Nicole’s Real Estate News – November 2013


After 29 months of increased home sales nationwide, pending home sales have declined. Higher mortgage rates and higher home prices seem to have curbed buying power.

The government partial shutdown also impacted the housing recovery. Because the IRS and Social Security Administration were closed, lenders could not obtain critical inform verifications needed for loan approvals. Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors’ Chief Economist, reports, “Declining housing affordability conditions are likely responsible for the bulk of reduced contract activity. In addition, government and contract workers were on the sidelines with growing insecurity over the lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget.”

Still, the total existing-home sales for 2013 will be 10% higher than in 2012. Right now, we are looking at a flat trend heading into 2014. There are some good buys on the market and since the trend is for growth in the spring months, now may be the right time to relocate. Sellers are motivated and well-priced homes are in demand.

November is a time for me to reflect and give thanks. I am thankful for our friendship and wish you all the best. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Nicole’s Real Estate News – September 2013


The market is still positive.  The National Association of Realtors projects home sales to increase 10-11 % for all of 2013, totaling about 5.1 million sales. The last three-month average for pending sales is higher than any time since 2006.

That said, for the second consecutive month, homes sales are down. This is due to higher mortgage interest rates that are giving pause to consumers according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Yun points out that there is an uneven pattern around the country.  “The higher mortgage rates and rising home prices are impacting monthly contract activity in the high-cost regions of the West and Northeast. More homes need to be built in the West to relieve price pressure or the region could face pronounced affordability problems.”

The good news is that as the market slows and we head into fall and winter, buyers may not have to compete with multiple offers.  If buying is your next move, let’s keep our eyes on good properties coming onto the market.


Q: Is home “flipping” back?

A:  Home flipping is buying a house or property with the sole intent to sell it for a profit. Sounds interesting? In a down market, the risks were high. But now people are back in the game.

Real estate investors netted on average nearly $20,000 on single-family home flips in the first half of 2013.  According to Realty Trac, home flips are up 19% from a year ago, and 74% from the first half of 2011.  Florida ranked as the #1 area for flippers.

Considering managing a house flip yourself? There are many things to consider before jumping in:

  • If you purchase a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood, you’re banking on the neighborhood increasing in value.
  • If you decide to buy in a new development, you’ll want to attract higher-end home buyers who want the luxury features and space offered in the suburbs.
  • If you buy a fixer, it could be a money pit or could be a big win.
  • How much time and money do you have to invest in this property?

Sound interesting? Let’s talk. I’ll run the numbers and help you find the best opportunities. If all goes well, you could make a nice profit. 


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Nicole’s Real Estate News August 2013


Pent-up demand and favorable affordability conditions are driving up existing home sales.  According to the National Association of Realtors®, the median price shows seven straight months of double-digit, year-over-year increases.  Multiple offers on competitively priced homes are still common.

However, higher mortgage interest rates are predicted to bite into high-cost regions such as California, Hawaii and the New York City metro area markets, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.   Freddie Mac places a 30-year, conventional fixed-rate mortgage at 4.07 in June, which was a rise from 3.54 % in May. 

Yun also reports that first-time homebuyers are accounting for only 29 % of purchases. He feels that the frictions of tight credit and limited inventory in the lower price ranges are holding buyers back.

Regarding inventory, rising values have improved the position of homeowners who may have been underwater on their mortgage. Some are selling now, though even more are waiting to see if their home may be worth more in the months to come.

There is no consensus as to whether home prices will continue to rise.  I believe we need to analyze the stats on every neighborhood individually in order to advise you wisely.  I am here to serve your needs.


Q: Why do a final walk-through of a property?

A:  The final walk-through is the time for the buyers to inspect the home, usually within five days before closing.  It is not a contingency but is important and should not be dismissed. 

The seller needs to make sure that the home is still in the same condition as was represented on the disclosures and that any agreed upon repairs have been completed.  Even if a buyer has bought a home “as-is”, the seller is still responsible for maintaining the home until close of escrow.

