Marin County Real Estate Blog

USDA Loan Guide: What You Need to Know

Understanding USDA Home LoansEven if you're not a farmer, you may qualify for a zero down, low-interest mortgage loan that is 90 percent government guaranteed. It is just one of a broad range of programs that offer resources and assistance to rural communities and there are options for building new, buying existing properties or refinancing existing loans. Most of the USDA loan programs are designed to assist low to mid-income families in rural areas, but you meet some stringent guidelines prescribed by the Rural Housing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What is a USDA Loan?

The Loan Program was initially designed to assist farmers and foster community development, and was administered by the Farmers Home Administration (FHA). Today, it is the keystone of a single-family loan program that helps hard-working Americans build or buy modest housing. The program limits income to no more than 115 percent of adjusted area medians.

The income limit can vary greatly from one part of the country to another. For instance, in some parts of California, the authorized income is more than $140,000. Some suburban areas, known as revitalization zones, have been temporarily approved under the program. One such zone is Half Moon Bay, located just south of San Francisco; the community is in an area known for its "urban farming" activity, although the big city...

Home Sales Expected to Increase Nicely in 2018

Home Sales Expected to Increase Nicely in 2018 | MyKCM

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and The Mortgage Bankers Association are all projecting that home sales will increase in 2018. Here is a chart showing what each entity is projecting in sales for the remainder of this year and the next.

Home Sales Expected to Increase Nicely in 2018 | MyKCM

As we can see, each entity is projecting sizable increases in home sales next year. If you have considered selling your house recently, now may be the time to put it on the market.

Contact the Marin Modern Team, your Marin County real estate connection, for assistance buying or selling a home in Marin County California.


5 Reasons to Sell This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall | MyKCM

Here are five reasons listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing, and able to purchase… and are in the market right now! More often than not, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy a home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market.

This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon.

Historically, the average number of years a homeowner stayed in their home was six, but that number has jumped to an average of almost nine years since 2008. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase....

Report: Homeownership Is a Precondition of the American Dream

Report: Homeownership Is a Precondition of the American Dream | MyKCM

Hearth just released their 2017 State of the American Dream report which showed that Americans still see homeownership as an integral piece of the American Dream. The report confirmed that “all generations–including millennials–agree homeownership is very important to achieving the American Dream.

Americans ranked “owning a home I love” higher than any other options (including “starting a family” and “finding a fulfilling career”) as an important part of the American Dream.

Despite some claims that homeownership’s importance to the American Dream is in decline, the report found that the dream of homeownership remains strong.

Of Americans who said they think achieving the American Dream is important, 70% think homeownership is important to the dream, and 41% think homeownership is very important to the dream.

What about Millennials?

Hearth addresses the desires of millennials by explaining:

“Contrary to popular opinion, millennials who want to achieve the American Dream are 5% more likely than Baby Boomers to think homeownership is important. And two-thirds of millennial renters view homeownership as important to the American Dream.

Although millennials are often portrayed as fickle and transient, they actually seek the stability of homeownership even more than their parents.”

Other Key Findings...

Looking for Your Dream Home? Know What You Want vs. What You Need

Looking for Your Dream Home? Know What You Want vs. What You Need | MyKCM

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale through rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the ‘man cave’ of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?

The first step in your home buying process should be getting pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

  • ‘Must-Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms).
  • ‘Should-Haves’ – if the property hits all of the ‘must-haves’ and some of the ‘should-haves,’ it stays in contention but does not need to have...

VA Loans: What are the Options?

What Kind of VA Loans are ThereOne of the benefits offered to members of the US Armed Forces is the ability to take out a Veteran’s Affair’s (VA) loan when it comes time to buy a home. However, there isn’t just one VA loan that fits all needs, and many veterans don’t realize they have may have options for the loan they want to take out. Here are the different types of VA loans and the different advantages they each have.

VA Purchase Loans

The Purchase Loan is the loan most people think of whenever someone talks about VA loans. With a Purchase Loan, applicants won’t have to pay any closing fees when purchasing a home. However, hey will have to pay a VA Funding Fee that helps the program keep running in the future. The Funding Fee is a one-time payment, and its cost will vary based on the cost of the home that is being purchased. Purchase Loans also typically feature lower interest rates than normal loans as well as 100% financing. 

Native American Direct Loan

As the name might imply, these loans are exclusive to Native American veterans. However, they can only be used if the applicant in question intends to either purchase or build a home on Native American Trust land and has a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to apply for the loan. Native American Direct Loans don’t require a down payment, and the maximum loan limit for most areas can be...

America Needs Your House!!

