Real Estate Roundup: Most Buyers Prioritize Pets When Home Shopping

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.

A recent report found that homebuyers are willing to make significant sacrifices to obtain access to top-performing school, and now another survey shows that they are willing to do the same to accommodate their four-legged family members.

Eighty percent of respondents to a poll conducted by reported owning pets, with dogs the most popular animal. Of those that own a pet, nearly 90 percent said that they took their animals’ needs into consideration during their home search.

Furthermore, 75 percent of those surveyed told that they would pass up their dream home if it was not right for their pets. And that doesn’t include just dog and cat owners; even those that own fish or reptiles would not buy a dream home that could not properly accommodate their creatures.

When they do find a home that suits their pets’ needs, nearly half of Americans say that a yard is the most important amenity. About one-third cited some type of outdoor space and a garage, while one-quarter want a dog run or close proximity to a park where their pooch can frolic.

The run-up in California and Bay Area home prices during the housing recovery has buoyed owners, with both the state and the region again boasting the highest number of equity-rich households in the second quarter.

That’s according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which says that 43.5 percent of California homeowners were equity-rich as of the second quarter, the most in the country. The company defines equity-rich homeowners as those who have at least 50 percent equity in their properties.

As in previous quarters, San Jose has the country’s most equity-rich homeowners, with 71.9 percent falling into that category. San Francisco ranks second for the number of equity-rich households (60.8 percent), followed by Los Angeles (47.9 percent).

All five of America’s most equity-rich ZIP codes are in the Bay Area, led by San Francisco’s 94116 ZIP code, where 85.9 percent of owners have at least 50 percent equity in their homes. The top five also includes San Francisco’s 94122 ZIP code, two in Sunnyvale, and one in Mountain View.

With both existing-home sales and housing starts slipping, some observers are worried that another downturn is on the horizon, but at least one industry expert believes that those fears are unfounded.

Demand for homes remains strong across the country, writes National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a column for Forbes. He points to continually declining inventory levels — along with the fastest pace of sales in a generation – and notes that while the lack of supply is a concern, it is a better problem to have than a lack of buyer demand.

Yun points out how today’s housing market conditions are different than they were a decade ago. First, lending standards are much more stringent now than they were in the years leading up to the crash. Also, supply conditions were the opposite before the recession, when builders were constructing more homes than were necessary to meet demand.

Yun calls the chance of a housing market collapse “near nil” and projects 8 percent home price appreciation in both 2018 and 2019.

A recent report from the California Association of Realtors put the state’s housing affordability at a 10-year low, and it turns out the entire country is in the same boat.

The latest Housing Opportunity Index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo says that 57.1 percent of new and existing U.S. homes sold in the second quarter were affordable to a household earning the median income, the lowest since 2008. For the third straight quarter, San Francisco was the country’s least-affordable major housing market, with only 5.5 percent of residents able to purchase a home despite a six-figure median income.

All of America’s five least-affordable large housing markets are in California, rounded out by Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, and San Diego. Ditto for the country’s least-affordable smaller housing markets: Salinas, Santa Cruz, Napa, San Luis Obispo, and San Rafael. Supplemental HOI statistics show that 19 of the nation’s 20 least-affordable places to buy a home in the second quarter are in the Golden State.

(Photo: iStock/Photology1971)

Real Estate Roundup: Californians Carry Among the Nation’s Least Student Debt

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.A group of new college graduates in caps and gowns

Although student debt is widely considered one of the biggest hurdles preventing more first-time buyers from entering the housing market, Californians are making out quite well when compared with residents of other states.

That’s according to an analysis by WalletHub, which ranks all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) on student indebtedness and the job market based on 11 criteria, including average loan balances, number of residents with student debt, and unemployment rates. The analysis gauges states on a 100-point scale, with lower scores indicating a less overall level of student debt.

Californians have the fourth-least amount of student debt in the U.S., with the state scoring a 25.22. Golden State residents have the third-lowest amount of overall student debt in America behind those in Utah and New Mexico. California also ranks in the top five in the U.S. for the least amount of student debt as percentage of income.

WalletHub asked a panel of experts their advice for minimizing student debt, which include seeking out scholarship opportunities, creating and adhering to a budget while in college, and acing advanced-placement courses in high school to reduce the amount of time necessary to earn a degree.

Earlier this year, a report found that the Bay Area’s sky-high home prices are straining even highly compensated tech workers, and new survey results back up that research.

