Monday, January 24, 2011

Lunar New Year Events - 2011

Happy New Year! OK, Happy Lunar New Year! In the Chinese calendar, the longest chronological record in history dating back to 2600 B.C., this year marks the lunar year 4709 -- Year of the Hare or Rabbit. The first day of the lunar year is February 3, 2011. For the Tet Vietnamese New Year it will be the Year of the Cat!

Famous people born in the Year of the Rabbit include: Albert Einstein, Leon Trotsky, Frank Sinatra, Pope Benedict XVI, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, David Beckham, Tiger Woods, Whitney Houston

Here are selected local events celebrating the Lunar New Year in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Silicon Valley/Santa Clara County:
Saturday, February 12, 1:00-4:00pm - Performances, cooking demos & more, Santana Row Park, Santana Row, San Jose
Gung Hey Fat Choi! Santana Row celebrates Chinese New Year with a festival of live performances, cooking demos and more to usher in the Year of the Rabbit.

San Francisco/San Francisco Chinatown:
Thursday, January 27, 6:30 - 9:00pm - Fine Arts Exhibit Art, People Gallery - San Francisco

Saturday, January 29, 10:00am-10:00pm, also Sunday, January 30, 9:00am-6:00pm - Flower Fair San Francisco Chinatown
Celebration of Chinese New Year in San Francisco kicks off with the Chinese New Year Flower Fair. Each year, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair takes place the weekend before the lunar new year holiday so that families can come to the flower fair and purchase their traditional holiday plants, flowers and fruits.

Saturday, January 29, 3:00pm - Chinese New Year Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Davies Symphony Hall - San Francisco

Thursday, February 10, 7:30pm - Miss Chinatown USA Pageant, Palace of Fine Arts Theater - San Francisco

Sunday, February 13, 7:00am registration, run starts at 8:00am at Sacramento and Grant, YMCA Chinese New Year Run.
This event raises funds for the YMCA's youth and teen programs. This year's proceeds will benefit PEP, the Physical Education Program serving more than 1,200 youth in Chinatown with weekly physical fitness programs and expects 2,500 participants and 300 volunteers. Registration must be postmarked by 2/1/11.

Saturday, February 19, 10:00am - 4:30pm, also Sunday, February 20, 9:00am-5:00pm - Chinatown Community Street Faire, SF Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade began in 1860 and was named by the IFEA to be one of the top ten parades in the world! It is also one of the remaining night illuminated parades left in the country. Since 1958 the parade has been organized and directed by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday, February 19, 5:15pm-8:00pm - 2011 Chinese New Year Festival and Parade, Market and Second Streets to Kearney and Jackson. Check out "Gum Lung", the 201-foot-long Golden Dragon!

A Hundred Years of the Chinese Calendar (1924 to 2024) --
The Chinese Calendar names each year after an animal and legend has it that a person born under a certain animal will display traits of that animal. What sign are you in the Chinese 12-year calendar cycle? Look up in the table below what year you were born and the corresponding animal.

Rat: 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020

Ox: 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021

Tiger: 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022

Rabbit: 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023

Dragon: 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024

Snake: 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013

Horse: 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014

Ram: 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015

Monkey: 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016

Rooster: 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017

Dog: 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018

Boar: 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019

Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Happy Year of the Cat!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cost vs. Value Report - 2010-2011

Remodeling Magazine, published by Hanley-Wood, LLC, Washington, D.C., has been publishing the "Cost vs. Value Report" annually for more than twenty years. The 2010-2011 version compiles information for 80 markets, same as last year on 35 home improvement projects included in the analysis by HomeTech Information Systems , which publishes estimating software for professional remodelers. This information is collected and compiled from their national network of remodeling contractors and suppliers. Adjustment factors are employed to account for regional pricing differences.

What do the latest numbers have to say? Continued downward home prices (nationwide) have brought the overall cost-to-value ratios down to their lowest levels in the last ten years. So, the best rule of thumb is to be pragmatic as lowered home values have moved remodelers to those projects which don't require, in most instances, large outlays of capital. Of the top five projects, only one (minor kitchen remodel), involves costs of more than $14,000.

