2015 Real Estate Forecast

It’s that time of year when we try to dust off the old crystal ball and see if there are any indications as to what the upcoming year might have in store for us.  While we can never seem to totally rely on that crystal ball’s findings (should have sold our Lake Tahoe house in 2006 despite that ball telling us to hang on), it is always a good idea to at least pay some sort of attention.

Buyers will be most pleased with the just released 2015 California real estate forecast.  While the home sales throughout the state are expected to increase slightly, experts are predicting that home pricing gains will be the slowest in four years.  According to the California Association of REALTORS®, “the California housing market is expected to return to a traditional buyers’ market with less investors due to more available homes for sale with prices flattening out and sales rising at a modest pace.”  As the last couple years have put some buyers home purchasing plans on hold due to the home price increase and strict guidelines for underwriting, this year puts home buyers in a better financial position to make a real estate purchase.

Another plus for buyers looking to purchase more affordable homes is that we are seeing an increase in the variety of programs giving home buyers the ability to buy a home with less than the standard 20% down payment.  For example, there are FHA loans that allow buyers to make a down payment as small as 3.5% of the purchase price.  It still makes us nervous when we see offers with these low down payments come across our desks yet they sure seem to be working.  Mortgage interest rates have been the lowest in years and will most likely rise to around 4.5% which is still historically low.  The positive news continues as unemployment is expected to decrease to 5.8% from the previous year  which was 6.2%.  With all of these factors combined, C.A.R. predicts existing home sales will have an increase of 5.8 % next year as well as reach 402,500 homes sold. The median home price forecast throughout California is expected to increase to $478,700, up 5.2% from 2014.  The median home price for homes in the South Lake Tahoe area is currently $336,000.  If the same rate of  5.2% increase holds true for the South Shore, we should see a median home price of approximately $354,000 next year at this time.

The Bay area specifically is expected to outperform compared to other regions due to tighter housing supply and strong job market.   This is important to note as the majority of Lake Tahoe home buyers come from this area.  On a national level, the 2015 real estate forecast varies depending on which economist you listen to. However, there is a general consensus that, like California, home sales will increase.

5 easy steps to take before listing your Lake Tahoe home

Preparing your Lake Tahoe home to list can seem like an overwhelming task. You will often times hear friends talking about wanting to do upgrades and remodels before they put their home on the market, which can be very expensive. Getting your home ready to sell doesn’t have to be a huge production with sky high costs. In fact, there are a few simple steps to take before putting your home on the market that are also very affordable.

Declutter. 

After living in a home for years, one can accumulate several items without noticing. When preparing to list your Lake Tahoe home, it is a good idea to go through your junk drawers, closets, garage and any recreational space and get rid of things you don’t use anymore.  Depersonalizing the home is also an extra step to ensure your home is appealing to a wide variety of buyers. After all, a potential buyer likes to imagine themselves in the space, and when they walk into a home that has your favorite color on the walls, your taste in art and a ton of family photos, it can be a bit distracting. This easy step actually serves as a double purpose. It creates a cleaner canvas for the buyer to imagine their things in the home and also gives you an early advantage on packing and storing valuables away from strangers touring your home.

Make sure your home is clean and sanitary.

This means paying attention to the little details when cleaning. Chances are you do a deep clean weekly, with surface cleaning throughout the week. But are you reaching the high up spaces and clearing cobwebs, dusting on top of fans, cleaning blinds and making sure cupboards and all the nook and crannies are clean? A fresh set of eyes will notice something you no longer pay attention to. Additionally, if a home doesn’t seem sanitary, a potential buyer can get scared off. This is also a perfect time to get out the magic eraser for any art done at the hands of little ones, or stains you forgot about.   Even cleaning off your furnace and water heater can make a big impact on the buyers’ eyes.

Fix repairs big and small and get a heads up of ones you may not be aware of.

If paint needs to be touched up, or a small piece of trim replaced, this is the time to do. Over time, homes see wear and tear from living and can usually be fixed easily and affordably at your own hands. For the big stuff, ask your real estate agent for a referral on a local handy man and then schedule a time for them to come out to the property and inspect all the systems that could come up as needing to be replaced on an inspection report. Ask for the cost of each repair to gauge what you can do yourself or what tasks you can delegate to the referred handy man. The water heater, roof, furnace, appliances and electrical are all things most buyers want in working order before closing escrow. Not to mention, any of these repairs or replacements can be highlighted in the marketing that goes into your property such as flyers, postcards, and MLS verbiage.

Once the inside has been taken care of, take a tour of the outside of your home.

