Why the need for Earnest Money?

Today’s blog is short but sweet. But since I get asked this question a lot, I thought that I’d address it.

Perhaps it is best to first answer the question, what is earnest money (EMD for short)? Earnest money deposit comes up in Paragraph 3A in the offer. It’s the first item in financing the property, right after purchase price. EMD can be anywhere from 1 – 3% of the purchase price. planning for deposit

The standard in most areas is 3%. Why?

Take a look at Paragraph 21B. REMEDIES FOR BUYER’S BREACH OF CONTRACT: LIQUIDATED DAMAGES. Liquidated damages for breach of contract are set at 3%. By voluntarily putting 3% up for the earnest money deposit, the buyer is showing that they are serious about following through with the contract and will not back out at the least minute.

If you are a buyer, one thing to keep in mind is that the sellers are very often as nervous as you are. They want to sell their home and – presumably – if you’re in contract they want to sell their home to home. However, sellers are as concerned about you backing out as you are about finding something wrong with the property.

That’s why it’s really important to start planning. While there is some creative financing, in a competitive market like the one we are in now, seller’s are wary of buyers coming in with 0$ down and asking for a credit for closing costs. It does happen and offers like this can be successful; however, why not put yourself in the best possible position to have your offer accepted in this real estate game?

 

Make Moving with the Family Easier

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Today is the third component in our ongoing guest blogging. I’d like to welcome Alexis Hall. Alexis is a single mom to three kids. She created SingleParent.info to provide support and advice for the many families out there with only one parent in the household.

How to Make Moving With Children Easier and Happier for the Whole Family

Moving to a new home, and often, to a new city entirely, is simply a part of life. Making a move may feel simple when you’re single or a couple without kids, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you have children. If your family is planning a move, know that it can be an overall positive experience using these tips to help along the way.

Finding Your Family Home

As you start searching, you may come to realize that your ideal home is different from what you wanted before having kids. Before making any big decisions, spend a little time researching the best prices and neighborhoods in your region. The average sale price for homes in Fairfield, CA, is $475,000.

With this information in hand, start your home search with a few key points in mind:

Get to Know the Neighborhood: The neighborhood your family ends up in is just as important as the house itself. Think about your family’s lifestyle and what matters the most to you. Do you want a neighborhood that is within walking distance to schools or parks, or are you OK with being in a less walkable neighborhood if the streets are quiet and ideal for children? Besides your own unique needs, there are several ways you can tell if a neighborhood is thriving and an overall good place to be. Drive or walk around to see if people are out on the streets walking or biking, if houses tend to look like they have been improved, and if you see churches and signs of city services.

Put Practicality Over Emotions: Buyers often fall in love with a home that feels just right, but then they realize that it doesn’t actually meet their family’s needs. Families with children should look closely at a home’s floor plan and yard. Think about whether you want all the bedrooms on the same level if you have small children, or if you want a flat yard for outdoor play. It’s completely OK to have a “feeling” about a house, but don’t let a feeling cloud your judgment.

Managing the Move

Moving can be scary and highly emotional for children. The best approach is to communicate about it with kids as soon as you know you’ll be moving and to keep the conversation going. Kids need to process their feelings about the change. One idea from Scholastic is to encourage them to write in a journal or draw pictures about the move. Kids who are old enough can also get involved in packing. Give them some independence in making choices about how they pack.

Don’t forget that while you are doing plenty of research into your new home and neighborhood, your children may not know what to expect. Spend some time helping your kids get familiar with the new area. Talk about what your new neighborhood has that they will love, and start exploring the area together, if possible. For young children especially, talk about what won’t be changing too. Make sure they know you’re bringing all of their possessions to the new home.

Settling In

When you first move into the new house, unpack your children’s rooms first so they start to get a feel for their own space surrounded by things that are familiar. In the days and weeks to come, help kids adjust to the change by keeping your schedule as routine as possible. You can also do some special family activities in those early days to start creating positive memories in your new home and neighborhood. The Art of Happy Moving blog suggests going to your local library or setting up a lemonade stand to get to know the neighbors.

While moving with children isn’t always ideal, it doesn’t have to be traumatic. You know you’re making the right move, and it will be best for everyone in the long run. There will still be bumps in the road, but these tips will help your whole family bounce back and adjust with less stress.

Photo credit: Pexels

A Wrinkle in Time…

One of my all time favorite books. If you haven’t read it, make the time. It’s well worth it…but today’s blog isn’t about that. Today I want to talk about time wishing the offer process. There is often a lot of confusion surrounding what happens – in fact, I just went through a similar process where the time for the other party to respond expired…twice! There are a few key points to keep in mind. Some may sound rudimentary but you would be surprised at how the pressure of the situation can affect an individual’s sound judgment. But that’s what you have us there for, right?