In a poll conducted by Teamblind, nearly 60 percent of workers at 13 big-name Bay Area tech companies said that they were unable to afford a home. More than half of tech employees at all firms surveyed cited difficulty affording a home purchase, ranging from 72.1 percent of those at Cisco Systems to 51.4 percent of Google workers.

So how are Bay Area techies coping with the region’s housing dilemma? In a separate poll, 61 percent of tech workers told Teamblind that they plan to seek more money because they believe they are underpaid. Other are packing up and leaving the region; earlier this summer, a survey from Bay Area Council found that nearly half of local residents plan to leave, due in part to high housing and living costs.

Rising home equity and a lack of inventory are causing many owners to stay put and remodel rather than buy another property, with major Golden State cities leading the way for the largest improvement loans in the U.S.

That’s according to an analysis by LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze, which says that homeowners in San Jose took out the biggest renovation loans in America in 2017, a median of $374,000. San Francisco was second for remodeling-loan size, at $291,000, followed by Los Angeles at $263,000. LendingTree says that these sizable loans are in line with California’s big-ticket home prices.

San Jose ranked No. 2 in the country for the highest rate of home-renovation loans, which accounted for 0.75 percent of activity. San Francisco is at the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking No. 47 of the 50 cities included in the analysis, with home-renovation loans accounting for 0.28 percent of activity.

Although the Federal Reserve declined to raise interest rates last week, mortgage rates ticked up and are at their highest levels in almost seven years.

The latest numbers from Freddie Mac say that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.60 percent for the weekend ended Aug. 2, up on both a weekly and annual basis. Fifteen-year, fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.08 percent, up from 3.18 percent at the same time last year. In a statement accompanying the report, Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater noted that he expects the strong U.S. economy to lead to higher inflation, which will lead borrowing costs to increase in the coming months.

“Even with home price growth easing slightly in some markets, mortgage rates hovering near a seven-year high will certainly create affordability challenges for some prospective buyers looking to close,” he said.

(Photo: iStock/Sidekick)

Homebuyers Are Willing to Make Big Sacrifices for Top Schools

  • About 75 percent of homebuyers said that access to excellent schools was important in their search.
  • Nearly 80 percent of buyers gave up some home features to land in their preferred school district, with about one in five sacrificing a garage.
  • Palo Alto is home to the top-ranked school district and high school in California this year and also claims America’s best college.

Four elementary school childrenPurchasing a home in a good school district has always been a high priority for buyers who have or want children, and recent survey results show just how much a neighborhood’s educational pedigree matters.

Nearly three-quarters of successful homebuyers said that the quality of the school district was either important or very important in their purchasing decision, according to a poll and an accompanying analysis by company Chief Economist Danielle Hale. About the same amount — 78 percent — sacrificed some features to score a home in their desired school district.

Although a separate survey conducted by earlier this year found that a garage was the No. 1 home amenity, 19 percent of buyers gave up that essential to gain access to an excellent school district. Eighteen percent sacrificed a large backyard, 17 percent gave up an updated kitchen and additional bedrooms, and 16 percent were willing to forgo an outdoor living space.

So what criteria defines a good school in the eyes of homebuyers? For 59 percent, test scores are the most important thing to look for. Next on the list are accelerated curriculums (53 percent) and music programs (49 percent).

The analysis also examined the most popular schools in every state based on 2018 search data from In California, the most searched elementary school is Cordelia Hills Elementary Hills in the Solano County city of Fairfield. For high schools, buyers are performing the most searches for Clovis North High School, located on the outskirts of Fresno.

Excellent educational opportunities are one of the reasons that Silicon Valley remains such a sought-after — and expensive — destination for California homebuyers. Earlier this year, ranked school districts in Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Mountain View as the best in California. Palo Alto’s Henry M. Gunn High School ranks No. 1 in the Golden State, while Stanford University is at the head of the class on’s 2018 list of America’s best colleges.

But buyers who are intent on providing their children with a top-tier Palo Alto education will need to dig deep to pull it off. According to MLS data, the median price for a single-family home in the Santa Clara County city in the second quarter was $3.2 million, a year-over-year gain of 21 percent.

(Photo: iStock/miljko)

Shared with permission from the Pacific Union Blog

Real Estate Roundup: California Remains a Top Destination for International Homebuyers

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.The California state flag

Although America’s housing inventory shortage caused foreign buyer activity to drop substantially last year, the share of overseas buyers who invested in California moved in the other direction.

