Home Sales Pick Up Speed in Alameda County!

Homes in Alameda County are selling fast, according to recent housing stats from Realtor.com. Overall, California real estate is outselling other areas of the county. Compared to the pace of sales nationwide, California homes have the shortest days on market!

Here are the California cities with the shortest days on market:

  • Oakland: 21 days on market
  • Stockton-Lodi: 26 days
  • Sacramento: 32 days
  • San Francisco: 44 days
  • Fresno: 44 days
  • San Jose: 47 days

If there’s any downside, it’s the fact that our statewide home inventory remains lower than normal. This helps keep home prices up, but it prevents us from having a balanced market, which is best for long-term growth.

Some optimists are calling this a new California housing boom, but that would be inaccurate according to economist Kenneth Rosen. Rosen is the chairman of the University of California-Berkeley Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. He predicts that the California housing market will continue to improve in 2013, but not at the skyrocket pace sellers might hope for.

The reason? Rosen says tight-fisted mortgage lending keeps 40% of potential home buyers out of the market. A mortgage market that demands perfect credit scores is not realistic, and some of our home buying activity has been supported by cash buyers. As home prices improve, it’s reasonable to expect that fewer cash buyers will be in the California market.

Rosen also speculates that future tax increases could have an effect on 2013 home sales. California has some tax hikes on the table that are separate from anything Washington might hand down.

What this means is we can expect continued improvements in Livermore Valley home values, but prices shouldn’t become a runaway train. Much depends on what happens during the Federal budget talks in upcoming weeks. Meanwhile, real estate in Livermore valley is alive and well!

Thinking of buying or selling a Livermore Valley home? Let’s talk! I will share the latest market data for your neighborhood and help you find the best opportunities. Just contact me for the latest home sale details in Livermore, Pleasanton or Dublin. I’ll answer all of your questions, and provide you with expert guidance for success!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Livermore Valley Welcomes the Holiday Season with Hometown Events!

Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us in Livermore Valley! And if you’re not ready, you can find your festive side by enjoying our hometown holiday events in Livermore, Pleasanton or Dublin! Here’s just a small sample to get you started:

November 29: Dublin’s 29th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony will take place from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  There will be performances by the Children’s Choir and the Dublin High School Jazz Band. Refreshments served after the concerts. Rumor has it that Santa himself will be stopping by! Event held at the Dublin Civic Center.

December 1:  Holiday Faire in Dublin, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Heritage  Park & Museums.  Experience the Christmas of yesteryear by making crafts, shopping for hand-crafted gifts, and listening to carolers. Be there early so the kids can see St. Nick arrive by a horse-drawn, jingle-bell wagon at noon. Holiday-themed beverages and snacks available for purchase. No admission charge for entry, but there is a $5 wristband for participating in crafts and taking a wagon ride.

December 1: Pleasanton’s Hometown Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting Celebration begins at 5:00 p.m.  Get there early for a good viewing spot! The parade marches down main street with bands, floats, and classic cars and plenty of noise and cheer. I have it on good authority that Santa will be there, too.

December 1: Downtown Livermore hosts the 17th Annual Holiday Sights & Sounds Parade and Tree Lighting. Parade beings at 6:00 p.m. and will route along First Street, between M Street and McLeod Street.  Tree lighting follows the parade. Santa will find a way to be here, despite his tough itinerary this time of year.

If you still need help finding your holiday spirit after all this, try the spirits at our Livermore Valley wineries! The Holidays in the Vineyards event takes place December 1 & 2 at wineries throughout Livermore Valley. Tasting rooms will feature arts and crafts, carolers, holiday activities, and special wines for the season.

Things are looking merry and bright in Livermore Valley! As a longtime Livermore Valley resident and real estate professional, I’m proud to be a part of our community. If buying or selling a home is on your wish list, give me a call! I’ll share the latest market activity with  you, and give you the expert guidance you need for success.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season,

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Economic Growth Will Help Livermore Home Values

A combination of new development, business growth and school expansions are underway in Livermore! Our local economy stands to benefit by the increase in jobs and disposable incomes. Our quality of life now includes more choices for shopping, dining and recreation, which in turn will attract new residents. We can reasonably expect that home demand in Livermore Valley will continue to rise!

The new Paragon Outlets in Livermore will bring an estimated $2 million in annual sales tax revenue to the city and about 2,800 new jobs to the area. Alameda County residents are likely to be more excited about the 130 new upscale stores, all promising big-name bargains.  A scene of gleeful pandemonium met Thursday’s grand opening, with traffic backing up for miles on I-580, and parking lots spilling over with cars.  Well, with up to 65% off normal retail prices, who can resist?

