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What’s With All The One Bathroom Houses In The Bay Area?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Decorating by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

While in the rest of the country, you might be able to buy a 3,000 square foot house for less than $500,000, here in the Bay Area, we’re lucky to get more than one bathroom in a 1,000 square foot house in am up and coming neighborhood. So, how does a family live in one of these one bathroom houses?

Bathroom_for_suite_-_Paris_Opera_Cadet_Hotel

It’s not impossible. With these tips, one bathroom can become manageable, although I’m not going to promise that two wouldn’t be better.

1. If it fits, add a second sink.

Many older homes (and let’s face it, most Bay Area homes are), have more counter space than sink space. If you have the room, add a second sink. The plumbing is already there, so it’s an easy fix for any plumber. It will, at the very least, enable one person to put on makeup and another to brush their teeth.

2. Build a wall around the toilet

Privacy on the toilet is often a priority among the closest of spouces, let alone entire families. A wall hiding the toilet can offer the privacy someone needs. If there’s room, consider a door along with a couple of walls. That would ensure total privacy and unless two people need to use the toilet at the same time, it solves all problems of privacy.

3. Think high

Most single bathrooms are small and lack storage space. Shelves can be a lifesaver. Build them high, which gives you the added bonus of fooling the eye to making the room seem more expansive.

4. Change your sink

Even if you don’t have room for a second sink, make the best of one by making sure it has storage. Pedestal sinks are a no-no when there is just one bathroom. The under sink storage is imperative. If you can’t afford a new sink, there are shelving units that are designed to o around pedestal sinks.

h2>5. Outsource

The only things that have to be done in the bathroom are, well, going to the bathroom and bathing. The rest can be done outside the bathroom if necessary. In a pinch, teeth can be brushed over the kitchen sink. Purchase bedroom vanities for putting on makeup and for drying and styling hair.

Believe it or not, large families in years past typically made do with one bathroom. Human needs haven’t changed, but the amount of stuff we have has. Minimize and be strategic. There will be challenges, but it can be done.

If You Plan On Selling Your Home, Do It Now; Here’s Why

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you own a home in the Bay Area, congratulations. You own property in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas of the country, but ironically, the cost of real estate now may be why the cost of your home could soon tumble.

san-francisco-918903_1280

According to a poll by the Bay Area Council, millennials are becoming fed up with the high cost of living in the Bay Area. 40 percent of them want to leave. That’s up from 34 percent last year.

The desire to leave the Bay Area was tied to how much of a person’s income went towards housing costs. Among respondents spending 60 percent or more of their income on housing, more than half are planning an escape. Other factors identified by survey respondents as serious include traffic, poverty and income inequality.

One insight the survey revealed was a generational gap in residents looking to depart for cheaper destinations. According to the survey, 46 percent of millennials saying they are looking to leave, leading all age groups. To (Bay Area Council President, Jim) Wunderman, that data doesn’t bode well for future economic growth, especially with big-picture economic indicators like job growth slowing.

“In order to effect meaningful change, we have to signal to the people who live here as well as people who are looking to the region that we’re ready to take on the challenges of making the Bay Area a place that feels like the future.”

Source: San Francisco Business Journal

None of this is particularly surprising. San Francisco is the second most expensive city in the country, just after New York. With average housing prices at nearly $3,500, it’s easy to imagine how people would become frustrated and want to leave our beautiful area.

The good news is, if you have a home, especially a house, outside the city, you might be hit slightly less if millennials start the exodus. Millennials without families tend to live either in San Francisco or in Silicon Valley, and generally in apartments. Still, if you are thinking of selling, now might be the time to do it.

Is Solar Worth It For Your Home?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You might now know it now, but California is one of the sunniest places the nation. The Bay Area is also home to some of the most advanced green energy companies in the world. There’s definitely a push to go solar, but is it worth it for you?

solar-power-862602_1280Last week, I wrote about ways to cut your energy costs, and I only briefly mentioned solar, because it’s not very cut and dried. If you are looking just to save money, solar may or may not be for you. If you are looking to save the environment, solar is a great option, especially in California.

The first thing you should do is find out if you’ll even save money. Google has a nifty tool where you just plug in your address and it estimates the savings, if there are savings. When I plugged in my address, it said I would be saving about $400 a year in electricity. It would be more if we added electric heat, hot water and air conditioning units. On average, if your electric bill is north of $100, solar may be the right choice for you.