The National Association of Realtors’ latest Profile of International Transactions in U.S. Residential Real Estate says that foreign citizens were responsible for $121 billion worth of residential transactions for the year ended March 2018, a year-over-year decline of 20 percent. In a statement accompanying the report, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun attributed the drop to more competition from U.S. buyers, who are motivated by a thriving job market and interest rates that remain low by historic standards.

For the sixth consecutive year, China continued to invest the most money in the U.S. real estate market, accounting for $30.4 billion of total sales volume. Though Chinese citizens still spend more on homes than other global buyers — at a median price of $439,100 — activity dipped by 4 percent from the previous year.

Despite high-dollar price tags, California remains the second most popular state for international homebuyers behind Florida, with global buyers responsible for 14 percent of overall real estate activity. In last year’s survey, overseas buyers accounted for 12 percent of California home purchases.

Home prices reached new all-time highs across the country and in the Golden State in May, and that trend continued in June, as supply constraints fueled appreciation.

Nationwide, the median existing home price rose to $276,900 in June, up by 5.2 percent on an annual basis and another peak after reaching $264,800 in May. June market the 76th straight month of year-over-year home price appreciation, according to NAR’s latest monthly home sales report. Although supply inched up by 0.5 percent from June of 2017, market conditions remain tilted in favor of sellers, with millennials unable to make much headway. First-time buyers represented 31 percent of home sales activity in June, down by 1 percentage point on an annual basis.

“Unfortunately, they’re just not making meaningful ground, and continue to be held back by too few choices in their price range, and thereby missing out on homeownership and wealth gains,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement accompanying the report.

California’s median single-family home price also climbed to a new high of $602,760 in June, with the nine-county Bay Area posting double-digit percent year-0ver-year appreciation for the 12th consecutive month.

Taking steps to improve your credit score naturally means that you will get a better mortgage rate, which will allow you to buy a new car, take multiple vacations, or finance any number of purchases over the life of the loan.

A LendingTree analysis of its own users found that the average American has $310,263 in debt, spread across credit card payments; personal loans; and automobile, student loan, and mortgage obligations. Mortgage payments of course make up the lion’s share of the debt, amounting to $234,437, followed by student debt, at more than $37,000.

Over the life of a 30-year mortgage loan at 5.15 percent interest, a homeowner with a “fair” credit score — between 580 and 669 — can expect to shell out $226,266 in interest payments. However, prospective buyers with “very good” credit scores, between 740 and 799, would pay $197,161, for a savings of $29,106.

(Photo: iStock/LordRunar)

Real Estate Roundup: East Bay City Claims the Nation’s Lowest Stress Levels

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.

While the Bay Area’s sky-high real estate prices and cost of living — along with its snarled freeways — do not always exactly sound like the most relaxing propositions, residents of one Alameda County city appear to be taking it in stride.

In a recent analysis, WalletHub named residents of Fremont as America’s lowest stressed, based on four major criteria of worry: work, finances, family issues, and health and safety. On a 100-point scale (with the highest end indicating more duress), Fremont earned the lowest score of the 300 U.S. cities included in the analysis, with a 25.93.

Residents of the Alameda County city have among the five lowest divorce and poverty rates in the U.S. Fremont also boasts one of the five highest median credit scores in the country.

San Jose also counts among the country’s 10 least-stressed cities, with an overall score of 31.88. Like Fremont, the city also has one of the lowest divorce rates in America.

Home sellers hoping to take advantage of the current favorable market conditions would do well to retain the services of a knowledgeable real estate professional if they hope to get the highest price for their property.

A blog post from the National Association of Realtors says that 89 percent of home sellers in 2017 enlisted a real estate professional to help them navigate the process. Those homes sold for a median price of $250,000 in a median three weeks.

The 8 percent of homeowners who chose to sell their properties themselves did not fare quite as well, with the median price dipping to $190,000. In instances where owner-marketed homes sold to friends, family, or neighbors, the median price drops further to $160,300. NAR says that the number of for-sale-by-owner transactions has been declining for the past 15 years and is at its lowest level since 1981.

Remodeling a bathroom is one of the most popular home-improvement jobs this year, and owners planning such a project might want to think twice before making certain modifications.

