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April 26, 2018

Who caused the Bay Area's housing shortage? Hint: It's not just tech

CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® sent over a wonderful article:

Everyone has a theory about who's to blame for the housing shortage that's driving up prices and chasing Bay Area families out of the region.

A new poll offers surprising insights into where most of us point the finger: not at the government officials who control what homes are built where, but at the tech companies that have flooded this region with jobs and the real estate developers trying to maximize profits.

Experts say finding someone to blame is not that simple.

The real answer, they say, lies entangled in a complicated web that implicates everyone involved, from businesses to local elected officials to your next door neighbor. And the stakes are high for policy makers trying to untangle that web as the housingcrisis intensifies.

To solve the problem, it's crucial to understand the factors that turned the Bay Area's real estate market into one of the country's most dysfunctional.

Who caused the Bay Area's housing shortage? Hint: It's not just tech


April 12, 2018 01:00 AM
Updated April 12, 2018 08:12 AM

Everyone has a theory about who's to blame for the housing shortage that's driving up prices and chasing Bay Area families out of the region.

A new poll offers surprising insights into where most of us point the finger: not at the government officials who control what homes are built where, but at the tech companies that have flooded this region with jobs and the real estate developers trying to maximize profits.

Experts say finding someone to blame is not that simple. The real answer, they say, lies entangled in a complicated web that implicates everyone involved, from businesses to local elected officials to your next door neighbor. And the stakes are high for policy makers trying to untangle that web as the housing crisis intensifies. To solve the problem, it's crucial to understand the factors that turned the Bay Area's real estate market into one of the country's most dysfunctional.

"There isn't one single sector to blame for the housing crisis," said Pilar Lorenzana, deputy director of pro-affordable housing organization SV@Home, "and consequently there isn't one single sector that's responsible for fixing it."

In a five-county poll conducted for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and this news organization, 48 percent of those surveyed pointed to tech companies as a major contributor to the region's housing shortage. Only developers ranked higher, with 57 percent of residents saying they were a major factor.

"Before 'Silicon Valley' got here, it was more affordable," said 46-year-old microbiologist Megan Moore, who has lived in La Honda her whole life. "It's great that there are so many jobs available... but the lack of housing kind of unbalances it all."

But some experts say city and state officials have far more control over the region's supply of homes.

"People are not focused on the source of the problem when it comes to our housing shortage – if they're blaming tech companies and developers, then they're not showing up at our city council meetings," said Ethan Elkind, director of UC Berkeley law school's climate program and an expert in land use and infrastructure policy. "That's where their attention should be focused."

Just 38 percent of survey respondents said local governments opposing new construction played a major role in the problem, while 28 percent pointed to the state government adding burdensome taxes and regulations to residential projects, and 19 percent blamed environmental groups attempting to block development.

It's city officials who permit and approve, or reject and delay, new housing projects – and new housing is what the Bay Area needs to pull itself out of this crisis, most observers agree. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties together added about 47,000 jobs in 2017, while permitting just 12,000 new residential units, according to the Silicon Valley Index, an annual report released by Joint Venture Silicon Valley's Institute for Regional Studies.

But while tech leaders might disagree, it's hard to argue that their industry – which accounted for 29 percent of new jobs from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017, according to the Silicon Valley Index – hasn't also played a major role in the housing crisis.

Part of the problem, said 58-year-old Mark Himelstein, is that the tech industry for years grew unchecked in Silicon Valley.

"We didn't have balance," said Himelstein, a management consultant who owns a home in unincorporated San Mateo County and responded to the housing poll. "There was no relationship between the tech companies' hiring practices and hiring goals and funding lower-income housing opportunities."

Himelstein would like to see companies work more closely with local cities and counties to fix the problem. For starters, he said, large companies should release data on their hiring plans – including how many people they are hiring, and their pay ranges – and then work with officials to plan housing for the new employees.

Even the techies themselves are quick to blame their employers for the housing shortage: Of the tech workers polled, 47 percent said technology companies are a major reason for the shortage, compared to 49 percent of nontech workers.

More tech companies are stepping up as they realize the problem is impacting their bottom line, Lorenzana said. With the prohibitive cost of housing making it harder to recruit and retain workers, companies including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Cisco are contributing money and clout to building more housing. Another 100 tech leaders recently signed a letter supporting SB 827, which would lead to more housing development near transit hubs.

