Thursday, November 26, 2009

Home Prices Increase in Marin County

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I just wanted to let everyone know that I have posted my latest findings about the Marin real estate market. The article's focus is on home prices and sales showing an increase in Marin County. The entire article can be found at this location.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Program to Allow Residents Access to Studios of Novato Artists

A new outreach program of the Novato Arts Center will allow the public to enter their artists’ studios between the hour of 11AM and 4PM on the first Sunday of every month except May. First Sunday Open Studios begins in December and will allow visitors into the studios of more than 40 working artists in three buildings located at the historic, former Hamilton Air Force Base. The individual buildings are located at 500 Palm Drive, 501 Palm Drive and 781 Hamilton Parkway.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marin County Transit Bus Route Changes

Several Marin Transit bus routes will undergo changes in March, 2010. The majority of the changes involve reduction of operating hours of certain routes, generally by an hour. Midday service is also being discontinued on some routes. Routes to be affected by the changes include: Route 17 (Mill Valley - San Rafael), Route 19 (Tiburon - Marin City), Route 22 (San Anselmo - Sausalito), Route 23 (Fairfax-San Rafael), Route 29 (San Anselmo-San Rafael), Route 36 (Canal-San Rafael Transit Center-Marin City), Route 45 (San Rafael Transit Center-Terra Linda), Route 49 (San Rafael Transit
Center-Hamilton), Route 51 (Novato), and Route 52 (Novato-San Rafael).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mother of 8 Embezzles from Elderly Marin Couple

Here some sad local news: An elderly couple, living in Marin, were victims of embezzlement. Who would do such a thing?.....
An almost fifty year old lady with eight children. Jane Macam McClellan has entered into a plea deal and has admitted to a single count of embezzlement.

Although the Marin County District Attorney initially believed that McClellan stole almost one hundred thousand dollars from the couple
(the wife is almost 100 years old and the husband is just over ninety), McClellan's lawyer denied those claims saying it was more like
seven grand.

Sentencing will take place on December 8th, with McClellan facing up to four years in prison.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marin Real Estate Video Update Online

Just wanted to let everyone know that I just put my latest Marin real estate video update online.

A quick summary of the video:
As of the time I recorded it, there were nearly 1100 homes on the Marin market. Out of those homes, 22 percent were under contract. The current market features more homes than usual that are priced under a million dollars. There are just over fifty homes on the current market, priced over a million dollars. Out of those, five were under contract. Get the rest of my latest report at my Marin real estate website.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Professional Tennis Returns to Marin Area

Professional tennis is coming back to Marin. The Tiburon Peninsula Club will welcome back professional tennis players for a tournament during the week of October 12th. The tournament will have a prize purse of $50,000.

Since 2003, the last time Tiburon hosted the tourney, there have been several exhibitions with tennis superstars, but no official pro events. The tournament will be called the RBS Tiburon Challenger, after the title sponsor, Royal Bank of Scotland.

Tiburon lost the event due to an 18 - month renovation project, following which it took 2 years to secure an event on the USTA’s calendar again.

Players competing in the tournament won’t be announced until September 22nd, though Challenger events usually draw players ranked between 85 and 120 in the world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Larkspur Based Company Delivering Coffee to Military Personnel Overseas

Green Beans Coffee, headquartered in Larkspur, has enacted a charity program in which donors can buy a cup of coffee for military personnel overseas. The program, called “Cup of Joe for a Joe”, enables people to go online at and make a donation to cover the cost of a cup of coffee, chai tea, smoothie, or whatever the recipient wants that is sold by Green Beans Coffee stores. The donor can also leave a note, allowing the service personnel to respond on a secure email server.

The campaign is the brain-child of Novato resident Clay Lingo when he worked for Kodak several years ago. He was having a conversation with the company’s accountant about the company’s charitable efforts when he came up with the idea. The accountant introduced Lingo to the Green Beans brass, and now he works for them full-time.

There are sixty-five Green Beans locations spread around East Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East , some within the borders of US military installations. Military personnel must register with Green Beans to be eligible. There currently is no Green Beans location in Marin, but company officials say that there is a possibility that one will open up in the near future. There is a Green Beans at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Healthier Environment for Marin County Residents?

Marin residents may be on the verge of saving money and reducing carbon emissions. On July 20th, Local Power Work LLC, will make their bid, to the Marin Energy Authority, hoping to win supporters by offering prices below, or at what PG&E charges. Their bid will focus on creating, not only more jobs, but "green" jobs and, at the same time, improve the quality of life for those living in Marin. In addition, they will provide more than seventy-five percent of Marin's electricity through "green" energy sources.

The new bid is made up of four phases and will maximize Marin's carbon footprint. The four phases are as follows:

1. Provide more efficient energy, smart grid / load control and initiate a residential photovoltaic program

2. Additional clean energy provided by wind source and industrial / commercial photovoltaic program

3. Cooperatives of wind power

4. Partnerships based on municipalities including hydroelectric power and landfill gas use

The plan also includes Marin resident participation by making solar power available to each and every customer. The focus will be to involve the Marin community and hopefully create a much cleaner, more efficient and healthier Marin County.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

San Anselmo and Greenbrae Girls Lead US National Rowing Team

Chelsea Lucas of Greenbrae and Kristy Wentzel of San Anselmo helped lead the Marin Rowing Association girls junior eight-plus crew to the United States Junior National Rowing Title, bringing a triumphant close to the 17 year olds’ careers with the Marin Rowing Association.

