Friday, September 28, 2012

Rising Real Estate Values and Confidence This Fall

This summer's housing market has put a smile on the faces of home buyers, home sellers, lenders, and real estate developers. According to the LA Times, "...the real estate slump is over." Standard and Poor's/Case-Schiller's housing indices report that real estate values in July 2012, over a 20-City composite analysis, have gone up 1.6%. That's the fourth consecutive upgrade in as many months. So what does this mean?

How this information can possible affect you is essentially determined by what role you play in the real estate market.

The Buyer
While it could be said that buyers missed the mark by not purchasing their houses before real estate values increased, this is not necessarily the case. For one thing, buyers are purchasing real estate with a more authentic value. Consider the buyers who purchased when the market began to crash, pre-2008. They congratulated themselves on purchasing a house that was more affordable than their neighbors. But then the market continued to decline...and then it crashed. Those once happy buyers  were now upside down in their mortgages. By purchasing a home when real estate values are in the midst of an upward trend, you will get to watch your equity increase, benefit from the still-low interest rates, and the chances of your new real estate retaining its value is much higher.

The Seller
For some sellers, the news about increasing real estate values might not seem as rosy since they may still be in a position to lose money on their home. However, for every dollar their house increases in value, that buyers are willing to pay, is one less dollar owed on their mortgage. As more buyers hit the market, wanting to get in before housing prices peak, sellers will have a little more bargaining power. Plus, with the influx of investors making use of low interest rates, sellers with attractive homes in marketable communities are getting to unload their property within a week or two. Not too shabby.

The Renters
Renters are in a good position for two reasons:
  • The housing slump and record-high foreclosure rates meant that rents escalated in response to flooded rental markets. Yikes! Why pay high rent when monthly mortgages are often cheaper? Many renters have used this opportunity to truly buckle down, save money, and qualify for some of the lowest interest rates in real estate history. In other words, its a great time for home renters to become home buyers.
  • Now that more renters, and previous homeowners, are able to buy houses again, the demand for rentals will go down. Basic economic principles state that rental prices should come down as well. If you are a renter who is opting to stay put, keep an eye out on for comparable rental rates in your area and renegotiate with your landlord to lower your rent.
Real Estate Developers
Developers were hit hard by the real estate crash, as were the thousands of construction workers who found themselves out of a job. The news that the housing slump has ended will hopefully bring developers back out into the forefront, and help to re-employ thousands of laid-off workers. It will be good for the economy, good for the real estate market, and good for the general well-being of blue-collar workers.

It's a known fact that real estate values tend to be higher in spring and summer, and then decline in fall and winter. But as long as people hold on to their jobs, consumer confidence continues to rise, and real estate values continue to increase, it's looking like next July's single family home statistics will reflect that positive real estate trends have continued.

Real World Results for the Peninsula
If the incredible interest in the Pacific Place project is any indication, here in the Peninsula things are a bit different. We've got a very unique economy out here mainly as a result of being smack dab in the middle of the producers of so many advancements in tech, it really does create a unique situation where what's trending across California or the US doesn't always apply 100% to us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Things to See and Do in Redwood City

If you're looking for things to do in Redwood City when the sun goes down and the moon begins to shimmer on the water, we have some suggestions.  Looking for daytime appropriate activities? Read "Things to See and Do in Redwood City" and then check back here to continue with Part 2.

As the Sun Sets...

