Finance Information

How's The MarketInterested in buying a rental property?  Perhaps you were thinking that a 20% rental property down payment would do the trick to get you started as a real estate investor?  That may work in some places. In most of the U.S., though, you’ll need 30% down to be “cash flow neutral”, meaning that you aren’t losing money each month.  In pricey Silicon Valley, though, often it takes more than a 40% down payment on an investment property just to break even.

Today a friend and past client asked me exactly this question.  The investment property in mind, a townhouse,  would pull in a monthly rent of about $2600 to $2800 when occupied. (Remember, you have to also factor in at least some vacancy rate.)  The list price for this townhouse is about $650,000. (Side note:  with a condo or townhouse,  insurance coverage is probably going to be a lot less costly than with a single family home.  The estimates below are for a townhome.)

Where do you think the cash flow neutral or break even point would be in terms of the down payment?    That question is today’s case study.  Have a look at the various scenarios of  20% down, 30% down,40% down and 50% down:

Investment property down payment needed to be cash flow neutral

If my calculations are correct, you really need to put about 50% down to buy this particular Santa Clara County townhome and have it support itself.

Is that a good deal?  Not really. At least not if your main focus is cash flow.

There are other places in the country where you can put a lot less down and break even or have a positive cash flow.

Of course, cash flow is one motivator.  Another, though, is appreciation.  Depending on your own goals, you may be far more interested in appreciation than cash flow.  If that’s the case,  Silicon Valley may be exactly what  you’re looking for as an investment buyer.  Those places where the down payment can be smaller may not have the same upside potential with appreciation as we have here in the San Jose area, or the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole.

Interested in becoming a real estate investor? Have a good down payment saved?  Please call or email me and we can chat.  If Silicon Valley isn’t the right place for you to make your real estate investment, I can introduce you to wonderful Realtors in other areas where the numbers may be more favorable.

 

See also: Buy a Los Gatos home or real estate investment property

Double app your loanIn this highly competitive seller’s market, some home buyers are choosing to purchase their house, condo or townhouse non-contingent, meaning with no contingencies for inspection, loan, appraisal etc. .  The “non-contingent offer” has been present in the Silicon Valley real estate scene for a few years (since 2012 or so), to the horror of those of us working in the field in 2000 and the years immediately after (it’s a very bad deja vu, given the onslaught of lawsuits that came in its wake last time).  My clients sometimes make this choice, too, explaining to me that they feel it’s the only way to get the property.

With no loan contingency to protect the buyers should the loan not come through (or fail to do so in time), some consumers are electing to “double app” the loan.  Translation: they pursue financing with two or more lenders simultaneously (fill out two loan applications, pay for two appraisals etc.).  Lenders, naturally, don’t like this because only one of them has the possibility of closing the sale or the loan, and only the one who closes the loan will get paid.   In a normal market, with normal contingencies in place, I would not recommend this approach.  But if there are no contingencies to protect the buyer, a second loan may provide a safety net as it increases the odds that a loan will be funded so that the home can close escrow. Continue reading

Why do sellers prefer cashBuyers who are getting slammed out of the Silicon Valley real estate market due to low inventory and multiple offers are extremely frustrated. In many cases, they write offer after offer, and each time not only are their bids rejected, but they never even get a counter offer.

You should not depend on getting a 2nd chance, of course.  Just because you write a contract on a San Jose area home does not mean that the seller needs to give you a counter offer.  Some agents and sellers don’t respond at all – not nice, but if you get dozens of offers, sometimes that does happen.  Sometimes they just take the best offer and run. Othertimes they only counter the best offer and forget the rest.

The question arises all the time: why isn’t my 20% down offer just as good as the 50% down or the All Cash offer? Isn’t 20% down good enough? Or for that matter, why wouldn’t a 3.5% FHA backed loan be suitable?

