Nicole’s Real Estate News – November 2014


After the real estate market surge of last spring and the slow but steady pace of the summer, September existing-home sales bounced back to their highest pace of the year.

According to Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors, “Low interest rates and price gains holding steady led to September’s healthy increase, even with investor activity remaining on par with last month’s market decline.”

Annually, November home sales dip by about 8%. December figures tend to match November, and January’s cold weather creates a low mark of activity. Much stronger activity then arises in March and April.

Rates haven’t been this low since 2013 according to Freddie Mac. With a 30-year fixed-rate averaging 3.92% and 5-year adjustable rate mortgages averaging 2.91%, now may be the time to buy.

November may be the new May. If you want to check out our local inventory now, let’s meet. Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.


I always say that real estate is local. Still, let’s step back and look at the recently released Forbes’ annual list of America’s Most Expensive ZIP codes based on data from Altos Research.

Of the top 10 ZIP codes nationwide, New York dominates 6 of the 10 slots. The most expensive top 3 are New York City, Southampton, and Lower Manhattan. In California, Atherton is the only Bay Area ZIP code to make the top 10 list. Colorado and New Jersey round out the top 10.

The overall list is dominated by California and New York, which account for 38% and 18% respectively of the 500 most expensive ZIP codes. Of the top 50, California takes 26 slots and New York takes 17.

If you want to know more about our local prices, give me a call.

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – October 2014


Real estate is cyclical and seasonal. Every year, as the school year begins and fall leaves appear, home sales invariably decline. There are not as many home buyers. This year, we are coming off of a summer that slowed in comparison to previous years. The reason for the slower pace is attributed to rising home prices, fewer investor purchases, first time home buyers, and diminishing inventory.

For the past 15 years, the average decline in sales from summer to fall has been 16.4% per the National Association of Realtors. In October, homes sales are usually steady. Then in November, home sales dip again by an average of 8%. January can see a dip in sales of 27%, then February starts the rise. By March and April, the market springs back and continues into the summer.

But real estate is also local. Although the NAR reports that sales in the South and West declined at the end of the summer, areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles continued to experience multiple offers and surging sales prices, due to strong business climates and low inventory.

The economy is growing, jobs are being created and interest rates are low. Home sales are expected to rise. Now is the time to evaluate your real estate needs and plan for your future. I look forward to sharing our local stats with you.


Q: Is real estate a good investment?

A: Simply put, yes it is. Not only is your home a major investment with strong potential for increased value, but also a rental property may pay big dividends. Last year, overseas buyers spent $92 Billion on home purchases according to the NAR. That is a 35% increase over the previous year.

Nearly one half of the home purchases were for investment only with no plans to live here. 25% of the buyers are from China. They are investing in homes mainly in California, Washington, and New York. The promise of good schools and universities, the strong job market in high tech areas, and the proximity to China lures buyers.

If you are considering investing for income, now may be the time to act. Single-family homes are in demand as rentals. Give me a call.


Boomers and Millenials impact today’s real estate market. estimates that there are 75 million Baby Boomers and 87 million Millenials.

Forbes reports that there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching age 65 every day in America. Baby Boomers feel motivated to sell their houses and move on. Many will stay local but downsize. Others will move to areas that focus on retirement living.

Boomers bought their homes in the 80’s and 90’s, and expanded into bigger homes. According to the U.S. Census, house sizes continued to increase until topping out at an average size of 2,541 square feet in 2007.

Millenials are adults in their mid 20’s to 30’s who want to buy a home but are trapped by tight mortgage lending requirements, rising rent, and high home prices. More than half of all Millenials take a second job to get ahead. 45% of all Millenials have moved back to their parents’ homes to save money.

92% of all Millenials want to buy a home in the future. Will they want the bigger homes that the Baby Boomers want to sell? What are your thoughts?

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – September 2014


Real estate is local, and sales are dependent on supply and demand. In areas where the job market is booming, such as Silicon Valley, CA, prices continue to rise at a rapid pace and inventory remains low. Still, nationwide, the outlook is quite positive. Real estate is on a roll. Sales momentum is building due to stronger job growth and improving inventory conditions.
According to Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, “The number of houses for sale is higher than a year ago and prospective buyers have less hesitation about entering the market. More people are buying homes compared to earlier in the year. This trend should continue for the next four years. Interest rates should remain low and apartment rents are on the rise, driving first time home buyers to enter the market.”

Because affordability is likely to decline in upcoming years, now could be your time to buy. According to national predictions, it is advisable to buy the best property you can now or you may pay a lot more for the same home in a few years.

Let’s make sure you are in the right home as the market continues to move upward. September is a good time to sell your home, so if you are thinking of making a move, give me a call and we can talk.