America Needs Your House!! | MyKCM

The biggest challenge in today’s real estate market is a lack of housing inventory. How big of a challenge is the housing shortage? Here are what four industry economists are saying on the issue (emphases added):

Mark Fleming, First American’s Chief Economist

“The underlying fundamental issue is an overwhelming lack of supply… The supply of newly constructed homes is also sagging, adding to the supply challenges. Over the last eight years, housing demand has increased by 5.9 million, but the net new number of housing units has only increased by 3.5 million.”


What a Home Mortgage Payment Entails

What to Know About Home Mortgage PaymentsMany imagine it as just another bill, but a home mortgage payment is actually a rather complex set of smaller payments that are grouped into one amount. Depending on the type of mortgage one enters into, and the various aspects of their contract, this payment can include four or five separate elements. Let’s break down exactly what a mortgage payment can entail and what other costs are involved in buying a home.

The Basic Components

Two of the more important portions of a mortgage payment are similar to ones encountered when financing a vehicle: principal and interest. In simple terms, a home’s purchase price is what ends up getting paid off after 30 years with monthly principal payments, while the interest is the rate one pays the lender for the ability to borrow money to purchase the home.

Again, just like with auto financing, the trajectory of these payments changes as the loan comes closer to being paid off. Initial mortgage payments will include a large amount of interest and not much going toward the actual loan balance, but as time goes on this changes and more and more of the payment will go toward the principal in the end.

Additional Payments To Consider

Depending on the type of mortgage entered into for your Kentfield home...

Home Inspections. Why They Matter To You!

We have talked about home inspections before, but my recent experience underscores the importance of thorough inspections for both buyers and sellers.

Recently, I had a call from some clients who I had helped to purchase a home several years ago. The value had just about doubled and they wanted to discuss the posibility of selling. 

We decided to put the home on the market and I recommended getting a general home inspection, pest inspection, fireplace/chimney inspection, and a roof inspection with a quotation for replacement. We did not do a sewer-lateral inspection, only because the lateral had been replaced recently. The sellers agreed; we hired some of the best, toughest inspectors in the County, and we included the inspections and estimates in the disclosure package, requiring potential buyers to include signed disclosures along with their offer. Result? The home sold at full asking price with no adjustments or buyer credits for conditions that were unknown at the time of the offer. Why? Because everything was disclosed.

In contrast, another recent sale, where I represented the buyer. Seller provided a pest  report and a general home inspection report from a company that does both inspections at the same time for  a lower fee. In addition, the reports were more than 6 months old. There was no sewer lateral report or fireplace/chimney report. We performed a full array of inspections, which cost about $2,500. A significant amount of needed work was discovered, and my clients received a price reduction of over $10,000---- more than 4 times their investment. Further, they were able to move forward with the purchase with confidence, knowing the true condition of the home. It is not unusual to obtain closing credits or price reductions similar to this, although buyers I have worked with have received up to $150,000 in credit...

Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell?

Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell? | MyKCM

Your children have finally moved out and you and your spouse now live alone in a four-bedroom colonial (or a similar type of house). You have two choices to make:

  1. Remodel your house to fit your current lifestyle and needs
  2. Sell your house and purchase the perfect home

Based on the record of dollars spent on remodeling and renovations, it appears that many homeowners are deciding on number one. But, is that the best long-term solution?

If you currently live in a 3-4-bedroom home, you probably bought it at a time when your children were the major consideration in determining family housing needs. Along with a large home, you more than likely also considered school district, the size of the property and the makeup of other families living in the neighborhood (example: you wanted a block with other kids your children could play with and a backyard large enough to accommodate that).

Remodeling your home to meet your current needs might mean combining two bedrooms to make one beautiful master suite and changing another bedroom into the massive walk-in closet you always wanted. However, if you live in a neighborhood that historically attracts young families, you may be dramatically undermining the value of your house by cutting down the number of bedrooms and making it less desirable to the typical family moving onto your block.

And, according to a recent study, you will recoup only 64.4% of a remodeling project’s investment dollars if you sell in the future.

Your home is probably at its highest value as it stands...

Where Are the Home Prices Heading in The Next 5 Years?

Where Are the Home Prices Heading in The Next 5 Years? | MyKCM

Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey .

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists about where they believe prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

The results of their latest survey:

Home values will appreciate by 5.0% over the course of 2017, 4.0% in 2018, 3.2% in 2019, 3.0% in 2020, and 3.0% in 2021. That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.64% over the next 5 years.

Where Are the Home Prices Heading in The Next 5 Years? | MyKCM

The prediction for cumulative appreciation increased from 17.8% to 18.4% by 2021. The experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey are projecting a cumulative appreciation of 6.7%.


Just Sold. 118 Tamal Vista Drive, San Rafael

I represented the buyers in the purchase of this this remodeled, vintage, 4 bedroom, 3 bath home on a street-to-street lot in the desirable Santa Margarita section of San Rafael.  In a fantastic commute location, close to both Downtown San Rafael and San Anselmo, its amenities include hardwood floors, a chef's kitchen, and a beautiful garden for entertaining or just enjoying days at home. My clients are delighted with their new home, which they were able to find and purchase in under 60 days in this very competitive market, after successfully competing against multiple-offers.

