Sunday, November 19, 2006

October 2006 Marin Real Estate Newsletter


The best way to describe the current Marin Real Estate Marketing is “interesting.” 2 weeks ago I know of a great San Anselmo property that went into contract just 4 days after it was put on the market for well over asking. This was a great family house in a popular neighborhood. What does the future look like? I feel that homes that are priced correctly, in desirable neighborhoods, in move-in condition are still selling quickly. Homes that are priced for last year’s market (over-priced), that are not in optimum selling condition or that have major drawbacks are sitting on the market.

These statistics show how many homes are available for sale in Marin, and of those how many are currently in contract (either pending or contingent). Last month the Marin market place had moved into a “Strong Buyers” market, but this month it has moved slightly back into a “Buyers Market.”

For the 3rd month in a row, homes priced under $500,000 continue to sit on the market longer and are still in a “Strong Buyers” Market whereas homes priced from $500,000 to $1,499,000 are in a “Buyers Market.”

It’s hard to believe but one Marin town has heated up into a Seller’s Market – this means that it’s becoming harder to find a home to purchase in the town of Larkspur. Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Novato and San Rafael are all in a “Buyers Market.” Fairfax, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, Tiburon and Sausalito are all in a “Strong Buyers” Market. Belvedere and Ross are in an “Extreme Buyers” market.

Days on Market (DOM): The Average DOM continues to increase slightly – 78 days for September - This means that it is taking an average of 2.5 months for houses to go into a PENDING status. A note of clarity. This does NOT mean when the house goes into contract (as it is still in a contingent state). The DOM clicker is stopped when all contingencies are removed, which is not entirely accurate at tracking how long it takes to get a house into contract. For example, a seller may have a house go into contract just 1 or 2 weeks after it is first listed, but with a long contingency period (say 45 days). This would mean that the DOM would show almost 2 months for that house to sell, whereas it was generally off the market after only a few weeks.

And for those of you who do read these stats, I’d love to know that you find the information useful! It actually takes me quite a lot of time to track, compile and post the data each month – and I’d love to know that it is being utilized! Send me an email to let me know you like getting it!
If you know of anyone who would like to receive this monthly newsletter or is thinking of either buying or selling a home please let me know. I’d love your referrals!

October Stats

*Key to market type:
0% - 10% of Homes in Escrow: Extreme Buyers
36% - 45% of Homes in Escrow: Sellers
11% - 20% of Homes in Escrow: Strong Buyers
46% - 55% of Homes in Escrow: Strong Sellers
21% - 30% of Homes in Escrow: Buyers
56% - 100% of Homes in Escrow: Extreme Sellers
31% - 35% of Homes in Escrow: Balanced Market

**Based on information from Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, Inc. (BAREIS). Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change and is based on one period of time.”
***Includes all: Sale Pending & Contingent properties

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The Neighborhood Homes Sold listing is a weekly reader feature of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is provided by California REsource, a title abstracting company. The home addresses, sales price, number of bedrooms, square footage and the year the homes were built are based on information supplied from Bay Area counties' property transaction records which, in some cases, may not be complete. Neither The Chronicle nor California REsource guarantees the completeness or accuracy of the information. Questions or requests for additional information should be directed to Cal Resource at

Click on the following link to see what price homes sold for in your neighborhood:

View home sales

FREE…..You can search for Marin listings directly on Search for Homes


The housing market will continue to stabilize in the months ahead, according to NAR's most recent Pending Homes Sales Index (PHSI). In August, the PHSI stood at 110.1, up 4.3 percent from the previous month and down 14.1 percent from August 2005. The index gauges home sales activity for upcoming months based on the number of transactions that have signed contracts but are not yet closed. A PHSI of 100 or more generally indicates a high level of homes sales activity."Our sense is that home sales may have reached a low in August -- the Pending Home Sales Index shows home sales should be fairly stable over the next two months, although a minor decline is possible," said NAR Chief Economist David Lereah. "With fewer new listings coming on the market, we should be able to draw down the inventory supply early next year to the point where home prices will rise, but at a slower pace than historic norms."The PHSI declined across the nation in August compared with the readings a year ago. On a regional basis, the PHSI was highest in the South, where it declined 9.4 percent to 126.8. In the West, the index fell 16.9 percent to 112.7. The PHSI also declined in the Northeast and Midwest regions, falling to 95.4 and 93.8, respectively.


