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Half a Dozen Vacation Safety Tips for Sebastopol Homeowners

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

An overstuffed curbside mailbox, blazing porch light at noon, or a pile of newspapers out there by your front door all indicate a couple of things Sebastopol homeowners would do well to avoid. For burglars and housebreakers of all stripes, these are like lighted billboards announcing:

  • This Sebastopol homeowner is off somewhere enjoying a nice summer vacation; and
  • This afternoon and/or evening, there’s nobody home!

Every Sebastopol homeowner deserves an extended break now and then—and the July/August weather makes now the ideal time for many—but it’s also high season for break-and-enter artists (or just ‘enter’ artists, since 34% of burglars walk in through the front door). As long as we’re discussing the percentages, the common assumption that break-ins are midnight outings doesn’t hold water. Sixty-five percent of burglaries happen in broad daylight; most between 10am-3pm.

For vacation-bound locals, a few precautionary steps will do much to avoid a miserable discovery on your return home. If your home is currently listed, we think it’s a good idea to notify your agent to add a “Do Not Disturb Occupants” rider under the “For Sale” sign (whether it’s occupied or not!). In general, here are another six good vacation safety tips:

  1. Recruit some trusted neighborly help to keep an eye on the place and gather any mail and newspaper overflow. Most Sebastopolites are delighted to help—and you should offer to reciprocate.
  2. DON’T POST VACATION PIX on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media haunt until you get back. High among leading vacation safety no-no’ s are tweets like, “Off to Maui!”
  3. Think like a thief (that is, take a few minutes to case the joint). You’ll find yourself securing little-used doors and windows that are usually unlocked.
  4. Either unplug automatic garage doors that can be triggered by remote control frequency scanner or install a deadbolt lock.
  5. Do a better job of hiding the spare key. Thieves know all the common places. A spare key can be a vacation safety backstop if you need to phone someone to help get into the house in an emergency, but a spare key under the flowerpot is asking for trouble. Best hiding place: inside an envelope, you entrust to your neighbor.
  6. Cancel deliveries. An Amazon Prime carton beside the front gate is a commonplace—but when one or more remain uncollected for more than 24 hours, it’s a virtual invitation to the unscrupulous.


Even for Sebastopol neighborhoods that are safer than most, vacation time burglaries can happen anywhere and anytime that basic vacation safety precautions aren’t observed. A few minutes of prevention should yield added peace of mind while you’re on the road as well as a pleasant return to a safely secured home. We will be standing by to help when you start planning the more extended kind of outing: to your next Sebastopol home!       

Sebastopol Real Estate Agents: Positives and Negatives

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

There are a couple of ways to look at the difference between the way you approach a typical Sebastopol home sale and the way your real estate agent does. One is positive, the other, less so—but considering both reveals something about the value we Realtors® add to the process.

Most Sebastopol homeowners do decide to enlist the services of an experienced Sebastopol real estate agent, but sometimes it’s only after trying to avoid it. The reason is nearly always because, although the percentage of the standard agent commission is only 5% or 6% when the sale amount is hundreds of thousands of dollars, it can seem like an awful lot of money for hardly any work at all. 

The reality is otherwise—and in fact, since it’s a competitive business, those commissions would certainly be lowered here and there if it were commercially feasible to do so. But supporting the ongoing office and networks involved make that unrealistic. And then there is the other factor, which is to make all that background noise as invisible as possible. Part of a good agent’s accomplishment is to quietly assume most of the tedious tasks of the buying and selling process so that the client can concentrate on only those issues necessarily theirs to perform. Good agents don’t burden their clients with all those details—and certainly, don’t complain about them! An unfortunate but unavoidable consequence is that the job seems far simpler than it actually is. 

And in fact, the principal reason that most buyers and sellers do rely on Sebastopol real estate agents is because it’s the nearly universally accepted common practice. For a transaction as important as buying and selling a home, most people safely assume that it’s not prudent to make it a DIY project. Too, since teaming with a Realtor was probably the path chosen by their parents (and most of their neighbors and friends), there is little impetus to change the method that has succeeded for everyone in the past.

There is another good reason people count on their Sebastopol real estate agent, as well: it has to do with the perspective we add. When a client is house hunting, the overriding goal is to find the Sebastopol home that offers the most pleasing combination of features that fits their budget. When an experienced agent is part of the scouting team, another dimension is present: a sounding board for how properties stack up against the wider Sebastopol market in terms of competitive value. If a home is a perfect fit with a client’s gotta-have-it features list—but is nonetheless overpriced—an experienced agent is there to supply that perspective. When the later time comes to sell and reclaim value, that input can prove to have been all-important.

Whether selling or buying, staying abreast of the Sebastopol market is a key part of making discerning choices. Call us anytime to discuss what’s new!