For a walk-through, a list of items to check includes the following:

  • Test all appliances. This includes making sure the refrigerator fan is still working and the food will stay cold.
  • Run water and look under sinks for leaks.
  • Run disposal and exhaust fans.
  • Turn on and off every light.
  • Flush toilets.
  • Open and close all doors including garage doors.
  • Test heating and air conditioning (wait to feel warm or cold air).

Of course, all debris should be removed from home and yard should be maintained.

If there are issues, the buyer’s agent will negotiate with the seller’s agent to hold money from the seller’s proceeds in order to have work completed.  Usually, everything goes smoothly, but know that I am here to protect your interests.


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Nicole’s Real Estate News July 2013


The current trend in real estate is for sustainable growth.  The issue is pent-up demand with buyer traffic nationwide at 29 % above a year ago.  The most recent stats release on June 30th from the National Association of Realtors reports that existing home sales continue to rise by double-digit rates from a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says that the recovery is strengthening. Expect limited housing supplies for the balance of this year.  There has been a very slight rise in inventory (3.3 %) but strong buyer activity is leveling that. 

Existing home sales are at the highest level since November 2009.  That is when the market jumped to 5.44 million sales as buyers took advantage of tax stimulus.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed rate mortgage rose to 3.5 % a month ago.  Yun expects interest rates to continue to creep up. As that happens, refinancing will slow. Then banks may offer more flexibility in purchase applications. Access to mortgages for purchasing a home will improve.

Is this a good time to buy? Yes – If we can find the right property at the right price.  But it may also be a good time to sell. See below for my thoughts on that.


Q:  Is this a good time to sell?

A:  It may be an opportune time to sell your house. Here are some reasons why:

  • Supply is beginning to increase – Many expect inventory to continue to rise as more sellers escape negative equity.  I have seen a number of sellers who waited until they could recoup the money they spent when they bought five plus years ago.
  • Demand is high – Monthly sales continue to increase. Buyers are serious about purchasing and will bid up the price for well-priced homes. In San Rafael, CA, last month, one home had 24 offers.
  • Interest rates are rising – According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates have jumped more than ½ point since the beginning of the year.  The senior analyst for says that “Rates are unlikely to keep going up but should remain below 5 %.”
  • New Construction is Coming Back – As the market improves, more and more builders are jumping back in.  New homes will be strong competition as they attract many buyers.
  • Decide – it is worth the wait?  Let’s sit down and analyze if your needs are being met.  Living in the right location, the right size home, and the right financial comfort – those are all reasons to move forward.

What is really important is that you are living the life you desire.  I am here to help serve your needs.


A trend in our town and across the nations is underway.  Citrix, founder of GoToMeeting and GoToMyPc, reports that one third of all knowledge workers no longer work in a traditional office environment.  Many global businesses now use a mobile work-style strategy, in fact, 83 % of these companies will move from office to mobile by 2014.

What does that mean for you?  If you are finding your work trending towards mobile, know that studies show that stress is half what it is for employees who don’t have flexible work options.  In fact, employees with mobile options are now called Flex employees.  With the options provided, 90 % of Flex workers are happier with their lives. 

Companies are attracting and retaining more talent with mobile strategies. Employees save on average $4,500 per year and gain 2 ½ weeks in time. 80 % of the organizations with mobile work strategies have already seen cost-related benefits. 

Mobile is opening all sorts of possibilities.  What do you think?


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Nicole’s Real Estate News June 2013


The real estate market is strong with existing home sales continuing to rise in value. In 41 states, prices were higher last month than at the same time a year ago. Price gains were largest in the West. Nevada, Arizona, California and Idaho each saw gains exceeding 15 percent according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

Tight inventory and strict mortgage lending standards are still issues. Let’s look at inventory. Historically, April tends to be the month for the highest inventory available each year. This April was no different with more inventories and more sales than any other month this year. The median days for a home on the market were 46 days. 44 percent of all homes sold within 30 days last month.