Money well spent. We all know that “it takes money to make money”. Here are a few important tips to sell your home at it’s highest potential value:

  • “Homes that don’t show well, don’t close well.” You may love your home the way it is and expect that everyone else will too. Yet staging matters – big time. If you doubt that, then go to a few open houses and compare the desirability of a staged home versus a non-staged home. Staging will help you get top dollar for your home.
  • “The cost of repairs is less expensive than the buyer perceives.” Buyers have the right t do inspections during escrow and often raise red flags over items that need repair. If you are a seller, fix items before you get that far.
  • “Price it high, watch it die; price it low, watch it go.” Remember: the owner doesn’t set the price, the market does. Many sellers think that their home is above the price that the current market dictates. Seriously evaluate the comparables. If you think that by next spring your home will be worth more, then let’s talk. We need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of waiting to put your home on the market.
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Nicole’s Real Estate News – August 2014

The Buzz

Summer is in full swing. Real estate activity remains steady but is typically slower as families are away on vacation. Let’s review 2014 to date. The January – April market started strong. As usual, the spring market was our HOT market, yet certain factors slowed sales. Now the summer season is a time for some good buys. Let’s watch DOM, or Days on Market. The longer a home has been on the market, the higher the chance for a good deal.

So what factors slowed sales? Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, reported recently that “Activity is affected by supply shortages, flat wages, and tight credit conditions. A high number of potential buyers are deterred from fully taking advantage of lower interest rates. Price appreciation nationwide has decreased to it’s slowest pace since March of 2012.”

Yun predicts that the national median existing-home price is projected to grow between 5 – 6% this year and in 2015. Of course, in areas of huge demand such as Silicon Valley and San Francisco, the job market continues to push real estate to new levels.

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Nicole Burton and Yvonne Young welcome you!

Hello and welcome to Bel Marin Keys Real Estate – a site dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with real estate relevant matters in Bel Marin Keys.

Firstly, let us introduce ourselves. Both Yvonne and Nicole are Realtors® with Pacific Union International/Christie’s Great Estates.

We have both lived in Marin for essentially all of our adult lives and in Bel Marin Keys for at least fourteen years. Yvonne has been a Realtor® for twenty five years and Nicole has been involved as an investor in real estate and in sales for an equal period of time.

Both of us have a great wealth of experience dealing sensitively and effectively with people – abilities that make for a smooth and positive transaction.

With a dedication to professionalism we enjoy luxury marketing at all price levels supported by the up-to-date technology of a leading international company.

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – April 2014

April marks the beginning of the spring surge in real estate, yet there are current conditions that are impacting this. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, there is a 9% drop in sales activity nationwide from last year at this time. Three predominant reasons explain this:

  1. Lack of Inventory: new homes are needed to entice homeowners to buy up and sell their current homes.
  2. Affordability: prices are much higher and buyers are slow to act.
  3. Mortgage Requirements: while rates are rising, the criteria for qualifying is stringent.

Still, prices are predicted to rise and the level of activity will increase in the months to come. This map from the latest Realtors Confidence Index is a good overview of their findings.

Remember that real estate is local. The San Francisco Bay Area down through Silicon Valley is experiencing multiple offers that drive up prices. Where the economy is strong, statistics are skewed. Let’s talk about your real estate needs.

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – March 2014

The spring buying season has begun. A variety of signs point to the underlying strength that should support real estate sales gains in the upcoming months of March through June. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors, notes that although the severe winter conditions in much of the country held sales down in December and some of January, “job growth and pent-up demand are positive factors.”

A surprisingly strong pace of new-home sales last month has boosted hopes. Sales of new homes rebounded to the fastest rate in more than five years. Sales of new homes rose 9.6% in January. It was the fastest pace since July of 2008.

Lowe’s, the home-improvement retailer, reports that their net income rose 6% in the most recent quarter, thanks in part to the housing recovery.

With anxious buyers and attractive mortgage rates, real estate seems poised for another great spring. Know that I am watching our local market and am ready to help when you need me.



Q: What’s this about a “house crush”?

A: If you’ve found yourself swooning over a house you just can’t get out of your head,  you’re not alone. In a new survey, 69% of the 1,000 respondents said they have had a “home crush” – a home they liked so much that they were drawn back to looking at it more than once online or in person.

Women were more likely than men to have a crush on a home that was out of their league financially, while men more frequently moved from one home crush to another.

Men and women tend to fall for the same things when it comes to houses, though. Of the women included in the survey,

  • 54% loved the outdoor living spaces
  • 42% shared open floor plans
  • 29% revealed updated appliances and fixtures

Of the men included in the survey,

  • 46% loved the outdoor living spaces
  • 30% revealed open floor plans
  • 40% swoon for garages
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Nicole’s Real Estate News – February 2014


Reflection is important in real estate. The years of 2008-2012 marked a downswing and a time of indecision. Buyers were scarce and prices fell. The economy offered no confidence. Mortgage restrictions negatively affected sales. It was a buyer’s market.

Then an upswing began in 2012. By spring of 2013, we were in a seller’s market. Multiple offers were commonplace. Inventory flew off the market. All-cash buyers had the advantage.

By the last quarter of 2013, we moved from a seller’s market to a balanced market, with inventory remaining low.

Looking forward, mortgage rates have remained down but are expected to rise. Job growth is stronger and pent-up demand is higher, according to Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). New home building is up. House flips are up with investors betting on rising prices.