Penny-wise and Pound-wise: Why People Use a Buyer’s Agent

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

A mega-proportion of serious Sebastopol house hunters ultimately decide it makes the most sense to team up with a real estate professional to get the job done. Sebastopol buyers may begin the process of finding and buying their next home on their own, checking through the online listings or driving target neighborhoods to check out the “For Sale” signs—but the NAR® reports that 9 out of 10 of U.S. buyers will eventually use a real estate agent in their search process.

The most obvious motivation for that is because the buyer’s agent’s fee is paid from the seller’s proceeds. That alone could explain a 90% level of popularity. When you can benefit from a professional’s services at no cost to yourself, Sebastopol house hunters would have to think long and hard to come up with what the downside could possibly be. To run down the arguments that could explain how 10% might decide to pass up the buyer’s agent service, we looked for the most common arguments against the grain.

Here are the Top Four, presented in no particular order. (Since we definitely do have a dog in this fight, we’ve also included some counterarguments):

  1. Distrust. Something for nothing? A free lunch? Common sense teaches the same lesson, always and forever: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH! (Counter: the service is not free: the seller pays).
  2. Independent Spirit. Some people know that they work and think better when they take sole responsibility. They may have been misled by “experts” too many times—may regret not relying upon their own instincts. After all, Americans are mavericks by nature: they are at their best using their own native ingenuity to solve problems. (Counter: a substantial portion of the process of purchasing a home in Sebastopol requires mastering technical legal and timing requirements. Although a buyer can take the time to learn about all of them, since their buyer’s agent has already handled them successfully many times, it’s wasted effort. IOW, this is a wheel that doesn’t need to be reinvented).
  3. Commitment. If asked to okay an agreement that spells out the ground rules for working with a buyer’s agent, it’s as if a commitment is being forced prematurely. After all, who knows for certain that the right Sebastopol house at the right price is even out there? It just feels like putting the cart before the horse. (Counter: this is never a commitment to buy—just an agreement for how the search and commission will be handled if a suitable home is found and purchased. The buyer can make sure the arrangement can be severed without penalty if the service is not satisfactory).
  4. Motivation. Since a buyer’s agent will profit from any sale—they’ll try to sell me anything. (Counter: Every buyer’s agent is legally and ethically duty-bound to represent their client’s interests—plus, since their entire career is utterly dependent on their reputation, their interests align).

Whenever we represent any buyer, our motivation is 100% that of helping them reach their desired outcome. Reaching that goal—finding the right Sebastopol home, then negotiating and closing at the right price—is the way we keep the phone ringing. See for yourself by giving us a call!

 

Mortgage Interest Rates & Sebastopol Real Estate: It’s All Connected

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

One way or another, it’s all connected.

Last week ended with what some observers justifiably called a “shocking” development—one that could impact Sebastopol’s home buyers and sellers measurably—at least in the short run. It came with the release of the employment statistics from the Department of Labor. They weren’t good numbers. But the surprisingly weak report might be good news for some home buyers, since it could well affect affordability. As I said, it’s all connected.

“Affordability” is the index that seeks to summarize in a single number whether or not a typical family would qualify for a mortgage under current economic conditions. When a homeowner in Sebastopol is looking at the state of the market, it’s not a bad indicator for explaining why sales might be rising or falling. Even though the nation’s residential prices have been rising steadily, the Affordability Index has remained better than the historical average. You’d think that when something is more expensive, it would be less affordable—but the contradiction is explainable when mortgage interest rates are taken into account.

All across the U.S., very low mortgage interest rates have been more than compensating for higher home price tags. Interest rates near or below the 4% mark tend to make monthly home loan payments eminently affordable. That happy situation can’t last forever, of course; so it’s why anyone with stake in Sebastopol real estate has reason to watch for changes in mortgage interest rates. If you are thinking of buying a home in Sebastopol, low mortgage interest rates are a strong motivator to get going. If you are thinking of selling, legions of motivated buyers are what you’d hope for.

Adding more fuel to the fire had been the growing likelihood that those mortgage interest rates will soon begin to rise—this month, as a matter of fact. Until last Friday, the Federal Reserve governors had been unusually forthright in statements that they were likely raise lending rates at next week’s meeting. The experts didn’t disagree.

Then came Friday’s jobs report, which blew those expectations, if not into the weeds, at least onto the sidewalk. MarketWatch was typical. “Weak job numbers…have essentially taken a June rate increase off the table.” They called the chances for such a move in July “also significantly reduced.” Only hours earlier, the same site had headlined, “Investors are now ready to accept the Fed’s interest-rate hike.”

Fortune was equally firm, headlining, “Don’t expect the Fed to Raise Interest Rates This Month.” An earlier article had described financial markets that were raising bets on a June increase following release of Fed deliberations.

Does this new twist make Sebastopol real estate market more or less attractive? The poor labor report might give some pause about the U.S. economy as a whole, but our area’s continuing low mortgage interest rates certainly counterbalance those concerns. Then there is always the outside chance that the experts are, again, wrong—and the Fed will raise the Funds rate, anyway.