There’s good news in Livermore for health and fitness enthusiasts, too! 24-Hour Fitness will soon be opening a new “Super Sport Club” in Livermore. The new fitness center will span between 45,000 and 69,000 square feet – you’ll get exercise just walking through it. Amenities will include basketball courts, sauna and steam rooms, indoor pools, and the latest in cardio and strength-training equipment. Look for the opening around December 22 – just in time for those New Year resolutions.

Opening  in the future to less fanfare, but no less in importance, will be Charter School’s new athletic facility. The Livermore school invested $5 million in the purchase of 12.4 acres, located in the Tri-Valley Technology Park. The school intends to share the facility with the Livermore community.

All told, the trends in real estate development bode well for Livermore Valley home values! Buyer demand is already healthy in our area, and economic growth will continue to sustain it.

As your experienced real estate professional, I keep up with the trends that affect our markets. If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, now is the time to contact me!  I have the latest sales trends and new home listings for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.  Let my experience in Livermore Valley real estate be your advantage!

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Avoid Short Sale Snafus When Buying a Livermore Home!

The Los Angeles Times recently produced a dour article about short sales, suggesting that these home purchases can fall apart without much ado. However, purchasing a home through a short sale in Livermore Valley can be accomplished without pain if you follow a few rules of thumb.

1. Short sales are not intended to be a better deal for the home buyer. They are simply called “short” because the home sale, at current market values, will not be enough to cover the seller’s outstanding mortgages.  Therefore the mortgage lender must approve the sale and agree to the loss.

Short sales, when priced wisely, should be in line with comparable homes on the market.  It doesn’t make sense to price a home below market if the bank is likely to reject it – no matter how many buyers take the bait.

2. As a home buyer, be sure that your mortgage pre-approval gives you enough time to consider a short sale. Stay in contact with your mortgage lender and obtain extensions, or re-qualify, as necessary. Keep your information updated and do not make major changes to your job or credit profile.

3. Because short sales involve highly motivated sellers, it’s tempting to lowball your offer – but if the bank refuses it, you’ve wasted your time and possibly alienated the seller. Make a respectable offer in line with the market.

4. As the Los Angeles Times article suggests, you may need to consider ordering the home inspection up front and paying for it out of pocket, if the closing timetable is too aggressive.  But in most cases you can negotiate a reasonable extension of the closing date. After all, it’s in the bank’s best interest to have the deal go through.

5. Livermore Valley home inventory includes a number of short sales, and it may not be possible to avoid them without significantly limiting your choices. Rather than fear a short sale purchase, work with an experienced real estate professional – like me – who understands these situations and can guide you through them.

The truth is, distressed property sales will be part of our Livermore Valley real estate market for years to come. New short sale policies are taking effect with lenders as of November 1, 2012, and we may see more short sales hitting the market as a result.  Some homeowners are leveraged too heavily with mortgages to have any other means of moving on, even as home values recover.

Let me help you with the home buying process in Livermore Valley! For the latest price trends, and for help with your real estate questions, contact me!  I have the local expertise you can trust for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin. Whether you are buying a home for the first time or for the tenth, I can provide the latest market data and the professional guidance you need.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Buyers Want Homes in Livermore Valley!

The limited supply of homes for sale in Livermore Valley continues to affect prices, according to the latest market data. Strong buyer demand in Livermore has given home sellers an edge, resulting in an average list-to-sales ratio of 100%! Here’s how the real estate market is shaping up for Alameda County, Livermore, and the rest of California.

According to the California Association of Realtors, median home sale prices for Alameda County increased by 7.5% in a year-over-year comparison. The median sales price in Alameda County for September 2012 was $491,670; we saw a median sales price of $457,210 in September 2011.

The days on market for homes in Alameda County continue to shorten, with an average of 59.2 for September 2012. A year ago, Alameda County days on market averaged 67.9.

Livermore home prices are in range of the county median. The average home sale price for Livermore during the last 30 days is $479,678.  Sales activity is brisk, with the average Livermore home spending only 30 days on the market.

Median home prices throughout the State of California are up by 19.5%, compared to September 2011. September 2012 home prices averaged $345,000 statewide; a year ago they averaged $288,700.  Throughout California, days on market are shrinking, with homes spending an average of 39.3 days on market in September 2012, compared to 54.2 a year ago.

Is now a good time to buy a home in Livermore Valley? If the days on market are any indication, a lot of home buyers think so! There is a collective expectation that home prices will continue to rise during 2013, and buyers are anxious to take advantage of the lower home prices they’re seeing today.

The biggest challenge to our market is the scarcity of inventory at the lower price levels. This is pressuring some buyers to go where the inventory is, be it in higher price ranges, or in locations outside of their original target. You can still find a great home for the money in Livermore Valley, but you may need to cast your net a little wider – and work with a real estate professional who can help you!

