Monday, February 11, 2019

Ramifications of jointly purchasing a home with a non-spouse...

Home buyers come in all shapes and sizes. A home buyer could be a single person. Or a married couple...Or an unmarried couple. Maybe two friends. Two siblings. Parent and child. You get the idea. But let's be real. There is a lot to consider when purchasing a property, and potentially a lot more to discuss when you are purchasing a home with someone who is not your spouse.

When buying a home with a spouse, your finances are usually at least somewhat co-mingled. California is a community property state, so a home purchased likely belongs to both of you equally no matter who brings what to the table financially.

But hey, it's 2019, and not every deeply committed couple gets married. Or perhaps two BFF's decide to purchase a home to be able to afford a nicer or larger place than one could afford individually. Or parent and adult child decide to jointly buy a home so grandma can watch the kids while adult child is working. I have worked with buyers in all of these scenarios and more.

But let's talk about the ramifications of making a large joint purchase for a minute. A home is a large asset to own jointly. If you are planning to buy a home with someone, you should have a pretty candid discussion the other person about your intended mutual financial arrangements and obligations owning a home together. And, if you were to separate, you should talk about how you would divest yourselves from it.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Couples who are deeply committed do separate sometimes. BFFs maybe eventually get married and want to move somewhere else with their new spouse. Or grandma gets tired of constantly having the grandkids around and wants a place of her own.

It can be a tough conversation to have. Buying a home is exciting, and this conversation can be a real buzzkill. It's as exciting of a conversation to have as, for example, creating a prenuptial agreement. But it is a really necessary conversation to have so everyone has the same expectations.

You should be thinking about this stuff and get mutual clarity on:
-Who is making what percentage of the downpayment?
-Who is paying what percentage of closing costs?
-Who will make what percentage of the monthly mortgage payment, utilities, HOA dues, property taxes, insurance, etc.
-Will this be a 50-50 ownership? Or some other percentage? Perhaps you may not want a 50-50 ownership if one of you will carry more of the financial load.
-How will you hold title to the property? (Married couples usually are "Joint Tenants" where essentially both owners collectively own 100% of the real property, and in the event of the death of one owner, the surviving owner retains 100% ownership. It might make sense to explore other forms of vesting, like for example "Tenancy in Common" where each owner owns an individual interest in the property. That interest could be sold on its own. There is also no right of survivorship, such that one interest does not automatically go to the other owner upon death and could be bequeathed to a beneficiary.) You should consult a CPA or an attorney on that one.
-Who will pay for repairs or improvements to the property?
-How will you decide who gets to deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, and other house-related deductible expenses on your state and federal income taxes (if applicable)? If you are unmarried, each owner will be filing a separate tax return.
-And most unexcitingly, if you were to separate and want to sell the property, would you split the net proceeds down the middle? Or would you want to first recoup your downpayment, closing costs, repair costs, and then split it? Or if you have individual ownership interests in the property, and one wants to sell his/her interest, should the remaining owner have any input as to who the new co-owner would be?

It's not exactly fun to discuss the termination of anything (especially a relationship or friendship), but it is also best to be on the same page now. It might be worth it to even draft an agreement relating to this sort of thing...

I know, buzzkill. But if you don't feel comfortable enough to have this conversation before making your purchase, perhaps you should rethink your purchase with your potentially joint co-owner.

As an agent, I see these scenarios play out all the time. Everyone is excited and happy to make the purchase. But then when things go south, it is a tense situation and nobody is on the same page when it is time to sell the property. Things are usually a little more straight-forward when a married couple separates (usually joint tenants, usually proceeds of a sale are split down the middle, if spouses do not agree usually divorce attorneys or judge help to steer the decision-making), however when people are unmarried it can get messy quickly.

Save yourself the trouble and think about these things in advance.

Friday, February 8, 2019

#1 Individual agent in my Coldwell Banker office for 2018

I was out of town last week in Indian Wells attending the committee and board meetings for the California Association of Realtors, and was not in my office for the annual "kick-off" meeting. Having missed the formal presentation, my Coldwell Banker Sierra Oaks office gave me two “crowns” this week for being the #1 individual agent in my office for all of 2018 for both total dollar volume and total number of transactions.