The least expensive of the 35 projects, an entry door replacement, actually had the highest return on investment nationally at 102.1% and 112.1% in the Pacific region. Generally, the replacement projects like entry door and garage door (improves curb appeal), have a much higher percentage of cost recouped.

Higher cost estimates for projects coupled with lower resale prices have tipped the percentages to below 100% with one exception -- the previously mentioned entry door replacement (steel). The report's findings underscored the fact that the percentage of cost recouped on upscale additions and remodels were significantly lower than mid-range additions, remodels and replacements. As you might suspect, many upscale projects are not undertaken using an investment return mentality and so I recommend against them if the project(s) are contemplated for resale of a home.

If interested, check out the full national Cost vs. Value Report. A map on the site shows cost comparisons by region. You may click on the region to make the information more relevant to your needs and even peruse past reports. For instance, click for the Pacific region report.

Here are selected 2010-2011 remodel and replacement projects for the Pacific region along with its average percentage of cost recouped (last year's report values in parentheses):

* Bathroom addition - 63% (68%)
* Deck addition (wood) - 76% (91%)
* Family room addition - 71% (73%)
* Master Suite addition - 67% (72%)
* Bathroom remodel - 79% (77%) (Only one to have increased from 2009-2010 report)
* Home office remodel - 54% (56%)
* Major kitchen remodel - 77% (84%)
* Minor kitchen remodel - 84% (94%)(project I have advised my clients to consider)
* Roof replacement - 65% (68%) (recommended sometimes to improve curb appeal)
* Siding replacement (fiber cement) - 72% (92%)
* Windows replacement (vinyl) - 80% (88%) (project I have advised my clients to consider)
* Entry door (steel) 112% (not in last year's report) (recommended to improve curb appeal)
* Garage door 77% (not in last year's report) (recommended to improve curb appeal

Hope this information is of help to you as you decide on remodeling projects to either enhance the value of your home for immediate reselling or to enjoy the lifestyle benefits of the improvements and have no plans to sell. Please remember that not all remodeling projects will result in higher resale values. Many folks think that someone will want to pay $100,000 more for their remodeled home that costs them $50,000 to complete. Not too likely as it depends upon on the project, the neighborhood, the likely market conditions upon completion, and other factors. If you are considering remodeling for a sale or just want to see what projects may cost and understand the process, I recommend reading the book "Remodel or Move?" by Dan Fritschen available at or his website. His website also has a handy remodel or move calculator to help you with your decision.

If you want a professional opinion of how the market will react to your proposed project and as a way to save time, money and hassle, please contact me. I would provide you a market assessment of your contemplated remodeling project and if you want, a referral to a licensed trades-person who can provide free estimates or just to talk it over with as you firm up your plans, please let me know. I would do this whether or not you would be doing the project for resale as I work exclusively by referral so regularly provide referrals to my clients to help them maintain or improve their homes. By the way, these referrals are from the heart, not the wallet as the only thing I get for a referral of this type is the satisfaction that you will be well-cared for by a licensed professional.

Thanks for reading Tom McEvoy's blog! Post your comment here or send me an email through my website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Silicon Valley Real Estate Market Highlights

Here are the highlights of December transactions and market comments for Santa Clara County real estate and San Mateo County real estate. Your comments and questions are always welcome. If you see something in your neighborhood that you are curious about or have a question, please don't hesitate to share with us. If you have questions or a comment, please leave them here, or feel free to contact me through my website.

> Market Overview -- The last several months has seen a continual decrease in the amount of sales in both counties, an indicator of slowing markets and something we see each year as we enter the fall and holiday season. Closings of single family residences (SFR) in Santa Clara County jumped a bit from last month to 904 but was 3.6% lower than the same month a year ago. For San Mateo County, closings were 370, up 3.9% from November 2009. My analysis of the transactional information reveals:

* The supply of homes available for sale (inventory), which was increasing later in the year (far longer than in most years), has now reversed course and is following historical trends in both counties. We did see a significant drop this month as many listings have expirations dated in December, especially December 31st! Having a listing expire so late in the year is a poor strategy that will likely set sellers up to lose (more?) money. Against this backdrop, the market remains more positive in Santa Clara County than in San Mateo County. However, inventory levels were about 41%higher in Santa Clara County and 36% higher in San Mateo County than the same month a year ago.

