Avoid real estate regret.

Will you still love your new home tomorrow?  Four tips to minimize buyer’s remorse.

Is the street packed with cars?  Very early in my career, a client clued me in to this.  We were looking in an area where unpermitted garage conversions and accessory dwellings are common.  Lots of cars in a neighborhood meant lots of unpermitted living space meant lots of people, traffic and noise–all things she wanted to minimize.  Apartment renters put up with this higher density because the trade-off is a lower housing cost.  But privacy, not higher density, is what buyers of single-family homes are looking for, and pay a premium for.

The recent relaxation of restrictions on accessory dwelling units and their parking requirements suggests that streets packed with cars may be a regular feature in Bay Area neighborhoods close to jobs.  It’ll be interesting to see what effectively up-zoning single-family neighborhoods to medium density does to their property values, especially in the not-too-distant future when car sharing and autonomous cars make commuting to lower-density areas on the periphery of the Bay Area more tolerable and maybe even downright enjoyable.

But hey! the whole idea is to lower the cost of housing, right?  

Tough commute.  These days the definition of “tough commute” is evolving.  As home prices in neighborhoods close to jobs have soared, buyer standards have relaxed.  My first job in real estate required a then-onerous twenty-minute commute to Cupertino on a 280 virtually deserted by 2017 standards–this was back in the late 1860s–but nowadays most home buyers would faint with joy at the prospect of a twenty-minute commute.  Thirty minutes seems to be the Holy Grail.  Anything more than that, and the trade-offs–bigger and newer house, as-good-or-better schools, lower density–had better be worth it.  And for lots of people, they are.

Homeowner association rules.  Apparently the modern home buyer has two options.  He or she can read the CC&Rs, rules and regulations and take them to heart.  Or he or she can move in and pretend they don’t exist.  I recommend the first option.

Specialty inspections.  Inspections, specialty or general, are a great idea, and when you make an offer in this area you’ll read and acknowledge at least one standard form that tells you they’re a great idea.  But it’s the rare seller who’ll accept an inspection contingency in an offer.  Fortunately, virtually all sellers here have general and pest inspections in their disclosure package, and while the fine print says they protect the seller, not the buyer, they’re usually better than nothing.

Unfortunately, specialty inspections like pool and solar are rare.  I always wonder about a seller whose pool has discolored plaster, missing tiles, cracked concrete and the general air of not having been maintained since Nixon was president, yet leaves it up to the imagination of buyers as to how much it’ll cost to repair.  The rule of thumb here is:  perceived buyer cost = (actual cost) x 3.

copyright © John Fyten 2017



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