60-Day Notice to Terminate Revived: Beginning January 1, 2007, a residential landlord must generally give a 60-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenant. However, a 30-day notice to terminate is permissible if any tenant or resident has lived in the property for less than one year, or if the landlord has sold the property in the manner specified by the law. The 60-day notice does not apply to fixed-term leases (e.g. a one-year lease). It also does not apply if it is the tenant, not the landlord, who terminates a month-to-month agreement, in which case the tenant may give merely a 30-day notice. To comport with this new law, C.A.R. will release a new standard form 60-day notice of termination which will also set forth the requirements for the 30-day exception when landlords sell their properties. This law will sunset on December 31, 2009. Source: Assembly Bill No. 1169

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By: Michelle C. Lerman

1. IF YOU HAVE MINOR CHILDREN, YOU NEED A WILL. Through a will, you can nominate a guardian for your minor children. Choosing a guardian should be a carefully reasoned decision made by you, the parents. If you were to die without a will, a court would appoint the guardian for your children.

2. IF YOU OWN A HOME, CONSIDER A LIVING TRUST. You can eliminate the time and expense of probate by holding assets in a living trust. A family in California owning a home worth $500,000 and has no other assets will likely have to pay statutory probate fees of about $13,000. If the home were put into a living trust, the probate fees would be zero. However, in some circumstances, probate offers important benefits such as the guidance and involvement of the probate judge. Further, even if avoiding probate were an important goal, a living trust is not the only vehicle for avoiding probate.

3. DETERMINE THE TYPE OF LIVING TRUST YOU WANT. Beware of trust mills that prepare one-size-fits-all living trusts. The most critical part of the estate planning process is the initial conference to determine whether you need a living trust and if so the type of trust you need. If your estate will likely be subject to estate tax, then an ABC Trust (3 sub-trusts are funded after the first spouse’s death) or a Multi-generational Trust (assets are kept in trust for your children/grandchildren) may be appropriate. If, however, with the increasing estate tax “exclusion”, your estate likely will not be subject to estate tax, then an ABC Trust might result in increased expenses and income tax liability. In addition to discussing the type of trust, during the consultations with your estate planning attorney, you will want to discuss other issues: the benefits of a testamentary “separate share” versus “sprinkling” trust for your children, the factors to consider in choosing a successor trustee, and assuming you need an ABC Trust, the different types of formula clauses. An estate planning specialist who drafts a customized living trust after a thorough consultation and careful review of the issues will surely charge more than the trust mill who prepares a cookie-cutter trust (meaning a generic form trust that is not customized to your particular circumstances), but the benefits, including your peace of mind, will outweigh the added expense.

4. HOLDING ASSETS AS JOINT TENANTS ONLY DELAYS PROBATE WHERE HOLDING ASSETS IN A LIVING TRUST AVOIDS PROBATE. Holding title to property as joint tenants delays probate, but does not avoid probate. Holding property as joint tenants has disadvantages: unmarried individuals may be increasing their potential estate tax liability, and a married couple may loose the benefits of the full step- up in tax basis upon the first spouse’s death, resulting in higher income taxes. At a minimum, if you are married and you do not have a living trust, consider holding title as “husband and wife as community property with rights of survivorship” as an alternative to “joint tenants”.

5. CONFIRM THAT YOU’VE NAMED BENEFICIARIES FOR YOUR IRA, 401K AND LIFE INSURANCE. Review your beneficiary designations carefully, and confirm that your designations comply with the current law. If you have young children, consider having your living trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance so that the insurance proceeds can stay in the trust until your children are older and more able to manage the proceeds.

Michelle Lerman practices exclusively in estate planning, probate and trust administration. In 1993, she and her husband, Jeffrey H. Lerman, founded their firm, now called Lerman Law Partners, LLP, which has offices in Los Angeles and San Rafael. In addition to estate planning, the firm has expertise in business, real estate, litigation and finance. Visit their website at

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By Arrol Gellner

There are three project ideas I hear from homeowners again and again -- probably because at first glance they seem like dirt-cheap ways to add space. Alas, all three are far from being the slam-dunks people think they are. They go something like this:
"We just want to move this wall out a couple feet." This idea usually reflects the hope that a modest addition will translate into modest cost. Actually, the opposite is true. Expanding a room by 2 feet or 10 feet hardly changes the labor involved because all the complications found in the larger addition -- tying into existing roofs, extending utilities, matching existing finishes, and the like -- are found in the small one as well. The actual savings due to the reduced area of floor, walls and roof is trivial. What's more, since you gain only a pitiful number of square feet for all this trouble, your cost per square foot goes sky high.Moral: If you're going to bother adding on, add the maximum area that circumstances, budget and reason will allow. Small additions do not make for small costs.

