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hmb review

Steve's Column in the HMB Review

I have been writing for the HMB Review, and other publications, on a variety of local and national topics since 1996. A small sample of the topics I've covered are listed below.

  • Feb. 27, 2019: Don’t use your home as personal piggybank
    Let’s face it, for most people their home is their largest and most important financial asset. And it should be treated as such. The equity you build up over the years can be an important part of your retirement goals. The government also helps you by giving you very generous tax breaks to achieve these goals easier. Read more...

    Feb. 13, 2019: Rest of county outperforms coast with real estate prices
    Real estate in the rest of San Mateo County mirrored the results on the coast, with prices rising and volume falling. However, the percentage changes elsewhere in the county exceeded those on the coast. Read more...

    Jan. 30, 2019: Condos are selling as well as single-family homes
    While condo prices appreciated more than homes and sold faster, the volume decline was greater too. When looking at these numbers, keep in mind that the volume is very small and the mix of what sold by complex in 2018 versus 2017 can easily distort the total results. Read more...

    Jan. 23, 2019: Say goodbye to "cheap" homes in coastal neighborhoods
    Last year ended amid signs of softening, with more price reductions and a decline in sales volume. Despite that, homes prices increased by 6 percent to another all-time high. Read more...

    Jan. 16, 2019: Home prices hit record highs in 2018 as volume declines
    Last year was somewhat of a mixed bag for Coastside real estate. Home prices hit another all-time high with good appreciation. Sales volume declined in the second half, bringing down the volume for 2018. Read more...

    Dec. 26, 2018: Fed plays Scrooge for fourth Christmas in a row
    What’s up with the people who run the Federal Reserve? Do they think everyone wants an interest rate hike for a Christmas present? Guess so because this is the fourth year in a row they’ve done it. Read more...

    Nov. 29, 2018: Holidays are great time to buy new home, if you can
    Everybody loves a deal. That’s why people torture themselves driving around looking for parking spaces at the mall and stand in long lines fighting for items on Black Friday. It’s also why they spend hours surfing the web for deals on Cyber Monday. Read more...

    Sep. 13, 2018: Is Proposition 13 tax break likely to change soon?
    Proposition 13 has been part of California real estate since back in the late 1970s. It was originally promoted as a way to help elderly people keep their homes because of rising taxes of the surrounding properties when sold. Back then, as homes in the neighborhood sold at higher prices, other homes were reassessed by the tax assessor. This became difficult for seniors on fixed incomes as their property taxes shot up based on new sales. In many cases seniors were forced to sell the homes they had lived in for decades because they couldn’t pay the new higher property taxes. Read more...

    Aug. 30, 2018: Where are deals in today's Coastside real estate?
    Let’s face it, everybody wants a deal. It’s human nature. In some industries you can find deals by the time of the month or right before new models come out. Read more...

    Aug. 15, 2018: Don't let your ego ruin real estate deal
    No question about it: buying or selling a home can be a stressful experience. And that’s understandable. It’s probably the largest individual single transaction you’ll make. That’s especially true here with the average home price for San Mateo County being north of $2 million. Read more...

    Jun. 27, 2018: Bridge loans are back for real estate purchases
    Let me first start by saying that bridge loans are not for buying bridges! So, if you were thinking of buying the Brooklyn Bridge, this isn't the loan you will need. Read more...

    May 23, 2018: Do in-law units make dollars and sense for your home?
    There is no question there’s a shortage of houses for sale and that rent is forcing prices up. The lack of housing on the coast is somewhat self-inflicted by anti-growth policies over the decades. It’s not that we don’t have available land because there are hundreds of undeveloped acres along Highway 1 from north of Ocean Colony through Miramar that could be used for a variety of purposes. But the politics make that unlikely. Read more...

    Apr. 11, 2018: Should you stay or should you go when buyers call?
    This is the time of year when inventory of homes for sale starts to increase. And thank goodness as inventory levels have been very low for quite some time now. In fact, you’d have to go back to the end of 2014 to find the same number of available homes as we have now in the middle of March. Read more...

    Dec. 13, 2017: Trump’s tax plan takes big step toward reality
    A few weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of President Donald Trump’s tax plan, which focused primarily on lowering corporate tax rates from the highest among advanced economies to now one of the lowest. There were also some goodies for companies on repatriating trillions in profits parked overseas to avoid high U.S. tax rates as well as generous new depreciation laws. Read more...