Spring typically sees a rush of sellers putting their homes on the market. Since competition will be higher than, savvy sellers often list their properties well in advance so their home stands out.

If you have thoughts of selling or buying, let’s talk. The time is now.


Recently I wrote about all-cash buyers. They are coming in with full-cash offers that are significantly higher than asking price. Last year, between late spring and summer, multiple offers was the norm.

We are now seeing the effects of investors shutting first time buyers out of the market. Hedge-funds, private equity investors, and foreign buyers who are purchasing lower-priced homes are creating a new single-family rental trade. These homes can be rented by the year but also with a growing interested in monthly or weekly rentals. Websites such as VRBO make it easy to market to the masses.

First-time home buyers represented historically about 40% of the market. As of December 2013, just 27% of sales were to first-time home buyers. That is the lowest percentage since the NAR started tracking in 2008.


Times are changing. Two in every five U.S. households are opting out of landlines for their phones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this number has been rising over the past decade. Roughly 38% of the population, or approximately 90 million adults, now use wireless exclusively.

This doesn’t mean they are restricted to only use their cellphones. There are services that require an Internet connection such as Skype, a free video-chat site, and Facetime.

Ditching the land line will allow you to shed a monthly bill. Just remember, however, that a land line does provide security. Hurricane Sandy disrupted cellphone and Internet service. It does make you stop and think twice about what is best for your household.


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Nicole’s Real Estate News – January 2014


Real estate continues to be a good place to invest. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtor’s Chief Economist, recently stated, “Although the final months of 2013 are finishing on a soft note, the year as a whole ended with the best sales total in seven years.”

Total existing-home sales are expected to total 5.1 million for 2013. That is a gain of almost 10% over 2012. The level is expected to rise to 5.3 million in total sales by 2015. The national median existing home price for 2013 was $197,300 and is projected to rise by 5-5.5% in 2014.

As we approach the busy buying months of the spring season, we are entering a seller’s market. Inventory is down, which drives prices up. I will be watching the mortgage rates in combination with strong price gains for 2014. These factors could slow the market, but sales should remain stable.

May 2014 be a year of happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones.


One trend for 2014 is the entry of more young buyers (ages 35 and younger). Recently released Census data shows that the younger Americans purchase history has improved by .5% over last year and continues to be heading up.

Men and women, especially women, prefer urban locations. Good schools and proximity to work are must haves for both sexes of younger buyers. Being close to restaurants and entertainment rank high on the preference list, while proximity to public transportation and affordable home prices is lower on the list. Most young buyers think of their purchase as at least a five year investment.

Among young Americans, home ownership is gaining steam. That is good news, since they have generally rented and watched the market for the past four to five years .


The ability to qualify for a good mortgage will have a significant effect on the real estate market for 2014. Mortgage reform kicked in on January 10th of this new year.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wrote the new rules. Their goal was to protect homeowners from risky mortgages, according to CNBC’s Money Talk News. The downside is that these rules make it harder for some people to qualify for a home loan.

The Ability to Repay Rule requires lenders to evaluate the financial fitness of the buyer. The ability to repay is based on the buyer’s following variables: assets, employment, monthly payment, other debts, child support or alimony, and credit history. The buyer’s total debt should be less than 43% per these new guidelines.

The ability to put a down payment of 20%+ will help ensure a loan. Statistics show that buyers with very low down payments will have a much higher chance of walking from a loan.

Mortgages insured by the federal government have looser requirements.

Understanding your mortgage options is vital to buying a home today. If you have questions, I can suggest some professionals.

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – December 2013


The housing market in 2013 reflects a seasonal real estate pattern. After the hot housing frenzy in the spring, with multiple offers and rising prices, sales slowed. November data is being tabulated now, but October marked the fifth month of decline.

However, the gains year over year remain higher. The National Association of Realtors’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun recently stated, “Annual existing-home sales should be nearly 10% higher this year than in 2012, totaling just above 5.1 million.”

Why the post-sprint slowdown? Headwinds included limited inventory, falling affordability conditions, slow job creation, the government shutdown, and stringent mortgage underwriting standards.

If you are considering buying, now may be the time to negotiate a good deal. In the end, you will have taken advantage of a buyer’s market. And if the market continues with seasonal housing market fluctuations, you will be comfortably settled in your new home long before the coming spring rush.


Q: Who are today’s buyers?

A: A new trend is emerging. In addition to growing families getting larger homes, and empty nesters moving into smaller homes close to amenities, Chinese buyers are the fastest-growing source of foreign buyers of U.S. properties. According to the NAR, buyers from China are particularly interested in California, where they pay all cash for their new homes, which are also viewed as a “safe haven for their wealth”. These buyers base their purchases on the quality of education and the potential for investment returns per CNBC.

Chinese buyers tend to purchase property in the upper price ranges, with a median price of $425,000. As this trend grows, you will see builders tailoring their new homes to incorporate multigenerational floor plans and feng shui principles.


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