Orange County Sales Show Solid Signs of Maintaining Health

J. Lansner of the O.C. Register compared the market trends of the six counties in Southern California. He considered Orange County #1 in healthy, sustainable growth.
“What defines a healthy housing market? To me, it’s rising prices and growing sales activity backed by solid job growth. After the last boom-to-bust cycle, the durability of the upswing is paramount.
My study found that when it comes to housing, as in other areas of the economy, the closer it is to the ocean, the stronger the business climate.

No. 1 Orange
• Median Price, April: $600,000, up 4.2 percent in a year
• Sales, first four months of 2015 vs. previous seven: Up
14 percent
• Months to sell inventory, as of May 21: 2 vs. 2.61 a year
• Jobless rate, April: 4.4 percent vs. 5.5 percent a year ago

The region’s healthiest market saw its median selling price reach the highest point since August 2007 – within 7 percent of the old, bubble-inflated peak. No Southern California county is closer to record high pricing.
Home sales in the first four months of the year were up 4 percent vs. 2014; it was the fastest start to a year since 2006; and Orange County posted the biggest sales increase, compared with its seven-year average, of all the Southern California counties.
Sales of old problems in Orange County are minimal. Just 3 percent of listed homes are categorized as “distressed properties,” the smallest share of any county in Southern California.
And powering the surge is the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 4.4 percent.
Yes, Orange County will stretch any house hunter’s wallet with the region’s highest prices and lowest affordability (22 percent).
But an above-average rate of home purchases amid a hiring spree seems very sustainable…”

Posted on June 28, 2015 at 11:03 am
Nancy Low | Category: Buyers, News, Sellers

Get the Most For Your Home




Statistics are out – improving your home before it goes to market makes a difference in what Buyers will pay!
Make the changes you need to show your home at its best before you come to market. You only have one chance to make a good first impression!


How much you want to spend and where you want to spend your money is a choice you make to get the most bang for your home improvement buck.


Beyond your budget? Even the little things help – decluttering, deep cleaning, and small details.
Need more? Star Real Estate has a program that may help you with the projects you need to get done to reap higher rewards for your home. Call Nancy at 714-496-5950 for a free assessment.

Posted on May 13, 2015 at 1:04 pm
Nancy Low | Category: News, Sellers

Making Heads or Tails of the Real Estate Marketplace

We’ve moved into a Seller’s market in recent weeks, with exciting mortgage rates enticing more Buyers to investigate home ownership. This is a very good time to re-finance, as well, with interest rates still under 4%. Days on market are decreasing, with savvy Sellers pricing strategically. Redfin reports a 7.6% gain for California sellers in the last year.
It was a busy holiday season, with Buyers making offers on tightening inventory. Prices are proceeding at a steady march towards good equity build-up versus the heady boom of a few years ago.
If you are buying, now is the time to talk to your lender to find out what you can afford, and start shopping. If you are selling, the next few months will reveal the developing market trends, and determine your market strategy.

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Posted on February 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm
Nancy Low | Category: Buyers, News, Sellers

Increase Your Home's Value in 5 Easy Steps

Thinking about some small home improvement projects to boost the value of your home? Here are some smart upgrades and fixes that don’t cost a lot, but could help you clinch a deal if you’re trying to sell.
Consider curb appeal – First impressions are everything, and potential buyers often decide as they’re walking toward your house, asking “Could I live here?”
Keep the walkway swept and tidy, and spruce up your entryway landscaping with well-placed shrubs, new plants and trimmed hedges. Spruce up the front door, fence and/or mailbox.
Buff up the bath – Small cosmetic changes can reap big rewards. Consider replacing dated frosted glass, older/corroded fixtures, painting, removing wallpaper, re-grouting the tile, replacing an old vanity with a new one, using new towels, soap dispensers, etc.
Make your kitchen cook – The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where the family congregates, guests gather and the kids do their homework. This space has to look clean, inviting and warm to appeal to potential buyers.
Beyond making sure your appliances work well and look shiny, consider updating cabinet doors and drawers, light fixtures and faucets. And a new coat of neutral paint can go a long way towards attracting buyers.
Let there be light – Take care of dated chandeliers and/or lamps that age the room. Open drapes/blinds.
Increase the wattage in dark rooms that lack natural lighting. They will seem larger and more open. Visual space — or how large a home feels — is crucial.
Reconfigure the layout – Assuming you’ve already covered the basics, such as removing clutter and personal belongings to make rooms look larger, why not take it one step further and think about reconfiguring the layout? Try different furniture arrangements that increase flow – be creative!

