you, turn your back to the door so you can see if anyone approaches.

Sign up your affiliates, such as a home inspector or title officer, to sit the open house with you. “Not only will they jump at the opportunity, they will bring goodies and giveaways,” Wooten said.

5. Create your escape routes. Check out the home and find the best way to get in and out of rooms. If the backyard has a fence with a gate, be sure the gate is unlocked. A good escape route is to open the garage door, but leave the door entering the home locked. Use signs to direct clients to the front door.

6. Set up the home for safety. Hang decorative bells behind every outside door that you have unlocked, this way you will hear when someone enters the home. Do not bring your laptop to an open house, it can be stolen or someone could open up the unsecured wireless network and steal your identity.

Only take exactly what you need. You should put your purse in the trunk of your car. When choosing a room to wait for clients choose one with escape routes and the most cell phone bars.

7. When a guest arrives, introduce yourself and ask them to sign in.

“This is your time to do a ‘checkup from the neck up,’ ” Wooten stated, and went on to say, “Ask yourself, ‘Is this someone I’m comfortable with? Do I want to be alone with this person?’ If not, enlist your support team. Make sure there are others around you as you work with this person.”

8. Always let the client, go first. If a man says, “Ladies first,” to a female agent, the agent should say something like, “You are such a gentleman, thank you. But I really want you to see this home, and if I can direct you where to go, I think you’ll gain a further appreciation for this home.”

“Both men and women can be violent, so this advice applies regardless of the visitor’s gender,” Wooten said.

9. Always allows potential clients to enter certain rooms alone, ones without escape routes such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, and walk in closets. You can just direct the client into the room and stand back for them to enter.

10. When it is time to close up for the day it is best to have someone there. Opening and closing times are the most vulnerable.

Working in teams is for both men and women, Wooten said.

Wooten stated that prisoners who have attacked agents have said, “Regardless if they’re male or female, if there’s one agent in the open house working (alone) I know I’ve got (that agent). But if there are two or more, I’m out of there.”
Crimes happen to men just as frequently as they happen to women, Wooten explained, though there are some differences. “Women are more often stalked than men are, and stalkers tend to get violent at the intended victim’s home. Therefore, Wooten advises agents to heed his “three L’s for home safety”: locks, lighting and landscaping.”

1. Locks: put in anti-bumping deadbolt locks on all doors.

2. Lighting: put in motion-detector lighting outside all four sides of the home, and install timers for interior lights so that the home appears occupied even when it is not.

3. Landscaping: To ensure shrubs cannot be used as hiding places, trim to a maximum height of 3 feet and cut trees so they hang no lower than 10 feet from the ground.

Men are more likely to be attacked in parking lots, Wooten said. He advises agents to pay attention as they are walking to and from their vehicles. Whether or not they see someone who is hiding from them, “the perception is that ‘I see you.’ (Criminals) want the element of surprise,” Wooten explained.

Clearview Hotel Capital LLC Receives Non-Recourse for Hotels

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels’ financing team has obtained two non-recourse first mortgages for Clearview Hotel Capital LLC. Morgan Stanley gave a $20 million, fixed-rate loan for the 176-room Courtyard San Diego Old Town. Latitude Management Real Estate Investors Inc. gave close to $12.16 million, floating-rate loan for the 125-room Holiday Inn Express San Diego Old Town.

The financing team for Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels included Mathew Comfort executive vice president, Reid McGlamery senior vice president, and Chris Casey managing director.

Matthew Comfort expressed, “These properties were extremely appealing to lenders, as they are both located in the historic Old Town district of San Diego, which benefits from a strong regional economy buoyed by a diverse base of corporate demand drivers,” and went on to say, “both hotels have maintained a significant demand premium to achieve occupancy levels consistently higher than their competitive sets.”

Reid McGlamery added, “During the fourth quarter of 2010, the San Diego lodging market experienced a 7.2% RevPAR growth, driven largely by a 6.9% increase in occupancy, as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States,” and went on to say, “The continued growth in this high-barrier to entry market, coupled with exceptional sponsorship, made these prime financing opportunities for lenders.”

The Holiday Inn Express San Diego Old Town and the Courtyard San Diego Old Town are located close by famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the beaches of Mission Beach. San Diego benefits from group demand that is generated by the San Diego Convention Center that sees close to 800,000 visitors every year.

California Nature Center for Outdoor Classroom Receives Goodrich Awards Grant

The Goodrich Foundation has honored the Chula Vista Nature Center a $20,000 grant to help with the building of an outdoor classroom as well as a Discovery Park at the preserve located close by the Goodrich Aerostructures campus. The preserve, the Chula Vista Nature Center, has been at South Bay for over 23 years and is visited by 65,000 guests per year, which includes close to 13,000 students from the greater San Diego area. The preserve offers 23 acres home to 200 native plant species and 150 native species.