"We want to go up a story." On the face of it, adding upward instead of outward seems to make sense. The foundation is already done, right? Not necessarily. In most cases, foundations built to support a one-story house are not adequate to support two stories. In the past, building departments have let this problem slide -- which is why you see so many older additions of this kind -- but not anymore. Nowadays, adding a second story often requires foundation reinforcement or even total replacement, neither of which are minor propositions.

Adding a story also means you'll need to carve out an area of at least 3 feet by 11 feet (but probably more) for a staircase, hopefully in a spot that makes sense in terms of circulation. Often, this requires sacrificing a downstairs bedroom, which instantly wipes out the gain of one of the bedrooms you're presumably adding upstairs. Lastly, depending on the character (and the characters) of your neighborhood, you may risk riling up your neighbors by adding a looming second floor and potentially cutting off their views or sunlight or both. In the past, this was their tough luck, but today, it's more likely to be yours.

The upshot: If you've got nowhere else to go but up, so be it, but adding outward is generally an easier, cheaper and less disruptive way to gain space.

"We want to raise the house and put a story underneath." Usually, folks with this idea are already planning to replace their foundation for one reason or another, so they figure it's a great chance to double the size of their house in one fell swoop. As you might guess, though, this project has all the headaches of adding a second story and then some. The same staircase problem applies, but now there's also the additional yet frequently overlooked challenge of getting from the sidewalk up to your front door -- which, you'll recall, is now way, way up in the air. If you're concerned about resale value, it's also worth noting that houses with bedrooms beneath the main living area are less popular with buyers than those with more conventional arrangements. This isn't to say that these three approaches aren't worth considering. If the inherent problems are anticipated and properly dealt with, any one of them can yield a perfectly good project.

Still, if there's space available, building a right-sized addition at ground level is usually cheaper and easier.


Invite your clients, friends, neighbors, etc. to this valuable program from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Marin Association of Realtors (MAR) offices. Learn how to prepare your home, your office and your car for a disaster, and how the Marin Medical Reserve Corps will be deployed in the event of a disaster. This free program will be conducted by Brian Waterbury, former division chief of the San Rafael Fire Department and former coordinator of San Rafael's Disaster Area Response Team (DART) program. Space is limited to 60. Call MAR at 415-507-1000 today to reserve your seat. For more information, "click here" to access the MAR Web site; after log-in select "Preparing for a Disaster".

FREE…..You can search for Marin listings directly on Search for Homes


“David and I still talk about the incredible website you created to help showcase our home on Greenfield Avenue. We know the website helped create the tremendous interest we had in our home which resulted in the eleven offers and bidding war. It also demonstrated just one of the many ways you provided us with excellent client service.”
-D&D Henzyl

If you would like to have Liz help you sell your Marin home or help you in finding a home, or you know of someone that could benefit from her services, just send her an email:

“High-Touch through High-Tech”: Did you know that Liz McCarthy is ePro Internet Certified by the National Association of Realtors and that 70 percent of home buyers today use the internet in their home search? Why are you still working with a Realtor who isn’t a technology expert?

What this means to you:

Home Buyers: Liz is an expert in helping save you time by using the internet, email and other technology resources to help save your valuable time and money. She knows how busy you are!

Home Sellers: Liz will market your home extensively on the internet: a personal property website (see or for samples), she will post your home on over 50 websites.


Marin median price – Sept 25, 06: $827,500 (Source: SFGate)
Calif. median home price - August 06: $576,360 (July 06: $ 567,360) (Source: C.A.R.)
Calif. highest median home price by C.A.R. region Aug 06: Santa Barbara So. Coast $1,190,000 (July: $1,075,000) (Source: C.A.R.)
Calif. lowest median home price by C.A.R. region Aug 06: High Desert 332,900 (July 06 $ 333,330) (Source: C.A.R.)
Calif. First-time Buyer Affordability Index - Second Quarter 06: 23 percent (Source: C.A.R.)

Mortgage rates - week ending 10/05/06: (Source: Freddie Mac)
· 30-yr. fixed: 6.3%; Fees/points: 0.3%
· 15-yr. fixed: 5.98%; Fees/points: 0.4%
· 1-yr. adjustable: 5.46%; Fees/points: 0.7%

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1 comment:

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