This is a realm in which few things are certain. One is that, as previously mentioned, it’s all connected. Second, there’s at least one sure way to take advantage of the best Sebastopol real estate market has to offer—calling us!

 

Sebastopol Homes for Sale: The Pronounced Food Connection

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

It’s interesting to look into how many ways the universe of food —be it restaurants, markets, cooking, gardening or eating—intersects with the world of real estate. The connections are many and important. That’s true from the moment a future Sebastopol homeowner begins to look into the current crop of Sebastopol homes for sale.

We commonly think about residential real estate predominantly in terms of shelter. The listed homes for sale are vying to become the roof over our head; the place where the family will be blissfully protected from the elements. But since it will also be the place where we prepare our meals, store the groceries, and experience the holiday celebrations and feasts that will be remembered forever as key moments in our family’s life together.

Food is central to all these things—it’s why homes for sale that can claim superior kitchens have a clear advantage over those with cramped layouts or dated appliances. The popularity of formal dining rooms may be waning, but the importance of the kitchen has never been more pronounced. Interestingly, large, showy kitchens don’t always get the highest marks from experienced family head chefs. For some, a more compact layout that creates an efficient “work triangle” (the imaginary line connecting cook top, sink, and refrigerator) can win favor by saving steps—and time. In any case, most Americans think of the kitchen as the house’s nerve center around which family life revolves. And in summertime, when the action moves outside, an extra advantage goes to the homes for sale that have patios or decks that look ideal for outdoor grilling.

It is also true that for even the most dedicated amateur chefs, hectic workday schedules can mean that cookery of any kind is forced into becoming a strictly weekend pursuit. For those whose professional lives make that an unavoidable reality, a property’s proximity to quality Sebastopol dining outlets can be a major selling point. One way alert homeowners take advantage of that is by preparing a list of their favorite local eateries—or even by prominently displaying a collection of current take-out menus from nearby restaurants.

When you think about it, it makes good sense to take a look at the ways homes for sale in Sebastopol can make the food connection part of their marketing approach. Call us for a rundown of some of the other lifestyle elements that we can use to demonstrate to prospective buyers how readily your property can fit into their vision of what a treasured home should be.

 

 

New Year’s Frame of Mind (and Sebastopol Real Estate)

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Along with all of the New Year’s Day festivities a few weeks ago came what you could call the New Year’s Frame of Mind: the familiar, this-time-of-year special consciousness of the passage of time. For most Sebastopol residents, all the other seasons come and go with everyone too busy tending to everyday affairs to pay much attention to the big picture: the progress (or lack of it) toward the major goals most everybody hopes to achieve.

It’s that New Year’s Frame of Mind that’s behind the impulse to make New Year’s resolutions. After all, there’s no such thing as ‘Fourth of July resolutions,’ or ‘Labor Day resolutions,’ even though a quick check of the calendar confirms they come once every year, too. Nope; it is the moment when the crystal globe slides down to the Times Square throng and old Father Time greets Baby 2016 that’s most likely to trigger thoughts of how preposterous it is that another whole year has gone by.

Whether or not that feels terrific is partly due to how well we’ve advanced in our individual Grand Scheme of Things…be it a self-improvement incentive (that’s why they run all those ‘learn a foreign language’ commercials in December) or long-term career growth.

For most Sebastopol residents, progress toward financial security is one of the larger issues that the New Year’s Frame of Mind can trigger. Right on cue, many of the end-of-year broadcasts included a sobering study about the average American’s savings picture…actually, ‘sobering’ is too mild a word. As one credit guru put it, the statistics were ‘dizzying.’

The survey was credited to an outfit called GOBankingRates. They had released it months ago, but it drew considerably more attention as the calendar neared January 1 (getting the New Year’s Frame of Mind treatment). Their pronouncement wasn’t so much ‘dizzying’ as it was frightening: the lead finding was that 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings!

Reassuring information was readily available, though, for anyone who did more than a quick scan of the survey. It turns out that they had asked about savings accounts only—so the headline-grabbing number left out retirement accounts and the like. As it relates to Sebastopol real estate investors (if you own a home, you are certainly a Sebastopol real estate investor), they also hadn’t included real estate equity in the ‘savings’ total. That certainly makes their scare headline less than dizzying. As the first commenter on their own website noted, ‘why keep money in a 1% savings account?

But GOBankingRates wasn’t exclusively a source for misleadingly bad news. As compensation, they also supplied surveys of the 10 Best Tax Havens in the World (Luxembourg is #1) and 2016’s Top Resolution (it is “enjoying life to the fullest”).  

Here’s hoping that Sebastopol’s 2016 proves to be a remarkably healthy, happy, and prosperous one for you and your family. And if ‘enjoying life to the fullest’ this year involves buying or selling a home, we hope you will give us a call! 

 

Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

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Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner
Artisan Sotheby's International Realty
7775 Healdsburg Ave.
Sebastopol CA 95472
(707) 696-6272
(707) 480-4098
Fax: (707) 824-0587