Advice for Livermore Valley Home Sellers & Home Buyers!

home purchase offerHave you wanted to sell your Livermore Valley home but have been waiting for home prices to rise and equity to return? Have you wanted to buy a Livermore Valley home but have been busy saving up a down payment and paying down debt? No matter what has made you wait to accomplish your real estate goals in the Livermore Valley real estate market, now is the time to act!

As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I want to update you on the latest market news for Livermore Valley home sellers and Livermore Valley homebuyers. Whether you’re one, or both, here are some tips from MSN Real Estate that I’ve summarized for you.

Livermore Valley Home Sellers:

  • Jump-start the process now! The sooner you sell, the better, before competition from other sellers and new homes starts increasing. Sellers usually don’t realize how long the process takes, so begin to clean, declutter, organize and stage your home now. Also, consider getting an inspection done before listing your home, so you know what needs upgrading or repairing. You could also visit a couple open houses to get ideas for staging your own home.
  • Work the market in your favor. With prices up and inventory low, the Livermore Valley real estate market is in your favor right now! You still have to work it intelligently, though. Work with a Livermore Valley real estate agent that is familiar with the market and what homes are selling for. Don’t just go with the agent that promises you the best price. He might be bluffing. If you’re getting the price you wanted, and then some, offer the buyer something in good faith, such as a fast move-in date.

Livermore Valley Home Buyers:

  • Be credit-ready! As soon as you’re ready to buy, you want to get preapproved for a mortgage. Many sellers will turn you away if you’re not, seeing you as an unserious or complicated buyer. Also, this will help pinpoint what you can afford, so you’re not wasting time going after homes out of your price range. Check your credit report, and if your credit score is below 620, work on paying off debt and raising that score.
  • Adjust your negotiating expectations. With inventory low and home prices high, lowball offers just aren’t going to cut it in this competitive market. There are a lot of eager buyers out there, trying to beat rising mortgage rates and prices, so if you really love a house, start with a great offer and respond to counteroffers quickly. You want to avoid a bidding war. Try to have a few houses in mind, in case you lose one to another buyer.

For more tips, either as a Livermore Valley home seller or a Livermore Valley homebuyer, check out the full list from MSN Real Estate.

When you’re ready to buy or sell, or you have questions, contact me! As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’m here when you need me!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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2014 Design Trends for Your Livermore Valley Home!

Sunlight RoomI hope you had fun ringing in 2014 this week in Livermore Valley! As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I want to fill you in on what’s ahead for real estate and home trends in the new year.

First off, if you’d like to buy a Livermore Valley home this year, now is the time to do it! Mortgage rates are expected to rise, so the sooner you buy, the more money you save. Plus, if you buy soon, you’ll beat the rush of homebuyers that will appear on the market in a month or two.

If you’d like to sell your Livermore Valley home, 2014 is your year! According to Housing Wire, the west coast states lead in rising home values. Home prices and home equity continue to rise here in California, making it the ideal time to sell! If you wait, you’ll have more competition from other home sellers and from new construction. Sooner is better.

Whether you’re buying, selling or staying put in your Livermore Valley home, everyone enjoys learning about the latest home design trends. Here’s a rundown from Realtor Magazine of what is expected to be trending in homes this year:

  • Wider reclaimed wood and porcelain floors. For whatever reason, wooden floorboards are getting wider and are cut from a variety of tree species, giving them stained or patterned looks. Porcelain flooring is becoming popular too because of its durability and unlimited styles.
  • Simpler cabinets, bigger drawers. I don’t think any homeowner would mind having larger drawers! Warm gray tones are replacing oranges and browns, with less visible hardware and more modern doors.
  • Paint palettes. Warm grays are popping up everywhere for 2014, including the walls. Light, fresh corals, sea greens, lavenders and misty blues are also expected to gain popularity, according to Kelly-Moore Paints. Deep, romantic hues look great offset by neutral beiges and off-whites.
  • Indoor-outdoor living. Blending indoor space and outdoor space is an ongoing trend, with homes adding more large windows and French doors that lead to the outside. Solariums and screened or covered porches that connect to a patio or pool are also popular home features here in California.
  • Wireless technology. Homeowners are upping their technology systems. From programmable thermostats or lighting systems, to security systems and entertainment systems, more and more digital technology is being added to homes to make them fast and easy.

For more home trends for this year, check out the rest of Realtor Magazine’s predictions here.