  1. Just because you submitted an offer, doesn’t mean that it has been accepted: Simple, right? People generally only get confused about this part a little later into the counter offer process but I’ve seen it start at the very beginning. Buyer rights an offer and asks, “So what’s the next step? When and where do I give my deposit too?” Unfortunately, next step is to wait until we see what the seller says. Boiler plate language on the contract states that the seller has three days to respond.pexels-photo-280254.jpeg
  2. Three days starting…now? Yes, but this can get a little confusing…but it’s still better than it used to be. The day you submit an offer (or counter offer) is day zero. You then have three additional days to wait for a response. For example, if you submit an offer on Monday at 3:30pm, the seller has until Thursday at 5pm (close of business) to respond. Feels like four days, right? The waiting can be interminable. If your agent knows that offers are due on a certain day, you can always ask them to shorten the time frame to respond.
  3. What happens when time runs out? You’ve blown past day three and still haven’t received a response from the seller or buyer. Hopefully your agent is in contact with the other side so that you know what’s going on. But if they aren’t…what now? Officially your offer has expired. If the other side wants to accept it they can but you are no longer bound by it. You do have a couple of options. You have the right to leave your offer open and go into contract. You also have the right to walk away. Your offer has expired and it is no longer valid. Just because the other side wants it now doesn’t mean that you still do. Make sure, however, that your agent communicates to the other side your intention.

Real estate is not a zero sum game. It is meant to be a win-win situation for all parties involved. There are times when it is difficult to get all parties on the same page because of distance; some times parties aren’t as technologically savvy as others and so you still need a “wet” signature rather than a digital one. Just make sure that your agent is talking to the other side as well as you. Communication the most important assets in real estate.

I’ve Got a House Crush…

American Canyon edition!

I actually have a couple of homes that I’m eyeing for the right buyer. The first is 442 Lucina Drive in Napa Square. It’s rough…it’s really rough even at $469,000. The bedrooms are a little small but the living space has a ton of potential. There is a small family room with fireplace immediately off to your left as you walk through the door. This gives way to a formal dining room and wet bar. The kitchen is massive but has enough wasted space that it makes you want to channel your inner Chip & Joanna…take out a wall and add an island. Here’s a quick video of the living area. It’s listed by Debora Graftaas w/ Homes 4 All Realty, Inc. Contact me now to set up a showing.

Next up on my mini tour was 233 Newberry offered at $529,500 and exclusively listed by Verna Mustico with Mustico Realty in Vallejo.

I love this part of American Canyon, perhaps even more than Rancho Del Mar. It’s just a long half-block from Donaldson Way Elementary, the Rec Center and another short jaunt to the middle school. Standard 3 bed, 2 bath, 1600±sf home.

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The carpet needs to be replaced and the kitchen could use some updating (I know…white tile counters should never have happened). Nevertheless, the layout of the home works well and there is a fantastic flow throughout the house. The bedrooms – including a well proportioned master suite – are nestled in the back of the home allowing for some privacy. The slider off of the master bedroom could be replaced by French Doors. The outside of the home is spectacular. It appears that there are several mature fruit trees and there is so much space…the tax record shows .18 acres but the lot feels larger.

I had some friends who lived on Crawford Way with a similar layout. They had their main family area in the living room to the left as you walked in with the TV and couches, etc. They turned the family room off the kitchen into more of a studio (he is an artist) but one could easily turn it into an office or small gathering area if so desired. The best part, though, was definitely the outside. They had enough room for two patio tables, a large grill and a dry bar. This back yard is easily the same size.

If you’re interested in seeing either of these two homes – or any home in American Canyon, Napa or Solano Counties – contact me today: 707.853.0797 | rich@napasolanohomesforsale.com

 

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When Things Fall Apart…

Casey Stengel once said, “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had plenty of them.” That is certainly true for trying to get a transaction closed in real estate. There are any number of ways to delay closing. My first mentor (who also happens to be my mom…in fact I got into real estate helping her with marketing) told me that there is a point in every transaction where it looks like things are going to fall apart. This was sound advice. It is a rare transaction where things breeze through.

There are several choke points in a transaction (as illustrated in the CAR info graph below) but I’ve found that the hardest is the request for repairs. Lorna Hines says that the true power in any negotiation is being willing to walk away, but the art is in never having to do so. Buyers frequently want more than the seller is willing to give. Here is where an agent’s negotiating skills come into play. The beauty of real estate is that it is supposed to be a win-win situation. Both sellers and buyers should walk away happy. If that doesn’t happen, then one of the agents isn’t doing his/her job.

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Just Sold – 209 Landana St

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I am excited to welcome a new family to the neighborhood…my neighborhood to be exact. Just half a block down from my home, 209 Landana St in American Canyon sold for $460,000. I was able to negotiate a credit towards closing costs and repairs for my clients prior to close of escrow.

This darling 3 bed, 2 bath home is in the heart of Rancho del Mar. It was completely gutted and rehabbed. Newer roof, all new floors, updated bathrooms and an absolutely exquisite new kitchen. I love that the company that redid this home took out the wall between the kitchen and the living area. It was beautifully done. Add a pool and you have a couple of very, very happy first time home buyers.

