Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another San Francisco Bay Area Housing webiste

I recently discovered an useful website where you can find all the important information on San Francisco bay area real estate housing market.

Check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A quick & easy way to calculate monthly home mortgage

After some research on mortgage and talked to my real estate loan agent, I figured a quick and easy way to calculate home mortgage monthly payment "on the fly".

Assuming you are buying a 800K house, with 20% downpayment, your loan amount is 800K - 160K = 640K. With monthly interest rate of 6% approx, your monthly payment will be:

3200 + 640 + 800 = 4640 per month.

The first number (3200) is the approx. monthly interest payment. It comes from Loan amount divided by 100 then divided by 2. In this case, 640K divided by 100 = 6400 then divided by 2 = 3200

The second number (640) is the approx. monthly principle payment. Just divide the loan amount by 1000. In this case, 640K divided by 1000 = 640.

The third number is the approx. monthly property tax + home insurance. Just divide the house purchase price by 1000. In this case, 800K divided by 1000 = 800.

I am able to come up with the monthly mortgage in my mind within minutes when I was on my open house tour now which is very helpful and hopefully someone will benefit from this quick and easy mortgage calculation method.

Happy Holiday and good luck in your real estate investment!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Low 30 Year Fixed Conforming Jumbo Mortgage Rate!

I just got this information from my loan agent today.
The 30 years fixed Jumbo conforming mortgage interest rate today (11/26) is at 5.625%.
You might even get a lower rate at 5.5% if your Loan-To-Value (LTV) is less than 75%.

It is great to see that the mortgage rate started to drop finally. Hopefully it will make the money starts flowing again in the financial market.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A good bay area housing sale info site!

I just found this bay area real estate housing sale history info website recently. It is very useful to me and I would like to share with everyone. From this website, you can track all the previous housing sale history in bay area up to a few years back.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Do we need buyer agent as a first time home buyer?

When I first explore the idea of buying a house, I have visited mostly new home community, such as KB Home and Plute, and have no notion of getting an agent for myself. A big part of it is because new home builder does not deal with agent at all thus, there is no reason to look for one. From the time I started looking at existing home, this question surface again, whether I should look for a buyer's agent.

For those who has just started out, there is a different between a seller's agent and buyer's agent. As a buyer you have two options as listed below:

1. Look for a buyer's agent that would represent you throughout the process of purchasing a home

2. Have the seller's agent to represent you as well throughout the process of purchasing a home, where the agent is a dual agent

After thinking for a while, I still believe it is of greater benefit to someone buying a house to look for a buyer's agent to represent you. Here are reasons to support my choice:

1. As a seller's agent, their first priority is to look after the interest of the seller, that is to sell the house at the highest price possible. They might approach you to represent you as well (happens a lot at open houses I visited), no matter how friendly they are, the priority to look after the seller's interests will not change at all. Trust might be an issue in this case since you don't know whether information given to you is complete.

2. As a buyer's agent their main purpose is to look after the interest of the buyer. They have insider information about the current situation with the sale of the house which can be a benefit when you are putting in an offer, as to how much to offer, what sort of contigency to put down in the offer and etc. They can also advise you based on the professional experience what is a fair price of the house, what to look for when visiting an open house. They can help you filter out open houses based on your criteria so there is no need to go to every one of those open houses in the location you plan to buy.

Everyone has their own opinion on this topic. Thus, you would need to evaluate your situation and decide which option is best for you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Questions to ask when visiting open house

When I first started visiting open house, normally I will just go in, walk around and ignore eye contact with the agent because all I want to do is take a look at the place. Another reason is because I am not sure what sort of question to ask other than those simple ones.

If you don't know what to ask, you can start off by listening when other people visiting the same open house is asking questions. After a couple more listening session at open houses and a little research, I learned a little what sort of questions to ask.

Here is a list of questions you can ask the next time you visit an open house:

(1) What is the school district? Even if you think you know it already, it does not hurt to re-confirm with the agent.

(2) Is the report for the house inspection ready? What are the major repairs listed in the house inspection?

(3) Does it requires any fumigation?

(4) What is the age of the roof? Replacing the roof might cost roughly additional 10k or more out of your pocket so it can be part of the decision factor as well.

(5) Who are the neighbours around the neighbourhood?

(6) Why is the owner selling the house? For those who are superstitious, it might make you feel better after knowing the actual reason why the owner plan to sell.

