Friday, February 15, 2008

The Rockridge Market is Just Different

Today, Ron Kriss, our broker here at Lawton Associates, announced a comprehensive and historical comparative analysis of the Rockridge real estate market. And, he has concluded that "Rockridge is Just Different." I have worked with Ron Since the mid-90s and we have seen the market in all of its many ups and downs.

Rockridge has long been one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the entire Bay Area, and the real estate market here is atypical. Lawton Associates, an expert in the Rockridge district, has been the top-selling real estate brokerage in the neighborhood for over 10 years.

This chart, compiled by Ron, demonstrates the fact that there were more homes sold in Rockridge in 2007 than in the two previous years. The average list price and the average sold price have gone up every year including 2007. The chart includes a split of 2007 into the first half and second half of the year, to further counter the mainstream media’s point that the market is getting worse. “Maybe things are getting worse in the Greater Bay Area, the State of California, and the United States,” adds Kriss, “but not in Rockridge. Both six-month periods of 2007 were very strong and there was even continued over bidding on many premium homes.”

Ron adds, “Compared to the peak of 2004, there were fewer homes sold in Rockridge in the 2005-2007 time period. This is mostly because there were just fewer homes on the market during this 3-year time period, not because homes were not selling. The number of cancelled, withdrawn, and expired listings over the above chart’s four year period has not changed very much.”

Ron's 2008 Forecast—“ The market could actually get very hot in 2008”

Based on early trends from January 2008 and the proposed increase of the conforming loan limit, Ron also provides a forecast for the next eleven months.

“I can tell you that the spring real estate market has already started off with a bang and there is not enough inventory. This coupled with historically low interest rates has shown us a very robust marketplace so far. If buyers are waiting for prices to drop and sellers to give their homes away, I don’t think 2008 is the year. In fact with the conforming loan limits set to increase under the just signed “Economic Stimulus Package” the market could actually get very hot in 2008.”

If you have questions about the Rockridge market, or other markets in Oakland and Berkeley, just let me know. I am always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Below Market Rate Condominiums

One terrific option for first time homebuyers in any market is the purchase of a "below market rate" condominium. These are generally city-run programs to provide affordable entry to the real estate market for low and moderate income earners, especially in areas where housing prices can be high.

Every program is different, but many cities generally work with developers to set aside a percentage of units that would be designated as "below market rate." For instance, a one bedroom condominium might cost $275,000 instead of $425,000. And, these units are usually required to be as equitable to the condos priced at a fair market value.

These BMR programs have income restrictions and they often have lotteries for high-demand developments. But, the extra paperwork and patience can pay off if you are looking for affordable homeownership. The main downside to these programs is that you will earn little or no profit when you sell the unit, due to restrictive re-sale regulations, and you still have to pay HOA dues. But if homeownership is the goal, not profit-making, then BMR programs are a great option.

For information on the City of Emeryville's well-developed BMR program, visit their website. Berkeley also offers a BMR program, and so does San Francisco. Check out your own city's housing department if you don't live in these cities.

And, it just so happens that I am currently listing a beautiful BMR resale condo in the desirable Terraces at Emery Station building in Emeryville. It is a one-bedrom/one-bath top floor condo with some views of the Oakland Hills. The location is terrific, close to everything in Emeryville, from Ikea to Emery Bay and more. Plus, it is perfect for Amtrak commuters. The Terraces has great amenities, such as a gym with sauna and an entertainment room. And, this BMR condo is listed at just $264,400.

If you would like more information on this BMR condo or how to apply for BMR programs, please let me know. I'm always happy to help. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why I Haven't Blogged in Two Weeks...

Why haven't I blogged in two weeks? Because I'm so busy with my clients! They say the market is busting, but I am not seeing too much evidence of that in our market. This just goes to show you that the real estate market is truly a neighborhood-by-neighborhood market.

Here in Berkeley, Rockridge, and other parts of Oakland, there continues to be a consistent number of homes available for sale. And, buyers are starting to come out of the woodwork due to interest rates that are both low and sane and some great deals that are out there.

So, what does this say about the market in our neighborhoods? Here are some tips for both buyers and sellers.

*Be Patient. At the top of market, sometimes homes were barely on the market before they received multiple offers over asking price. Now, deals are happening, but buyers are being a bit more cautious. Hang on, homeseller, and price it right and make it shine.

*Price it Right. Don't compare your home sale to sales that happened in your neighborhood last year or at the top of the market. While sales are happening, we are not seeing record-breaking profits. If that is why you are selling your home, perhaps it is best to wait until the market goes nuts again.

* Make your home shine. This is always the case, but now more than ever. With a slower market, you need to make sure your home is better than the competition. Fix that fence and paint those walls! The investment will be well worth it.

*Get your Loan Pre-Approved. Talk to a mortgage broker (or call me for a referral) and get your loan set-up. The mortgage landscape is changing constantly right now, and mostly for the better. Rates are low and sensible, so now is the time.

*Don't Get Desperate. Take the time to find the home that is right for you. This might take some patience, but it will be well worth it in the long run. But be prepared! Some properties are still hot and do demand a multiple offer situation.

*Avoid Foreclosure Hype. As I've blogged before, a lot of people think they can get great deals on foreclosures right now but this is a tricky and risky business. Now what you are doing before you move on a foreclosure.

Alright, I'm hoping to get more blog entries out there again after being so busy lately. Next I am going to write about below-market rate opportunities and a great new listing I just put on the market. As, always, I'm happy to help. If you have any questions, just let me know. I can be reached at 510-547-5970 x57 or