Cash is better because there’s less risk

Twenty percent down is “good enough” if there are no other offers. If it’s multiple offers, though, it’s probably not sufficient for most sellers provided that the all cash offers are written with realistic pricing. Right now, 25% of all sales in Santa Clara County are all cash, and sellers would far rather deal with an offer that includes no finance or appraisal contingencies.  For sellers, the fewer contingencies the better and no contingencies is ideal.  Particularly now, when we are seeing a very sudden and dramatic upswing in pricing, appraisal contingencies can kill an offer’s chances of success. With all cash, there is no appraisal at all – it’s a slam dunk on that front. Continue reading

Silicon ValleyWhen are property taxes due in Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley is not a governmental area, like the City of San Jose or San Mateo County.  Silicon Valley includes virtually all of Santa Clara County, most of San Mateo County, and parts of Alameda County and Santa Cruz County. Property taxes, or real estate taxes, are paid to whichever California county the home or land is located.  Luckily, all four of these counties work off the same basic set of dates.

Fiscal year for real estate taxes and due dates:

The fiscal year for the county tax assessor’s office begins July 1st.  Property taxes are billed in two installments.  The first one covers July 1st to December 31st, and the second one begins with January 1st and runs through the last day of June.

  • The property tax bill for the first installment is due November 1st and is late if not paid (or postmarked) by December 10th at 5pm.
  • The second installment of real estate taxes is due February 1st and is late if payment is not received or postmarked by April 10th at 5pm.  (This one fools people because U.S. income taxes are due April 15th, so be extra careful!)

Should the delinquent date fall on a weekend or holiday, the deadline falls to 5pm the next business day.

What happens if the payment is late?

If your payment is late, there’s a 10% penalty (and an administrative fee may be charged for processing the late payment as well).  If taxes aren’t paid by the end of the fiscal year, the property is then “in default”.   Eventually, if the tax isn’t paid, the home may be foreclosed on by the tax assessor’s office, though ordinarily this may take years and the owner’s credit can be damaged significantly in the process.

Other dates to know

Property taxes are mailed in September and October and should arrive before November 1st.

Property tax bills become a lein January 1st.  Don’t be offended, it’s just a bill that is always due!

January 1st is also the assessment date, meaning that is the date when the county tax assessor’s office figures out the taxable value of your condo, townhouse, house, multiplex, etc.   When you get your assessment, it’s the perceived value as of January 1st that year.

Supplemental taxes

If you just bought your home, the tax rate applied at closing was the former owner’s rate, which normally will be lower than the new rate due.  A few months later, when everyone has forgotten about it, a Supplemental Tax Bill comes in the mail.  That’s a one-time “catch up” bill and after that you’ll get taxed at the rate you should have been since you bought, which is appx 1.25% of the purchase price for the first year. After the first year, taxes can rise only 2% per year from that initial value*, even if the home appreciates much more.  (This situation inclines people not to sell and is part of the reason for our housing shortage.)

This is Silicon Valley and really we ought to be able to get that calculated at closing, but for some reason, the systems in place cannot seem to muster it.

*If there’s a decline in value such as we saw in The Great Recession, people may appeal their assessed rate and get a lower tax rate.  When values rise again, the 2% constraints will not be in place as such.  Real estate property taxes can jump up a lot, but not more than if they had been climbing 2% per year during the correction.

View what’s on the market in Santa Clara County through the map below:

  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,254 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,270 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,292 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,009 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,423 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,060 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 853 sq ft
    Lot size: 871 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,939 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,918 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,604 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,749 sqft
  7. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 712 sq ft
    Lot size: 696 sqft
  8. 2 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,125 sq ft
    Lot size: 566 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,442 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,143 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,083 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,049 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Santa Clara.
(all data current as of 3/23/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Interest rates and affordabilityToday the Fed finally pulled the trigger and set the wheels in motion to increase the cost of borrowing money.  It appears that in 2016 the interest rates will rise between one quarter and one half percent.  What does that mean for Silicon Valley home buyers and sellers, on a practical or budget level?

Let’s say a home buyer needs a mortgage of $500,000 to purchase the desired property (which will sell for $625,000), and that said buyer has good credit and 20% down and is seeking a 30 year fixed rate loan.  Interest rates may vary from one lender to another, but as of right now, a 4% interest rate is pretty typical.

$500,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 4% interest – monthly principal & interest payment is $2387.08

$500,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 4.25% interest – payment is $2459.70 ($72.62 more than at 4%)

$500,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 4.5% interest – payment is $2533.43 (increase of $73.73 per month over the 4.25% rate and $146.35 more than at 4%).

