Housing Stats: Prices Going Up?

Hoping for the best….




WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The relentless decline in home prices is nearing an end and prices should rise for the first time in seven years in 2013, but a possible new wave of foreclosures could threaten the recovery, according a Reuters poll of economists.

The median forecast of 24 economists polled by Reuters was for the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index to end the year unchanged. That was the same finding back in January for this house price gauge, which covers 20 cities.

“We are expecting a gradual improvement, but if we get a big wave of new foreclosures coming to the market, price declines could be even greater,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York.

The survey forecast the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rising 2.0 percent next year, up from 1.5 percent in the January survey.

The housing market’s collapse pushed the economy into its longest and deepest recession since the 1930s. Historically, housing has led the economy out of recession, but it has been the weakest link in the recovery that started in mid-2009.

While residential construction accounts for a mere 2.3 percent of gross domestic product, home prices have an oversized reach in the economy, influencing a wide range of consumption decisions by households.

House prices have so far fallen about 32 percent from their peak at the end of 2005, and an estimated 11 million Americans now owe more on their homes than they are worth.

A resulting tide of foreclosures has held back the housing market’s recovery.

The survey predicted about 1.5 million foreclosed properties will come on to the market this year. While there is no comparison for this figure, most analysts believe the foreclosure wave has either peaked or is close to topping out.

Given that foreclosures and the accompanying fear of further price declines are the main obstacles to any housing market recovery, few analysts say that further purchases of mortgage backed securities by the Federal Reserve will help.

Fed officials meet on April 24 and 25 to debate whether further steps are needed to drive borrowing costs lower to spur stronger economic growth.

Mortgage rates are already near record lows and house affordability is the best in history.

“The problem with the housing market is not necessarily that mortgages are expensive,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior macro Strategist at TD Securities in New York.

“It’s more the expectation that prices may continue to fall and cause a lot of potential buyers to sit on the sidelines to wait for more attractive entry points. I don’t think there is lot more mileage to be achieved from MBS purchases.”

Further MBS purchases by the U.S. central bank, however, could help keep mortgage rates low as the economy’s recovery gains momentum.

The survey forecast the 30-year mortgage rate averaging 4.00 percent in 2012, down from 4.15 percent in the January poll.

Although job growth slowed in March, the labor market is expected to continue strengthening this year.

That should help to lift home sales. Sales of previously owned homes are expected to register an annualized 4.70 million unit annual pace in both the second and third quarters of this year before topping at 4.80 million units in the fourth quarter.

That compares to a rate of 4.60 million units and 4.70 million units in the second and third quarter respectively in the January survey.

“This gradual healing is encouraging, but we must tread carefully as the housing market is still far from a robust recovery,” Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; polling by Snehasish Das and Aakanksha Bhat; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Cool App For Vacation House Rentals

Check out this very cool mobile app for VRBO next time you head out on vacation which I hope is sooner than later!





California February Home Sales


March 15, 2012

An estimated 29,630 new and resale houses and condos were sold across California last month. That was up 5.4 percent from 28,111 in January, and up 8.5 percent from 27,320 in February 2011.

A slight increase in sales from January to February is normal for the season. Last month’s sales were the strongest for a February since 31,228 homes were sold in 2007. On a year-over-year basis, sales have increased the past seven months. Statewide sales for the month of February have varied from a low of 20,513 in 2008 to a high of 48,409 in 2004, while the average is 32,017. DataQuick’s statistics go back to 1988.

The median price paid for a California home last month was $239,000, up 1.3 percent from $236,000 in January, and down 2.0 percent from $244,000 for February a year ago. The median has decreased on a year-over-year basis for the last 17 months. The median’s low point for the current cycle was $221,000 in April 2009, while its peak was $484,000 in early 2007.

Distressed property sales – the combination of foreclosure resales and “short sales” – continued to make up more than half of California’s resale market.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 34.3 percent were properties that had been foreclosed on during the past year. That was unchanged from January and down from 40.1 percent in February a year ago. The high point for the current cycle was in February 2009 at 58.5 percent.

Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 20.9 percent of the resale market last month. That was down from 21.2 percent the month before and up from 18.7 percent a year earlier. Two years ago short sales made up an estimated 17.5 percent of the resale market.

The typical mortgage payment that home buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $901. That was up slightly from January’s $893, which was the lowest since $882 in February 1999. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s typical payment was 59.8 percent below the 1989 peak of the prior real estate cycle, and 67.4 percent below the 2006 peak of the current cycle.

DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity is high, but well below peak levels. Financing with multiple mortgages is low, down payment sizes are stable, and cash and non-owner occupied buying remain at or near record levels, DataQuick reported.



Your opinion and help!

I’m thinking of a new, exciting, cool focused name for my social media. Currently using

“BayAreaRealEstate”…suggest some updated names! And I’ll pick a “winner” and figure out what the prize might be as well!




 Monday April …

Monday April 2, 2012 PORTOLA VALLEY, CA
Nino Gaetano’s Executive Summary    Single Family Homes

The median list price in PORTOLA VALLEY, CA 94028 this week is $2,980,000.
Asking Price Per Square Foot    $ 844

Average Days on Market (DOM)    176

Percent of Properties with Price Decrease    13 %

Median House Size (sq ft)    3320

The market has settled in at a relative stasis in inventory and sales conditions. It’s a Buyer’s market that has seen prices trend lower. Expect that consistent up trends in demand will be required before price trends change significantly.

Percent Flip (price increased)    4 %

Nino Gaetano | http://www.MLSListings.info | 650.207.1986
Powered by Altos Research LLC | http://www.altosresearch.com | Copyright ©2005-2010 Altos Research LLC




From our friends at American Home Warranty….



1. Use Healthy Eco-Friendly Cleaners
Many common household products contain toxins that could be affecting your family’s health. Buying natural safe cleaning products will help eliminate any risk of unnecessary toxins in your home.

2. Curb Paper Towel and Napkin Use
2.5 million tons of paper towels fill up landfills annually. A great solution is to buy a set of cloth rags, bar towels and fabric napkins to wash and reuse. It may be an added expense up front, but it will pay off in the end.

3. Replace Antibacterial Hand Soaps
Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps are no more effective than simple soap and water. Antibacterial soaps can lead to stronger strains of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

4. Plastic— Just Say No!
The Wall Street Journal reported that Americans go through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually and making these bags requires an estimated 12 million barrels of oil. To reduce plastic bag consumption, use alternative options such as; reuseable bags, paper bags, or even, no bag at all!

5. Replace the Sponge!
Sponges are bacteria incubators. Although a sponge seems like a great cleaning tool, it may not be the healthiest solution. Replace your sponge with dish rags!

6. Create a Recycling and Compost System
If you don’t recycle, the best way to get into the habit is to set up a simple system. Get a second trash can for inside your home and put it next to the trash can and label it “Recycling”. If you are ready to take it a step further, composting is a great way to turn your waste into soil like material that can be used in your lawn and garden.

7. Replace Nonstick Cookware
Nonstick cookware releases toxins when over high heat, has a short life-span (nonstick coating usually wears out in a year or two) and the nonstick coating can scratch off into food. Healthy alternatives include stainless steel, cast iron, copper and glass.
8. Buy In Bulk
Buying in bulk means less packaging and fewer trips to the store. You’ll also benefit from financial savings!

9. Update Kitchen Lighting

Kitchen lights are some of the most frequently used lights in the home. Energy efficient lights may be a high upfront cost but they use 75% less energy, generate 70% less heat and last up to 10 times longer.

10. Buy ENERGY STAR Appliances
If you are in the market for new appliances, choose one that has been proved more energy efficient. Many old appliances use a lot of unnecessary energy.




Here is a link to 20 nice places to live on Earth, there are probably more but this is a good start!

I have some great charts and graphs showing in a very visual manner, the state of our local real estate and I will share with you in next series of blogs.



Ticks in Cali


Ticks are where we live and are not going to go away but we can be prepared.




Snow Ice


Snow Ice and tomorrow back to Real Estate graphs and charts and realty!



Winter didn’t come until nearly spring this year, but plenty of snow has been falling in the Bay Area.

