Danville Home Buyers

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As some of you know, Tuesday and Thursday mornings are my hiking days. I used to call it trail running, and we do a bit of running, but mostly a group of us (open to anyone who would like to join us – just let me know and I’ll get you on the distribution list!), just go out on the trails at 8:30 on Tuesday and Thursday morning and hike the many trails of our area.

The Hills are Alive!We were in the Briones Open space this morning and at the top of one ridge we stopped to take in the panoramic view – WOW! We had a 360° view of Mt. Diablo to the Benicia Bridge to the Las Trampas Hills and down the San Ramon Valley. What a gift! I had a Julie Andrews moment – the Hills Are Alive . . . !!! I was tempted to brake out in song – you’ll be glad to know I didn’t.

And as always, Real Estate never being too far from my thoughts, I started thinking about what it is about views that are always so appealing and significantly affect the value of a home? Views are always a plus, and sometimes a must for certain buyers. We are fortunate to have views.

My favorite view is of the Las Trampas Hills. I know the more desirable view is to the East and our beautiful Mt. Diablo – but I like views of the Las Trampas Hills. I love the plush greenness of the hills, and the gangly majestic Heritage Oaks and I really love to see the fog hanging on the hills in the early morning. And those rare days when the fog pours over the hills like Niagara Falls – a blanket of fog keeping us cool. What a delight! Gorgeous!

Golf Course ViewBut there are more than just mountain views around here. We have lots of Golf Course views – always pretty and of course just views of the Open Space – which is just a breath of nothing and always offers privacy. Alamo has a mandated 1/2 acre minimum lot size (with a few exceptions, like Round Hill Country Club), so there is lots of space and as you go up the hills in either direction the views get better and better.

Newer homes built here were built to take advantage of the views. Architects and builders knew to position a home properly if the lot had a view.

Windows, and lots of them, are the hallmark of a home built to take advantage of the views. French doors and indoor/outdoor spaces to bring the glory of the views into the home are a common element in our area.

I always laugh at some of the older homes, or homes built as part of the tract developments – where the builder just went in and built without taking into account how to place the house on the lot to best frame the view. Sometimes this can be fixed, most of the time it can’t.

I often stand in a home or a back yard when previewing properties and just scratch my head. What was the builder thinking? Sometimes I just want to pick the house up and move it a few feet this way or that.

And Views bump the value of a home too – but value that is so hard to define. So many homes in the area have some kind of view, so what is that worth? Some people will say everything – it has a huge impact on price and value. Some feel it is an intangible that has little value. All I know is that a home that sits up and has that feeling of being above it all has a better feel than a home that is down on the flats.

View from the hills of DanvilleThe trade off is usually flat land – the higher up the hills you go the better the view, but the steeper the lot, typically. That’s why when we find a house that sits up with views AND has a big flat lot – that is the one that has the best value, and a higher price tag.

Did you know there is even a book dedicated to Views? It’s call Homes with a View (duh!) and offers hundreds of homes with breathtaking views of Oceans, Golf Courses and Mountains.

Like most things in life, the good comes with the bad. We live in a pretty narrow valley, so while our valley provides spectacular views, our ever present freeway makes for Freeway Noise just about anywhere you live in Alamo, and most places in Danville – especially that very desirable West Side. But the upside of our narrow valley is that we have plentiful views. Views of Mt. Diablo, views of the Las Trampas Hills, just plain “sitting above it all” views.

One last view we have that isn’t as desirable is our “Freeway View” homes. Yes, unfortunately, there are plenty of homes nestled up along the hills that shoulder our beloved I-680 freeway that must have spectacular freeway views – and thundering freeway noise. This apparently doesn’t (or didn’t) bother those home owners because some of the most spectacular homes in our area you can see from the freeway, which means they can see the freeway from their homes. There is, as we say, a buyer for every home.

So if you have a home with a view, I have several buyers looking for one. Let know if you’ve been thinking about selling, or maybe you have a neighbor who’s been talking about it. I can help. In the mean time, enjoy your view everyday and be glad we don’t live in a place where everything is flat as a pancake. If you don’t love your view, come take a walk with me and my group next week.

 

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I attended a Real Estate Economic Update last week and it painted a relatively rosy picture for the Bay Area Real Estate market. Really?!? Are we (the East Bay markets) really different? And if so – why? We have always been about six to eight months behind The City (San Francisco), the South Bay and the Peninsula. They hit the bubble before we did, they crashed before we did and we are still lagging while they are hot, hot, hot. Multiple offers at very strong prices.

We know that is probably because high tech and finance drive those markets, and we have less of that here. The good news is, that economic element has helped to hold our prices, in general, lower. And don’t even get me started on how that has affected our schools (we have twelve years of great public schools because from financially struggling to insanely affluent, we have not abandoned our public schools – unlike most of The City, The Peninsula and South Bay).

So we are the East Bay Area middle class and our Real Estate values have always been better because of that. I suspect that is also why from a real estate perspective we lagged behind other Bay Area pockets.

So are we hot, hot, hot? No. This has not been a great year, which surprises me because last year was so strong for me. It may just be an anomaly – our board is full (how we track office activity) and transactions are up. Prices are down, but not dramatically, and interest rates are still amazingly low.

Perhaps it’s due to the lousy weather we’ve had, or that consumer confidence is still on the fence about our economic recovery. You’d think that everyone in the Mid West would be moving to California to escape the flooding there.

And look at the Bank Buster numbers (to the left)! Alamo Notices of Defaults, Auction and Bank Owned properties are all dramatically lower than last year (-13%, -19%, -44% respectively Year over Year). Danville is similar with -31%, -9% and -5% respectively. I think this is the first time since I’ve started tracking these numbers that those numbers have ALL been down, and ALL been down pretty dramatically! And when you look at the TOTAL number of distressed homes (in default, scheduled for Auction or foreclosed), it continues to be a fraction of our residential roof tops (about 1% in both Alamo and Danville).

Now don’t get me wrong – I am NOT suggesting that Real Estate is fat and happy in our little world. It’s a VERY tough market, the toughest I’ve been through in twenty years – but the wheels ARE NOT FALLING off. To hear the media we have “double dipped” and we are back in a recession. I just don’t believe it.

 

Regardless of what the economists say or what the statistics and trends point to, this is still a wonderful place to live. We have lovely, established communities, great schools, a temperate climate (usually) and a better than average standard of living.

 

So call me Pollyanna, and even though the market hasn’t rebounded as fast as I predicted earlier in the year, I still think it’s a great time (and place) to buy or sell a home. And remember that if you have any questions about the value or your home, or what’s happening in your neighborhood, just give me a ring. I’m here to serve you.

 

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