If you are thinking of selling, now is a good time to evaluate your options. Pricing a home well can result in multiple bids and drive the price up. Bidding competition is a phenomenon that usually fades away in the summer. Feel free to contact me with any questions.


Q: When making an offer on a property, does it help to write a letter to the seller?

A: It may not help, but it never hurts. Here are some points to cover:

  • Tell them how much you like specific things in their home – “We love to barbeque burgers on the patio, walk to Burgess Park…”
  • Don’t tell them any remodeling that you may want – “Your taste is so like ours, I feel like we are already at home.”
  • Show stability – “We are easy to work with and will help make this an easy transition for you.”
  • Don’t tell them about other homes you tried to buy and lost out on.
  • Show thankfulness – “We would be honored to live in your home.”
  • Close with appreciation –  “Thanks for the opportunity.” Or, “Thanks for your consideration.”

By appealing to the seller as a person, as opposed to a contract, may give you an emotional edge.


Bidding wars are back. A once stagnant market has been sizzling for the last few months. When sellers price competitively, multiple buyers make offers and drive the price up. This is encouraging for those who have seen their home values dropping in the past and now see prices rising.

The competition has been most intense in California where 9 out of 10 homes that sold in San Francisco, Sacramento, the Silicon Valley and cities in Southern California drew competing bids in March, April and May. At least two-thirds of all listings in Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle and New York also generated bidding wars.

Buyers are eager to purchase before home prices and mortgage rates rise. Inventory is low because sellers are holding out until comparable sales support higher prices. New construction is slow as builders’ costs rise.

The question is, will this frenzy continue through the summer months? Most professionals I know see a slowing down on offers as families travel. Let me know what you think. And have a wonderful summer with your family and friends.


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Nicole’s Real Estate News May 2013


For the past few months, we have experienced a hot real estate market. Well-priced homes have multiple offers and may sell for more than the asking price. If you are still looking or thinking of selling, now is the time.

 Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, reports that the month of May is showing signs of leveling off. Buyers are pausing while they wait for more inventory. Contract activity is slowing.

 I expect more inventory to be coming in the next few months as sellers are encouraged by the comparable sales in their area. The “shadow” inventory I spoke of last month is starting to come on the market.

Growth in both the job market and household wealth are proving to have a strong impact on sales. Right now is a good time to sell and still a good time to buy – a situation that is not the norm. Mortgage rates are exceptional, so it is a great time to lock in a good loan rate.

 If you want to talk about our area, know that I am your advocate and will be watching the market for you. Meanwhile, enjoy spring.


Q: What is the activity in the vacation and rental home market?

 A: According to the NAR’s 2013 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey,

vacation home sales accounted for 11 percent of all transactions last year. Investment sales accounted for 24 percent in 2012. All-cash purchases remain common in both markets. Almost half of all buyers paid cash in 2012. Of buyers who financed with mortgages, the median down payment was 27 percent.

 The average investment home-buyer in 2012 was 45 years old, earned $85,700 and bought a home close to their primary residence. The median distance was 21 miles. The majority of these homes are being held as rentals. Only 6 percent of these homes were sold within the first year. The typical vacation homebuyer was 47 years old and had a median income of $92,100. These buyers plan on owning their property for an average of 10 years. This survey can be purchased at  


Many of us think of second-home buyers as buyers of vacation homes. These vacation homes are usually at least a three-hour drive from our main residence.

 Yet more and more, buyers are purchasing second-homes in their own local markets. These second homes are used as investment properties. With the current low interest rates and high rental prices, it makes sense to buy in the area you know best. And for rentals, you are close by to take care of the property.

 The time is right to think about expanding your real estate portfolio. Let’s talk.


With summer around the corner and vacation plans in the works, it’s useful to put technology to work for you. Disneyland attracts millions of visitors in the summer months. If Disneyland is on your summer To Do List, consider these two phone apps. Both will help you minimize wait times and maximize your magical experience.

 Disneyland Lines: You can research the open rides, choose which rides are your priorities, and then receive a customized list of what to do based on the date and time of your visit. If you prepare your lists ahead of time, just click on this customized list when you enter the park. The app aggregates past and current data, ride locations and ride closings to give you a plan.