(7) Whether there is any other competition that the agent know who would be putting down offer?

(8) Also ask about the mechanical systems of the house, for example, plumbling, electrical wiring, etc? How old are they?

(9) How long as the house been on the market? To see how much you can bid for the house.

(10) Any update done to the property, like addition? If yes, is it done with permit or not?

(11) How old is the property?

(12) What are including in the sale of the house?

(13) Is there a HOA (Home Owner Assiociation) cost?

There might be other questions that you might want to ask. I hope the list above will help you jump start on what questions to ask next time you visit an open house.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First house offer failed~

It has been a very busy week. I got a project due at work and also busy working with my agent on my first offer ever to a home that I like. The house inspection report has no major repair needed. My agent got some information from the seller's agent that there will be multiple offers on the house. So we decided to make our offer attractive by removing all contigency except a 500USD of home protection plan and shorten the closing time to less than a month. On the offering price, since it is the first week of the open house, we decided to add another 8k on top of the asking price (and yes I was a bit hesitant and reluctant whether I should put the offer over the asking price since it is supposed to be a buyer market now).

We submitted the offer on wednesday but on thursday morning, I am told that the house is sold at a higher price (within the first week of listing!). It is a bit of set back for me and hopefully I will be able to find a better house next time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

First Potential House Offer!

Continued my open house visiting spree this weekend. Visited quite a few open houses and there are always a crowd of people. Maybe all the parents are trying to move in before the summer ended so their kids are able to register in time for the fall semester in the new school district.

There are a couple nice houses this weekend that are newly remodeled and with nice floorplan. I am a believer in the first instinct where I always made my decision on a house on the first few steps into that house. There is one house that I particularly liked. It has good neighborhood and good school district, open floorplan, hardwood floor, bright living and family rooms with windows and skylight. The sunlight shinning in the living room thru a window door and a few wide floor-to-ceiling windows that makes the living room bright and comfortable. I have a chat with the listing agent and the property has no major fixing required except the fumigation.

Gonna check with our agent today to request for the detail house inspection report and also to discuss a strategy of a potential offer.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Real Estate Outside United States US

It have been awhile since I last posted on this blog. I was on a two-weeks long vacation to Hong Kong and Taiwan. It was a fun trip. The food is good, people are friendly however the weather is hot.

I happened to walk by a few real estate companies on the street while on vacation. I spent some times to understand the current real estate market in these countries.

The housing market is starting to cool down a bit but you will be surprise to see the house price to salary ratio in these two countries are so much higher than in US. A single family home is worth way over a million USD in these countries and the normal working class is only able to afford a unit in a apartment complex. Even for a good apartment unit at the prime location in Taipei is worth close to a million USD too.
The price per square feet in Hong Kong is even higher compared to Taipei and US.

I am wondering how can these markets sustain these high housing price. Does that mean there is still room for US housing market to go higher? Time will tell.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day! I took this weekend off from visiting open houses by heading to beaches, BBQ and watching fireworks with friends.
Wish everyone enjoy this long weekend as I do.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

School District Information Sites Sharing!

It has been a busy week. Lately there are rumors that federal will raise the interest rate as soon as October to ease the inflation risk (Betting on Rate Hike) while the mortage rate is already sitting at 9 months high (Mortgage rate). Besides, the low house prices are also driving California home sale to soar 18% in May compare to May 2007 (California Home Sale) which is a welcome signal to us (more demands will balance up the high supply and will definitely help to stabilize the house price).

I should hurry before the home price start picking up or the interest rate start heading north. I would like to share a few websites that I use frequently to locate school district related information:

(1) Public comments on schools and it also provide a list of schools around a provided address
(2) School District API Score check
(3) Fremont Union High School District Official Website
(4) Cupertino Union School District Official Website
(5) Sunnyvale School District Official Website

Here are some useful school district boundary maps:
(1) Fremont Union High school district boundary map
(2) Cupertino Union school district boundary map
(3) Sunnyvale school district boundary map

The boundary maps are extremely useful to me to determine how much a house worth and saving me a lot of times for skipping those area that I am not interested at.

Please let me know if there is any other useful school info website that you would like to share.

Good luck to all the house hunters!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My future house location criteria

I still remember when my agent first asked me where is my home target location when I just started searching for a house to buy a couple months ago. My answer was anywhere as long as it is within my price range of 750K to 950K. At that time, I thought as a single person I shouldn’t have to worry about school district. All of my worries were the price and the quality of the house. But after a lot of times spent on searching/researching and visiting open houses, I finally realized that buying house is not just buying a roof over my head to stay instead it is one of the most important investment in my life. House price and quality should not be my only concern.

