Monday, June 7, 2010

The "Normal" Bathroom

Well, I've been clearing off my desk and finally got down to a nice story from the New York Times of 4/19/09: How Consumer Expectations about the Home Have Changed, and How They Might Change Again.

We all know that today's consumer wants a family room adjacent to a kitchen, wants two baths upstairs, and wants a master of a certain size--few of these amenities were typically available when our homes were originally built. We know the average home size has increased substantially.

The story talks about the exit of Home Depot from the Expo experiment,about the eco-renovators who focus more on green stuff than green performance (I think I'll go crazy if I hear about another $1200 side table cum polished ancient forest wood chunk). They also discuss, in a nutshell, the notion that "No one ever said, 'I want one sink instead of two.'"

But I am noticing more modest renovations, and outside of Piedmont, a tremendous amount of cornere-cutting in the slap-dash house flips these days. Three years ago, homeowners felt like their investments

Freebies---Sue Johnson Lamp Wiring and Lowe's in Concord

Because I did something very nice for Sue Johnson Lamps on Solano Avenue, they gave me a $40 gift certificate for lamp wiring/rewiring services. So if that antique lamp with the cloth wiring has been making you nervous, contact me and I'll drop off the certificate.

And if you're willing to drive to Concord for home improvement projects, I have a $25 off ($250 min purchase) coupon and a $10 off ($50 min purchase) coupon. Both expire at the end of the month. Just let me know!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Good News for Refinancing!

A year ago, I was helping a number of you review appraisals: rates were very attractive, but because of the new appraisal rules and the declining market, appraisals were coming in very low. I saw appraisers working here who were from Discovery Bay; I saw appraisals that included the data from very high-end fixers in Wildwood Gardens, but had the photo from a (truly comparable) house on Wildwood Avenue; I saw appraisals that used as comps Oakland properties that had closed recently; I saw homes that should have appraised for x appraise for much less. Together with the higher equity requirements the lenders had imposed, some of us were stuck with paying high rates!

It's a different world now. The appraisal practices have adjusted (and at least for a new home, realtors can refuse an appraiser assignment if the appraiser is not experienced in the area), there are many more sales so no one is comparing Piedmont to Montclair, and prices have definitely stabilized.

Particularly if you bought your home or refinanced between January and November of 2008, you may want to contact a lender about refinancing into a 30-year loan--rates are under 5% in many cases. And especially if you "gave up" in the last year or so, take a few minutes to make a phone call. Email me for a list of five local mortgage brokers and in-bank lenders who do excellent work. (And be prepared for a long slog if you're thinking about using Bank of America.)