Snow ice, that is.

The cold and creamy Taiwanese dessert, also known as shaved snow or xue hua bing, has been popping up on the food radars from San Francisco to Dublin over the past year.

A cross between ice cream and the traditional shaved ice desserts popular in Hawaii and Asia, snow ice features soft ribbons of flavored ice topped with fruit, nuts and other assorted goods.

But if you’re having a hard time picturing the unfamiliar dessert, don’t despair. You’re not alone.

“We have a poster outside our store, and people thought it was a crepe at first,” says Janice Kou, owner of the year-old Snowflake in Dublin. “The green-tea-flavored snow ice – they thought that was lettuce.”

Neither a crepe nor a vegetable, of course, snow ice is  simply the next generation of Asian shaved-ice desserts.

Whereas traditional shaved ice is made by grinding ice, then flavoring it with fruit syrups or condensed milk, snow ice starts out closer to ice cream.

Flavorings such as green tea or chocolate are mixed into a base of milk and water, then frozen into cylindrical blocks that look like giant candles. The blocks are mounted onto an ice shaver, which slices it off in sheets – thin enough that they melt in the mouth, much like cotton candy.

At 100% Sweet Cafe, which has locations in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond District as well as the Pacific East Mall in the city of Richmond, the dessert comes as a mountain of snow ice drizzled with a choice of sauce, such as strawberry or chocolate syrup. It’s finished with three toppings – anything from lychee to red beans to grass jelly.

A creamier and more petite version of snow ice can be found at Fluffy Snow in San Francisco’s Sunset District, which serves snow ice in the style of frozen yogurt, in small cups with toppings spooned on.

Fluffy Snow co-owner Winnie Ng says the most popular flavors are mango and strawberry, while peanut, green tea and original milk are also on tap.

She opened the shop with three girlfriends in September, a few years after one of them first came across the dessert in Hong Kong.

“We don’t get a lot of sunny (warm) days here, especially in the Sunset, but we think it’s a very healthy snack compared to ordinary ice cream,” Ng says. “It’s very low-calorie and low in sugar.”

Kou, who owns Snowflake, also discovered the Taiwanese dessert by way of Hong Kong. She and her husband, Jeff, were watching a Chinese television channel when a commercial for a shaved-ice cafe in Hong Kong caught their attention.

Now, they’re one of a few places making ice blocks in house, thanks to a $10,000 freezing machine imported from Taiwan. Kou says her strawberry ice is 80 percent fruit, 10 percent milk, and 10 percent water; other flavors like coconut and pineapple are non-dairy.

“A lot of people didn’t know what it was at first, but everybody is amazed by it,” she says.

This story has been corrected since it appeared in print.

Where to find snow ice

Here are some Bay Area spots to get the Taiwanese sweet.

100% Sweet Cafe: 2512 Clement St. (near 27th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 221-1628. Also, 3288 Pierce St. (near Central Avenue), Richmond.

37 Degrees Dessert Cafe: 1155 Taraval St. (near 21st Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 566-3887.

Fluffy Snow: 1314 Noriega St. (near 20th Avenue), San Francisco; (415) 566-6288.

Snowflake: 4288 Dublin Blvd., Suite 105 (near Tassajara Road), Dublin; (925) 551-0971. www.snowflakecafedessert.com.

Snowice: 3561 El Camino Real, Suite 99 (near Lawrence Expressway), Santa Clara; (408) 251-1002.

Janny Hu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Twitter: @janny_hu. jhu@sfchronicle.com


Rainy Day Winery


Rainy Cali day and thoughts turn to warmer days and wineries, give this a read….



Contrary to first architectural impression, not every Napa winery is either a stylized barn too good to be true or an exercise in Mediterranean make-believe.

There’s austerity as well as opulence, understatement along with over-the-top. You simply need to know where to look.

Hence this handy cheat-sheet of sorts: six wineries on the valley floor that offer an enriching range of stylized craft.