Buying vs. Leasing Solar Panels

Installing solar panels can be costly. For my house, which is a split level, so it doesn’t have a lot of roof space, the estimated cost of solar panels would be a bit over $20,000 over a 20 year lease term, but if we were to purchase the solar system outright, it would cost about $15,000 less nearly $5,000 in current tax credits (so just about $11,000 out of pocket, which can be financed). If we purchased, it would pay for itself after about eight years. After 20 years, our savings will be about $17,000. Even if we finance, our monthly payments will likely be less than our electric bill would have been. If fact, PG&E could end up owing us money since they purchase any electricity we don’t use.

If you lease solar panels, you may not be able to take advantage of the tax credits and you may not get credit for any electricity you don’t use. So, why would anyone lease when they can buy? Because there’s no maintenance and you won’t pay for installation. Overall, though, your monthly payments will likely be at least a little lower if you buy instead of lease. Either will increase your home’s value, although the leased system would have to be transferred to the new owner.

Featured image via Pixabay.

You’ve Just Inherited An Estate, Now What?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

When a family member passes, it is beyond heartbreaking, but when you’re suddenly thrust into being responsible for the family member’s estate, heartbreak can be compounded with stress.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Please note that this blog post is about what happens after the courts have sorted things out. Only a few of our movers have law degrees (kidding), so you really should not be taking legal advice from us. This blog post is also not about massive estates. If businesses or multiple investment holdings are involved, please consult an expert.

Now that we’ve said that, most estates are not massive. Most involve perhaps one home, perhaps a car and anywhere from a few to a great deal of personal possessions. Typically, when an heir or an executor to the estate takes his or her first look, to say it’s overwhelming is an understatement, but with just a little planning on your part, a moving company can shoulder a lot of your stress.

Let’s assume that by the time you’ve called a moving company, all the heirs have ironed out what goes to whom. If not, here is some pretty good advice for maintaining peace while divvying up belongings. Once you know what goes to whom, the hard work is done. All you need to do is label things. Buy some sticky notes and you can color code each member of the family. There are bound to be some items that no one wants, and those can be sold or even stored.

Once everything is labeled, let a mover handle the packing for you. We are experienced with estates and have moved items for major auction houses. There isn’t an antique or piece of artwork we don’t know how to treat with kit gloves. Please, though, if there is jewelry or other small valuables in the estate, move those items yourselves.

In most estates, there are items that don’t necessarily have a home. Some are typically set to be sold and others, into storage. Perhaps some family members don’t have room for their new treasures, so they will also need storage. We can help you with that as well.

Obviously, we can transport the estate anywhere within the country, even if there are multiple destinations.

Don’t let a family death be more stressful than it already is. Engage the help of professionals. We will remain calm during the storm and we will ensure that everything makes its way to its new home. We might even help prevent some family feuds.

 

A Shocking 1/3 Of Bay Area Residents Want To Leave

in Bay Area News, Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

There are few better places to live than the Bay Area but for some, life can be tough, especially if we’re not millionaires and many Bay Area residents are thinking of leaving.

A survey was done by the Bay Area Council, and 34 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they were thinking of leaving – mostly because of the cost of homes and the traffic. Most of the people who are thinking of leaving have only been here for five years or less, though.

The council, which released its findings Monday, also found that the number of people who say the area is headed in the wrong direction is significantly higher this year over last year: 40 percent versus 28 percent last year.  And 40 percent of those surveyed said the region is on the right track, down from 55 percent.

Source: KTVU

San Francisco residents had a more positive view of the Bay Area, with 52 percent thinking we’re going the right direction. Santa Clara residents are the most dissatisfied.

Here’s the video:

This survey definitely serves a purpose in letting leaders know about people’s struggles and where the area can be improved. Even areas once considered too dangerous, like parts of Oakland and Richmond, are becoming price-prohibitive for many and traffic is tough, but it’s not as tough as in some places.

If you’re one of the people considering leaving our beautiful area, first off, we’ll miss you, but we can also help you. Just give us a call.

Bay Area Named The Worst Rental Market

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Featured image via Wikipedia.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

It probably doesn’t surprise most of us to live here, but if we rent, we are paying out the you know what for just rent. If we own, we’re paying even more. At least those are the findings of Forbes’ annual ranking of rental cities.

The worst city for rentals, according to Forbes, is San Francisco. On average, renters pay $2,800 a month and their rent increases almost 13 percent a year.

MSA: San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $2,802

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 12.8%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $85,087

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 40% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 3.6%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $5,851

Mortgage payment v. rent: $3,049 cheaper to rent

Right behind San Francisco on the “worst” list is Oakland.