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 1:55 pm
Nancy Low | Category: News, Sellers

Mistakes Sellers Make

* Not keeping resale in mind when renovating.
Make sure any big changes you make will
increase, rather than decrease, your home’s value.
* Sticking around during the open house.
No one wants the current homeowner hovering
over them as they tour the house. It can prevent
them from giving the honest feedback that could
ultimately help you sell your home.
* Waiting to list until spring or summer.
List your home when it’s available and you’ll
reach those buyers who need a home now and
aren’t finding much on the market.
* Setting the price too high.
What you think your home is worth and what it’s
worth on the current market can be very different.
Take a good look at comparables in your area and
be realistic about your home’s value.
* Not doing enough marketing.
Just putting up a “for sale” sign isn’t enough. Talk
with your realtor about other options.
* Not getting a real estate agent.
Realtors can give you crucial insights, marketing
advice and, most importantly, can get your
property on the multiple-listing service (MLS),
which gets it in front of other agents.
* Not staging your house.
You need to help buyers envision themselves in
your home. Remove any clutter and overly
personal items (like family photographs) and
make sure furnishings flow well and demonstrate
the purpose of each room.


Posted on October 6, 2014 at 2:19 pm
Nancy Low | Category: News, Sellers


The NAR’s pending home sales index increased 3.3 percent in July to 105.9, its highest level since August 2013.

Based on contract signings, the increase came in much stronger than expected.

Pending home sales have climbed in four of the past five months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said that favorable housing conditions spurred increased contract activity last month.”Interest rates are lower than they were a year ago, price growth continues to moderate and total housing inventory is at its highest level since August 2012,” he said.

“More importantly, steady job additions to the economy are helping family finances and giving them added confidence to enter the market.”

Posted on August 28, 2014 at 11:35 am
Nancy Low | Category: Buyers, News, Sellers

5 Home Smart Renovations

1. Upgrade the Siding

When your siding has seen better days, upgrading it just may be one of the best investments you can make for your home, no matter what the economic climate. Since siding functions as a shield for the materials it covers, the better siding you have, the longer those materials are likely to last. Remodeling Magazine‘s Cost vs. Value report revealed that installing fiber-cement siding generally recovers over 87 percent of construction costs in added resale value. This makes upgrading from vinyl or aluminum to fiber-cement the best investment nationwide when it comes to recouping your costs.

2. Bathroom Enhancements

Your bathroom can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Bathrooms also pack quite a punch when it comes time to put your property on the market, and remodeling your bathroom can mean the difference between a home that’s sold quickly and one that stays on the market a long time.

3. Inspections

While not technically a renovation, an inspection is a sound enough investment in shaky economic times that we had to include it in this list. The beauty of an inspection lies not in what it does for your property, but what it prevents. Inspections are available for many of your home’s systems (roofing, foundation, waterproofing, etc.) and can either identify small problems before they become large or give you peace of mind that your home is in good shape.

4. Enhance Flooring

Few things can make a room shine like good flooring. Fortunately, flooring upgrades are also an excellent investment in just about any home. One of the nice things about replacing a floor with a more durable material is that you can really get your money’s worth. For instance, while carpet remains the least costly flooring material, the National Home Builder’s Association puts its life expectancy at 8 to 10 years “with appropriate maintenance and normal foot traffic.” Though definitely more costly, natural hardwood’s life expectancy is “100 years or more.” So, by upgrading, you may be spending a little more in the short term, but you can rest easy knowing that you (or even the next owners of your property) won’t have to bear the expense of flooring replacement.