Now the girls are competing for their country at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France. The competition will be held from Wednesday through Sunday. The girls were selected for the team after an invitation only camp held in Connecticut.

For Lucas, this will be the 2nd year in a row as coxswain for the junior national team, and, she hopes her 2nd consecutive gold medal. She describes the feeling of winning a gold medal as unforgettable.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gravity Car stays at Mill Valley Plaza

Those living in Mill Valley will now be able to view a replica gravity car in the downtown depot plaza. Although some of the Mill Valley community had some concerns over its placement (some people did not feel it fit in aesthetically), after the majority voted in favor of, it
will now have a permanent place at the plaza.

The car is an exact replica of the open-air cars that, at one time (early 1900's), shuttled people around. In those days the gravity cars would shuttle approximately 25 to 30 people from the Mill Valley depot to the apex of Mount Tamalpais. Along the way, the track was incredibly winding and was even referred to as the "Crookedest Railroad in the World".

The only other concern over its placement is that it may be a hazard to the children who will play in the area. Some residents felt that it would be better
to place the car in front of City Hall, instead of the plaza. The city initially gave the car a two month trial period and, in the end, felt that it was
a good place for it.

The car is made out of wood and measures at 10 ft by 12 ft. Previously, it had resided at the Old Mill Park playround after debuting at the Memorial Day parade in 1990. The restoration comes after the car had suffered quite a bit of damage from moisture and vandalism. "It is a symbol of Mill Valley's rich history and I am glad it is going to be here", says Mill Valley homeowner Jay Hunnat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New listing in Mill Valley

Check out our latest Mill Valley real estate listing. The home is priced at $3,795,000, it is a five bedroom home with three and a half baths, plus a cottage that has a separate entrance and can even be rented out. View more pictures and information for this Mill Valley Home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mortgage Rate Update

I just posted another article on my Marin real estate website. The article talks about the latest mortgage rates, which acted quite volatile throughout the week, however, ended the week nearly unchanged. The article can be found here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Online Discount Brokers Have Small Impact on the Real Estate Industry

Online discount brokers have operated with the belief that they can run traditional realtors out of business. So far this has not happened, especially in the Marin real estate market. The National Association of Realtors recently conducted a survey of home buyers and sellers and found that only 9% used limited service brokers, or those charging discount commissions, flat fees, or hourly rates. Some online realtors are faring well, such as Zip and Redfin. However, both firms have recently undergone major changes in their business practices which have lessened the differences between them and traditional real estate agencies. Zip, founded in 1999 with funding from Benchmark Capital who also helped fund Ebay, was among the first of the internet realty sites. Zip and Redfin are both discount brokers, which means they split sales commissions with the buyer, and are not the same as real estate search sites like Zillow, Yahoo Real Estate, and MSN Real Estate. These sites list properties for sale and profit by selling advertising on their sites; they do not broker real estate sales.

As an example, when Zip handles the sale of a $200k home and earns a commission of $6,000; they would then kick back $1,200 of it to their client, the buyer. The idea does have some appeal in today’s suffering economy. In 2008 home sales were down across the country by 13%. Zip, conversely, sold over 17,000 homes which was a 23% increase from 2007. In February the Zip website had 1.7 million visitors, up almost 75% from 2007. Their traffic is ahead of traditional brokers like RE/MAX and Century 21, but falls short of the traffic on search sites like Zillow. Zip originally started as essentially a search site, though they would handle the sale; their clients just had to arrange home tours themselves. The company found that their clients were nervous buying homes without getting to know an agent. In 2002, the company began hiring agents and now has more than 3,000 operating in 35 cities across the nation.

Due to both financial and legislative reasons, Zip doesn’t always offer commission-splits with their clients. Twelve states do not allow the practice. They’ve also recently reduced the amount of their splits, almost cutting the rate in half, and, have eliminated the practice completely for homes selling for under $100k. The company lost more than $12 million on sales surpassing $104 million in 2008. Fourth quarter losses, however, were just over $2.5 million half of their 2007 fourth quarter losses. This has the company planning expansion. Zip is trying to interest sellers as they currently represent only 5% of their customer base. They are now offering the service of listing the number of buyers looking for homes in various zip codes so that sellers can better gauge demand. They are also allowing sellers to set the commissions they pay on a scale of 4.5% to 5.5%.

Redfin has also had to revamp it’s business model. In the early days most of their clients were technology professionals in affluent areas. Now most of their sales occur in the Southern California areas hit hard by foreclosures. In October, 2007 Redfin layed off a fifth of its workforce and started splitting its commissions with field agents. To make their site stand out, the company posts photos of its agents, customer reviews, and lists recent transactions for individual brokers. The changes have paid off as their website saw an increase in traffic of 20% over the last two months.