MSA: Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $1,815

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 10.5%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $76,493

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 28% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 2.9%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $4,182

Mortgage payment v. rent: $2,367 cheaper to rent

Right behind Oakland is San Jose.

MSA: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $2,291

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 11.3%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $93,902

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 29% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 3.5%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $5,050

Mortgage payment v. rent: $2,759 cheaper to rent

Believe it or not, New York is behind even San Jose. Their average monthly rent is a bit higher than San Francisco, at about $3,300, but the annual increases are much lower.

METRO (Not an MSA): New York County (NY)

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $3,290

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 3.4%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $74,915

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 53% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 2.3%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $7,917

Mortgage payment v. rent: $4,627 cheaper to rent

Rounding out the bottom cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, Northern New Jersey, Boston, Orange County, California and Palm Beach, Florida. I guess we should be happy that California has “only” six of the 10 worst rental markets.

Of course, there’s a reason our rental market is so tight – everyone wants to live here. We have the best weather, the best companies, but biggest variety of recreational activities and the best people.

What Is Gentrification And What Does It Mean For You?

in Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Depending on your lot in life, gentrification is either great or it’s full of potential upheaval. To some, gentrification means betterment of a neighborhood. To others it means displacement. Regardless, there’s a whole lot of gentrification going on in the Bay Area and it’s reflected in housing prices.

If you are one of the folks who have owned your home for a while and your neighborhood is in the process of gentrification, you might be happy about it, that is, unless you like your neighbors and the feel of the neighborhood.

You may or may not like the trendier shopping and restaurants. You may like the fact that properties around you have a fresher, newer, more expensive look, but you probably will like the fact that your property values are going up.

If you are renting, look for increased rent and even eviction. Your landlord may want you out so he or she can make the changes necessary to bring in the big bucks. A gentrified neighborhood can raise rents as much as 40 percent. This San Francisco tenant saw her rent go up a whopping 400 percent.

If you are looking for a place to live, are there advantages beyond better shopping and restaurants? Is the crime rate lower? Studies have been done and the results are conflicting. Higher income people generally have more political clout and the ability to demand more police patrols but they also have more things worth stealing and the residents themselves may be less vigilant. A gentrified neighborhood may appear safe but it’s no guarantee against crime.

Gentrification is particularly hard on poor people and minorities, who find themselves having to move to the far reaches of the Bay Area or even outside the Bay Area to find affordable housing.

Chinese investors have long been blamed for much of the increasing property values in the Bay Area, but it might not be quite that simple. Foreign investors are creating construction related jobs in the pre-gentrified areas, but once properties are built, the people who worked on them will likely be out a home. San Francisco is trying to address the problems through solutions like affordable housing and loan programs, but we still have to wait and see.

So You’re Thinking Of Renting Through Airbnb?

in Advice, Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Depending on who you talk to, Airbnb is either the greatest thing since there was no room at the inn or it’s a way to help destroy the Bay Area’s already tight rental market.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

In case you aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it’s sort of like an eBay for short-term rentals, only without the bidding. Homeowners, or in many cases leaseholders, rent out either a room or the entire place for a nightly, weekly or monthly rate – presumably while they’re on jaunts of their own.

Since it’s relatively new to the market, there have been few regulations. Many landlords prohibit subletting and I assume that some leases are specifically mentioning that that applies to short-term rentals as well. But in cities like San Francisco, where the housing market is very tight for people who live here long-term, until recently, people have been hoarding properties and renting them out at higher short-term rates, rather than settle for lease prices.

In October of last year, San Francisco passed some regulations for the short-term rental market, including setting a maximum of 90 days a year for any given property and paying hotel taxes. Here is more information on the law.

If you still want to try it out, Airbnb might be a great way to help pay for your own vacation or a way to help finance your own living space without the commitment of a roommate.

Like eBay, Airbnb offers star ratings for both renters rentals. The more quality reviews, the better. That can be a bit of a sticky wicket at times. Even while you are on vacation, being disruptive or making too much noise can result in bad reviews. If you plan on really partying, you might want to stick with a hotel. Unfortunately, complaints can also ring up bad reviews, so if you clog the toilet while renting, it’s a good idea to fix it yourself.

On the other side, most is pretty obvious. Keep your place immaculate. Invest in coordinating linens. Paint the walls. Make sure everything works perfectly. Your goal in the beginning is to rack up good reviews, which might mean cutting your price and adding extra touches like gift cards to local restaurants, a box of chocolates or a bottle of California wine.

Give your guests a binder full of restaurant menus, public transportation information, local sights and activities. You also want to list any peculiarities your home may have, such as a door that needs to be lifted before opening.