5. Small Kitchen Remodels

Cheap remodeling ideas

In much the same way as bringing a bathroom up to par is almost always a good investment, minor kitchen improvements are generally a safe bet. Unfortunately, going overboard during a kitchen remodel is common, and many people end up spending way more than they planned before the job is finished. To keep your investment budget-friendly, focus on the things that really need attention, and leave the elements of the room that are functioning just fine intact.

General Guidelines for Recession-Proof Remodeling

During uncertain economic times, the adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is certainly appropriate in many cases. However, to be completely accurate, you may want to add something to the effect of “If it’s slightly broken, fix it now.”Basically, any remodeling project runs the risk of being more trouble than it is worth, but, in a nutshell, hard times call for projects that will not only make your property look better, but will help it function more efficiently for years to come.


Exerpts from August 12, 2014 Home and Living Cheatsheet article “5 Recession-Resistant Home Renovations”

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 9:19 am
Nancy Low | Category: News, Sellers

14 Sneaky Mistakes that Can Decrease Your Home's Value

Thinking of selling your home…even one day? Real estate experts weigh in on the unexpected little details that could cost you big time in the long run.

1. Choosing a crazy exterior color
“Curb appeal is huge, don’t pick a paint color that isn’t common in your neighborhood or doesn’t fit the style of your home.” -Pam Baldwin Foarde of Al Filippone Associates/William Raveis

2. Landscaping without a plan
“Planting trees too close to the house or driveway – without considering how big they’re going to get – creates major problems later. Roots can cause breaks in the pavement that might raise your homeowners insurance or make it hard for you get a policy until the problem is fixed. Before you plant anything, think about how it will look in twenty years.” -Chris Winn of Kellar Williams/Advantage Group

3. Ignoring your entryway
“Having a front door lock that doesn’t work properly or hardware that looks old and pitted makes buyers uneasy and puts them on high alert for what else has been let go in the house.” -Donna Marie Baldwin of Coldwell Banker

4. Assuming you’ll recoup every investment
“People spend a lot of money putting in a pool and want to recoup the value when they go to sell their home. Unfortunately, putting in a pool never gets you back the value or cost of the pool.” -Chris Winn of Kellar Williams/Advantage Group

5. Fussing with the fireplace
“Be cautious if you’re thinking about updating the fireplace, especially if you want to paint over exposed brick. Depending on what the trend is at the time it could lower the value. People tend to like the aesthetic of exposed brick”” -Chris Winn

6. Skimping on an AC system
“Always pay for the next system up for your home’s size. Paying more initially will bring down your power bill while you live there and will up the value when you sell.” -Chris Winn

7. Getting too complicated with paint
“It might be trendy to paint the trim a contrasting color, but it distracts the eye. Keep it the same color as the wall to maximize the space.” -Davida Hogan, home stager at Edited Style

8. Keeping old appliances
“Pay attention to the brand and quality of your major kitchen appliances. If something is classic and well maintained that’s always a positive. But if you can’t get something clean it needs to be replaced. People don’t want to move in and have to replace all of the appliances.” -Pam Baldwin Foarde

9. Neglecting the small stuff
“Buyers have their eye on details you might forget. Keep up with cleaning and maintaining windows, making sure light switches work, or making sure the garbage disposal runs properly – it all shows that the house has been cared for.” -Davida Hogan

10. Not doing a deep clean
“Even the tiniest details matter when it comes to cleaning. The tracks of windows, sinks, grout, ovens, and appliances are all looked at by buyers.” -Donna Marie Baldwin