When you’re ready to buy a Livermore Valley home or sell your Livermore Valley home, contact me! If you have questions about the Livermore Valley real estate market, contact me. As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’m here to help you in any way that you need me!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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How to Prepare Now For the Livermore Valley Home-Buying Process In 2014

laptop_work_browsingThe year is quickly coming to a close, with the holidays arriving next week and the New Year beginning the week after! Chances are you are going to cozy up with friends and family and celebrate this festive season. But come 2014, it’ll be a great time to buy a Livermore Valley home!

As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I want to share how you can prepare for the home-buying process next year. There are plenty of steps you could take right now to ensure a smooth home purchase next year. Here’s a few:

  • Save up for a down payment. Rather than spend every last penny on holiday gifts, cut back this year. Do a grab bag or a secret Santa, where each person only buys for one other person. Or, decide that your gift this year will be buying a Livermore Valley home! That’ll be a great incentive to eat at home more often, brew your own coffee, watch old movies, take walks and find free events around Livermore Valley. The more money you save to put down on a house, the better mortgage rate you’ll receive!
  • Improve your credit score. Your credit score is the other half of the puzzle in receiving a mortgage loan. The higher your score, the better your chances are at getting accepted for a mortgage. Order a credit report now and check it for errors. If there are any, work toward fixing them. Pay down your credit card debt. Use the cards minimally and try to pay them off each month. Don’t open new cards or close existing cards. Don’t make any large purchases before buying your Livermore Valley home, and stay put in your current job.
  • Research the Livermore Valley real estate market. Now is a great time to see what homes are listing for and selling for in Livermore Valley, and how fast. This will give a good indication of how many Livermore Valley homebuyers are out shopping and what type of deals they’re getting. Because inventory is lower than usual, you have fewer options. However, this time of year, most Livermore Valley home sellers are looking for a quick sale, so you might have some negotiating power! It’s good to have an idea of what type of offers you’ll need to make ahead of time, so you’ll be prepared.
  • Find real estate professionals to work with. You’ll need a mortgage lender and you’ll need a real estate agent. I’ve got you covered on the agent end! As a Livermore Valley real estate agent, I have years of experience working here in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. I can fill you in on the current state of the market and housing changes for the new year, and I can help you find homes in your price range and with the features you desire. I can point you in the right direction for other professionals that you’ll need to work with, too.

Contact me if you have any questions or when you’r ready to buy a Livermore Valley home. Have a wonderful holiday!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

Livermore Real Estate
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Why to Buy and Sell Real Estate in Livermore Valley This Winter

christmas fireplaceAs your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with your family and friends! Today is a notorious day for consumers to purchase deals, and for merchants to sell deals. Did you know that this concept also rings true with buying and selling homes in the Livermore Valley real estate market?

While many people tend to think that the holiday season is a terrible time for buying a Livermore Valley home or for selling your Livermore Valley home, I’m here to tell you otherwise. First off, here are some reasons that KCM Crew gave for wanting to sell your home now:

  • Only serious Livermore Valley homebuyers are out. You will not be bothered with browsers and lookers. If a potential buyer is taking time out of their holiday season to look for a home, it’s because they are serious about buying. This will help the process run faster and smoother for you!
  • There is less competition. As a Livermore Valley home seller, this is great news for you. You have more negotiating power when inventory is low and buyers have less options.
  • The process will be quicker. Banks won’t be as busy, only serious buyers are out, and they don’t have as many listing options. This all means that the process will move faster from listing to closing.
  • It’s the best time to move up. Mortgage rates and home prices are predicted to continue rising, which means higher monthly mortgage payments for homeowners. If you plan on buying a bigger, more expensive house, you definitely don’t want to wait!

Now that you know why now is a great time to sell your Livermore Valley home, you might be wondering why now is a great time to buy a Livermore Valley home. Here are some reasons that MSN Real Estate shared:

  • Home price decreases. On average, home prices dip $7,000 after Labor Day and usually hit bottom in December. With predictions saying that prices will continue to rise in 2014, Livermore Valley homebuyers should take advantage of possible deals right now.
  • Only serious Livermore Valley home sellers are out. Just as only serious buyers are out, only serious sellers are selling this time of year, too. You might have more negotiating power from a seller who desperately wants or needs to move right now.
  • You will get more attention from professionals. Since there is less going on this time of year for Livermore Valley real estate agents and mortgage professionals, now is your best chance to get the time you deserve and to run through the process quickly. Mortgage lenders might loosen their requirements, too!

If you would like to buy or sell real estate in the Livermore Valley real estate market right now, contact me! As a Livermore Valley real estate agent, I would love to give you the attention and support you deserve. Give me a call and we’ll get you going.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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Tips for a Cross-Country Move to Livermore Valley, CA!

