How we’re turning into a “megaregion”…

Silicon Valley sprawls East: How tech jobs, housing and transit are shaping a megaregion

Lauren Helper | Silicon Valley Business Journal | Oct 21, 2014 | link
City of Livermore

As Silicon Valley sprawls out of the confines of the South Bay, business advocates and city planners in the East Bay’s Tri-Valley region are angling to leverage transit, housing and sophisticated federal laboratories to grow the local tech industry. Here, a rendering of a proposed transit-oriented development area in Livermore, should the city win a controversial extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).

On the outside, the SpinDx technology pioneered at Livermore’s Sandia National Laboratory looks like little more than a beige cube with a retro CD player on one end.

But the “lab-on-a-disk” tool developed with $4 million in federal funding has been hailed as a potential game changer in the detection of biological warfare agents, like anthrax, for its capability to manipulate and identify unknown substances.

Now, startups in the Tri-Valley area of the East Bay — a region immediately northeast of Silicon Valley, centered around the cities San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton — want to harness the technology’s healthcare potential to diagnose cancer or conduct in-home fertility testing.

The technology represents the crystallization of the type of public-private business development work that Tri-Valley officials and economic boosters want to use to foster a growing local tech industry.

In addition to research spun out of national research centers in the area like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, they cite the region’s highly educated workforce, strong base of corporate tenants, an emerging startup scene and increasing economic ties to Silicon Valley as variables working in their favor.

Though the Tri-Valley’s billion-dollar research tenants offer a potential leg up, the business push also comes as outlying regions from Santa Cruz to the San Joaquin Valley up to Davis also look to strengthen ties to Silicon Valley. It all adds fuel to demographers’ predictions that Northern California will likely look like a 24 million-resident “Megaregion” in just a few decades.

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Homeowners back above water…

Homeowners rise above underwater mortgages

Amy Swinderman | Inman News | May 4, 2015 | link

Black Knight report says the number of homeowners in negative equity positions has shrunk by 1.6 million in the last year.

Although a majority of distressed homeowners are plagued by mortgages that far exceed the actual value of their homes, the number of homeowners with underwater mortgages is shrinking, according to Black Knight Financial Services’ latest Mortgage Monitor Report.

The mortgage industry technology and data analytics provider said that 77 percent of borrowers in foreclosure have underwater mortgages, and about a third of borrowers in active foreclosure have current loan-to-value ratios of 150 or more, meaning they owe 50 percent more than their homes are actually worth.

But the number of homeowners in negative equity positions has shrunk by 1.6 million in the last year, Black Knight said. In addition, negative equity distribution varies considerably depending upon geographical location and home values within a given market.

The top five states by percentage of borrowers underwater are Nevada (16.4 percent), Florida (15.1 percent), Maryland (14 percent), Illinois and New Jersey (13.7 percent). Florida and California account for 26.5 percent of the nation’s underwater population, and Florida alone makes up approximately 16 percent.

Of the 10 states with the highest levels of negative equity entering 2014, Missouri and Georgia have seen the greatest improvement, with underwater populations shrinking 47 and 43 percent respectively in those states. Only West Virginia and South Dakota saw increased negative equity over the past 12 months, rising from 7.6 to 8.3 percent and from 1.9 to 2 percent, respectively.

Overall, only about 8 percent of all borrowers are currently underwater on their mortgages, but we have seen a 30-percent reduction in the negative equity rate since this time last year, Black Knight said. Lower-value homes continue to struggle with negative equity and are nine times more likely to be underwater than homes in the top-20 percent value category.

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Back to Basics: What is a Reverse Mortgage?

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

Huffington Post | May 3, 2015 | link

A reverse mortgage is a type of home loan that doesn’t require any payments until after you die, as long as you continue living in your home. If you move out or decide to sell your house while still alive, the reverse mortgage comes due immediately. You can receive the loan proceeds in one lump sum or in monthly income payments.

Who Can Benefit From a Reverse Mortgage?

It’s important to be aware of the age restrictions for reverse mortgages: Everyone listed on the deed of the house, even if they don’t sign the loan, must be at least 62 years old for the house to qualify for a reverse mortgage. Also, reverse mortgages aren’t useful if you still owe a lot on your regular mortgage. For example, if you owe $100,000 on your house, and you get a reverse mortgage for $125,000, you would only receive $25,000. The rest of the reverse mortgage proceeds would be immediately applied to your regular mortgage. Here is a more in-depth explanation of how reverse mortgages work.

The main pros and cons of reverse mortgages are:

Pros of Reverse Mortgage

  • One big advantage to reverse mortgages is that credit checks are minimal. Since you don’t have to make loan payments during your lifetime, your credit score or monthly income are mostly irrelevant. However, new laws require lenders to set aside a certain amount of the loan funds if it looks like you won’t be able to afford property taxes, home repairs or mortgage insurance premiums.
  • The value of your home may have risen dramatically since you bought it. Reverse mortgages give you access to this profit while allowing you to remain in your home.
  • If you have limited income, a reverse mortgage can provide you with greater self-sufficiency and comfort.