    Nov. 20, 2017: How will Trump's tax plan affect real estate here?
    President Donald Trump has announced the most sweeping changes to the tax code in decades. The big question is who will be the big winners and losers? Read more...

    Sep. 5, 2017: Check home insurance now, before disaster hits
    The catastrophic flooding that’s hitting the Gulf Coast should be a wake-up call for everyone to take out their homeowner’s insurance policy and make sure coverage is adequate and current. Read more...

    Aug. 23, 2017: Are you the right model to do a home remodel?
    I guess my life must be pretty boring because I find myself at times watching home-remodeling and house-flipping shows on channels like HGTV. You’d think, dealing with real estate all week, I’d want to do something else in my spare time. Read more...

    Jun. 20, 2017: Beware of real estate wire fraud scams
    It seems you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about some advertisement for identify theft scams. Well, now you can add one more scam to the list: wire fraud scam. And this is something that is popping up in real estate transactions involving large sums of money. Read more...

    Jun. 12, 2017: Rent-backs make moving easier, less stressful
    Whether buying or selling a home, by far the most stressful part of the transaction is moving. This is something not often talked about by Realtors, but it’s a crucial part of the process and among the last things that need to get done. It is often overlooked as there are many other important things that have to happen first before your home is really sold. Read more...

    May 23, 2017: Affordable housing is just all talk around here
    There’s been a lot of talk lately about the increased need for more affordable housing, not only here but throughout all of San Mateo County. And it’s understandable, as there’s been a big influx of new jobs here over the last few years without a corresponding increase in new homes built. And, as is usually the case when there’s an imbalance between supply and demand, something has to give. Read more...

  • Dec. 28, 2016: It’s a good time to winterize your house
    Well, we’ve had our first winter storms and that’s probably made you think that maybe this is a good time to check out your home to see how well-prepared it is for the rain and winds. Of course, the best time to do this would have been a few months ago when contractors weren’t that busy with emergency jobs. But I understand this personally as I’m somewhat of a procrastinator. Why do something today when you can put it off to tomorrow? Read more...

    Feb. 17, 2016: Condo sales outpace single-family home sales
    Condo sales on the coast also had a good year. In fact, they did better in terms of price appreciation than the residential home market did. Read more...

    Feb. 3, 2016: County real estate outperforms Coastside
    2015 was another excellent year for real estate in San Mateo County with home prices increasing by $206,000 to a new record, thus outperforming the coast. On the Coastside, prices only rose by $93,000. The gap keeps widening and now stands at $478,000, making the coast a bargain by comparison! Read more...

    Jan. 27, 2016: Say goodbye to cheap homes, high volume
    2015 was a year that had a little of everything to make most people happy. Sellers were happy to see home prices hit an all-time high. Buyers were happy to see price reductions take place. Bankers were happy to raise borrowing rates. Realtors were happy to see higher commissions, even if there were fewer of them. While volume has been rising for many years, 2015 actually saw a modest drop. Sales volume is down 6 percent from 2014 and it’s still down by 26 percent from 2004 (last peak) and down 31 percent from our all-time high back in 1999. Read more...

    Jan. 20, 2016: Coastside home prices hit all-time high in 2015
    he year ended with somewhat of a mixed bag. Some indicators were positive and others negative. Home prices hit an all-time high, although appreciation was half of what it was the previous year. Sales volume was slightly down. Price increases were becoming noticeable in certain segments. Inventory is tight. Mortgage rates rose. The stock market declined. Read more...

    Jan. 14, 2016: Inventory ends year on low note
    For the past four years, inventory has been on a downward path. Over the last three years there was hardly anything for sale. And this year there’s even less. Obviously this is good news for sellers, but bad news for buyers. 2015 ended about even with 2014, in regard to inventory on the Coastside. The tight inventory caused home prices to shoot up dramatically, with the fourth quarter being the best since 2007. Read more...

    Dec. 23, 2015: Federal Reserve finally raises interest rates
    Well, they finally did it! For a very long time the Federal Reserve has been saying that the days of almost free money are coming to an end. Of course that’s free money to the banks, not you. Right before Christmas, as you are racking up credit card charges for all those gifts, the Fed decided to raise the key lending rate they charge banks - or the Federal Funds Rate - by 0.25 percentage points. Read more...