Local experience counts in  Livermore Valley real estate! For the latest home sales activity for your neighborhood, contact me! I have the local expertise you can trust for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin! Whether you are buying or selling a home, I can provide the latest market data and reliable professional guidance.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Will a Past Foreclosure Prevent Buying a Livermore Valley Home?

With home values rising and monthly rents becoming costly, there are plenty of former homeowners wishing to re-enter the Livermore Valley real estate market. For some, the mortgage hurdle is complicated by a prior foreclosure, personal bankruptcy or a short sale on their credit history.  If you’ve experienced one of these events, what does it mean for your home buying prospects?

Simply put, you’ll need to wait awhile, but the time period may be shorter than you realize. The Wall Street Journal reports that over 700,000 former homeowners are now eligible to return to the market, despite previous foreclosure or adverse record. Here’s a framework for example:

Chapter 13 bankruptcy: no matter the type of mortgage you had before, you could be eligible for a new FHA mortgage in 1 to 2 years. You will need to have clean credit, a good income, and meet a minimum down payment of 3.5%.

Prior foreclosure or short sale on an FHA-backed mortgage:  you will need to wait at least 3 years before being eligible for another FHA loan. Good credit and a consistent work history will be essential.

If you had a mortgage previously backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and experienced a short sale or foreclosure, you may need to wait to 7 years before you are found eligible for another such mortgage.

Loan modifications: if your lender agreed to alter the terms of  your prior mortgage, either temporarily or permanently, this could impact your credit score. How much of an impact depends on how the lender reported it – if at all – and how your loan performed after the modification.  There is no typical waiting period in this case, save for the length of time it may take for your credit score to recover.

In all cases, remember that banks are cautious today. You can expect some extra scrutiny if your prior mortgage did not show “paid as agreed” for any reason. The good news is, the stigma of a  prior foreclosure, bankruptcy or short sale is  temporary. Your best bet is to talk to a reputable mortgage lender, and see how your own situation fits in with the current underwriting guidelines. I can refer you to local lenders who are experienced and trustworthy. You may be able to buy a Livermore Valley home sooner than you think!

When you have questions about the Livermore Valley real estate market, contact me! I have the local market expertise you can count on for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin! Whether you are buying or selling a home, or “just looking“, I can provide the latest market data and the professional guidance you need.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Livermore Real Estate
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Future Directions for Livermore Real Estate

Predictions for next year’s housing market are already here, with industry analysts expecting higher home prices in the first quarter of 2013. Will California and Livermore Valley lead the way? Here’s what the California Association of Realtors® 2013 Housing Market Forecast says!

First, let’s look at how 2012 is expected to wrap up. According to the Housing Market Forecast, California will close out 2012 with home sales activity 5.1% higher than 2011. Statewide home prices will average $317,000, posting a 10.9% gain over 2011 price levels. Livermore Valley home prices are already well above this average, as noted in my prior blog.

For 2013, California home sale volume is expected to be modest, due to shrinking home inventories. Sales activity is expected to pick up by only 1.3%.  Meanwhile, home prices are predicted to increase by another 5.7%, bringing the statewide median home price to $335,000.

These estimates are conservative, and the wind could shift in a number of ways. For example, housing and monetary policies will influence market activity. The condition of our national and local economies, as well as our employment outlook, will have an impact on sales. We also have homeowners who are waiting out the market in the hopes of higher home prices next year.

With those thoughts in mind, Livermore Valley is likely to do better than the statewide projections for California. So far for 2012, our home prices are already up by 11.4% from a year ago, well above the state average of 5.1%!

Will we see double-digit price gains in 2013? It’s certainly possible, depending on the demand in key price ranges. Our proximity to the Bay Area keeps home demand strong, and the decrease in distressed property sales will keep inventory limited.  Price gains are likely to be strongest in the mid-range of our market, with homes in excellent condition enjoying the best offers.

Our community events, charming downtown districts and miles of wine country offer the best in California living without the big price tag!  If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in Livermore, Dublin or Pleasanton, please contact me today! Whether you are looking for the latest market statistics or just need help with a few questions, turn to me as your professional Livermore Valley real estate agent.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Livermore Valley Sees Fewer Distressed Home Sales

The shadow inventory is giving way to a brightening real estate picture, according to recent reports by the California Association of Realtors. Statewide, the percentage of short sales and foreclosures dropped again, with August short sales holding 23% of home sales, and August foreclosures holding just over 14% of the market.

The total market share of distressed properties in California was 37.8% in August 2012; this is a good improvement over a year ago when distressed properties held 48.3% of the market.

Meanwhile, Alameda County’s distressed sales accounted for 23% of the market during August 2012. This is a drop from 26% during July 2012. A year ago, distressed sales were hovering around 38% of the market. The reduction in distressed sales points to continued housing recovery for Alameda County and Livermore Valley.