There are little things that can go a long way when sprucing up your curb appeal. Is your mail box intact and upright? If not, a new one is affordable. Or repaint and apply new numbers to your existing one. Speaking of numbers, how are your house numbers looking outside? The local home and garden store usually has a plethora of different styles to choose from for a more updated look. Simply planting some new flowers or bushes against the house or along the drive away can also add a lot and cost little. Make sure toys are picked up from the yard and any outside storage is clean and orderly. If you have a bigger budget, consider the exterior paint job, repaving the driveway, hiring a landscaper or replacing shutters or other exterior finishes.

Due to Lake Tahoe’s Mountain conditions, there are a few steps to take that are very specific to our area.

Pine needles can gather in large numbers in yards, decks and walk ways. Clearing these off not only help curb appeal, but they also cut down on surface fuels that can be a fire hazard during dry summer months. In the winter, make sure that your home is easily accessible and snow removal has been done in the driveway and walkways.  Don’t forget to keep your home temperature at a minimum of 60 degrees. Something to keep in mind all year around is that entry ways in Lake Tahoe homes can take a hit due to the granite. Consider buffing your wood floors or replacing the tile entry to make a good first impression. This will go along way when listing your Lake Tahoe Home.

While these are a few of the basic steps one can take in preparing their Lake Tahoe home to list, always be sure to ask your Lake Tahoe Realtor® for other recommendations. Realtor’s® are a fabulous resource of information as they have chatted at length about potential buyers feedback on a home for sale. They are also very familiar with competing homes on the market and what they have to offer in comparison to yours. A quality Lake Tahoe Realtor® will take extra steps to ensure that your home is listed and sold in the shortest amount of time for the highest selling price. If you are thinking of listing your home, call me at 888-827-8957 and let me know how I can help.

Top Questions to Ask at an Open House

As a buyer, you will spend a lot of time touring open houses in Lake Tahoe. While this can potentially be a bit overwhelming and eventually exhausting depending on how many you have had to meander through, this is a great opportunity to get valuable information straight from the seller’s agent. Before you go, come up with a few key questions to ask so that you can make the most of your time. Here are some ideas of what to ask.

How many offers have been made?

This question will most likely be answered honestly as the agent will hope that you make a competitive offer.  This question is key though because it could save you some time if you really like it but can’t go over budget on a home. If you know that this home has an offer, you can keep looking and not get attached as some potential buyers do. Or, if you really want the home, you can prepare to make an offer over the asking listing price.

How many price reductions have there been?

This question does a couple of things. It lets you know how flexible the price is and how motivated the seller. While your agent can get this information for you, the seller’s agent will be able to tell you why a home has been reduced multiple times. It could be as innocent as the seller wants it sold as soon as possible or there is a strict moving deadline. On the other side, they can tell you why a home’s price hasn’t been reduced and may not for some time. Either way, this information is good to have.

How long has this property been on the market?

This is another question your agent can tell you but is also good to get an answer from the seller’s agent. A lot of people seem to assume the worst when they see a home has been sitting for a while. It could be as innocent as a previous offers financing falling through.

What’s the seller’s timeline?

Timing plays such a huge role in everything and sometimes a seller will pick a buyer based on similar timelines. Whether they want to sell quickly or delay it so that their kids can finish school or they can put in an extended notice at work, this is information that can help you put together a tempting offer that benefits them.

Why do the sellers want to move? 

There could be a variety of answers to this question, both good and bad. Chances are, if it is bad, the agent is not going to tell you. Bad schools, increase in crime or loud neighbors could be reasons that someone is interested in selling. While they will most likely not share, you can still ask. Then, on your own, you can do research. Go to the local police department and ask about crimes in that neighborhood. Go and introduce yourself to the neighbors and get a feel for them. Research schools and see what their ratings are. They could simply also want to sell due to outgrowing the home.

What can you tell me about the neighborhood?

Is the nightlife pretty active? Is it a quiet retirement community? What neighborhood events are there? Whether you are looking for a tight knit community or a quiet one where everyone keeps to themselves, this answer will give you some insight on whether the neighborhood is right for you.

Where are the best local places to eat at?

This will hopefully give you a good idea of what local businesses are at your convenience, how accurate the walking score is and just a general idea of the vibe of the neighborhood. If there are local businesses that your neighbors love and are proud to have close by, chances are you will too.

When was the house last updated and are there any issues?

The seller is required to inform potential buyers of any issues, whether they be structural, electrical, a code violation, etc. This information could help you with the initial offer price. While pretty upgrades are nice to look at, making sure all the important stuff is in working order is extremely important.

What is the general cost of utilities?

Some bills are going to be higher some months than others, but it is a good idea to find out utilities cost on average just to calculate it in when you are planning financially for the buy.

