Low Home Inventory and High Demand – What to Do

“Bad news for Bay Area homebuyers. Good news for sellers?“ asks a recent Silicon Valley Business Journal article, talking about the lower inventory that all Bay Area agents – especially those of us working with clients in areas such as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, and Los Gatos – are familiar with these days. The article states that “new listings for single-family homes in Santa Clara County dropped 15 percent to 1,360 in March 2012 compared to March 2011,” and, in San Mateo County, “new listings for single-family homes slid 15 percent to 588 in March 2012 compared to the year prior.” That is the case for all nine San Francisco Bay Area counties. At the same time, the buyer demand has significantly increased, resulting in multiple offers and higher home prices.

I talked to Silicon Valley Business Journal about the fact that this situation makes both realtors and their clients work harder. We pay attention to every move in the areas we specialize in, talk to neighbors, friends, and parents at school. “A lot of agents representing buyers are spending a lot of time and effort on trying to snag properties before they are listed on MLS,” I was quoted saying, and I know that every agent with interested buyers hopes to find a way to snag that property without getting into a bidding war. Some buyers will not “play the game” and overbid, which means that it can take months until they find the right house. Keep in mind that a lot of first-time buyers will compete with “investors,” who have cash and can move quickly.

In some situations, the prospective buyer will move the search to a different area, because, for some areas with good schools and associated bidding wars (e.g. Cupertino), after a certain price, the buyer interest is not as high anymore. In those cases, entry-level houses are affected by bidding wars, and, if you can afford to go a bit higher, you enter a different price range where you won’t have too much competition.

Of course, we all go after what we think we can afford, but keep in mind that in your search you should be looking at the monthly payment (if you think you can afford it or not) rather than the final price of the house. If you are comfortable with that monthly payment, then you will probably be OK. If you are renting, a rent-versus-buy analysis would be helpful and we do that for our clients all the time before starting the house search process. I will follow up with a post on that in the upcoming weeks.

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Comsa Group in the News: Mountain View and Palo Alto are Where Executives Want to Live

It’s the Bay Area. It’s Palo Alto. It’s a real estate seller’s dream, but what about buyers who can’t afford to buy in Palo Alto? A recent article in Silicon Valley Business Journal calls the Bay Area an “anomaly” compared to the other parts of the country where prices continue to drop and buyers can choose, negotiate, and, simply, afford a house. “All of the houses I sold this year went 5 to 10 percent above asking with a minimum of two very strong offers each.” Yes, these are my exact words in an interview with the author of the article, and that percentage is actually getting higher, especially in the Peninsula. The article also mentions that “earlier this year, Comsa participated in a bid where a $1.4 million house in Palo Alto received 15 offers and sold for $1.8 million in cash. And it wasn’t move-in ready.” A true story, one of the many stories around here. While Palo Alto continues to be the “main attraction” for many buyers, areas such as Mountain View are attracting more and more people who like the great schools and the proximity to their jobs. I believe that Mountain View is the “new Palo Alto” and we continue to see more interest in some pockets of Mountain View, especially from buyers who are on a tighter budget and prefer to get a bit more for their money.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal editor asked about the “Facebook buyers” and I explained that “a lot of them are buying this year, in advance of Facebook’s IPO, very similar to how people invest in the stock market. Since there are around 100 houses on the market around Palo Alto, and a few hundred Facebook employees that may be looking for houses next year, the market will be very hot and interesting.”

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Real Estate Is ‘as Affordable as it Gets’

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Now is a good time to buy real estate, according to data from Moody’s Analytics. Home affordability has returned to pre-housing bubble levels or even fallen below the average in many U.S. markets.

In fact, housing affordability by the end of September had returned to or fallen below the average reached between 1989-2003 in 47 of the 74 housing markets that Moody Analytics tracked.

In September 2010, the ratio of home prices to annual household income had fallen to 1.6–below the historical average of 1.9 between 1989 and 2003. The ratio peaked in 2005 at 2.3.

“Based on incomes, this is as affordable as it gets,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “If you can get a loan, these are pretty good times to buy.”