Moving BoxesNow that a good portion of the country is getting cold and snowy, it’s a great time to move to Livermore Valley, CA! The sun always shines in our warm climate, and the winters are always bearable. As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’d like to help you out with your long-distance move.

Moving can always be tricky, even if it’s just across town. But a cross-country move adds some more stress and complications if not done right. MSN Real Estate shared seven tips for cross-country movers that could really help Livermore Valley homebuyers out! I’ve summarized them here:

  • Give yourself time. Don’t wait until you close on your current home to start thinking about the move. Last-minute moves will only make the home-buying process that much more stressful, not to mention you might be left with all of your belongings and nowhere to go if you don’t give yourself time. MSN Real Estate recommends beginning preparations eight weeks before your moving date. (Check out our Free Relocation Package for more help!)
  • Choose a moving method. You can drive all of your belongings into Livermore Valley on your own, you could rent a moving truck, or you could hire a professional moving company. Decipher how much stuff you have and what is the most probable, cost-effective method. If you go the professional route, start rounding up estimates and reading reviews for different companies. Contact me for suggestions!
  • Invest in durable boxes. When it comes to all of your most precious belongings, you don’t want to skimp on the durability and quality of your boxes. Make some calls or drive around and see where you can score some free boxes. Usually manufacturing plants have boxes, along with grocery stores, liquor stores, banks and so on.
  • Pack tight. In the next eight weeks, decide what you need to take and what you can get rid of. This is a great time to declutter and downsize your belongings, such as kitchen gadgets, old electronics, magazines, books and old clothes. What you don’t need can be sold online or in a yard sale, which will help pay for moving costs!
  • Organize papers. Papers are one of the easiest things to misplace during a move, but some of your most important documents are on paper. Organize all of your important paperwork, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and insurance policies, and then pack them together in labeled folders. Consider taking these with you rather than packing in a box.
  • Take inventory. If you have your items shipped or moved with professionals, you want to make sure to write down what is in each box. Take photographs of your valuables, so you can prove what condition they were in if anything happens to them. Label your boxes so you know what’s in them and where they go in your new Livermore Valley home.

Through the entire home-buying process and moving process, be sure to remain calm as much as possible. Enjoy the experience! You’re accomplishing the American dream in sunny Livermore Valley, what isn’t there to love? When you need assistance, contact me, your Livermore Valley real estate agent!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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Upcoming Livermore Valley Wine Country Events

WineOne of the great bonuses of living in Livermore Valley is all of the vineyards and wineries right in your backyard! If you’re interested in buying a Livermore Valley home, and you enjoy wine, you should get to know local wines from the area. Luckily, there are plenty of events and activities to make that happen. As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’d like to fill you in!

Get your calendar out and start marking dates for the upcoming November events happening around Livermore Valley Wine Country:

  • This weekend, Nov. 2 and 3, head to Page Mill Winery in Livermore, CA for a Sparkling Release party! You’ll get to try their award-winning 2008 Blanc de Blanc. This is only their third release of this sparkling wine, so tastes are limited. Don’t miss out! This event costs $5.
  • McGrail Vineyards and Winery in Livermore helps break up the work week with Wine Wednesdays! Nov. 6, stop by between 5 and 8 p.m. to try five different wines for $10. If you love one, you can purchase a bottle to bring home with you.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7, go all out at Wente Vineyards in Livermore at their Winemaker’s Dinner! This costs $109 and reservations are required. You get a four-course meal paired with red wines from both bottle and barrel, and dessert presented by a Ghirardelli chocolate professional!
  • Thursday, Nov. 14 is all about the ladies. Gather your friends and head to Page Mill Winery in Livermore, CA for Ladies’ Night Out! From 6 to 9 p.m., enjoy sipping wine and shopping among local vendors. It’s a great opportunity for some early holiday shopping!
  • Want a succulent Thanksgiving dinner without any of the hassle? Order yours form Wente Vineyards for $249. You’ll get a meal for four with all the traditional dishes with simple finishing instructions. You can pick it up onsite the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27.
  • Get away from hectic shopping the day after Thanksgiving at McGrail Vineyards! On Friday, Nov. 29, enjoy “Grab Bag” Black Friday specials at the winery, two tasting flights and live music, all for $10. You’ll be much more relaxed than your fellow shoppers.

For more events and activities happening in November, head to the Livermore Valley Wine Country website.