2018 American Canyon RE Market Prediction

The American Canyon real estate market looks to remain strong in 2018. With fantastic schools, rising interest rates and likely continued lack of inventory you can expect the home prices to continue to rise. Most prognosticators expect the national market to continue to rise 5-8% and I don’t see any reason why American Canyon should see a similar increase.money-coins-stack-wealth-50545

The median home sales price for 2015 was $452,000 (164 units sold), in 2016 was $474,000 (167 units sold), and so far in 2017 it is $515,500 (142 units sold). The number of sold units is fairly consistent although 2017 will be slightly lower. Still, this is a far cry from the 292 units sold in 2011 at the height (or is that bottom) of the recession. Thankfully the median sales price is significantly higher than the $282,000 in 2011 as well.

As Vallejo City Unified continues to struggle with its image, families in Vallejo continue to move across the county line for perceived better schools. American Canyon has a darling of a high school and programs in the middle school that continually win awards along with superior elementary schools. It doesn’t look like there will be any slow down in the influx of parents looking for a better landing spot for their kids.

Active homes on the market are still hard to come by in American Canyon. There is no significant new construction coming up any time soon and homeowners are staying longer and longer in their homes. There is no reason to believe that there will be an increase in inventory over the next year unless investors start dumping properties.

Thinking of selling or buying your home? Contact me today.

December 2017 Market Update

Dec 2017 Price

OMG! The median sales price and the average sales price in November plummeted in American Canyon…by a lot.  And there are only 20 homes for sale. And the number of homes sold dropped by 1/3 year over year…and…and…and…

It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria of the market place and feel like the sky is falling out from under us…which it isn’t. The median price dropped 17.5%± because we’re starting to see a lot of the smaller, older homes come onto the market. Of the nine homes that sold last month, six were in Rancho del Mar or Canyon Creek. Last year, only three of 14 homes were in the Rancho subdivision.

I am seeing one major trend right now: Rancho del Mar is pushing the bottom of the market upwards at a fast pace as investors start to flip homes that they’ve had as rentals since the recession. These homes are (or appear to be) turnkey and buyers are flocking to them. However, buyers are more discriminating than in the past couple of years. Sellers have to do more than put lipstick on a pig; remodels have to be well done or the buyers are willing to walk away.

There are 17 homes that should close escrow soon (if they haven’t already) so I expect December to be a YUGE month. It will be interesting to see how things start to shake out as we look towards another year of rising house prices.

Dec 2017 Sold Pended

A meeting of minds…

In real estate when we speak of a meeting of the minds we are talking about the buyer and the seller coming together on price and terms. This may also include any needed repairs after inspections and prior to the physical inspection contingency removal. However, some times the meeting of minds has to be between multiple buyers. There are three primary components that need to be agreed upon to get to that meeting of the minds: price, location, and needs vs. wants.keys-in-door

There are two basic steps to price: the pre-approval process & deciding what is a comfortable monthly payment. The first step is relatively easy. You go to your preferred lender (if you don’t have one your agent will) and get pre-approved. However, just because you can get a $600,000 loan with $0 down does mean that you should. Walk through the monthly payments with your lender making sure that you are considering property taxes and any potential Mello Roos or HOA fees that are involved.

I will admit that – for the most part – I haven’t had buyers diverge on location too much. In a situation where both buyers have to commute, both sides are generally amenable to compromise and try to split the difference. Unless an investor, I’ve found that buyers are looking for a quieter spot in an area that feels right to them.poolside

The needs vs. wants, however, is where things can get tricky. It can be hard to distinguish between the two in the heat of the moment – especially in hot markets like American Canyon or Vallejo. Few buyers can get everything, but if their agent is willing to take the time to listen, most buyers can get more of what they want. My recommendation is to focus on the want at first; once a master list has been created it will be easier to cull the list into needs. Once you – as a buyer – have come to an understanding about each other’s needs it will become easier to focus on the wants.

One concept to keep in mind is compromise…sometimes this is with yourself. You might have to give up on a location to get more house; you might have to choose between turn-key and a home that needs a little bit of work; the community pool down the street might just have to be good enough instead of the infinity pool with a view overlooking the Carquinez Straits.

The most important thing throughout the process is to be honest with yourself. Too many home buyers are unhappy with their purchase and have buyer’s remorse. Don’t let this happen to you. Go for as much as you can and – unless there is a compelling reason to move faster – take your time. Yes, it sucks to pay someone else’s mortgage but why pay your own on a home you don’t even like? I can assure you that you will find the right home at the right price in the right location.

To find your next forever home, contact me today.

Let’s find you a home…pt. 3

So we covered knowing the inventory and asking questions. The last important competency that a buyer’s agent should bring to the table is negotiation skills.negotiating

There is no reason for you to leave money on the table. Everything in real estate is negotiable so you better make sure that your realtor® has some experience as a negotiator as well as some extra training. Negotiating is a learned skill so ask your realtor what courses s/he has taken to make him/her better.

My favorite real estate coach, Lorna Hines, teaches that the true power in any negotiations is the ability to walk away. This is true especially for a realtor®. If your agent can’t walk away from any deal that is bad for you because they want that commission…then you need to find a different realtor®. We owe a fiduciary responsibility to our clients; this means that we treat your money like it’s our money.

Our relationship with you is a sacred trust. No one, especially your realtor, should pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do. If you’re feeling that pressure than it’s time to reassess that relationship.