11. Being too trend obsessed
“Buyers aren’t attracted to trendy – they are looking for kitchens or bathrooms in classic, neutral colors. If you want to add color and personality to your home use bright accessories (that are easy to change) to bring in fun details.” -Pam Baldwin Foarde

12. Choosing hard to clean surfaces
“Make sure you spend money on the correct cleaners for your countertops. Permanent stains on kitchen and bathroom counters mean that the whole piece will need to be replaced.” -Pam Baldwin Foarde

13. Thinking too small in small spaces
“Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. That being said, you always want to make a small space feel as big as possible. Don’t re-tile a small bathroom with small tiles; they only make the space feel smaller. Use bigger tiles; they’ll open the space up.” -Davida Hogan

14. Neglecting your wood floors
“I recently refinished the floors in my own home and found out that you shouldn’t clean them with water and vinegar because it dulls them over time. Also, instead of a complete overhaul you can have your floors buffed every few years.” -Pam Baldwin Foarde


From: House Beautiful Magazine June 19, 2014

Posted on July 27, 2014 at 8:24 am
Nancy Low | Category: News, Sellers


Home prices grew again in May, but not at last spring’s frenzied pace…there are fewer foreclosures to buy. More home sellers are testing the market, and bidding wars are less frequent.
All of it signals a housing market that’s settling to a more stable, even healthy, pattern, which analysts say is a notable change from the big ups and downs of the last few years.
The market’s not bad. The urgency’s gone. I think that’s a positive thing. – Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Assn. of Realtors
The slowdown has been underway for months, but it showed up in home sales numbers out for May, a big month for the key spring real estate season.
The number of sales fell 15.1%, as investors continued to trickle out of the market and the supply of bargain-rate foreclosures dried up.
“We’re bumping along a ceiling. I really can’t see values going up much more,” said Steven Thomas, of, which analyzes Southern California housing markets. “Buyers are homing in on trying to pay a fair value. A year ago, everyone was willing to pay extra. Now that bidding up is not happening.”
This year, instead of competing with 20 other offers, Buyers are competing with 4 or 5 others.The inventory of homes for sale has grown, with more traditional sellers joining the market this spring. That’s giving buyers more to choose from, but it means homes that feel overpriced are starting to sit on the market a little longer.
That’s an unpleasant surprise for some sellers, especially those who valued their homes based on the 2013 market where one puts their home on the market and have 15 offers. Agents more often have to play the bad guy with sellers who think their home is worth more than the market will bear. Buyers have become a lot more savvy.
We’re starting to see more price reductions as sellers lower their sights to compete.
No one is expecting home prices to go down overall. There’s still more demand than supply, and well-priced homes are still selling quickly.
Interpreted from 6/11/14 article by

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 10:55 am
Nancy Low | Category: Buyers, Events, News, Sellers

Change is Coming To Next Year’s Mortgage Landscape

There are new factors in the Buyer’s ability to purchase in 2014.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the government’s insurer of home loans, just announced it would be lowering its loan limit in the very highest cost areas from $729,750 to $625,000, starting Jan. 1, 2014.
The FHA has already raised premiums and fees, and the average credit score of its borrowers is far higher than it was during the housing boom.
Then late on Monday 12/9/2013, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , announced it would again raise the fees it charges lenders, beginning in March. Those fees will likely be passed on to borrowers in higher rates.
“The new pricing continues the gradual progression towards more market-based prices, closer to the pricing one might expect to see if mortgage credit risk was borne solely by private capital,” stated Ed DeMarco, the FHFA’s acting director, in a release. “These changes should encourage further return of private capital to the mortgage market.”
A major new regulation, called the Qualified Mortgage (QM), also goes into effect in the new year, and that could raise borrowing costs even more, especially for borrowers who don’t qualify for the new standards. Qualified Mortgages are designed to protect both borrowers and lenders by limiting risk and providing banks with legal protections. The rules, however, are strict, and while lending can take place outside of QM, it will do so at a far higher cost.

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 10:09 am
Nancy Low | Category: Buyers, News, Sellers