 For example, the app will you to get a Fast Pass at Peter Pan, then go on Dumbo with an 8 minute wait, then go on the Tea Cups, etc. Or, if you prefer, choose one of their pre-created touring plans. To find this free app, search for Disneyland touring plans and choose Disneyland Lines in the app store on your iPhone or Android.

 Disneyland MouseWait: Thousands of Disney visitors use MouseWait to enjoy more and wait less. Using an “advanced wait time algorithm,” it depends on thousands of people who update their own wait times. You get up-to-the-second information. So before you run across the park to ride Space Mountain, check Mouse Wait to see if it’s open or closed. Get this free app by searching for “mouse wait” in the app store on your phone.

 There are so many great apps out there. Wherever this summer takes you, make the most of it with a little advance planning and some help from your phone!


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April 2013 Real Estate Update


 The housing market continues to improve, increasing 8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of

4.98 million in February. According to Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes increased 10.2% in February 2013 from February 2012. Sales of homes valued at over $500,000 are up over 20%.

Inventories are up too, increasing 10% from January. Still, inventory is 19% lower than a year ago.

Builders need to build 50% more homes to meet housing demands, but they are still facing stringent lending regulations that slow their progress.

There is a 4.7 month supply of homes for sale now. That number of months will rise because more inventory is coming onto the market. I referred to this last month as Shadow Inventory

homeowners now feel they can sell their homes in a better market.

For buyers, interest rates remain low. Affordability remains historically favorable. More sellers are planning to repurchase. Real estate is a good investment. Let’s talk.



Q: What’s the first thing a potential buyer looks for when entering a home?

A: Aside from the floor plan, size, location and upgrades, buyers almost invariably comment on the amount of light present during the daylight hours in a home. Abundant natural light is a necessity for most buyers.

To bring more light into dark spaces, consider installing an Energy Star-qualified skylight. You can also choose solar powered blinds for energy efficiency. Both the skylight and blinds are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit. The benefits of sunlight on mood are well-documented. You’ll enjoy your home more, even if you decide to stay put.



In real estate, is bigger always better? In the 1950’s, the average house size in the U.S. was 983

square feet. That seems quite small by today’s standards. By 2011, the average house was 2,480

square feet. The size of our homes has grown three-fold. So has the size of the average family

grown too? Actually, in the 1950’s a home housed 3.37 people on average. By 2011, it housed about 2.7 people.

People want more spacious homes today. In fact, one recent study reports that in 75% of all homes, people can’t fit their car into the garage because the garage is filled with too much stuff. Is this a trend that will continue? Or is there a shift in the air where people are trying to simplify their lives?

Are we possessed by our possessions? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.



Simplifying is not as easy as it sounds. It seems everyone wants to get organized, but no one knows quite how to do it.

Do you start projects and then get overwhelmed? The secret may be to take the project in

spurts. For example, when cleaning out your closet, choose 10 things to give away and then

stop for the day. Or don’t work for more than an hour continuously.

Stay on track. Place a “goes elsewhere box” in the doorway and then stay focused on the

room you are de-cluttering. Put the box aside for another day and then return items when

you have 15 minutes free.

Add a “needs cleaning box” too. One good chart for cleaning tips is from Martha Stewart. If

things need to go to the cleaners, take that box to your car so that when you are out on

errands, you will be able to check this off your list.

Do you have a storage unit that you pay monthly for? Then maybe it’s time to hire an

organizing professional. Search online for local organizing services. There are professionals

that do a super job of helping.

This spring, let’s simplify. Your home will look better and you will feel great.


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March 2013 Real Estate Update


 March 20th marks the first day of spring this year. And this spring is not only the start of the hottest real estate season, but may also very well mark a transition to a “seller’s market” for the first time in quite a few years.

According to Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors’chief economist, “Buyer traffic is

continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady. In fact, buyer traffic is 40% above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We expect a seasonal rise of inventory this spring, but it may be insufficient to avoid more frequent incidences of multiple bidding and faster-than-normal price growth.”