Busy walkers and shoppers will probably be ready to wind down a bit and catch up over a glass of wine. Warm days and cool coastal nights make Redwood City, and surrounding the surrounding wine country, a perfect climate for growing grapes and making delicious wines.
  • La Honda Winery: La Honda cultivates vineyards throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. They have won awards for their Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as many other delectable appellations. If you end up there on a weekend, make way for the Bride & Groom because this venue is a favorite location for picture perfect weddings.
  • K&L Wine Merchants: Don't feel like taking the time to taste and select your favorite wine? Let K&L Wine Merchants do it for you. With resident wine and spirit experts, you can stop into the Redwood City location and let the experts help you choose the perfect wine for dinner.
Time for Dinner

Any of our lunchtime suggestions from Part 1 would make excellent dinner choices for the casual diner. However, Redwood City also offers several upscale restaurant experiences.
  • Mistral Restaurant and Bar. You may want to make reservations if you want a waterfront view, however the entire restaurant offers a romantic ambiance regardless of your view. Mistral Restaurant features upscale American cuisine with a light emphasis on seasonal and sustainable foods. Forgot to bring a bottle of wine? No problem. They're wine list won't disappoint.
  • Donato Enoteca. This Italian restaurant will remind you that there is a reason to celebrate family owned and operated Italian restaurants with authentic homemade family recipes. It was owner, and Executive Chef, Donato Scotti's dream to open the restaurant and his passion is evident in every bite.
  • Bay 223 at Hotel Sofitel. Don't let the hotel location fool you. Bay 223's American-inspired French cuisine gets rave reviews from both locals and travelers alike.The food is tasty, the drinks are mixed well, and the croissants keep customers coming back. You can even buy some of their delectable pastries from the hotel's gift shop.
After Dinner Entertainment

After dinner, it's time to hit the Theater, or Theatre, depending on your preference. If you've been waiting for the opening night of a specific movie, Cinemark Redwood 20 in downtown won't disappoint. Whether you want to catch the latest 3-D children's flick or a hang-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thriller, the Cinemark Redwood 20 has them all.

If you like to catch live performances every once in a while, continue your evening the old fashioned way and enjoy evening entertainment at the FOX Theatre on Broadway. From Ballet, to concerts, and various plays for multiple generations, the FOX Theatre in Redwood City has something going on several nights a week. Their home page always features a list of their upcoming attractions.

"Fill-in-the-Blank" on the Square. When the weather is warm, the Courthouse Square has free entertainment almost every night. From Downtown Jazz on Monday nights, to free concerts on Friday nights, you can also catch dancing, movies, and art on the evenings in between. All of this is brought to the residents and guests of Redwood City by generous local business and private sponsors.

Redwood City is a wonderful place for singles, married couples, families and retirees to spend their days and nights celebrating all the local community has to offer. Want to live here? We invite you to visit our sales office to see if Pacific Place is a good fit for your family!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things to Do and See in Redwood City

Redwood City is a beautiful town with a rich history and a variety of things to do and see.  Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, or prefer to spend your days shopping and dining, there is something for everyone year round.

Start From the Beginning

There's no better way to start the day than with a good cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast. If it's the weekend for you, a late morning brunch is even better. Start your day by visiting Talk of Broadway - a locals' favorite for breakfast and weekend brunches. The prices are affordable, their menu is vast, and the food is delicious. If you go on the weekends, arrive a little before you're hungry as you might have to wait to be seated. Once you have had your fill, it's time to start your day catching up on a little Bay Area history.

Redwood City's history began with the peaceful hunter gatherer people, called the Ohlone, who lived there for Millenia until Spanish explorers landed there in 1776. From that point on, the area was cultivated by settlers from all around the globe. This historical legacy is all captured in the San Mateo County History Museum. With guided tours through the museum and the Sanchez Adobe, as well as various programs for adults, families, and schools, this museum is a must-see. Tickets are only $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students (children 5 and under are free). The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Continue Through the Middle

By the time you have had your fill of educational fun, you will probably be ready for lunch. Here are a list of restaurants by theme. You can take your pick depending on the mood - all come with rave reviews.
Once you are ready and rarin' to go for an exciting afternoon, we have one question for you: Are you a shopper or a walker?

For the Shoppers

If you are a shopper, there are two shopping experiences you won't want to miss. Redwood City's walkable downtown "Shops on Broadway", features stores, cafes, a movie theater, and the parking garage even has a vehicle recharging station! Don't forget to check out the Redwood City Events Calendar for upcoming attractions and community happenings.