Roger Ross, vice president, Regional and Engine Programs for Goodrich Aerostructures, a recent appointee to the board of directors for the Nature Center stated, “As a good neighbor of the Nature Center, we’re pleased to be part of this effort to strengthen the center’s ability to connect people of all ages — especially students — with nature. The new area will benefit thousands of people, from visiting students to campers in the Overnight Adventures program and fits perfectly with the company’s goal of furthering all types of science education.”

The classroom area and the new park will offer double the capacity for onsite day camp programs and field trips and will allow children a hands-on learning feature. The area will offer benches created from recycled plastic, picnic tables along the periphery, fencing, along with a shaded area for animals and a stage for educational presentations.

Julie Schardin, director of development for the Chula Vista Nature Center stated, “The outdoor classroom and Discovery Park project started as a seed of an idea that grew into a big picture plan for developing an unused space into a dynamic outdoor area to be used by thousands each year. We realized that we had a true opportunity to make something special in this natural area. One idea led to another until a comprehensive plan to transform an underutilized space into a multipurpose outdoor place that can be used by visiting students on field trips, campers, military groups, pre-schoolers, families and refuge visitors.”

 The cots of the Discovery Park and outdoor classroom project are estimated at around $100,000. The Nature Center was at one time part of the City of Chula Vista, but due to City budget cuts, was put off into an independent nonprofit organization beginning in 2009. You can find more information on the Nature Center and its programs by visiting http://www.chulavistanaturecenter.org/.

Spring Home Tips

Getting your home ready for spring takes planning and organization be sure to check our checklist so you are ready this spring.

Check on all your outdoor planters for any damage. Replace any that have damage.
Clean all those garden tools and remember to sharpen them so they will be ready to use.
Contact a professional to inspect your air conditioning system.
Check and replace any damaged outdoor lighting.
Time to replace the batteries in your smoke alarms
Go over your fire escape plan with the family
Go over your tornado safety plan with the family
Check your roof for any damage the winter months could have caused
Check your outdoor hoses
Check your sprinkler system
Check the shutoff valves for all plumbing fixtures

It is also a great time to check out your mortgage. The market changes every day, so you track the details on your home loan so you know you have the best product around that meets the needs of your family. You may find that you can save money on your home by changing the mortgage agreement.

How to get ready for a home inspection

The home inspector’s arrival can be very exhausting for the home seller as in today’s market, home buyers will want to have each and very issue fixed prior to buying a home. With so many homes on the market, home buyers can always find a home seller willing to do fix all the repairs no matter how minor just to sell their home, therefore the visit from the home inspector can be devastating to the home seller.

David Tamny, owner of Professional Property Inspection in Columbus, Ohio stated, “The first thing for people to realize when selling their house is the inspector is always going to find something wrong.” This is true even if you have done all the maintenance and kept your home in tip top shape, the inspector will find a problem.

In the majority of cases, problems found are minor or are inexpensive to repair; therefore, the home seller can do the repairs or allow a credit for the home buyer to fix these issues. Tamny stated that major repairs or not being to negotiate could stop the deal.

Of course, it is best for the home seller to have the home as ready as they can prior to the inspection.

The sad news is that if major problems are found during the inspection it can cost the home owner more in the way of lowering the price of the home explained, Dan Steward, president of Pillar to Post, a home-inspection company and went on to say, “For every real dollar of cost, the buyer thinks it’s $2 or $3 more.”

The best way to be ready for a home inspection is to first inspect your home before putting it on the market. A pre-listing inspection will let you know exactly what needs to be repaired before you begin allowing buyers into your home.

Tamny explained that most home sellers do not spend money on an inspection, as they know the home buyer will have an inspection done before buying. One thing to remember, if you do a pre-listing inspection, you are obligated to disclose this information to potential buyers.

Brandi Pearl Thompson, an agent in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area stated that in order to save money it is best to speak with a real estate agent to look over the home. Real estate agents may not have the expertise as a home inspector but they have been through many closings and will notice if something in the home will put up a red flag.

Thompson went on to say that home sellers need to look at their home with a critical eye from the ceiling to the floor, the floor by appliances, under sinks, check for water damage, check faucets, and even door handles. Walk through the home as if you are looking to buy instead of sell. This will give you an idea of what other home buyers will notice.

“Walk out of the house, turn around and walk in with fresh eyes,” Thompson said.

A home inspector will look for problems such as heating, cooling, water damage, electrical problems, leaks, mold, structural problems, plumbing issues, and termites. The inspector will also look at any of the do it yourself items in the home such as decks and ceiling fans to ensure these items were installed properly and are safe.