Below are the main criteria that determined my house searching locations:
(1) Good school district. Good school district and good neighborhood almost always by default go hand in hand. To me, high school will have higher weight than middle and elementary school.
(2) Within 30 minutes of driving distance to my work (Santa Clara). I would like to enjoy my life with less time driving on the road.

After determined my search criteria, I narrowed down to the few areas below:
(1) Cupertino 95014
- One of the top school district in bay area.
- Houses in this area are either in the high side or over my price target range.
(2) South Sunnyvale 94087
- Preferable in area that goes to Homestead High School.
(3) West San Jose 95129 with Cupertino school district
(4) Santa Clara 95051 with Cupertino school district

There are a few other areas that are good however they are either out of my price range or are too far away from my work such as Los Altos, Saratoga, Fremont Mission, Palo Alto.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Old small house in good areas or New big house in not-so-good areas?

After a couple months of research, I finally narrow down the target location of my future home down to a few areas. Location, location and location are all advices I got from seniors and current home owners.

I have gone thru the dilemma time where I was debating with myself whether I should get a new 2500 sq ft single family home in those not-so-good areas or should I get an old 1300 sq ft single family home in those good areas. I believe all home buyers have gone thru this process.

I have decided to buy/invest in those houses that are hard to get in (houses that will get multiple offers and yes it still happens at this time) than buy those houses that easy to get in (houses that stay on markets for months). Those houses that hard to get in are usually those houses that you can sell quick and easy for a better price whenever you need to.

What is actually driving the housing market down? Foreclosure! But it will be rare to find a foreclosure home in those good areas such as Cupertino, Los Altos, or Saratoga. The prices for those good areas are pretty stable so far. And when the housing market is picking up, my prediction is that those houses in good areas will be going up at a faster pace.

What does “good location” mean to me? Good school district, good neighborhood and environment, and also not so far from my work (<30 mins driving).

Visited a few open house this weekend but nothing too excited, maybe next weekend!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Is it good time to buy house now in California bay area?

I have been looking to purchase my first home for months. And I always ask myself that if this is a good time to buy now since the housing market is falling and also the foreclosures rate is climbing. But if you are looking for a house in those area with good school district such as Cupertino, Palo Alto, South Sunnyvale, West San Jose, West Oakwood Santa Clara, the housing market is pretty stable and some area are even climbing. And it will be rare to find a foreclosure homes in good area.

Here are the reasons that I believe it is a good time to buy now:
(1) Inflation
With the high inflation rate happening right now in United States, all the cost of materials to build a house is also actually rising sharply. After the market digested the foreclosure homes, any new construction will have to increase the selling price to compensate the higher cost.

(2) Interest Rate
It is pretty rare to have both low housing price and low interest rate happened at the same time. Recently market is expecting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rate to ease the risk of high inflation. There are a few possibilities for the future:
(a) Both housing price and interest rate drop
- Interest rate is very unlikely to drop further due to inflation.
(b) Housing price drop while interest rate go flat
- Possible. If it happens, it will be bad to buy now.
(c) Housing price drop and interest rate rise
- Possible. If it happens, buying now doesn’t hurt.
(d) Housing price go flat while interest rate rise
- Possible. If it happens, it is a good time to buy now.
(e) Both housing price and interest rate rise
- Possible. If it happens, it is a good time to buy now.

(3) Supply and Demand
To me, California is the best place to live in term of weather, cultural and also job opportunities. There are always more people moving into this area than moving out from this area. The land in bay area especially those areas with good school district are so limited. There is no supply but always with strong demand.

(4) US Currency and Globalization
With the weak US currency, more and more people from other countries will be able to afford a home in California bay area. China boom will also allow more and more Chinese to be able to afford US properties for their US life dream. California bay area is also one of their main choices.

(5) High Tech Jobs Opportunity
There are so many fortune 500 and startup companies in this area. I have been hearing that it will be easier to find a new job on the same street of your current company in bay area than find a new job in the same city in other cities. No matter how bad the job market is, bay area always offer better job opportunities.

No one can really time the market perfectly. To me, it seems to be a right time and I will go for it when I find one that I like. Wish me luck!