If you don’t enjoy wine, don’t worry. You don’t have to be a wine enthusiast to live in Livermore Valley! There are plenty of local bars and pups, with craft beers and cocktails. Downtown Livermore always has plenty of festive activities for the whole family to partake in, as do the towns of Pleasanton and Dublin.

As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’ll continue to keep you updated on local events in the area. In the meantime, when you’re ready to buy a Livermore Valley home, contact me!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

Livermore Real Estate
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Why to Buy a Livermore Valley Home vs. Rent

new home checklistAs a Livermore Valley real estate agent, I often talk with people who aren’t sure whether homeownership is a smart idea. Some of them think that renting is the easier, more financially sound choice. I’m here today to explain why homeownership is the better option!

First off, the Federal Reserve recently released a study that found that 61.4 percent of a family’s net worth is in home equity. This means that a homeowner’s net worth is over thirty times greater than that of a renter. Specifically, an average homeowner has a net worth of $174,500 while an average renter has a net worth of $5,100.

That’s huge! As a renter, your money is spent on rent, and then it’s gone. You’ll never see it again. As a homeowner, your mortgage payments build equity, which allows you to access credit and invest in your  future. When you sell your Livermore Valley home, you’ll get the money back, if not more! In the past year, home equity has risen 30 percent, according to the Federal Reserve.

Here are more reasons to own a Livermore Valley home rather than rent:

  • Financial savings. Not only are you gaining equity when owning a Livermore Valley home, but you’re also saving money! The latest Trulia report is that owning a home is still 35 percent cheaper than renting a home over a long period of time. Mortgage rates would have to reach about 10.5 percent before renting became the better option. Right now, they are around 4.13 percent.
  • Tax benefits. Renters don’t get any tax benefits, but homeowners do! You can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes. If you work from home, you can write off many of your home expenses.
  • Freedom. There are non-financial benefits to homeownership as well, such as the freedom to decorate and maintain your home as you please. You can paint the walls what you want. You can hang décor wherever you want, even if it means puncturing the wall with a hole. You can choose when to repair a roof, or change a furnace, and you can choose the style and brand.
  • Community value. A House Logic infographic points out that homeownership affects community value and involvement. Homeowners are 16 percent more likely to join parent-teacher organizations, 1.3 times more likely to read a local newspaper, 28 percent more likely to vote and so on. Owning allows the Livermore Valley community to feel more permanent, more like home.

As you can see, there are many benefits to homeownership vs. renting! So, when you’re ready to buy a Livermore Valley home, contact me. As a Livermore Valley real estate agent, I can help you through the transition as smoothly as possible.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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Simple, Cheap Ways to Keep Your Livermore Valley Home Safe

keys in lockWith homeownership comes the responsibility of keeping you, your family and your home safe. Luckily, there are some very simple and affordable methods to doing so!

As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I recommend making your home as safe and secure as possible. This is especially true when selling your Livermore Valley home. You never know if a potential homebuyer is actually a future burglar in disguise. (This is why it’s smart to only consider pre-qualified buyers! You know they’re serious about buying.)

To help you keep your home secure, here are some simple methods to use:

  • Install surveillance cameras outside of your house, by your front door. You don’t have to install a pricey security system that’ll cost you thousands. You can even turn webcams into security cameras! Or, find some old cameras from a thrift shop. Even if they don’t work, they might work to deter burglars.
  • Remove papers from your front yard. If you receive newspapers, or fliers, check your yard and doorstep often for these, and remove them. A burglar will sometimes plant a flier at your door, just to see how long it’ll stay there. If you’re on vacation, have a neighbor collect these for you.
  • Keep bushes and trees trimmed. This will prevent burglars from having anywhere to lurk and hide out in your yard. Try to keep large bushes and shrubs away from your windows. While this helps with home safety, it also helps with curb appeal when selling your Livermore Valley home!
  • Purchase timers for your lights. These are cheap contraptions that can let you know when there is movement outside of your house, and they can help keep energy costs down by not having your lights on all the time. Inside timer lights are great for keeping your home safe while sleeping.
  • Don’t update your social media status to say you’re away. You don’t want to broadcast to the world that your house is empty. Have a neighbor collect your mail and possibly mow the lawn, and keep your home looking lived in. Post your photos from a trip on social media once you come home.
  • Buy a fake alarm system decal. Like I said, security alarm systems for the home are a great investment, but they do get pricey. If you can’t afford one right now, purchase a decal for your window so that people think you have one. eBay has plenty!

For more ideas, check out this list from Buzzfeed of 21 ways to cheaply and effectively deter burglars.