Source: Daily Real Estate News – Realtor Magazine.
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Carbon Monoxide Detectors are now required in all California dwellings – presence or absence must be disclosed on the TDS

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A new law came into effect on January 1, 2011 mandating that all California dwellings have working carbon monoxide detectors installed on site. This rule, formally presented in Senate Bill 183 and signed into law last May, further requires that sellers disclose in the TDS whether or not a carbon monoxide detector is present and it requires sellers to certify that certain safety laws have been followed. Failure to make these disclosures could leave the seller liable for civil penalties. However, the penalties are nominal and they cannot invalidate the property transfer.
Source: Chris Moles – Intero Real Estate Services.
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10 Risky Home Improvements

home_improvementsYou may be in love with your upgrade, but as with any investment, there’s risk involved — namely not getting your money back when you decide to sell your house. With many homeowners hoping to add value to their homes that lost value in the recession, here’s a guide to the “upgrades” that just simply aren’t worth it.

  1. Pool/Hot Tub. In-ground pools cost between $20,000 and $60,000 to install, but a homeowner wouldn’t even recoup half of that.
  2. Putting in a Home Office … or Monster Garage. Installing a home office or a monster garage, which only recoup about a 60% investment return.
  3. Over-Decorating the Interior. If you’re really sold on the idea of a home office, your best bet is to keep it simple. Don’t paint the walls red, hang ornate chandeliers from the ceiling or weld the desk to the floor.
  4. Illegal Repairs. Even those intent on living in their home forever need to make sure their upgrades are installed legally. Many major renovations require permits from your state due to the safety risks involved.
  5. DIY Structural or Electrical Repairs. Similarly, if a project requires a professional, get a professional. And this is not only because you’ll have to fix substandard work if your house ever goes on sale.
  6. Fiddling with the Floor Plan. Generally speaking, walls that are up should stay there. Railroad-style rooms you have to walk through to get to another room as well as long extended additions are prime examples of poor layout planning.
  7. Forgetting the Amenities. When remodeling, make sure you include the minimum standards the average person would expect to find.
  8. Granite Counter-tops. Granite counter-tops aren’t the problem. It’s just most of your neighbors probably don’t have them. You could shell out thousands of dollars only to never see any return.
  9. Muddling. Home improvements should be in tune with your neighborhood, but they also need to fit the style of your own abode as well. For example, if you own a ranch house, don’t install an ornate iron doorway trimmed with gold leafing. Combining two discordant styles is called “muddling,” and it may make prospective buyers pass on your listing.
  10. Better Bets. So what type of renovations are actually worth your money? Angie’s List recommends a proper remodel of a kitchen or a bathroom, which costs around $20,000. It will net you an 85% and 84% return on the investment, respectively, thereby increasing the value of your home. Beyond that, decks are favorably received projects that recoup about 80% of the money you spent. And you can never go wrong with adding safety features, such as new, energy efficient windows or upgraded exterior siding, to your home. Those projects also have, on average, an 80% investment return.
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Why Comsa Group? A team always outperforms an individual and real estate is no different

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Comsa Group is a highly-skilled team of real estate professionals within Intero Real Estate Services, specialized in luxury residential Silicon Valley real estate.

It is our belief that in order to succeed, a person should do what they are good at and what they enjoy doing. With that in mind, Alex Comsa has created a team of creative, educated and hard-working professionals. Each member of Comsa Group demonstrates a strong commitment to excellence and thorough knowledge of their expertise area.

Most businesses are successful because of the combined effort of market knowledge, team support, and leadership. Alex Comsa has carefully selected a team of real estate professionals to support Comsa Group’s clients in the home buying and selling  process. The result is a cohesive, experienced team you will not find anywhere else. When you do business with Comsa Group, you get a few real estate professionals for the price of one.

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Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Choosing a Realtor


  1. “My friend (or family member) sells real estate.”
  2. “Your presentation sounds good. I’ll list right now”
  3. “You’re the only agent who agrees with my selling price.”
  4. “I don’t need references. I’m a good judge of character.”
  5. “I’m going to list with the agent who has the lowest commission.”
  6. “The agent is what counts – not the company.”
  7. “All realtors passed the same test so they must know the same things.”
  8. “This agent will hold an open house every week.”
  9. “I want an agent who lives in my neighborhood.”
  10. “This agent sold more homes last year than anyone else.”

Stay tuned, since I’ll blog about the above Top 10 Mistakes in future posts.

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