While these are just an idea of good questions to ask, you may come up with questions in addition to these or you may feel uncomfortable asking more than a few. Talk with your Realtor about what are the most important and appropriate questions to ask at an open house. The whole purpose of being prepared for an open house to get as much information as possible. For more information regarding the home buying process and local open houses, call 888-827-8957.

How to best search for a home for sale in Lake Tahoe

The ability to search for property for sale has become so easy, it is almost overwhelming. After all, there are a variety of real estate websites such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and more. Believe it or not, there used to be a time pre internet when properties for sale were listed in a book and updated only every few months. This meant when searching for properties for sale, you had two choices: Either rely on your real estate agent to comb that book and send over the information and hope it is current or drive up and down streets looking for signs advertising the home for sale.

Thankfully, technology has made it a bit easier to search for a home for sale in Lake Tahoe. The website that every agent inputs their listings into is called the Multiple Listing Service, otherwise known as the MLS. No matter where an agent is located, they have a local MLS they must not only input their listings into, but update accordingly as listing information changes. The MLS is also the source of information for websites such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia and more.

Now that you know the best source for up to date listing information, next you need to establish what it is you are searching for. Everyone has a list of what their home needs to feature. For example, specific  neighborhoods, the amount of beds and baths, an office, a specific view, the list can go on depending on the person and their lifestyle needs. Having this list upfront saves a lot of time. Once you have created this list of needs, meet with your local Realtor. From there, they will input the criteria and the MLS will yield results within those search parameters. Additionally, an agent will be able to view agent only remarks, which is private details pertaining to a listing. This information could be crucial to know before you take the time to view or act as a heads up if you are still interested. From there, your agent will set up showings for you to do a walk through.

While you can still be proactive and drive around looking for signs advertising a home for sale in addition to searching the most popular real estate search engine websites, the best way to search for a home for sale in Lake Tahoe is through the MLS and a qualified Realtor. These two combined will bring you the most up to date information on the market. If you are interested in getting information on the South Lake Tahoe real estate market, call me today at 888-827-8957.

Potential changes on the horizon for Vacation Rental Ordinance

Living in a resort town has many perks. Beautiful weather, tons of outdoor recreation, world class skiing, great events and so much more. However, some may feel that there are some setbacks that come with the package. On a busy holiday weekend, it is not uncommon to hear a local grumbling about the packed grocery stores, backed up traffic and the loud party at the vacation rental across the street.

While not all vacation rentals are packed with loud partiers, local residents have been making complaints to the police and sheriff departments about the lack of parking, trash left out for the bears and the high noise level being produced from these homes well into the early morning hours.  So much that South Lake Tahoe Police Chief, Brian Uhler, gave a presentation on the Vacation Home Rental Policy to the City Council and Mayor.  First item he mentioned was that vacation rentals generated over $2,000,000 in Transient Occupancy Taxes fiscal year 2014.

While only about 1,500 homes within the city limits of South Lake Tahoe have actual vacation home permits, about 160 of the noise complaints called into the SLT police department were about vacation homes.  About 35% of those required more than one police visit. There are ordinances in place to prevent these types of situations so that renters and residences can co-exist peacefully. For example, the maximum amount of people that can stay in a permitted vacation residence is 2 per each bedroom plus 4. Large parties, commercial events and weddings are not allowed at these properties. Additionally, parking is determined by the size of the driveway.  There appear to be more complaints from vacation rental homes that do not use a local management company.

The most recent council meeting had a mixed bag of comments from community members. A couple of people felt that everything was fine, while some felt that policies needed to be stricter. Truly, local residents don’t want vacationers to feel unwelcome, but they would like them to understand that people do live here year round, have jobs, and can’t have disturbances disrupting their life the whole time a property is being occupied. They just want the policies enforced so that everyone can enjoy Lake Tahoe together.  There were also discussions about the Transient Occupancy Tax these properties bring in and possibly adding an officer specifically to handle these issues during the times the complaints are usually made (10p-3a). Other ideas were adding bear boxes to these properties, having to turn off hot tub jets at a certain time to diminish the issue of people being loud and talking over the jets, or just removing the hot tubs all together.

El Dorado County has started a good neighbor policy with a new brochure to give to all guests and local homeowners with contact numbers to call if there is a problem.

In the meantime,  staff for the City of South Lake Tahoe will be researching these issues and working on revised verbiage for the ordinance. This will be back on the agenda in late January or early February.

Pinnacle Lake Tahoe Getaways has taken an active part in the discussions, attending meetings with the City of South Lake Tahoe vacation rental code enforcement officers, El Dorado County vacation rental officials and the City of South Lake Tahoe City Council meetings. We are working hard to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable visits for our guests and all the local neighbors.