Fortunately, the Tri-Valley area is consistently listed near the bottom of the list when it comes to crime rates in the country. So don’t get nervous! It’s just always smart to be safe as a homeowner. For more tips, or for help selling or buying a Livermore Valley home, contact me! I’m ready to help!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

Livermore Real Estate
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How to Save For a Down Payment as a Livermore Valley Homebuyer

money in handWith mortgage rates rising, it’s safe to say that if you want to buy a Livermore Valley home, your best bet is to act soon and have a down payment saved up. The most affordable mortgage rates available require at least 20 percent down.

If you don’t have that much saved, but you still want to buy soon, I’ve got some suggestions to share! As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I want to help lead you down the path to homeownership in Livermore Valley, and to help make homeownership as affordable as possible for you.

Daily Finance recently shared tips on how to save $20,000 in just two years. You should aim for saving $833 a month for the next 24 months. Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Make big changes first. If saving $833 per month is out of the question for you, decide what big change you could make to help this happen. Move in with family and save your rent money. Move to a smaller apartment. Get a roommate. Consider getting a second job for nights or weekends, or consider selling your car.
  • Take small but steady steps. Create a household budget to see exactly where your money is going. If you shop a lot, reduce your new clothes, shoes and the like. If you eat out a lot, start brewing your own coffee and cooking at home. Cancel cable or the internet for the time being. Ride your bike to work or to run errands. Start paying in cash. Ask yourself, “Do I need this or do I want this?”
  • Scale down your 401(k). The article suggests doing this only if you’re contributing more than what your company will match. You can scale back for a couple years, then return to putting that much in after you’ve saved your down payment. You could also boost your IRA contributions, because you can use up to $10,000 toward a down payment on a house.
  • Save your cash in a separate account. This way you can easily view your progress. Financial experts in the article recommend a high-yield savings account or a CD. Credit unions or online banks usually offer better interest rates than traditional banks. They suggest steering clear of investing this money, because there is always the risk of losing it.

When you’ve got 20 percent saved for a down payment and are ready to buy a Livermore Valley home, contact me, your Livermore Valley real estate agent! If you don’t have 20 percent saved but want to buy now, there are alternative loan options for you. If you’ve got questions about all this, contact a local mortgage lender. Feel free to also contact me! I’m happy to answer questions and help steer you in the right direction.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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What to Consider When Buying a Livermore Valley Home with Kids

bikingAre you gearing up to buy a Livermore Valley home? Are you doing so with kids? It’s really no surprise that the home features that matter to a family with kids differs from a couple or individual without kids.

A recent Trulia survey shows exactly which factors are affected most when you add children into the equation.  As a Livermore Valley real estate agent, I’d like to share these with you, so that if you’re buying a home with kids, you’ll know what to pay attention to!

  • Size of home. This is the most important factor for families buying a home with kids, which makes sense, since you’ll need more bedrooms and space. Seventy percent of homebuyers cared, compared to 66 percent of buyers without kids.
  • Crime rates. While 65 percent of all homebuyers care about the crime rate around a potential new home, when children are involved, this increased to 69 percent.
  • Neighborhood schools. A whopping 63 percent of buyers with kids care about this, compared to only 20 percent without kids. Again, this makes sense, since the children will be attending the schools. However, even if you don’t have children, this factor could affect the value of your home when you go to sell it!
  • Length of commute. Forty-six percent of potential homebuyers care about the commute time, while 58 percent of buyers with kids care. It may be more important with children involved because parents need to get home quick to pick a child up from daycare or school.
  • Proximity to amenities. More buyers without kids care about this one! Fifty percent of buyers with kids cared, compared to 59 percent of buyers without kids.
  • Age of home. Forty-seven percent of families with kids cared about this, compared to 49 percent of buyers without kids. This was pretty even and fell in the middle of the pack on importance.
  • Rate of natural disasters. It’s important to all homebuyers, but again, when kids are involved, families cared 35 percent about this, compared to buyers without kids who cared 37 percent of the time.
  • Pet friendliness. This fell exactly even with homebuyers with and without kids, at 32 percent. I would guess it’s because both buyers with kids and without kids own pets. The importance of this depends on if a furry friend is going with you to your new home.
  • Proximity to family. While this was less important for all those surveyed, 33 percent of homebuyers with children cared, compared to 29 percent without kids. Got to get those grandparent visits in!

As you can see, some of these factors were more important to homebuyers with kids, versus others that were more important to buyers without kids.  As your Livermore Valley real estate agent, I recommend that you rank these in significance for you. When you’re ready to buy a Livermore Valley home, we can together go over this list and find the best home for you and your family!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

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