    Dec. 15, 2015: New bank regulations may affect closing time
    Back in the 1970s the federal banking regulators required lenders to give two disclosure forms to borrowers to explain the cost of money and fees. These two forms were the Truth in Lending and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and were given to borrowers quickly upon applying for a mortgage so there would be no unpleasant and costly surprises later on, like when you are signing your loan documents a few days before closing. These were what we called "good faith estimates," not hard final figures. Read more...

    Nov. 18, 2015: Hire a local Realtor for best results
    This is by no means meant to disparage other Realtors, but when it comes to buying or selling a home, you are going to be much better served by selecting a local person. It’s not that agents on the Coastside know more, we just know this market and local conditions better than agents from other areas. And, yes, the same can be said for us not knowing other communities as well. Read more...

    Nov. 2, 2015: Many factors create high rents on Peninsula
    No question about it. Rents have been going up and probably much more than home prices. Without another recession in the Bay Area, this trend will continue. Read more...

    Sep. 24, 2015: Home appraisals are getting more difficult
    Congratulations, you just listed your home and got several offers all above your asking price. But I’d put the champagne on ice because most likely this isn’t a done deal yet. If your buyer needs to get a loan, the appraisal could very well be the deal- maker or -breaker. Read more...

    May 20, 2015: Homeowners can get some green by going green
    Here’s something you don’t see to often. How about getting some green back from one of the agencies you give so much green to? After all, we give a lot of money every year to the people who run our county. Isn’t only fair they give some of that money back to us taxpayers. Read more...

    Apr. 1, 2015: When you see solar panels, ask questions upfront
    There is no question that solar energy is both energy efficient and cost efficient. Solar energy solutions have been around for a long time and seem to get better over time and cheaper too. Read more...

    Feb. 25, 2015: County home prices ride to record territory
    Last year was another excellent period for real estate in San Mateo County with home prices increasing by $176,000. The Coastside actually had a better year percentage-wise, as prices went up by $153,000. Read more...

    Feb. 18, 2015: Condo sales up but lag behind single-family homes
    Condo sales on the Coastside had a good year - they just didn’t do as well in price appreciation as the residential home market. In 2014, condo selling prices increased by 12 percent to an average price of $543,000. In 2013, price increases were much better, increasing by 24 percent. So over the past two years, prices improved 39 percent. By comparison, home prices on the coast now stand at about $1.03 million - up 18 percent in 2014 and 17 percent in 2013, making the two-year increase about 37 percent. Read more...

    Feb. 4, 2015: Cheap homes on coast are a thing of the past
    By all metrics, 2014 was an excellent year for Coastside real estate. Everything was moving in the right direction, especially for sellers. Read more...

    Jan. 21, 2015: 2014 was a hot year for Coastside real estate
    All the stars seemed to have lined up right for Coastside real estate this year. Prices have shot up over the past few years. It’s nice to be able to say that after the tough times. Prices, volume and selling time are up. Mortgage rates, inventory and distressed sales are down. And the stock market ended the year at an all time high. Read more...

    Jan. 7, 2015: Real estate inventory remains low on Coastside
    For the past three years, inventory has been on a downward path. Last year there was hardly anything for sale. Well, this year there’s even less. Read more...

  • Dec. 31, 2014: There are options for those seeking home loans in 2015
    Here we go again. The main factors for the crash of the real estate market back in the 2007-2009 period were the combination of low down payment mortgages and the lax reporting and verifying of buyer income. This scenario was ripe for abuse in a rising real estate market. People were buying homes with stated unverified income and low down payment mortgages. Some got teaser mortgages rates, which soon adjusted upward with much higher payments. Read more...

    Nov. 19, 2014: Strike now while the rates are low
    The Federal Reserve is a seemingly secretive government agency that is autonomous from the rest of the government. It was set up that way, with lengthy terms, to avoid being pressured by politics. The minutes of the regular meetings regarding its actions on monetary policy are made available to the public months later. Read more...

    Oct. 29, 2014: Even former chief of the Federal Reserve can be denied a mortgage
    In a speech given by the recently retired chairman of the Federal Reserve, he said he was turned down trying to refinance his Washington D.C. home. That raised a whole bunch of interesting questions as to why the second-most powerful person in the world, someone with incredible connections, would get the thumbs down. Read more...

    Oct. 1, 2014: Should you pay off your mortgage early?
    To have a mortgage or not to have a mortgage is the question? As is the case in most industries, things change. What was considered a good practice for a long time may not be good today. Read more...

    Sep. 17, 2014: Let your Realtor pick your lender next time
    Some things just need repeating over and over again. There are people who either bought their home years ago or refinanced it and know a lender. There are others who are new to real estate and think all lenders are pretty much the same. And then there are those people who refuse to listen and think they know better. Read more...