That doesn’t sound too bad – if the rate goes up 1/2 percent in 2016, the additional burden on this hypothetical buyer would be $146.35 per month or $1,756.20 per year. Many in Silicon Valley could absorb that, though they would rather spend their money elsewhere.  But let’s step back and see it more broadly. If the loan is kept for all 30 years, which isn’t so common right now but may become more common if interest rates continue their upward climb, that would be $52,686 more paid over the life of the loan, or more than 10% of the original mortgage amount.

What impact will a rising interest rate have on qualifying for the mortgage?

Now let’s look at this from another perspective.  What if our mythical buyer only qualified for a payment of $2388 per month, tops?  At 4%, that ends up being a $625,000 loan.  How’s the math at 4.25% and 4.5%?

$2388 payment at 4% 30 year fixed = loan amount of $500,193  (80% of $625,241  purchase price)

$2388 payment at 4.25% 30 year fixed = loan amount of $485,425  (80% of $606,781   purchase price, or if they put the whole $125,000 down still, a purchase price of $610,425)

$2388 payment at 4.5% 30 year fixed = loan amount of $471,298  (80% of $589,122   purchase price, or if they put the full $125k down, $596,298)

If interest rates go up 1/2 of 1 percent, this home buyer’s purchase power decreases by $28,943 and that’s only if the buyer is then willing to put $125,000 down, which at that point is more than 20% down.  That’s about 5% of the total initially targeted purchase price, at best!

And if interest rates continue climbing in 2016 and 2017 and into the 2020 decade?  Here’s a look at what happens to payments on a $400,000 loan.

30 year fixed rate payments with various interest rates

30 year fixed rate payments with various interest rates

Won’t home prices have to come down to make up for this burden on buyers?

Continue reading

Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California

Orchard and Hills in Saratoga, California

The amount of all cash offers in Santa Clara County has been very high for the last couple of years, and I’ve written about it here.  But what of the luxury market?  At one point, I read that nationwide, 50% of all homes sold at over a million dollars were bought all cash, no loans.  So I thought it might be similar here.

Just now I logged onto MLSListings.com to run the numbers for the last 90 days in Santa Clara County.  I ran the numbers with the following criteria:

  • houses, duet homes, townhouses and condos
  • sold within the last 90 days (closed escrow)
  • within Santa Clara County
  • sale price at or over $2,000,000

The number of properties matching this list over the last 90 days was 351 (it was 306 on 5/24/14).

The number of properties matching this list which were identified as having all cash, no loans financing = 108 (it was 111 on 5/24/14)

The percentage of all cash sales identified as such on the MLS for this period is 30.77% (back on 5/24/14, it was 36%).  (For all prices right now, it appears that the average is 16.86% or so. – it was 18% on 5/24/14.)

Disclaimer: for this to be accurate, it requires the listing agent or office admin who closes out the sale on the MLS to accurately represent the financing used.  It is possible that this is off, and the more accurate data could be from the county records themselves. If I can obtain that data, I’ll update this article then.

Back to the ratio of cash sales in the luxury market: why does it matter?  More than anything, it matters because interest rates are rising and this impacts the buyers’ ability to purchase property.  In real estate generally, if interest rates rise, home values are negatively impacted.  We’ll want to see what impact the more expensive loan products have on high end or estate housing, not just here in Silicon Valley, but across the country.

See homes currently for sale in Santa Clara County in the map below:

  1. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 27,179 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.21 ac
  2. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 29,716 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.08 ac
  3. 9 beds, 5 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 13,910 sq ft
    Lot size: 5.72 ac
  4. 5 beds, 6 full baths
    Home size: 7,490 sq ft
    Lot size: 11.05 ac
  5. 5 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 6,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.16 ac
  6. 7 beds, 9 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 9,478 sq ft
    Lot size: 27,878 sqft
  7. 6 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 4,223 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,043 sqft
  8. 5 beds, 5 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 11,507 sq ft
    Lot size: 3.02 ac
  9. 5 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 6,217 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.44 ac
  10. 6 beds, 7 full baths
    Home size: 6,922 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.31 ac
  11. 5 beds, 6 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 7,555 sq ft
    Lot size: 4.38 ac
  12. 0 beds, 0 baths
    Home size: 12,258 sq ft
    Lot size: 19,732 sqft
  13. 7 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 3,005 sq ft
    Lot size: 3.48 ac
  14. 4 beds, 4 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 3,655 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,147 sqft
  15. 8 beds, 8 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 7,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.76 ac
  16. 7 beds, 7 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 5,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 14,984 sqft
  17. 6 beds, 6 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 7,951 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.31 ac
  18. 7 beds, 6 full, 2 half baths
    Home size: 5,539 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,143 sqft
  19. 6 beds, 8 full, 5 half baths
    Home size: 7,953 sq ft
    Lot size: 1.78 ac
  20. 7 beds, 8 full, 3 half baths
    Home size: 9,906 sq ft
    Lot size: 20.43 ac

See all Real estate matching your search.
(all data current as of 3/23/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Return of the real estate bidding warsWhat is a real estate bidding war, and why has it been happening in Silicon Valley?

First, let’s explain what it is. A bidding war is when multiple home buyers overbid a property that’s on the market and make increasingly stronger offers (improving price and terms) until one of them is accepted by the home owner and the bidding is over.  Sometimes home buyers get a counter offer, but return their response with even more than the seller requested.  At other times, they may not even wait for a counter offer – but up their contract’s purchase price or adjust the terms to make it more desirable to the seller.

Why does this happen?  It is a supply and demand issue. When there’s not enough supply for the demand, buyers feel desperate – especially if they have offered on many homes and been rejected each time.  With multiple offers, prices get pushed up – and sometimes up and up while the sellers are still reviewing the contracts in front of them.  The process is accelerated (or exacerbated) when multiple offers also become bidding wars.

Digging deeper with bidding wars

When a lot of home buyers want the same property and write purchase offers for it, we have multiple offers.  In some markets, multiple offers come in at or under list price (I have seen this in cooler markets, though not for many years). But when the realty market is an overheated seller’s market, inventory is too low for the demand, prices rise with those multiple bids. Additionally, the terms get so aggressive that buyers often have few, if any, rights.  Remember, it’s always price AND terms – so things like cash versus a loan, larger downpayments, shorter or no contingencies, and things like free rent backs will also impact the outcome.  It is not only price! When the offer process escalates,  we have bidding wars.

How do bidding wars come about?

This can happen intentionally, as when home sellers knowingly under price the property to attract multiple buyers with the hope of bidding wars and the listing agent reveals to each one what has been offered so far to elicit higher & better offers, or it can happen unintentionally, when the owner and agent priced the home in line with the comps and the market, but there’s an unexpected avalanche of interest. (The latter has happened to me when I priced a listing to be exactly in line with the market, but got 20 offers and a lot of overbidding.)   Either way, the result is similar.  Buyers up their price and sweeten their terms to win the deal, and they keep trying until the home is under contract. Continue reading

Where have all the offers gone?Real estate agents from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are relaying that although it’s still a strong seller’s market, they are seeing fewer numbers of offers.  Where there used to be perhaps a dozen bids, now maybe there are 5.  For properties that might have gleaned six offers in March, now there are 2 or 3.  Even with just three offers, overbids are the norm and frequently, the successful bidders are the ones going in with few or no contingencies for loan, appraisal or inspection.  (That’s not a safe practice and not recommended, but the reality is that sellers want to know that once’s it’s sold, it is going to close for sure – so they pick the buyers who will take on all the risk and who also bring in the best price.)

And, as before, not every home gets multiple offers.  Some get no contracts at all.

There’s so much hype about the multiple offers and overbids and bidding wars that many Silicon Valley home owners have unrealistic expectations regarding the summer real estate market and find themselves very disappointed with the results of their labors in getting the property to market.

Unfortunately, our multiple listing service, MLSListings.com, does not track the numbers of offers, so we do not have an official way of measuring what’s happening with this particular factor.  Networking with other agents, writing and receiving offers, though, Realtors are “boots on the ground” and can gauge the market with issues like this before the impact shows up in other measurable data such as the sale price to list price or days to sell.