For strategies that work for buyers and buyers and sellers the current Marin County housing market, please check with me.  I'm looking forward to hearing from you.


5 Staging Tips for Home Sellers

Staging Tips For Home SellersIf you approach your decision to sell your home realistically, you will also take some important steps to assure that it is in prime condition, shows well, is priced properly and appeals to the largest-possible pool of potential buyers.

Once you have made the decision, one of the best things you can do is "shop the competition." Visit open houses in neighborhoods like Inverness, or other neighborhoods near you. Look at listings of comparable properties online, and try to understand what's selling and what's not. Ask pertinent questions of real estate agents, and ask a friend or neighbor to view your home with "fresh eyes." You'll gain some new understanding.

But then, it's time to "set the stage" for prospective buyers. Think of staging as a merchandising tool, and know that it's one of the best things you can do to sell your home quickly and for top dollar. Here are 5 ways to do it right.

Consult with a Pro

View an initial consultation with a professional stager as an investment. Staging to sell is not the same as decorating a home to live comfortably. With professional guidance, you'll find ways to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers with the most ease and at a cost-effective price.

If you need additional help with furnishings or accessorizing, the price may...

Want to Keep up with the Joneses? Now's the Time

Does your current house fit your needs? Does it seem like everyone else is moving up and moving on to more luxurious surroundings? Are you wondering what it would take to start living your dream life?

Market conditions around the country have presented an opportunity like no other for those who are looking to make the jump to a premium or luxury home.

The National Association of Realtors reports that national inventory levels are now at a 4.3-month supply. A normal market, where prices appreciate with inflation, has 6-7-months inventory. The national market has echoed the conditions felt in the starter and trade-up markets as inventory has declined year-over-year for 25 consecutive months.

The chart below shows the relationship between the inventory of homes for sale and prices.

According to Trulia’s latest Inventory Report, the inventory of homes for sale in the two lower priced markets has dropped by double digit percentages over the last 12 months (16% for starter and 13% for trade-up homes). While the inventory of homes in the premium home category has dropped by only 4%.

This has created a seller’s market in the lower-priced markets, as 54% of homes were on the market for less than a month in the last Realtors Confidence Index, and a buyer’s market in the luxury market, where homes were on the market for an average of 160 days according to the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing .

Bottom Line

If you are even thinking of listing your home and moving up to a luxury home, let’s get together to evaluate...

Is a Condo the Right Choice for Me?

How to Know if A Condo is the Right Choice for YouMany individuals look at condominiums as they explore the properties available in their area. While condos are not for everyone, many buyers are often happy with their purchase and recommend it to others. How can condo-living beat out other options?

Learn why a condo may be the best fit for your needs and lifestyle.

Condos Have Fewer Maintenance Requirements

Long-term apartment dwellers can find some aspects of condo-living familiar. As a condo owner pays dues to a condominium association, many maintenance needs are taken care of. A condo owner fully owns the property but someone else is hired by the association to mow the lawn and take care of landscaping, yard maintenance, snow removal and roof repair. This is a benefit for those who either cannot or prefer not to address these issues. In addition, single people, young couples and older individuals may want to use their free time in more enjoyable ways than taking care of routine maintenance tasks. Those looking into buying a condo should make sure that the association is well run and there are reserves in the case of necessary capital improvements.

Condos May Cost Less

For those people making their first purchase or looking to downsize, condominiums...

Why Is It Important to Use a Professional to Sell Your Home?

Why Is It Important to Use a Professional to Sell Your Home? | MyKCM

When a homeowner decides to sell their house, they obviously want the best possible price for it with the least amount of hassles along the way. However, for the vast majority of sellers, the most important result is actually getting their homes sold.

In order to accomplish all three goals, a seller should realize the importance of using a real estate professional. We realize that technology has changed the purchaser’s behavior during the home buying process. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2016 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the first step that “… 44% of recent buyers took in the home buying process was to look online at properties for sale.

However, the report also revealed that 96% of buyers who used the internet when searching for homes purchased their homes through either a real estate agent/broker or from a builder or builder’s agent. Only 2% purchased their homes directly from a seller whom the buyer didn’t know.

Buyers search for a home online but then depend on an agent to find the home they will buy (50%), to negotiate the terms of the sale (47%) & price (36%), or to help understand the process (61%).

The plethora of information now available has resulted in an increase in the percentage of buyers who reach out to real estate professionals to “connect...

Sellers: Your Home is an Oasis in an Inventory Desert

Sellers: Your Home is an Oasis in an Inventory Desert | MyKCM

First-time homebuyers are flocking to the real estate market by the thousands to find their dream homes in order to make their dreams of homeownership a reality. Unfortunately for many, the inventory of starter and trade-up homes in the US has struggled to keep up with demand!