Cons of Reverse Mortgage

  • You (or your spouse, if he or she also signed the loan) must be living in your home to keep the reverse mortgage in place. You can’t be absent for longer than 12 months, even if you have to go into a long-term care facility or move away to care for a family member. Longer absences result in the termination of the loan, and any money you received must be repaid immediately, with interest.
  • You must commit to maintaining your home and to keeping property tax and insurance payments up to date. Before the loan closes, the house is inspected, and you must sign a binding agreement to complete all recommended repairs by a specified date. The bank inspects your home to certify that you have completed these repairs as agreed.
  • A reverse mortgage usually makes it impossible to leave your house to your children. When all borrowers have passed away, the reverse mortgage must be repaid in full. In most cases, this requires the sale of the house. The only way to avoid this is if your heirs have enough personal wealth to pay off the reverse mortgage without needing to sell the house.

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The dream is still alive and well…

Homeownership remains a key part of the American Dream

Homebuilder’s Association | May 2, 2015 | link


We’re back in a big way!

California home prices hit new seven-year high, sales rebound
Elliot Spagat | Associated Press |  April 18, 2015 | link

SAN DIEGO — California home prices reached fresh seven-year-highs in March, a research firm said Friday, helping sales rebound from a two-month slide as some homeowners put their property on the market to reap gains.

The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $397,000, up about 5 percent from $378,000 in February and about 6 percent from $376,000 in March 2014, CoreLogic said.

It marked the highest level since December 2007, when the median was $402,000, and the 37th straight month of annual gains.

There were about 35,000 homes sold in March, up 38 percent from about 26,000 the previous month and 7 percent from nearly 33,000 during the same period of 2014. Sales typically increase from February to March but the jump was higher than some expected and followed two straight months of declines from year-ago levels.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s stratospheric prices and thin supplies stood out. Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist of the California Association of Realtors, said sellers are getting multiple offers well above asking prices.

“The market in the Bay Area is really unique,” Appleton-Young said. “You’ve got this concentration of job and income growth in an environment with very little new construction (and) limited land.”

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A drought-proof housing market here in the Tri-Valley…

No drought for local home sales

Spring market heats up despite scarce water supplies

With the spring home-selling season off to a robust start, California’s drought appears to be having little impact on buyers and sellers who continue to close pricey deals with multiple offers. “Quite frankly, people are so interested in a home they like that the drought is not a major concern,” one Realtor says. (Photo by Mike Sedlak/

With the spring home-selling season off to a robust start, California’s drought appears to be having little impact on buyers and sellers who continue to close pricey deals with multiple offers.

Realtors report that while the state’s water shortage is on everyone’s mind, this fourth year of scarce supplies has not slowed down sales. Swimming pools, other water features and backyard gardens may not have the special appeal buyers sought a year or two ago, but neither have they stymied sales.

Sellers are still advised to spruce up their front yards with a bit of added water to make their homes more presentable on drive-bys and appraisals, even if it means exceeding the mandated 25% water use cutback that is measured against 2013 water bills.

“We have thousands-more of new people living in Alameda County than we had last year and they want to get into home ownership,” said Jennifer Hosterman, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Drysdale Properties and former mayor of Pleasanton. “Quite frankly, people are so interested in a home they like that the drought is not a major concern.”

Winter ended with an increased number of homes for sale in Pleasanton, although there are still less than a month’s supply to meet buyer demand, which has also increased this spring.

According to Doug Buenz, a Realtor at the 680 Group at Venture/Sotheby’s International Realty, 60 homes were available for sale in Pleasanton at the end of March, up 17 homes, or 40%, from 43 at the end of February.

A total of 76 sales went to contract in March, a 49% increase over February’s 51 and a third higher than a year ago. March’s median sales price was $923,000, 7% higher than a year ago.

“Even though it’s a hot market, I still tell buyers to be prepared for quite possibly having to let their lawns go brown and even to consider changing out their grass to drought resistant yards,” Hosterman said.

The drought and how to cope are the major topics of neighborhood conversations, Hosterman added. Her daughter who lives in Colorado told her that California’s drought is the talk of her social circles.

And while Pleasanton and Tri-Valley residents can take bows for exceeding local and state mandated cutback requirements, many are irritated by those in other parts of the state that haven’t “faced the music,” according to Hosterman.

She hears loud complaints from those who have been in Sacramento recently where there’s no shortage of well-watered green lawns.

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Home is where the heart (and $$) is…

Why Real Estate Should Be in Your Portfolio

BNP Paribas Investment Partners’ Jan Willem Vis argues that having listed real estate in your portfolio can lift your returns.

Investors who have been inclined to dismiss listed real estate as an attractive asset class since the financial crisis should perhaps reconsider, as they could be missing out on the important roles that listed real estate can play in multi-asset portfolios. Not only can it operate as a proxy for direct real estate while generating diversified returns – with a stronger income component arising from high dividends – it can also provide some protection against rising interest rates, which may come as a surprise to some.

Evidence shows that, over the long term, investment in listed real estate offers an exposure to direct real estate (including real estate physical property investments and unlisted funds) while addressing the well-known illiquidity problems associated with owning a portfolio of individual buildings. The advantages in terms of liquidity are particularly important because of the potential it offers to exploit, through active management, the inefficiencies that exist among countries, markets and sub-sectors.

Chart 1: Decomposition of total annualised average returns into price returns and reinvested dividends for five regions: US, UK, Eurozone, Asia and developed countries. This graph shows the decomposition of returns for listed real estate in these regions based on the FTSE EPRA NAREIT indices.

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