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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The dream is still alive and well…

Homeownership remains a key part of the American Dream

Homebuilder’s Association | May 2, 2015 | link

 

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/mike@digitalsight.com).

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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A reason to celebrate!

Pending Home Sales Highest Since June 2013

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Apr 29 2015 | link

Momentum appears to be building toward a healthy spring market according to data released today on March pending home sales.  The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), reached 108.6 in March, a 1.1 percent increase over the previous month.  At the same time the February Index number was revised upward from 106.9 to 107.4.

March is the third consecutive month that pending sales have increased month over month and the Index is now at its highest level since June 2013 when it was 109.4.  The PHSI was up 11.1 percent from the March 2014 level of 97.7.  It has now increased year-over-year for seven consecutive months.

The PHSI is a leading indicator based on executed home purchase contracts. These contracts are generally expected to be reflected in residential sales in about two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the encouraging pending sales numbers resulted from more buyers than usual entering this year’s competitive spring market. “Demand appears to be stronger in several parts of the country, especially in metro areas that have seen solid job gains and firmer economic growth over the past year,” he said. “While contract activity being up convincingly compared to a year ago is certainly good news, the increased number of traditional buyers who appear to be replacing investors paying in cash is even better news. It indicates this year’s activity is being driven by more long-term homeowners.”

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Are you Mr. Roper-ready?

6 Things to Know Before You Become a Landlord

Real estate agent at work
Monkey Business Images/Getty

As the housing market continues to recover, you may hear about renting mavens who capitalize on the increasing rental market. Renting can be a great way to make some extra income, but it’s important to consider the appropriate preparations before you get on board. If you are thinking about renting out your home, here are some tips to consider.

1. Know the Laws

Not every state operates with the same landlord and tenant laws so be sure you know the laws that will govern your property before listing it. Your neighborhood may also have rules about rentals. Not only is your responsibility a huge obligation, but there are legal implications involved in becoming a landlord. It’s a good idea to study up on your rights and what you can or cannot demand from your tenant, including when you can legally enter the home. (Also keep in mind that federal housing law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and family status — such as whether children will live in the home.)

2. Create a Contract

A simple lease drawn up with the accurate legal jargon can go a long way toward protecting you. It’s a good idea to have every adult who will be living in the home sign the document before moving into the rental. The lease should include details about the length of the rental term, security deposit, due dates for rent, maintenance responsibilities, rules of behavior and eviction terms. This can save you thousands in court fees in case something goes wrong. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have the numbers of emergency contacts for your tenant.

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Looks like it’s definitely time to buy!

Like a lot of people, Mark Stevenson has had it with rent prices.

His Walnut Creek, CA apartment complex raised the rent last year, and he recently learned that his 1-bedroom unit is headed up another $351, to $1,830 a month.

“Here’s my dilemma: Renew a 12-month rental lease complete with a 24 percent mugging, or buy a condo,” Stevenson said. “I’m looking to buy now.”

That could be a good financial bet, given the findings from Zillow’s latest Home Price Expectations Survey. A panel of more than 100 experts predicted:

  • U.S. home values will rise 4.4 percent in 2015, to a median value of $187,040.
  • Median U.S. home values will exceed their pre-recession peak of $196,400 by May 2017.
  • 51 percent expect rental affordability will not improve for at least two years.

Already, renting is half as affordable as buying, something Danville, CA broker Kevin Kieffer of Keller Williams Realty hears about all the time.

“‘My landlord is getting ready to hike the rent by $200, and I’ve got to buy:’ Since 2001, I haven’t heard that more consistently than I am now,” Kieffer said.

The issue is basic economics: Demand is outstripping supply.

“Vacancy rates on rental units in the fourth quarter were down to 7 percent, the lowest in more than 20 years,” said David W. Berson, chief economist for Nationwide Insurance.

The squeeze could continue for years, said Berson, who participated in the survey.

Rents will rise as millennials strike out on their own — but not all of them will rent. “If a larger share start to move toward [buying], the rent increase will not be quite as rapid,” he said.

The situation is worse in some places than in others.

In Dallas, for example, a renter making the median household income spends 27.7 percent of it on rent. In Chicago, it’s 31.5 percent; in New York, 40.5 percent and in Los Angeles, 47.9 percent.

More than half of the survey panelists who had an opinion said the market will correct the nation’s soaring rents, requiring no government intervention.

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The weather isn’t the only thing getting sunnier this spring!

Optimism Buoys National Housing Survey Results

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Feb 9 2015 | link

Fannie Mae said today that its monthly National Housing Survey (NHS) portrayed increasing optimism as both employment and overall economic figures improved.  More respondents reported their own financial situations were improving and attitudes toward housing also brightened.

The share of respondents who said their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago rose 4 percentage points to 29 percent, and the share expecting their personal financial situation to improve over the next year increased to 48 percent – both all-time survey highs.  At the same time the number of consumers who see this as a good time to buy a home rose 3 percentage points and those seeing it as a good time to sell rose 4 to scores of 67 and 44 respectively.  The latter number is an all-time survey high.

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