Neighbors may not like the idea of strangers staying next door. You can do one of two things; you can either pretend they’re your friends or you can talk to your neighbors, telling them that you only rent to top-rated renters. I recommend the second.

While location is everything, there are many renters who want the San Francisco experience without paying San Francisco prices. If you are on the BART line or within easy commuting distance to the city, you can still generate good prices. Wine country is another huge draw, as is Silicon Valley, especially for business travelers.

There are no guarantees, though. I just plugged in my address and the monthly net was less than we pay every month. Regardless, check them out. It could be worth it for you.

San Francisco Is Nation’s Fastest Growing Moving Destination

in Bay Area News, Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson 2 Comments

 

Golden_Fog,_San_Francisco

Does the Bay Area seem a bit more crowded lately? It’s not your imagination. Despite rising real estate prices, San Francisco is the fastest growing moving destination in the country, at least according to one survey.

While San Francisco is not the top moving destination – that designation almost perennially belongs to Atlanta – it’s moving up the ranks, showing an average increase of 6.9%. The data was pulled by Bloomberg from records from U-Haul.

Penske, a competitor to U-Haul, doesn’t even show San Francisco in the top 10 of overall moving destinations – yet. However, it San Francisco keeps moving up at the rate it is, it might creep onto the list soon.

What other cities are moving up quickly in moving ranks? Nashville is number two. Austin, TX is number three followed by Raleigh, NC, Louisville, KY, Dallas, TX, Tacoma, WA and Denver, CO. Denver is the only city to be both a top 10 moving destination and in the top 10 for growing destinations, although, Tacoma’s neighbor, Seattle, is a top 10 destination.

With the exception of Chicago and Jersey City, NJ, all of the fastest growing destinations are in the South or the West. The all-around top moving destinations show a similar trend, which doesn’t bode well for the Midwest’s or the Northeast’s housing markets.

Graphic of fastest growing moving destinations from Bloomberg.

Graphic of fastest growing moving destinations from Bloomberg.

Which Home Improvements Are Worth It?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Decorating by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

 

Buying real estate in the Bay Area means one thing – compromise. Even with large budgets, buyers encounter tiny rooms, small yards, limited bathrooms and outdated fixtures. Truly move-in-ready properties are rare, and even when you do find one, they are pricey and most buyers want to add their own touches.

On average, home owners sell about every five to seven years, so the odds are, that the personal touches you put on your home will need to appeal to a new buyer in a few years. So, how does a homebuyer strike a balance between what pleases them and what will please future buyers?

The age-old question is, would you rather own the nicest home on the block or the worst home on a nice block? Ideally, you’d probably be somewhere in the middle, but for resale value, it’s better (within reason) to own the worst home on a nice block. In other words, being the only home in the neighborhood with expensive finishes may not win you buyers. Or, as the adage goes, location, location, location.

For both livability and for curb appeal, a good roof is a good place to start. In California, tile roofs are popular, but solar can add thousands of dollars in value to your home. If you aren’t a fan of solar panels, solar shingles and solar tiles are also an option, but they have their downsides.

Of course, a good coat of paint goes a long way toward salability, but within reason. You might want to hold off on painting your home 49ers red, Raiders black or Giants orange. If your home’s siding is sun worn, replacement will give you about even money. You’ll get about what you put into it. Replacement windows return about 80% of the money and they’ll save you a lot of money while you’re living there.

When prospective buyers are looking at the inside of a home, the rooms that really draw them are the kitchen and bathrooms, but don’t go overboard. Stainless appliances are a plus, but chef’s quality appliances only return value if they are fairly standard in the neighborhood. Most buyers these days look for granite countertops and for updated cabinetry, but keep the colors neutral.

A lot of California homes are older and are short on bathrooms. If you have a four bedroom, one bath home, you might be better off losing a bedroom and adding a master suite, with a modern bathroom and a walk-in closet. Of course, the ideal would be to add on to the house or find room elsewhere.

Today’s modern bathrooms have granite countertops, big showers (possibly with steam) and big tubs. Most couples want double sinks and plenty of counter space. The master bath is generally more important than the guest baths, although both should look updated.

The most important thing, obviously, is to please yourself first. If you really love to cook and you want to buy incredibly high-end appliances, then buy them. Unless you are flipping a home, resale value shouldn’t be the only factor, but do your research first. If your home has two bedrooms, it’s probably not a good idea to take it down to just one, even if you do gain a master suite. Check with your realtor before adding a pool. Pools can even devalue a home.

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