Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Top Return on Remodel Item?

What would you guess to be the top return on home improvement dollars spent?

I have incorrectly stated for years: “a kitchen improvement gives you the highest return of added value for your remodel dollar”.

While it typically adds 80 – 83% of your remodel dollar-to-value, there is an inexpensive improvement which gets an even higher return – almost 100%!  Hint: a contributor to curbside appeal.

Take a look at this article (see the list at the bottom) and you may be as surprised as I was.  I’m assuming the photo above hasn’t helped you figure it out already.  It is still an eyebrow raiser for me.  It’s also motivating because I can redo our front door out of  ”pocket change” vs influencing the national debt for a full-on kitchen do over.

BTW: there was a secondary point made in the article which should be self evident: a $75,000 kitchen remodel on a $100,000 house does not make sense.

What have you done before sale which gave you the best return?

Rent vs. Buy: Cheapest?

We know what the acronym A.S.S.U.M.E. really means, right?  Here is a good example: “Renting is cheaper than buying“. Simply assuming that paying rent costs less than making a house payment is ignoring many factors: the interest portion of the principle & interest and, the property tax portion of a house payment are tax deductible.  Appreciation also needs to be placed in the equation: rent payments will go up; home values (typically) go up while the house payment remains unchanged.

Would you believe this holds true even in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, CA?  As the attached article demonstrates, these and other cities have home purchase costs lower than paying rent.  In San Jose, CA for example, the difference is 9%.

If the rent vs. house payment debate wins in these large, metropolitan cities, we can assume (oops, here we go again) that the more affordable cities like Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Hollister, CA will have an even bigger difference favoring the purchase of a home vs. renting someone else’s.

Why not take a challenge?  Text or email me your city and the amount of rent you pay.  I will give your own comparison.

Bathroom Floor Ideas, Remodeling

One of the  first, physical experiences you have in the morning and, just before you go to bed: your footsies on the bathroom floor.  Is it cold?  slippery?  woolly (carpet)? Yucky?

Is it time to redo the bathroom?  Start with the flooring.  Here is a good article for the newest, old ideas and options that are reasonably priced.  Once you have decided on the floor color and texture  the rest will easily fall into place.

Next to the cost of a kitchen remodel, a bathroom is the second most expensive. However, like the kitchen, remodeled bathrooms really add to a home’s value – one of the highest returns on your improvement dollars.

Not only will your bathroom look fresh and clean, it will feel great on those adventurous toes in the AM and weary souls at the end of the day.

What do you think?  Do you have a floor you want to share?

Another “Home of The Week” Beauty

When the members of the realtor association for the county vote for “Home of The Week”, that is a real compliment for the chosen home.  2441 Fairhaven Ct., Hollister, CA was given that title this week.  This 4 bd. 2 bth home is tastefully decorated and sits in a quiet, cul-de-sac with just 8 other homes.

Come by for the Open House on 2/1/14 from 1-4 PM.  Chocolate-chip cookies and a comfortable home wait your visit.

Nice 4 bdrm. Under $400k


Here is a clean, nicely appointed, 4 bedroom, 2 bath home on a quiet cul-de-sac with only 8 other homes.  

A nice park with playground equipment is a convenient stroll away. Likewise, the much sought after, Cerra Vista Elementary School is within walking distance from this home.  The newest shopping facilities are near by and the Hwy. 25 Bypass makes for an easy commute to the San Jose area.

There will be an Open House on 2/1/2014 from 1 to 4 PM.  Stop by to see this comfortable home and enjoy some warm chocolate-chip cookies.   This home is priced to sell and won’t be available very long. For your own personal tour of 2441 Fairhaven Court, Hollister just text, email or call me.

Drop PMI from Your House Payment


Since home values have risen over the last 18 months we are often asked: “How do I drop that Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) from our house payment?”

So here is the Good News and the Bad News:

Good:  ”The Homeowner’s Protection Act of 1998“: home lenders MUST drop the PMI when the loan balance reaches 78% of the original value.

Bad: “78% of ORIGINAL VALUE” means the price you paid for the home, NOT today’s appreciated value. Additionally, most lenders require that you have a 2-5 year payment history with them before they will consider your request.

Additional ‘Bad’: Even if you have paid extra toward your loan balance the lenders look to the original amortization schedule to determine when you reach 78% in order to drop the PMI.   That typically takes 9 – 10 years.

Once you have 80% equity you can ask the lender to cancel your PMI however, there is no guaranty they will.

While the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is not governed by the same law they do have a similar ’78%’ rule with the added proviso that the payment needs to have been made for at least 5 years or your balance is 78% of the original value – whichever comes later.   FHA’s insurance for loans originated after 7/1/2013 however, is permanent.