As I outlined in a post last month about my 2018 real estate transaction statistics, it was a busy year and I am so far experiencing a super busy 2019 as well. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

New Listing - 2329 Ralston Road, Sacramento, CA 95821

Lovingly maintained by one owner for nearly 30 years, this adorable 4 bedroom, 2 bath, approximately 1735sf Arden Arcade home is ready for a new owner. You will love the fabulous light and bright open layout! The spacious entry features a large skylight and opens into adjacent great room and formal dining room -- the perfect setting for hosting large gatherings. The kitchen has ample storage space, lots of light, tile floors and newer appliances. The 4 bedrooms are generously sized with lots of closet space. Dual pane windows and sliding doors throughout, central heat and air. Long driveway, automatic decorative white iron side gate opens to the yard and side-facing 2-car garage. Ample space for RV access. HUGE quarter acre yard has lots of sunny space to garden or play, covered deck, and portable spa. Section 1&2 pest clearance. All this in convenient proximity to shopping, freeways, parks, schools and more. Don't wait! Offered at $349,900. For more photos and additional information please visit 2329 Ralston Road, Sacramento, CA 95821.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Acceptable forms of providing an escrow company your initial deposit funds or downpayment for a real estate purchase...

So there is a first time for everything, and this week a client asked me something I have never before been asked: if he can send his downpayment funds via Venmo. In the age of money transfer apps, that is a totally legit question.

For those of you who don't know, Venmo is a popular money sending/transferring app. My husband and I have a Venmo account...and our most frequent use for Venmo? Loaning his 20 and 23-year old sons gas money every once in a while, or occasionally reimbursing a friend or colleague for a meal. There are other money sending apps -- PayPal is sort of the "old school" one, and some banks offer a feature called Zelle that essentially does the same thing. There are probably other ones too. 

These apps can be super convenient obviously, but will escrow companies (the neutral 3rd party that facilitates the transfer of title and handles the funds) accept funds transfers from them for initial deposits and downpayments for real estate purchases? The answer is -- NO. They will not.

And you might wonder why...well for one, you cannot just walk a bag of cash into an escrow company either. Escrow companies are themselves financial institutions, which in California at least are heavily regulated, usually by the California Department of Business Oversight. Venmo by its own admission is not set up for business transactions. Additionally, the amounts typically involved in real estate transactions to purchase homes or investment properties tend to be pretty large. Most of these apps have daily or weekly limits that prevent transfers in excess of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. And with that, while I believe Venmo transactions may be free if linked directly to a bank account, many of these accounts charge significant transaction fees -- up to a few percent. If you were to send your $75,000 downpayment via one of these apps, the sender or recipient might be charged a couple thousand dollars in these fees alone.

These accounts are often linked with credit cards, so I am not sure it is advisable to "charge" your downpayment. In fact I am sure your lender would not like this at all as it could significantly change your loan debt-to-income ratio. Security of these transactions is potentially also a concern. While transactions are probably encrypted, it is not difficult for hackers to hijack a phone where the app lives, or what if you physically lose your phone logged into your app's account with a large fund balance awaiting transfer? Additionally, when sending or receiving funds via Venmo, your transaction history is public. Do you want the world to know you just sent a large sum of money to an escrow company? Also, funds on deposit at banks are FDIC insured and funds that live in these apps are not. 

Your best bet -- physically walk into your local bank or credit union branch and arrange for a wire transfer of your funds to the escrow company. Depending on your account type, these wire transfers may be free, or you may be charged a small fee of perhaps $25-$35. You may also obtain a cashier's check from your bank and walk that into an escrow company

While these bugs with money transfer apps may be worked out sometime in the future, for now I do not anticipate escrow companies to rush out and create Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, or other accounts. But perhaps this is something to consider as attitudes and culture shifts.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Quoted in a Sacbee article about the 2019 Sacramento real estate market forecast...

I was quoted in a Sacramento Bee article this weekend - Tony Bizjak interviewed a panel of Sacramento real estate experts including myself, appraiser Ryan Lundquist, and a few others to get our thoughts on the 2018 market and what we foresee for 2019.