    Aug. 27, 2014: Saying goodbye one of the hardest parts of the move
    I can’t speak for other professions but in my job at times I get so bogged down in the details and short timelines that I can lose sight of the emotional aspects of the homes I help to sell.Read more...

    Apr. 16, 2014: Water is flowing again in Moss Beach and Montara
    A fter a somewhat short-lived rollout for new connections back in 2011, Montara Water and Sanitary District is again issuing water connections to local residents. The California Coastal Commission didn’t think MWSD did the paperwork correctly back then, so it made the local district modify its public works plan and imposed a temporary moratorium on connections. (See my articles dated Sept. 28, 2011 and June 12, 2013.) Now the Coastal Commission is satisfied and connections are available. Read more...

    Mar. 12, 2014: In real estate, when in doubt, get out
    Conventional wisdom suggests when people are coming over to look at your home, you should leave. And you should leave before they arrive. Most people selling their home get this, but then there are those who don’t. And for others, this just isn’t possible. Read more...

    Nov. 29, 2013: Home prices and price reductions on the rise
    Here’s something you don’t see often in real estate. We have the interesting situation of both rising home prices and a significant rise in the number of price reductions. Some of you may think I’ve finally lost it while others thought that has been the case for years. Read more...

    Jun. 19, 2013: Mortgage rates inch up, may affect market
    You know what they say. Nothing goes up or down forever. That’s certainly true with interest rates. After many, many years of falling mortgage rates, it looks like things are starting to go back up. Read more...

    Jun. 12, 2013: Water connections slow to take hold in Montara, Moss Beach
    About a year and a half ago, the local water company that serves Moss Beach and Montara, Montara Water and Sanitary District, surprised some of us by announcing that for the first time in decades it was going to be issuing water connections. District officials said (see my column of Sept. 28, 2011) that the combination of conservation from the public combined with the new water supply from the Alta Vista well were the reasons connections could be made. Read more...

    Mar. 27, 2013: Go online if you are interested in renting your home by the week
    Hardly a week goes by without someone contacting me about short-term rental opportunities. Many people think, because this is an oceanfront community, you can rent homes by the week or month. Read more...

  • Dec. 12, 2012: What does Obama’s second term mean for real estate?
    I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad the election is over. Now we can focus on what this means. Well, unfortunately, Congress has big issues to deal with before the end of the year that will impact all sorts of taxes and deductions. And, of course, nobody knows what it will do. Hey members of Congress don’t even know what they will do - if anything at all! Since it’s December already, time is quickly running out. Read more...

    Sep. 19, 2012: When you hire real estate professional, take the advice
    Most people who seek out professional advice, usually do so because they need expertise about which they know little. Otherwise, they’d save the money and do it themselves. It really doesn’t matter whether its legal, tax, real estate or construction, the simple fact is that experts know more about their job than most of us do. Read more...

    Jul. 11, 2012: The question now is how low can interest rates go?
    There is no question that the Federal Reserve has been using its somewhat limited arsenal of monetary measures over the past few years to get the economy going again. The results have been somewhat disappointing. And for every winner, there is a loser. One of the main tools the Fed has is adjusting interest rates. Other tools are the money supply, bank reserves, margin requirements, etc. Read more...

    Jun. 15, 2012: Cutting corners can cost you in the long run
    I know many people think buying and selling real estate can be expensive and wonder how can they reduce the costs. Some think they can do it themselves and save money on the commission. After all, what do Realtors really do for their fat fees? Read more...

    Jun. 6, 2012: Short sales of home may become harder to complete
    As most of you know by now, short sales are a lot of work and don’t always come to fruition. That’s why many Realtors and buyers avoid them like the plague. Well, if Congress doesn’t act before the end of the year, they may become much harder to do, if not impossible. Read more...

    Dec. 7, 2011: Congress gives homeowners a holiday present
    I know there are many who feel Congress can't seem to do anything these days except argue, spend money foolishly and take way too many vacations. I certainly feel that way. But sometimes our representatives surprise us and actually do something right. Well, sort of. Read more...

    Nov. 16, 2011: Holidays are time to get serious about price if you are selling
    We are approaching the time of year I affectionately call "White Death." This is when things in the real estate business hit the brakes because of the many other distractions going on. You know, those holiday get-togethers like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Read more...