Good:  You don’t have to wait for the magical date on your amortization table…you can refinance your current loan.  In the South County (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister, San Juan Bautista) home values rose over 36% in 2013 from 2012.  With at least 20% (new equity) your new loan will not need PMI.  On a $300,000 purchase where you put originally put 5% down to a $285,000 loan, the PMI would cost roughly $220 every month*. Even if you include the closing costs in your refinance loan you will still have a lower payment due to no PMI; probably a savings of $150 or more per month.

In a 5 minute visit I can tell you what YOUR particular numbers will look like.  Text, email or call me.  Let’s get rid of that PMI before another month rolls by.


Frequent Question Buyers Ask

“Do I need a buyer’s agent when buying a home from a builder?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of letting the builder handle the contract?

(Here is the answer I posted in Trulia’s community):


“First of all you, the buyer don’t pay for YOUR agent’s service – the seller/builder does. Secondly, your agent’s legal responsibility is to do everything to protect your interests. There is no dual agency to tempt either principal. Your agent will handle all of the contractual paperwork, make certain the home is finished with your specific upgrades, and keep you informed relative to all aspects of the sale. The builder, on the other hand, has _____ other homes and buyers to juggle.

“There are really no disadvantages. If the builder reduces the sales price by the amount of a selling agent’s commission that would be an advantage for going without your own agent. My experience is the builder will not alter their sales price”.

Have you bought a newly constructed home directly from the builder?  How did it go?

New Kitchen Trends in 2014

If 2014 is the year you plan to redo your kitchen, consider the sun setting trends we’ve seen over the last 10 years and, the rising, new ideas.  Granite counter tEnglish: A park interpreter demonstrates a typ...ops, lacquered cabinets, dark floors and the “triangle” work alignment are become less chic.

This article

provides some trendy textures which are becoming more and more sought after.

We plan to remodel our 14 year old kitchen and like the new counter top choices of color, the open cabinet doors with down-lighting and, lighter floor accents which, seem to be the way of kitchen’s future.

So, before you head for the warehouse-type home improvement stores to buy a “gourmet kitchen” face lift, consider what may be the kitchen profile for the next 10 years.

Have you remodeled your kitchen recently what changes did you make?  If like us, this is the year for that project what materials are you considering?

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Inexpensive Peace of Mind

Your home is on the market and your water heater goes out.  That’s the last thing you want – spend  money on something you will not get any return on.

It happened again.  A seller in Morgan Hill had their home on the market.  One cold morning they went to turn up the heat and found their furnace had gone out.  The cost of the installed new furnace: $1,800!  While they were warm again their net proceeds from the sale just dropped by a cold, $1,800.

Furnaces, water heaters, microwave ovens, ovens, disposals…they all have a functional life and then give up the ghost – without warning.  Those repair bills are aggravating and, unnecessary.

A Cool Solution: Home warranty policies are available for sellers as well as buyers.  For roughly $.90 a day you can cover all of your major appliances during your listing period.  Should something go out you only have to pay a set fee, usually around $60, and the warranty company will repair or replace your appliance for no additional cost. Comment below, text or email for more information.

The payment for this warranty can be from your net proceeds in escrow.  Additionally, if your home doesn’t sell some of the warranty companies won’t charge you anything.  So you just can’t lose.

Selling your home can be an anxious time but this little tip will keep your equity in your pocket and, provide some peace of mind.

Has this or something like it happened to you?

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Hollister, CA Home Values Up 36%

home's appreciationThe average home value in Hollister, CA rose 36% over the last 6 months as compared to the same period last year (June to the end of Nov.)  Homes sold for an average of $421,798 this year vs. $316,894 for the same time last year in Hollister.

There are 3 indicators which provide some measurable reasons for this significant increase:

  1. The number of home for sale dropped from 323 in ’12 to 283 during the same 6 months this year.
  2. The average number of days on the market dropped from 54 last year to 44 days this year. That 19% decrease suggests a robust demand.
  3. Finally, the actual sale price was 102% of the asking price in the last 6 month where last year’s relationship of “asking and actual” was 99%.

Gilroy, CA has experienced similar appreciation.  The South County (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister and San Juan Bautista, CA) is a favorite ‘bedroom’ community for Bay Area employees.  Gilroy & Morgan Hill home values were just as impressive.

What does this mean for home values in 2014?  Probably more of the same.  Do you think we’ll see the same pace?  Are we headed for another bubble?  Watch the home loan interest rates.  Their direction will have an inverse affect on the rate of appreciation: if they go up significantly or, quickly, all 3 factors above should head in their opposite direction.  The rate of appreciation will slow or stop – depending on the severity of the rate changes.  Stay tuned.  It’s going to be exciting!

(data from MLSListings)


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