I was not surprised to see that our answers were all fairly similar. And none of us predict that our market is in a "bubble" right now. That seems to be a popular question right now after increasing home prices for the last several years, since the bottom of the market in 2011.

I hate being asked the "are we in a bubble" question because I think most people associate the word bubble with what happened in the real estate market back in 2005-2007 when the real estate market literally exploded and the bottom dropped out of home prices. I do not believe we will experience a situation similar to that era anytime soon. The longer answer is a little more complicated. 

I think psychologically, a lot of people see that home values are approaching where they were in 2005 and fear a bubble. While it seems like yesterday, that was over 13 years ago! According to Trendgraphix, Sacramento County's median home price at the peak of the market in August 2005 reached $395,000. December 2018's Sacramento County median home price is $365,000. The reality is that the value of money changes over time, and when adjusted for CPI inflation, Sacramento's median home price would have to be approximately $507,000 today to be equivalent to the 2005 peak. When I earned my masters degree in public policy, the concept of adjusting for inflation and making values equal in today's dollars to be able to compare apples to apples was really beaten into us. I think this idea is absent a lot of analyses that I see.

Part of the run-up in prices from the previous peak was fueled by bad lending products like stated-income (non-qualifying) zero-down, interest only, or negative amortization loans. Those previous buyers hyper-extended themselves and could not actually afford those homes, and when the market declined many had to short sell or were foreclosed. We actually do not have those artificial lending products anymore, and buyers have to qualify for loans. Your average buyer today can not get a loan without verification of income, assets (for a 3-5% downpayment at a minimum), good credit, income and/or employment. Generally with unemployment rates low, interest rates still relatively low (and having dipped a little in the last month), and home prices still relatively affordable for California, I just do not foresee a bubble. And when the market does eventually decline -- because prices can not go up forever, and someday it will -- we will not have the same hyper-extension and level of buyer default that added gas to the fire before.

What I think we do need to be aware of is that incomes have not risen commensurately with sales prices, and we are likely approaching a saturation point where affordability becomes an issue. I believe that this is what will lead to stagnation of home values in Sacramento. But not a bursting bubble. There was an article this week in Comstock's Magazine that is a pretty good read that reviews the history of past real estate cycles. It is interesting to note that in past market cycles, the bottom did not drop out of prices the way it did during the Great Recession. Anyway, I am off to a super busy 2019 and I look forward to a solid year of helping both home buyers and sellers.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A great start to 2019 - honored by the Sacramento Association of Realtors for my work in real estate advocacy...

It's nice to be recognized for my efforts, and last night at the officer and directors installation event at the Sacramento Association of Realtors I received an award for my efforts in political affairs. I imagine this is due in large part to helping orchestrate association's the "Yes on 5, No on 10" campaign locally during the election cycle, among other activities I help with as a member of the board of directors for the California Association of Realtors. I do not think many people are aware, but the Realtors associations are among the only advocates for private property rights and homeownership. I love being involved in our advocacy endeavors. Onward!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 - review of my real estate transaction statistics and how I compare to Sacramento market averages...

I ended last year with a bang, and had a busy start to 2018. I can't believe the year is over already! And what a year it was...it was one of my busiest years ever in my 13+ years in Sacramento real estate and did so while finishing my master's degree.

I like to track the statistics of my transactions, and toward the year end I always reflect on what I have done, how I compare to the rest of the agents in the market, and how I can improve. So as a follow up to my similar post last year, I thought I would publish some statistics and my thoughts on the coming year. Keep in mind, I am not a part of a "team" and this is all my own production. This year, all of my transactions are in Metrolist MLS, so this information is easily verifiable (although one sale was erroneously attributed to me that is not included in here)...in 2018:

-I closed 36 transactions and closed $14,473,000 in volume. My lowest transaction was $190,000, and my highest transaction was $749,900. The average was $402,028 and the median was $376,050.
-41.67% of my transactions were past/repeat clients (which is amazing to me!) 58.33% were new clients.
-94.4% of my transactions were residential properties (condossingle family homes), 5.6% were multi-family properties (duplexestriplexesfourplexes), and 0 were other (commercialland).
-58.3% of my transactions I represented the seller, while 41.61% of my transactions I represented the buyer.
-My typical residential listing sold for an average of 100.56% of its original listing price (meaning, 0.56% over the original listing price) in just 17 cumulative days on the market. The distinction of original and cumulative is important...original means even after a price reduction from the initial listing price, and cumulative means even if a property is re-listed or comes back on the market.
-My typical multi-family listing sold for an average of 108.7% of its original listing price (8.7% over the listing price) in just 2 cumulative days on the market.
-My typical listing had an average of 4.14 buyer offers on it! (For further disclosure though, one listing really skewed this statistic and had 23 offers on it alone...removing that one, then it becomes an average of 3.2 buyer offers)

Comparing my production statistics to the overall Sacramento real estate market averages, my clients and I had another stellar year.

For one, to qualify for the Sacramento Association of Realtors Masters Club, a realtor must close $5M in transaction volume and a minimum of 8 closed transactions. Clearly I blew those numbers out of the water. I would guess that with 36 closed transactions and nearly $14.5M in volume I am likely in the top 1-2% of all agents in greater Sacramento.

My clients are all over the spectrum from first-time buyersmove-up buyers (those who sell their home and then purchase another home), investors, sellers of property they inherited via a trust or probate, sellers retiring and moving out of the area, sellers divorcing, etc. My average and median transactions at $402,028 and $376,050 are basically in line with the average and median home prices in the Sacramento region according to Trendgraphix data. My high and low range indicates I work with a broad economic client spectrum as well, from those working with downpayment assistance to those among top-income earners in the region. I closed just one short sale listing in 2018, and I also did list one foreclosure/bank repo. Distressed properties are a very small part of the marketplace right now though 5 or so years ago they were the bulk of my transactions.

My listing statistics are also excellent...according to Trendgraphix for Sacramento County, the lowest average days on market for a single family listing in the last 14 months was 23 days on market (with a high of 41 days on market), versus my listings at 17 cumulative days on market. My original listing price versus final selling price ratio is also outstanding as my listings sell for 100.56% above original listing price on average, versus the highest month of the last 14 months at 100% (lowest at 96%). I think these numbers are indicative of my strategic approach to listing property -- complete with pre-listing inspectionsstagingrepairsprofessional photography3D virtual tours, TV ads, and multi-faceted marketing.

Comparing 2017 to 2018, the market went from crazy nuts to a little more balanced between buyer and seller. This, as far as I am concerned, is a welcome change and brings a slightly more equitable transaction between buyer and seller. Sellers need to price according to the market, and buyers won't have to offer their first born to actually have their offers accepted.

 It is a good thing for buyers not to be faced with such intense competition from other buyers -- though don't get me wrong: properly marketed, appropriately priced, good homes still sell with plenty of competition and offers.

Of course I hope to improve these numbers this year in 2019...so we shall see how that shapes up! If you think we would be a good fit to work together toward your next property sale or purchase, I welcome your contact via phone or email.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Quoted in a Robb Report article today about the new California mandate for new construction homes to have solar panels...

I was quoted in a Robb Report article today about the new California mandate for new construction homes to be built equipped with solar panels. Renewable energy sources and energy efficiency are great things, and California is definitely leading the way and setting a new standard in the US.

All policies have impacts though, and when California generally also leads the nation with the highest median home prices (statewide median home price is over $550,000 and $365,000 in Sacramento as of November 2018), imposing a requirement to install expensive solar panels on every new construction home in the state could lead to higher home prices as builders look to recoup the extra costs of solar arrays.

The market may very well be able to handle a $10,000 - $15,000 increase in a new home's price. However, If the market cannot handle price increases from the additional costs of solar on new homes (e.g. fewer people buy those homes - perhaps buying less expensive resale homes instead, new home prices decrease, etc.) it may drive builders out of the state to build elsewhere. There are other states with fewer of these mandates, and Texas, Arizona, and Idaho for example are all experiencing building booms. We shall see in the coming years if this has an impact on the volume of new housing construction in California.