There are no winding mountain roads and no too-obvious destinations. If you know the valley, you’ve already visited Robert Mondavi Winery (mock-Mission at its best). Architecture buffs have already tried to pull strings and visit Dominus Estate by Herzog and de Meuron, the Swiss architects best known locally for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Which leaves plenty to choose from, no two even remotely alike.

Quixote Winery

Our counter-clockwise journey begins with the most surprising sight of all: Quixote Winery.

When plants spill from the uneven brick-lined roof and hallucinogenic  tile patterns compete with a golden dome for attention, it’s clear that Napa’s weakness for pretentious theatricality is being tweaked.

The winery was founded by Carl Doumani, a pioneer in Napa’s resurgence, and the design is by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – a legendary Austrian architect who died in 2000 and has no other buildings in the United States.

Even if you don’t make an appointment, the building is worth a detour for the show. At the rate the landscape is filling in, you may not be able to see it for long.

6126 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-2659. quixotewinery.com

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

This winery is closer to what one expects in the valley, a barn-like form where thick stone walls frame a central bay of stained wood. The path to the tasting room entrance is shaded by a wooden pergola draped with wisteria vines.

What sets Sinskey apart is that there’s substance to the mood: a disciplined design by Oscar Leidenfrost that is resolutely modern in spirit.

The interior follows through with compressed drama, a long vaulted tasting room that’s a dim delight – “like you’ve entered a cathedral,” says one San Francisco architect. He’s not that far off.

6320 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-9090. robertsinskey.com


Hourglass Blueline Winery

There’s not much curb appeal to this small facility tucked behind a sluggish gate. So why make an appointment? Because it’s the purest example of contemporary design among Napa wineries, industrial and artistic at once.

There’s no building per se, just a concrete-coated V-shaped cut into a ridge. Set against one retaining wall is a 30-foot-deep canopy that protects equipment from sun and rain.

The scale shifts at the entrance, where old bottles form a half-circle around the front door. From the outside it’s as if you’re walking through a sponge. Inside, the bottle-filtered light has a stained-glass effect as you enter barrel-lined caves, ribbed and rough like corduroy pants.

“We didn’t want a visitor center experience,” Hourglass owner Jeff Smith says of the design by Olle Lundberg. “We wanted to put people in the knuckles of what we do.”

Open by appointment only. Call (707) 968-9332, Ext. 17 or e-mail marybeth@hourglasswinecom


Larkmead Vineyards

Larkmead Vineyards’ architect is Howard Backen, designer of choice for wineries that are among Napa’s most rarefied and remote. This one, though, is as approachable as can be: a streamlined update of a Victorian farmhouse next to a well-kept barn, all nestled among vineyards off Highway 29.

The tasting room is part of the farmhouse, next to a screened-in porch. Production occurs in the barn, the lone 21st century flourish being solar panels on the roof.

Backen’s touch is in the proportions, the ambiance. You feel this is what the entire valley was like, long ago, before all of us arrived.

1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga; (707) 942-0167. larkmead.com


Beringer Vineyards

Larkmead’s rustic romance aside, early Napa was more like the brawny historic triptych at Beringer Vineyards – a massive stone winery from 1877 flanked by stucco-covered warehouses from 1931.

Ignore the faux-Italian “carriage house” and the trinket-laden tasting room redo of one of the gaunt warehouse wings. Instead, sign up for a tour and then enjoy the ruggedness of the original space, and the enormous, scarred turn-of-the-(20th) century barrels still on display.

2000 Main St, St. Helena; (866) 708-9463. beringer.com


Del Dotto Estate Winery

And now for something completely and comically different: Del Dotto Estate Winery.

You descend past statuary lions and a fountain into a tasting room that makes Las Vegas look shy. The marble pillars are 175 years old. The ceiling tile work is based on the Doges Palace in Venice. The architect was “Elio,” a staffer told me, and he brought a crew from Italy to get everything just right.

Excessive? Absolutely. But it’s excess at an intimate scale – and besides, let’s face it, excess is part of today’s Napa every bit as much as a not-bad Merlot.

1445 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena; (707) 963-2134. deldottovineyards.com


John King is the urban design critic of The San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter: @JohnKingSFChron. jking@sfchronicle.com