Ready for more good news? Lender Processing Services reports that mortgage delinquencies nationwide have been reduced by 30%, since the peak of the housing crisis in 2010. Overall, we have fewer mortgages going bad, while at the same time, the shadow inventory is being successfully absorbed by an inventory-hungry market.

In fact, Livermore Valley home prices are still climbing! August 2012 home sales held a median price of $539,820 in Alameda County. It’s an increase of 11.4% from a year ago, when the median home price was $468,900. We’ve come a long way in a year!

As your professional Livermore Valley real estate agent, I keep my eye on the market trends that affect today’s buyers and sellers. Livermore Valley real estate is continually changing, which is why local experience matters!

If you are buying or selling a home in Livermore, Dublin or Pleasanton, contact me today! I will be happy to provide you with the latest market statistics and give you the professional guidance you can trust.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Mortgage News for Livermore Valley

California mortgage interest rates are going to sneak up a notch in the near future, but not for the reasons you might expect. As of October 1, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are raising the basis point fees they charge to lenders. In turn, lenders are likely to pass the increased costs on to mortgage borrowers in the form of slightly higher rates.

Freddie and Fannie are making these changes in order for their mortgages to be priced in line with private funding. In other words, they are trying to encourage private capital to return to the mortgage market.  Returning the mortgage markets to balance is in the best interests of taxpayers, who have helped Freddie and Fannie out of some tight spots in the past.

Who relies on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for mortgages these days? Almost everybody. In fact, Reuters reports that 85% of mortgages originated during 2011 were backed by these agencies.  So far in 2012, 89% of new mortgages are backed by them. Even small changes by these mortgage giants can have wide-reaching effects.

Fortunately, the dollar impact to Livermore Valley home buyers will be modest. According to Bloomberg, borrowers can expect to pay about $4,000 more over the life of the loan, using a $200,000 mortgage as an example. Break that down per payment, and it’s an extra $11 per month.  Larger loans could see this ratio played out into another $40 a month or so. Not a show-stopper, but remember that these increases are the result of modest policy changes. There are many other reasons why interest rates can rise, and we shouldn’t take today’s rate environment for granted.

The bottom line is, low interest rates and affordable home prices won’t be around forever! Market changes can happen quickly, and buyers who wait on the sidelines too long will miss out on the great opportunities in Livermore Valley real estate. Why not take a look at the wonderful homes available on the market today?

My experience in Livermore Valley real estate will help you whenever you are buying or selling a home! Whether you need the latest market data for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin  or you just have a few questions, contact me! I will provide you with reliable, professional guidance throughout all of our market conditions.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
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Will Fiscal Cliff Fears Affect Livermore Valley Real Estate?

The view from the top of the market is clouded by tax fears, according to recent articles by CNBC. The prospect of a capital gains tax hike has caused affluent home sellers to take price discounts now, rather than face an uncertain tax future. RealtyTrac reports that national home prices in the $1 million-plus range have fallen by 20% during 2012.

Here’s why luxury home sellers are concerned: unless Congress prevents it, a “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax breaks and Federal spending cuts could begin January 1, 2013. Affluent Americans face a possible capital gains tax increase from 15% to 20%. While the first $500,000 gain is exempt if the home was a primary residence for two out of five years, it’s a scant tax shelter at the top. Therefore, affluent home sellers are seeking to close their deals during 2012.

Can the selling behaviors at the top of the market affect home values across the board? And what could it mean for Livermore Valley real estate?

By adding inventory to the real estate market, while accepting price discounts for a quick sale, there is concern that motivated luxury sellers could cool down the market. And if sale prices trend downward on luxury homes, home values in the nearest tier could take a step down, and so on.

However, Livermore Valley is a well-balanced market. The majority of Livermore Valley homes for sale are priced under $600,000. While we have about 25 homes on the market priced at $1 million or more, this does not indicate an exodus. Home sellers in the top price range will affect each other. Those seeking to minimize tax obligations  will likely take a price discount to close during 2012, but this would not be a large share of the market. Still, this could impact high-end homes that were not otherwise affected by timing concerns.

Home sales in Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton could slow down a bit in the months ahead, due to seasonal patterns and the distractions of an election year. Overall, Livermore Valley remains attractive for home buyers, and escalating rents will continue to drive first-time buyers into the market. So long as employment remains stable and the broader economy behaves, our market will be driven by practical motives, and not short-term strategies.

When you have questions about the Livermore Valley real estate market, contact me! I have the local market expertise you can count on for Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin! Whether you are buying or selling a home, I will provide the latest market data and the professional guidance you need.

John Kurtzer
Your Livermore Real Estate Expert
RE/MAX Accord

Livermore Real Estate
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