You can also take a short drive to nearby Milpitas and visit the Great Mall of the Bay Area. With a combination of regular mall stores and some outlet stores, you are guaranteed a great shopping experience and fabulous mark downs.

For the Walkers

Take a couple of hours for an easy hike around Redwood City's Edgewood Park and Preserve. Well maintained dirt trails form a 4.2 mile hike in which the natural flora and fauna of Redwood City has been preserved since 1993.  While it does abut to Highway 280 and a residential neighborhood, which can make it less peaceful than other nature preserves, there are pockets of quiet amidst the hubbub. If you feel so inclined, you may want to take food to-go from one of the restaurants we mentioned above and make it an afternoon picnic.

Once you've left, head on over to the Pulgas Water Temple. Built amidst the Great Depression, and completed in 1934, the Temple honors the Greek and Roman aqueduct ingenuity that allowed engineers to bring water to the Bay Area from the Hetch Hetchy in the Sierra Nevadas.

Your day's not over yet! Stay tuned for "More things to do and see in Redwood City."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Title Insurance: Who Needs It?

If you're in the escrow or title process, you may have some questions about title insurance. While it isn't a requirement, there are several reasons to seriously consider protecting yourself financially.

Reasons to Consider Title Insurance in a Real Estate Transaction

If you require a mortgage to purchase a piece of property, your mortgage lender will always require a title insurance policy to protect them from financial losses that can occur if there are any title defects on the property. Owners can decide whether they want a policy or not.  There are two types of title insurance policies:
  • Lender's Title Insurance: Mortgage companies require that a title insurance is taken out to protect their interests.  The policy does not protect the individual(s) purchasing the piece of property.

  • Owner's Title Insurance: This title insurance policy is separate from the lender's insurance policy and covers the financial interests of the buyer(s) should title defects emerge prior to the close of escrow. It also pays for court fees in case litigation ensues.
When you purchase your policy, it will protect yourself from title discrepancies that occur from the purchase date and backwards through time.  It does not protect you from anything that happens on your title from that day forward.  However, it does protect you for the lifetime of your property ownership. So, should one of the following scenarios occur, even 10 years after you purchased the home, your title insurance will still work.

Why is Title Insurance a Good Idea?
Should title discrepancies arise regarding the real estate transaction in question, your title insurance will pay for the title company to do the work and clear your title, rather than having to assume the responsibilities yourself. Here are a few different scenarios to  illustrate why having an owner's title insurance policy can be beneficial.
  1. The title isn't completely cleared.  While it's true that title companies, lawyers, and educated buyers can run title searches to see if a property's title is clear, there can be discrepancies.  Take a situation where a husband and wife own a piece of property. They sell it. Only the husband signed the closing documents.  Legally, the wife might have a claim to that piece of property and can come forward to contest your purchase.
  2. An heir comes forward. Your property might have been sold to you by a deceased owner's heir.  Unbeknownst to you, there was another person(s) entitled to that piece of property.  The heir(s) can come forward and contest your real estate transaction.
  3. Forgeries. It could come up that somewhere in the history of property ownership, someone forged documents to sell the property. Once the forgery is discovered, the true owners can come forward and sue.
  4. Improper recording.  This could be an improper recording of previous deeds or tax liens. Once the discrepancy is discovered - potentially years down the road - you are protected from any financial responsibility.
  5. Building/Development issues. While it is not (yet) standard, some title companies offer enhanced construction coverage to protect owners from issues that emerge after the date of the title insurance policy, such as inaccurate surveys, vendors that weren't paid and place a lien on the property and so on.  If you're in the middle of a new construction real estate transaction, this might be worth looking into.
If you're confused about whether or not to purchase title insurance, speak with a real estate lawyer, or insurance agent, about your situation.  They will help you decide whether or not it is a good investment in your real estate situation.