    Sep. 28, 2011: Water is flowing again in Moss Beach, Montara
    After a moratorium on new water connections that has been in effect for several decades in the towns of Moss Beach and Montara, the local water utility (Montara Water and Sanitary District) is finally in a position to start issuing water connections again and begin the process of converting all the homes and lots that are currently being serviced by domestic water wells. The reasons that MWSD is now able to do this is because of a conscientious public that has been practicing conservation, plus the additional water from their new Alta Vista well. Read more...

    Mar. 31, 2011: If you see something you like in home, ask for it
    I'm always seeing new things in my job as a real estate agent. That keeps the job interesting as well as providing a constant source for new topics for my column. Sometimes things are funny, while others are sad. And then, of course, there are the ones that send your blood pressure through the roof. Read more...

  • Sep. 29, 2010: Moving may be most stressful part of buying new home
    Buying and selling a home are inherently stressful. So much to do, so little time. One of our jobs as Realtors is to try and make the process as easy as possible. It starts out by understanding your housing needs. Then we assist you with the financing. Here’s where the stress starts to build as the lender reviews credit scores and tax returns then asks for reams of documentation. Read more...

    Sep. 8, 2010: Sellers, it's time to leave when the buyers arrive
    First, there is the massive cleaning. Then you have some Realtor come in and "tactfully" suggest how your home would look better if you moved your furniture around or better yet, just move out and have it professionally staged so it always looks like its ready for a photo shoot for some fancy decorating magazine. Next come the inspectors who poke all over the place telling you everything wrong with your home and some astronomical price to fix it. And all this is just in preparation to putting it on the market. Read more...

    Aug. 25, 2010: Buying an REO home is not for faint of heart
    It’s true that buying bank-owned property is easier than buying a short sale. Of course, almost everything is easier than dealing with a short sale. These are known as REOs, which stands for real estate owned, where the bank has completed the foreclosure process and is now selling the property that it owns outright. While these are easier than short sales, they are still not right for everyone. Read more...

    Aug. 11, 2010: Why are short sales so difficult to deal with?
    Over the past few years there have been a rising number of distressed sales not only on the coast, but throughout the country. While the situation isn’t as bad here as elsewhere, California ranks as one of the highest states in terms of foreclosures. Read more...

    Feb. 24, 2010: Association lawsuits can make financing difficult
    It’s tough enough getting mortgages today. You don’t need more obstacles to jump over in order to get a loan approved. Despite all the money the U.S. government gave the major banks and Fannie Mae back in 2008 and 2009, it seems like lenders are trying as hard as they can to find excuses to not lend money. Read more...

    Nov. 25, 2009: Do you want to lower your property taxes next year?
    I bet many of you right now are dreading opening the nice letter sent to you from the San Mateo County Tax Assessor. Of course, not only should you open it but it’s also time to write that painful check. And when you look at what your home is assessed at, you are liable to wonder if it’s too high. Many more of you would be right considering the extraordinary decline in home prices in 2009 for both the coast and county. It’s too late to do anything about this year unless you took my advice last year, but you can certainly plan for the next tax year and keep more of your hard earned money. Read more...

    Sep. 9, 2009: You might let your Realtor pick your lender
    One of the things that really makes me nervous is when my clients want to use their own lender. If I’m dealing with a seasoned property owner, I’m willing to take their word that this company is good. But when I’m dealing with a first-time homebuyer, that’s a whole different story. The reason I feel uncomfortable is because I don’t have a track record to go on. Read more...

    May 12, 2009: Buyers have lost control of home appraisals
    There’s no doubt that there has been a lot of abuse with home loans and that led to the real estate problems we are cleaning up now. There were many questionable loans made with poor documentation. Well, it wouldn’t surprise many to know that there were also questionable appraisals made to help get those questionable loans. Read more...

    Nov. 13, 2008: Any investment, including real estate, requires proper timing
    There’s no doubt that the markets have been chaotic lately. We’ve seen wild swings in commodities, stocks, real estate, food, etc. You might be wondering whether stocks or homes have been better investments over the last eight years. Read more...

    Sep. 3, 2008: Water connection fees may soon tumble on coast
    s many of you know, we on the coast live in an area of scarce resources. Over the years we’ve had many building bans because of lack of water and sewer. And no sooner does a moratorium happen than some enterprising person figures out a creative solution. I still chuckle over the brilliant solution to the sewer moratorium in the late 1980s in which two individuals came up with a most creative answer. Read more...

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