If you are thinking about selling your home, we should start to strategize now. Pricing makes a

difference. The goal is to create multiple offers that drive the value of your house up. If you want to buy a home, we need to seek not only properties on the market, but also properties that were taken off the market when it was slow. I work with a network of top agents who share pocket listings as they become available. Let me start the search for you.

Planning ahead in either instance is key to your real estate success.



Q: How do I buy in a seller’s market?

A: In a seller’s market, there are many buyers ready and eager to buy one property. This can result in multiple offer situations. To make a successful bid in a seller’s market…

Know the comps and be prepared to offer over the asking price.

Be prepared to increase your earnest money deposit. Sellers are more confident when they

see you are putting up a good sum.

Submit a preapproval letter from a local lender and date it the same day as the offer. Also, be

prepared to show you have proof of funds to close.

If possible, offer to buy the property AS IS, while requesting a short inspection period. Then,

read all available disclosures carefully before you make the offer.

Offer to give the seller a few days to move after close of escrow.

I would work with a listing agent to see what’s important to the seller so we can customize our

offer. When we work as a team, we can hope for the best results.



Have you ever driven to an Open House but just kept on driving after seeing it from the street? A

buyer’s first impression of a home has a significant impact on its salability. Consider this: Research shows that when you meet another person, you make eleven major decisions about that person in the first seven seconds of meeting. A similar correlation can be applied to selling your home: the buyer makes decisions about your home and its value within seconds of seeing it from the street.

Are the home numbers old and antiquated, or newly purchased from Restoration Hardware? Are

there cracks in the driveway, or newly-lain concrete? Does the walkway leading up to the house

have bright, colorful flowers alongside it?

It’s fun to go online and see what others are doing to boost their home’s curb appeal. Check out and type “curb appeal”into the search bar. You’ll find hundreds of innovative ideas and pictures from people all over the world right at your fingertips. If you’re thinking of selling your house, or if you’d just like to upgrade its curb appeal, feel free to email me or give me a call. As an experienced agent, I’ve walked through many homes and have lots of ideas on improving first impressions.



For the past few years, we have been in a market that gave buyers the advantage in negotiations. But the real estate market could become a seller’s market in a matter of weeks. What’s behind the changes?

Imbalance between buyers and sellers. In the Christian Science Monitor, it’s being

reported that, nationally, housing inventory has contracted to its lowest level since 1999,

according to an analysis from J.P. Morgan. And it’s not just homes for sale: Rental

vacancies are at their lowest level in a decade, according to the US Census Bureau.

Lack of new homes being built. New home construction is recovering, but not quickly

enough to keep pace with demand and projected population growth. NAR is projecting 1.1

million total housing starts for 2013 –a vast improvement over the 781,000 in 2012.

Population growth. “The underlying demand based on growing population is 1.5 million

housing starts per year,”says NAR spokesman Walter Molony. “If we don’t see enough

construction, we will see pressure on home prices that we don’t want.”

More Lenders are loosening mortgage application standards, according to the Federal

Reserve, encouraging a seller’s market.

Shadow Inventory. Shadow inventory consists of homes that owners have put off selling

because of low values and foreclosed homes in their neighborhood. CoreLogic has estimated that number could account for 2.3 million homes. If many of these owners decide to sell, the

seller’s market may slow or even flip back to a buyer’s market.

If you are considering selling, we should talk. Timing is everything.