That’s according to design tips from, which advises homeowners to avoid adding mosaics of small colored tiles to their bathrooms, largely because they are difficult and time-consuming to clean. And while hardwood floors make sound like an appealing bathroom addition, they will eventually warp if they are not dried after each shower or bathtub use.

Other bathroom-remodeling trends that might be best ignored include vintage storage furniture (too much upkeep), exposed plumbing (not child friendly), and colored sinks and bathtubs (they can make a small bathroom seem even smaller).

Mortgage rates have declined for five of the past six weeks, and they may keep heading down, presenting another opportunity for prospective homebuyers who have been sitting on the sidelines to get in the game.

The latest numbers from Freddie Mac put 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages at 4.52 percent for the week ended July 19, down slightly from the previous week but up from 3.96 percent one year ago. Fifteen-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.99 percent, also down on a weekly basis and higher than at the same time last year.

“The run-up in mortgage rates earlier this year represented not just a rise in risk-free borrowing costs, but for investors, the mortgage spread also rose back to more normal levels by about 20 basis points,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said. “What that means for buyers is good news. Mortgage rates may have a little more room to decline over the very short term.”

(Photo: iStock/yhelfman)

Real Estate Roundup: Bay Area Counties Are Among the Nation’s Fastest-Appreciating Luxury Markets

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious.

Silicon Valley‘s tech juggernaut and interest from international buyers propelled luxury home prices by double-digit percentage points in the first half of this year, with San Mateo County ranking as America’s most expensive high-end housing market.

That’s according to an analysis by Director, Economic Research Javier Vivas, which found that four Northern California counties ranked among the country’s 10 fastest-appreciating luxury housing markets in the first half: Monterey (No. 5), Santa Clara (No. 6), Santa Cruz (No. 8), and San Mateo (No. 10). Each of those counties saw annual price growth in the 12 percent to 13 percent price range, with properties in the four counties combined selling in a median 96 days, the fastest pace of luxury sales — defined as the top 5 percent of the market — in three years.

Silicon Valley counties were of course the two most expensive luxury housing markets of the 20 included in the list. In San Mateo County, a luxury home costs $3.5 million, while in Santa Clara County, such properties command $2.8 million.

San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are two of the state’s five one-million-dollar housing markets, all of which are located in the Bay Area. The latest home sales report from the California Association of Realtors puts May’s median sales price for single-family homes in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties at a respective $1.6 million and $1.4 million.

Recently, job-search portal Indeed ranked Facebook as the best Bay Area company for employees, and it turns out that the social-networking goliath is also the top workplace in the nation.

Facebook took the No. 1 spot on a separate list of rankings of America’s top-rated workplaces from Indeed, up from No. 4 on last year’s list. While Facebook employee reviews of the company again praise its benefits and perks (such as free meals), workers also appreciate its collaborative, productivity-boosting, high-energy workplace.

Two other Bay Area heavyweights cracked the top 10: (No. 3) and Apple (No. 10). Other local companies of note included in the entire list of America’s 50 best workplaces include eBay, Cisco Systems, and Charles Schwab.

Hot job markets and hot housing markets frequently go hand in hand, and thus some relocating workers are getting a leg up on the competition by buying homes they toured only via an iPhone.

The New York Times reports on this virtual home-touring trend, relaying several stories of owners who recently purchased homes sight unseen. One buyer who was relocating from Chicago to New York received a FaceTime tour of what seemed like an ideal property in the city of White Plains last summer. After reviewing links and comps sent by his real estate professional, he eventually bought the 850-square-foot condominium without ever having set foot inside.

While the buyer said he was overall satisfied with the purchase, FaceTime cannot completely replace physically being in a neighborhood. After moving into his new neighborhood in White Plains, the buyer noticed that parking on all streets was forbidden every night between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., something he said he would have noticed had he personally been there to walk around.

Motivated by a booming job market and finally settling down to marry and raise families, millennials are starting to take out more mortgages, pushing up activity to an all-time high.

A blog post from Freddie Mac says that first-time buyers accounted for 46 percent of its purchased loans in the first quarter, up from 42 percent one year earlier. Freddie Mac expects that first-time buyer activity will continue to increase, while noting that price growth and consistently low inventory present challenges to homeownership for younger generations.

Another potential obstacle is rising mortgage rates. Thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgages ended the week of July 12 at 4.53 percent, up on both a weekly and annual basis.