* 40% of sellers in Santa Clara County get at least list price for their single family homes! In San Mateo County, the corresponding percentage is a bit over 31%. This is another indicator that the overall market remains stronger in Santa Clara County. Also, these indicators have drifted lower and underscore a slowing market in both counties -- usual though for this time of year.

* Days of Unsold Inventory (DUI), after a recent upswing has resumed a move lower. If this trend continues, it could portend a market that is gaining strength and could point to more positive market conditions next year. We watch this important indicator closely. As we have discussed, DUI is conceptually the inverse of inventory turns ratio and represents a calculation using both supply and demand. A higher figure for DUI, then, means the market is becoming weaker. For December, Santa Clara County had a DUI of 77 for SFR's, 88 for condos/townhouses and 128 for multi-unit properties. San Mateo County had a DUI reading of 106 for SFR's, 140 for condos/townhouses and an even higher number of 358 for multi-unit properties. Once again, all readings continue to point to a more positive market for Santa Clara County.

> Seller Markets? -- For Santa Clara County the hottest (seller) market areas are East Valley, Central San Jose and South San Jose, and the South County area comprising the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. For San Mateo County, there were NO hot markets! A seller's market has shorter time on the market, fewer number of homes available for sale, higher demand by buyers with a tendency to have multiple offers and sale prices generally exceeding list prices with a potential of price appreciation.

> Buyer's Markets? -- For Santa Clara County, we see buyer's markets in Saratoga, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, Almaden Valley (SJ) and Sunnyvale. Saratoga is my current "Best Buy" area in the county. For San Mateo County, we see buyer's markets in Menlo Park, Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Redwood City, Foster City/Redwood Shores and especially the San Mateo Coast cities. What makes a "buyers" market is the relationship of supply to demand -- simply put as higher supply and lower demand. The characteristics of a buyer's market is a longer time on the market, higher number of homes available for sale, lower demand by buyers which translates into a lower probability of multiple offers and a tendency for price stabilization or even price depreciation.

Where do I get "Seller's" and "Buyer's" market information? This is not an opinion or based on price levels but a calculation I make using the number of homes for sale (supply) and the number of sales (demand) in the prior month which results in days of unsold inventory (DUI).

> Median prices have moved lower in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties -- The median price for SFR's in Santa Clara County which has mainly remained flat to slightly nudging upwards for several months has decreased again. It now stands at $559,000, versus $590,000, or an 5.3% decrease from last month and a decrease of 0.9% from the same month a year ago. The median price for condos/townhouses climbed to $335,000, up 6.0%from last month but decreased 6.2% from the same month last year. San Mateo County's median price for SFR's was $719,500, down 0.5% from last month and down 4.1% from the same month a year ago. The median price for San Mateo County condo/townhouses was $370,000, down 10.8% from last month and down 18.9% from the same month last year. I continue to advise my clients NOT to use an entire county's median price level to decide whether to buy or sell or time the market as market areas within each county differ. Ask me to provide you with how your area compares.

> Buyers now paying 10% higher prices! -- Since the rate of which buyers will receive from mortgage lenders has risen of late to 5%, that's the equivalent of at least a 10% increase in the price of the home! To put another way, if a buyer was preapproved for a purchase of $500,000 a few months ago and decided to wait, they would now be looking at something closer to a $450,000 home because of the increase in the monthly payment.

Need help with understanding the market in your area? Give me a call or email me for a no-obligation consultation and research to arm you with market intelligence to help you make a better, more-informed decision.

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm Tom McEvoy, Realtor with RE/MAX Santa Clara Valley -- Let me know your comments, questions, observations you may have or any future topics you'd like me to address.