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Real Estate Status February 2013

With inventory low during the past few months, we’ve seen a rise in prices in many areas as buyers have sought to buy before the spring season. Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, says, “Momentum continues to build in the housing market. With lower rental vacancy rates and rising rents, combined with still historically favorable affordability conditions, more people are buying homes.”In 72% of the top 50 U.S. cities, declining values have made it cheaper to buy a home at the median list price than to rent a two-bedroom home.
Distressed homes, short sales and foreclosures accounted for 22% of sales last November. These sales reflect an average discount of 20% according to the NAR. Yun predicts that “the market share of distressed property sales will fall into the teens next year based on a diminishing number of delinquent mortgages.”
So the good news is that your real estate investments are most likely rising in value. If you are thinking of buying, now may be the right time. Give me a call and let’s talk.
Q: Can I see a chart of year-over year-changes to home prices?
A: The Case-Shiller Home Price indices are compiled by the financial services company, Standard
& Poor. The charts show the fluctuation of home prices every year nationally, by composites of top cities, as well as by individual metropolitan areas. For more information on these charts, click here.
The latest Case-Shiller Index below went positive on a year-over-year basis for the first time in 21 months. The Wall Street Daily reports that the investors recognize that the market is moving forward. See for yourself.

If you’re planning a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, check out Simply select your location by city and neighborhood, enter the time you’d like a reservation and the number in your party and the site will show you restaurants with available seating, as well as price range and star ratings as selected by other users of the site. You can also sort by price and cuisine, and view restaurants highlighted by rating and table availability. Whether you are planning ahead or just
being spontaneous, sites that feature local reviews expand your horizons. Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you want to boost the value of your home, one of the best ways to do that is to improve your home’s energy efficiency. While a professional home energy audit is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy (go to to find a Home Energy Rater), you can also inspect your home on your own.
First, make a list of drafts or air leaks. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts can range from 5% to 30% per year. Then check for penetrations around faucets, pipes, electrical outlets and wiring and cracks in mortar, foundation, siding, doors and windows. To seal air leaks, you should plug and caulk holes and add weather stripping around doors and windows. Two sites that give more tips on improving energy efficiency in your home are and

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Christmas is Near & Home Equity is Rising – 1 Trillion Dollars in Sight!

Happy Holidays! Real estate news is good – prices are rising and homes are selling. Several of the factors that have led to an increase in home sales so far this year include the following:
• Affordability conditions
• Rent increases
• Lower levels of inventory
• Some job creation
The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales increased by 2.1% in November over the previous month. Homes over $500,000 are showing the most in price gains. One-third of all homes coming on the market are in escrow within 30 days and the average days on market is just 71 days.
According to the Federal Reserve, this year’s housing equity has risen by a cumulative $760 billion. By year-end, it is anticipated that the rising equity will reach 5% or $1 trillion.
There are tax advantages available through the end of 2012. If you want to talk, know that I am here for you. Meanwhile, may December be a time of joy and reunion for you.

Q: Will new taxes affect the sale of our home in 2013?
A: Yes. Starting in 2013, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act will add a new 3.8% Medicare tax on all your investment income. These are sources of income the IRS defines as “unearned income.” This includes interest from the bank, royalties, dividends, capital gains and rental income.
The new rate on long-term capital gains earned from selling a home will also be raised from 15% to 20%. The 20% rate plus the added 3.8% for the new healthcare tax combines for a total of 23.8% tax.
You can search the web for “tax changes for 2013” to learn more. Better still, I recommend that you talk to your accountant about the tax changes coming in 2013.

For the first six months of this year, Fannie Mae completed 38,717 short sales. That compares to 70,025 for all of 2011. On November 1, new guidelines went into effect for short sales. These are expected to simplify and speed the process by streamlining documentation. This should also help borrowers who have not defaulted on loans. Some of the new guidlines require lenders to
• Respond to short sales within 30 days of an offer
• Provide weekly updates to the borrow
• Communicate a final decision to the borrower within 60 day of receipt of the offer
Get more information by visiting, or downloading the new guidelines here. This sounds like good news for buyers and seller and should facilitate a smoother transaction for everyone.

Bay Area Job Growth, Healthy Housing Markets May Outshine Washington’s Fiscal Cliff
Dire warnings of the approaching “fiscal cliff” in Washington obscure solid economic fundamentals in the Bay Area that point to continued economic recovery in 2013 and equally strong forecasts for our housing markets. Get the full story on this critical topic:

I am truly honored by the trust you place in me with your referrals of family, friends and business associates.

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