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the inventory of homes for sale dropped 7.1% year-over-year to a 4.3-month supply and is down for the 25 th consecutive month.

Some homeowners may be hesitant to list their homes for sale because they are worried that they will also have a problem finding a home to buy and move in to. This is a legitimate concern; no one wants to sell their home quickly and not have anywhere to live.

But there is good news! If you are thinking of moving up to a luxury or premium home, there is more inventory available in these markets and you may even get a great deal on a home that has been on the market for a while.

If you are the owner of a starter home and you are looking to move into a trade-up home, or if you are just looking to relocate to a new area in a home of the same size, there is still hope!

In many markets, homeowners are building contingency plans into their contracts. This means that the homeowner builds in extra time before they close in order to find their dream home and they are upfront about the contingency with any buyers who come to see the house.

Your home is an oasis to buyers who are searching for homes in today’s market. The right buyers...

6 Smart Devices Home Buyers Want

What Smart Upgrades Will Appeal to BuyersWith the rise of smart technology and the influx of new devices made specially for homes, it’s becoming common for home buyers to seek out homes that already have these devices installed. Here are some smart devices that homeowners can install to make the home more desirable to buyers.

Smart Leak Detection Sensors

Sensors like these are the least flashy of the home smart devices. They’re meant to stay out of the way and do one job: alert the homeowner when there’s a water leak. As one can imagine, sensors like this can be an invaluable asset when it comes to damage prevention. A leak detection sensor will notice a water leak long before the homeowner does, and that can mean the leak can be fixed long before there’s any risk of water damage.

Smart Thermostats

Forget to turn off the air conditioning before leaving for work in the morning? With a smart thermostat, users can adjust the temperature at home from anywhere in the world through their smart device of choice. This is desirable not only because it can help save energy, but some models can even learn the user’s schedule and patterns and adjust itself depending on the time of day.

Smart Garage Doors

A smart garage door might be one of the more unexpected entries on this list, especially to people who have yet to adopt any smart home technologies, but they exist, and they’re on the rise,...

Housing Inventory Hits 30-Year Low

Housing Inventory Hits 30-Year Low

Spring is traditionally the busiest season for real estate. Buyers, experiencing cabin fever all winter, emerge like flowers through the snow in search of their dream home. Homeowners, in preparation for the increased demand, are enticed to list their house for sale and move on to the home that will better fit their needs.

New data from CoreLogic shows that even though buyers came out in force, as predicted, homeowners did not make the jump to list their home in the second quarter of this year. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic had this to say,

“The growth in sales is slowing down, and this is not due to lack of affordability, but rather a lack of inventory. As of Q2 2017, the unsold inventory as a share of all households is 1.9 percent, which is the lowest Q2 reading in over 30 years.”

CoreLogic’s President & CEO, Frank Martell added,

“Home prices are marching ever higher, up almost 50 percent since the trough in March 2011.

While low mortgage rates are keeping the market affordable from a monthly payment perspective, affordability will likely become a much bigger challenge in the years ahead until the industry resolves the housing supply challenge.”

Overall inventory across the United States is down for the 25 th consecutive month according to the latest ...

How Long Do Most Families Stay in Their Home?

How Long Do Most Families Stay in Their Home? | MyKCM

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) keeps historical data on many aspects of homeownership. One of the data points that has changed dramatically is the median tenure of a family in a home, meaning how long a family stays in a home prior to moving. As the graph below shows, for over twenty years (1985-2008), the median tenure averaged exactly six years. However, since 2008, that average is almost nine years – an increase of almost 50%.

How Long Do Most Families Stay in Their Home? | MyKCM

Why the dramatic increase?

The reasons for this change are plentiful!

The fall in home prices during the housing crisis left many homeowners in a negative equity situation (where their home was worth less than the mortgage on the property). Also, the uncertainty of the economy made some homeowners much more fiscally conservative about making a move.

With home prices rising dramatically over the last several years, 93.9% of homes with a mortgage are now in a positive equity situation with 78.8% of them having at least 20% equity, ...

Current Homes for Sale
Southern Marin
City # Price Range
Belvedere 20 $2.5m - $17.0m
Mill Valley 64 $495k - $8.0m
Sausalito 23 $795k - $9.0m
Tiburon 47 $985k - $14.9m
Central & North Marin
City # Price Range
Corte Madera 19 $649k - $25.0m
Fairfax 11 $539k - $2.3m
Greenbrae 13 $649k - $3.6m
Kentfield 13 $999k - $15.0m
Larkspur 9 $489k - $4.2m
Novato 123 $289k - $3.7m
Ross 12 $1.7m - $18.9m
San Anselmo 27 $799k - $3.4m
San Rafael 92 $225k - $7.7m
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