Sellers, don’t worry – it is still a fine time to sell your San Jose, Los Gatos or nearby home.  It is very important to work with a great realty professional who will guide you on pricing, staging, showings, and every other facet so that you maximize your net takeaway in this market.  Some home owners will be unrealistically optimistic about the market conditions and will overprice their homes.  Don’t be that seller who gets set up for failure in a market where success is probable.  Understand that summer markets are usually cooler than spring and that getting things right is more important now that there is less buyer interest.  One good offer is all it takes, but if you can get two or three, you should be set up for a happy ending.

  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,254 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,270 sqft
  2. 2 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,292 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,009 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,423 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,060 sqft
  4. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 853 sq ft
    Lot size: 871 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,939 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,918 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,604 sq ft
    Lot size: 5,749 sqft
  7. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 712 sq ft
    Lot size: 696 sqft
  8. 2 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 1,125 sq ft
    Lot size: 566 sqft
  9. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,442 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,143 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,083 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,049 sqft

See all Real estate in the Santa Clara community.
(all data current as of 3/23/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

Buy less than you can affordIf you are purchasing a home in a seller’s real estate market, as is the case in the San Jose area today, you may be horrified to learn that the successful bidders are those who write contracts far above list price, include few or no contingencies for loan, appraisal, and inspection, and of course take the property in “As Is” condition.

Because inventory is about half of normal, home sellers can do very few repairs and will still garner multiple offers if the home looks good, is priced attractively and marketed well.  Often there’s fresh paint and new carpets, and frequently these properties are nicely staged too.  The pre-sale home inspections – which you should read carefully prior to submitting  your contract – for property, pest, roof, chimney etc. may reveal that work is needed, such as tenting or fumigating for drywood termites, repairs in bathrooms for dry rot, plumbing, heating or roofing at the end of their usable life.

Planning to purchase a Silicon Valley home soon? In this climate, home buyers absorb the costs to make the home move in ready in most cases.  How much does that cost?  As a rough estimate, set aside about 2% of the home’s value for repairs.  In some cases it will be less, and others more.  For instance, if you set your sights on a home with a pool but plan to remove and re-landscape it, you’ll want to budget in that cost as well.

Ideally, you will be purchasing below what you can truly afford or are qualified for.  Where problems happen the most is when buyers look to the top of their range, then have to bid higher still, and finally get stuck doing repairs as well.  Aim lower at the very beginning so that you are factoring in everything which will make up the true cost to purchase – count the overbids and repairs as part of your formula.  If you qualify for a $1 million purchase, try to look at homes priced closer to $800,000.  Often those houses are selling at 10-15% over list price (more in places like Cupertino, Palo Alto and less in areas such as Blossom Valley, Morgan Hill).  If you can comfortably use this strategy, you will not be as likely to get home buyer burnout or quite so stressed with the final outcome.

  1. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,477 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,751 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,356 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,407 sqft
  3. 4 beds, 4 full baths
    Home size: 3,036 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,363 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 2 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 2,656 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,013 sqft
  5. 3 beds, 3 full baths
    Home size: 2,890 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,015 sqft
  6. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,569 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,102 sqft
  7. 1 bed, 1 full bath
    Home size: 1,120 sq ft
  8. 3 beds, 2 full baths
    Home size: 1,800 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
  9. 2 beds, 1 full, 1 half baths
    Home size: 900 sq ft
    Lot size: 2,221 sqft
  10. 2 beds, 1 full bath
    Home size: 888 sq ft
    Lot size: 9,016 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Palo Alto.
(all data current as of 3/23/2017)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

In our overheated Silicon Valley real estate market with so many multiple offers, a lot of properties are selling to “all cash buyers”*.  Some of the contracts are written as all cash when in fact the buyers are actually trying to get a loan (for all kinds of reasons, perhaps including tax reasons). Listing agents and home sellers are wary of the promise of an all cash offer when the close of escrow is long.  Really buying all cash?  You can close in a few days, not a few weeks, if that’s the case.

Home buying all cash but not really

What’s the problem with getting a loan, anyhow?

Continue reading

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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


Selling homes in
Silicon Valley:
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
:
Special focus on:
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Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.
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