You can either repair on these issues or be prepared to tell explain to a potential buyer how you will address the issues such as discount on the price, etc…

Watch all those little things like clean gutters, windows can open and close, flaking paint, cracked caulking, broken windows, and leaky faucets.

You should also have the heating and cooling systems serviced by a profession so they are in good shape, Thompson said.

Of course, do not expect that once you do fix these issues that nothing will be found. The home buyer will have a to do list. Major problems or even a long list of small expensive problems can cause a potential buyer to look elsewhere for their new home.

Tamny explained, “Buyers get overwhelmed and decide not to pursue a remedy. They’re overwhelmed with the stuff that is going wrong,”

“If nothing is disclosed and the buyer’s inspector finds stains or an active water leak, there’s a red flag,” Steward stated. “It doesn’t always make a deal fall apart; it makes a deal not progress smoothly because the buyer is now worried… ‘If I didn’t see that, what else didn’t the seller tell me?’”

Some of the requests will be reasonable while other requests such as cosmetic issues can be declined by the seller, explained Thompson said, and went on to say, “Keep in mind they still kept your home in mind over the others and once someone falls in love, they do tend to overlook some of the little things.”

Off The Beaten Path from Mission Valley to Hillcrest

Not too many people realize that there is a nice quiet and even secluded trail from Mission Valley through the canyon and into the Hillcrest community. For any readers that enjoy trekking, nature, or just getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this trail is amazing. The hike is great for fitness buffs as well as nature lovers.

The trail begins right beside Highway 163, between I-8 and Balboa Park, at that west end cul de sac that ends Camino del Rio South, where you will find TGI Fridays Restaurant and Bally’s Fitness are located.

If you live in this area, you never have to worry finding a parking spot. Of course, if you must drive you can normally find a spot to park on the street. Do not park in the commercial lots as you notice the tow away signs and yes, your vehicle will be towed.

You should wear quality lug-sole boots and maybe take along a walking stick, as some sections are a bit challenging. Long pants are also best, as a few sections are overgrown. All you have to do is walk right past Ballys all the way to the end of the lot and then walk around the wide locked gate and to the dirt road; you are almost in the jungle, so to speak. This is the entrance into Buchanan Canyon.

In the beginning, the walk is not too bad with just a slight uphill job, but the road will then take a left. Do not go this way, as you will find a locked gate. Instead go straight and you will pass two green-topped sewer drains and have to walk into a rocky creek bed. You should be careful of the long wire rods that are very rusty and would not be a great item to step on or have go through the sole of your shoes, thus the reason for quality boots.

Follow the small trail that does have overgrown foliage, you may even have to jump over some in a few locations. The highway sounds are far off in the distance if you can hear them at all and you will start to see wild flowers. Now you are in the canyon with houses on both sides and of course those cacti patches that you need to keep your eyes peeled for or you may not be too happy. Through the wooded section and then a slight steep section and you will find a street. Now you are in Hillcrest on Johnson Avenue. If you go to the left, you will find Lincoln Avenue and then take another left and you will be at Washington Street. Enjoy the Uptown Commercial District or a treat at Brian’s Restaurant.

You can start your hike from here where Johnson and Hayes intersect; however, there are no signs to guide the way. The trek will take about an hour round trip.

Learn more at http://www.sdcanyonlands.org/, The San Diego Canyons Coalition.

2011’s Top New Cars

The hottest cars of the year are just around the corner and here is your sneak peek of what is coming.

Performance Cars
Yes, expect more hot rods this year with the 425-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT8, 426-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro, and 550-horsepower Ford Mustang GT500. Not only these but a couple of imports as well including the Subaru’s Impreza WRX/STI and Audi’s A3 offering turbocharged and all-wheel-drive.

Hybrid Vehicles
Motor Trend gave the new Chevrolet Volt the title of “Car of the Year”. This hybrid starts at $40,280 offering technologically advanced features and amenities that you are sure to love. This car operates in either gas/electric or full electric modes. Other hybrids on the list include the Toyota Prius wagon, 206-horsepower Hyundai Sonata and the sporty new Lexus CT.

SUVs/Minivans
Ford has spruced up its Explorer with new styling, front wheel drive, and improved mileage. Other new debuts include the Mazda’s compact M5 minivan and Nissan’s redesign of the Quest.

Family Vehicles
Family vehicles are also on the list with price tags between $16,800 to $33,000. Here you will find revisions and more eco-friendly vehicles like the Volkswagen Jetta, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Avalon, and Chrysler 200.

Affordable Cars
In this group, you will find vehicles between $14,000-$20,000 range including the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit Sport, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.