While online brokers have made a significant dent in the real estate market, it is doubtful they will be able to take it over completely. Even though people can find answers to almost any medical question on WebMD, the healthcare industry has not suffered drastically since its inception.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Springtime May Bring a Sharp Rise In Home Sales

Between dropping interest rates and the government’s effort to make credit more attainable, there could be a large number of homes put on the market in the next few months. While this is certainly good news for buyers looking to purchase a piece of Marin real estate, the increased inventory of unsold homes could drive prices even lower, depressing the market even further. Meanwhile, it should serve to boost the housing market by bringing more buyers in. With legislators making such a concerted effort to stimulate the real estate market, buyers and sellers alike should be tempted to jump into the market, particularly if interest rates remain low. The past week has brought very promising signs for the future of the real estate market. Mortgage rates fell sharply after the Federal Reserve, in an effort to nurture confidence that banks who purchase mortgage debt will have someone to sell them to, announced their plan on Wednesday to purchase mortgage debt. Earlier this week a report indicated that housing starts and building permits were higher than predicted. This is another indicator that confidence in housing markets is growing in spite of falling prices and low sales.

Many experts are hopeful of an economic turnaround based on government efforts to help the housing market. Mortgage re-finance applications have been growing, although some of those are coming from owners who are then putting their houses on the market. These people feel like they can’t lose because either they’ll sell the property or be able to get a lower rate on their mortgage. Experts claim that while financing can be obtained, it will be restricted more than in the past. It is also recommended that buyers as well as re-financing lenders explore all options available. Sellers are entering the market believing now is the time to trade up because they can get more value for their dollars with prices at record lows. All this leads to a noteworthy cycle: the large inventory of unsold homes will keep driving prices down, hurting sellers; while buyers are rewarded with tremendous savings.

An important factor in the future of the housing market is the willingness of banks to issue loans with lower interest rates taking hold. The market will only pick up dramatically if banks continue to be willing to finance buyers. The banks continue to face capitol ratio issues, hence should require higher credit scores and larger down payments which will make it difficult for first-time buyers. This has some economists skeptical about a turnaround in the market. Meanwhile, homeowners looking to sell will be forced to list their properties at lower prices dictated by the local markets. Buyers, however, must face the reality that FICO scores of at least 625 and an average of 20% down are the norm to qualify for a mortgage.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Obama Housing Bailout Will Help Homeowners Current on Their Mortgage Too

Good news for the Marin real estate market. During the Wall Street bailout, many taxpayers grew resentful of having to float the bill for others’ errors. That feeling grew even stronger as Obama unveiled his $75 billion housing rescue plan in February. Obama insiders, however claim the legislation will be beneficial to all homeowners, not just distressed ones. New details were released on Wednesday, and many homeowners are wondering how the plan can help them.

A report by RealtyTrac quoted there were nearly 2 1/2 million foreclosures across the country last year. That breaks down to one in every 54 housing units and represented a rise of more than eighty percent from the previous year. In a recent speech, the President said that nearly 6 million homes are either in or on the verge of foreclosure. Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association on Thursday said that over 11% of mortgages nationally were past due or already in foreclosure during 2008’s final quarter, the highest percentage ever.

The 75 billion dollars in the housing recovery plan is intended to reduce monthly payments for up to 4 million homeowners on the verge of losing their properties. Aid is only available to those whose mortgages started prior to January, 2009. To qualify, a homeowner’s monthly loan payments have to be more than 31% of gross monthly income. Also, they must have experienced some sort of financial downfall which puts them in jeopardy of default. While you mustn’t be behind on your mortgage to qualify, homeowners paying comfortably on time won’t be eligible.

To responsible homeowners growing tired of bailing out the less responsible, the Obama administration offer this retort. The plan will help all homeowners because it will avoid large numbers of foreclosures. Foreclosures can cause a rise in crime rate and lower property values. One study showed that a foreclosure will cause property values nerby to drop 9 percent. Hence, if Obama’s plan is successful in thwarting foreclosures, it should serve to boost the values of other homes as well.

A foreclosure can be very detrimental to your credit report and remains there for seven years. Credit experts say that a foreclosure can be every bit as damaging as a bankruptcy. In the current lending market where lenders are tightening standards due to growing delinquencies, now is definitely not a good time to take negative hits on your credit report. Some factors that lead to foreclosure are loss of employment, rising mortgage rates, and irresponsible spending. Though homeowners may have little control over their employment situation, careful attention to these other factors can put you in a better spot should you lose your job. Experts recommend that in these troubled times people should have fallback savings to cover mortgage payments in case the unexpected happens. A common piece of advice to concerned homeowners is to save at least three months worth of mortgage payments. Those with adjustable-rate mortgages should seek to refinance into a fixed-rate loan and fixed-rate borrowers should seek to lower their rates. Homeowners whose loans are owned or guaranteed by financial giants Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac may qualify for loan modification through a second part of Obama’s plan. 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged a low 5.15% for the week ending March 5.