There's plenty more that tech companies can do, Lorenzana said, from donating money, to spearheading residential construction projects, to simply speaking out in favor of housing development.

"I think what you're seeing right now is tech and the private sector are finally understanding that this is an issue that is affecting their consumer base, and it's affecting their employees," Lorenzana said. "And whether it's their job or not, there is a role for them to play."

But tech companies can't conjure up more housing without city officials, who experts say can be reluctant to approve large-scale residential development projects, or can otherwise limit construction with rules that govern where projects can be built, how tall they can be and how much parking they must provide.

Brisbane city officials, for example, for years have resisted plans by Universal Paragon Corp. to build nearly 4,500 housing units on the Baylands former industrial site, only recently agreeing to consider allowing a fraction of that. In Cupertino, which approved Apple's massive new campus for 12,000 employees without any additional homes, housing advocates recently criticized Mayor Darcy Paul for saying the region's housing shortage was "not dire." Fed up with Cupertino's approval process, Sand Hill Property Company recently used a new law, Senate Bill 35, to go over city officials' heads and propose a redevelopment plan for Vallco Mall that includes six times the number of housing units the city originally intended.

"They've been green-lighting office projects like crazy," Elkind said of Bay Area cities, "but they don't care about where those workers are supposed to live."

Some cities are making an effort to build more housing. Mountain View recently approved a Google-backed plan to build 10,000 new homes in North Bayshore, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has proposed a plan to build 25,000 homes over the next five years.

Cupertino Vice Mayor Rod Sinks says city officials shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the Bay Area's housing shortage.

"I recognize that the cities have a major responsibility for this, and we haven't generated enough housing," he said. "On the other hand ... it takes two to tango."

Once the city approves housing, it's up to a developer to build it, Sinks said. And it can be challenging to find developers willing or able to step up. Housing projects are getting more expensive to build as construction costs rise, Sinks said, and it's more lucrative for developers to build office space or market-rate housing instead of affordable housing.

It's also important to remember that cities' housing policies are largely a reflection of their constituents, including long-term residents with a "not in my backyard," or NIMBY, attitude toward development, said Gary Painter, an economics professor at the University of Southern California who studies housing markets.

"Current residents are probably the source of a lot (of) blame," Painter said. "They don't want newcomers to come in and change their quality of life, because they've already been here and established that."

In the poll, just 25 percent of respondents said NIMBY groups play a major role in the Bay Area's housing shortage.

State regulations have a hand in the problem too, experts say, by creating incentives for cities to favor commercial development over residential.

Many developers also blame the California Environmental Quality Act, a statute that imposes strict requirements on real estate projects to limit their environmental impact. Developers say residents also use CEQA to file lawsuits purely to delay projects and jack up construction costs. In the poll, 19 percent of people said environmental groups play a major role in the Bay Area's housing issues.

"CEQA has become an evil, five-headed, fire-breathing dragon with respect to housing production," said Mark Rhoades, president and CEO of Bay Area real estate developer Rhoades Planning Group.

Environmentalists disagree. Lawsuits are filed in fewer than one out of every 100 projects covered by CEQA, with an average of 195 suits filed per year since 2002, according to a study commissioned by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

As for the other major scapegoat – tech companies – Matt Regan, senior vice president of public policy for the business-backed Bay Area Council, points out that blaming them doesn't solve the problem.

"Tech companies are not developers," he said. "They build and design algorithms and technology and code and phones and computers."

Posted in Local Happenings
April 24, 2018

Oakland and Berkeley Inventory vs Sold 2018

Oakland and Berkeley Inventory vs Sold 2018

So, I'm sitting here this morning, wondering why my front lines are so quiet (no closings in 30-days).  I mean, what's happening?  After scouring my pipeline's activities, scrutinizing my assistant's notes, studying my website on Google Analytics, I have only found my assistants and systems are BEST they've ever been, no one is ready to pull the trigger.  

Turns out, most of the Berkeley/Oakland market hasn't been ready to pull the trigger in the last 30-days, according to Realtor MLS data.  After interviewing clients I found most are, "waiting for that awesome tax refund", or "having to single-handedly fund the government this year!" *stress in the voice*

You should know, there's a whole lot of inventory to pick from.  You're going to have an easy time of finding a home and there's not going to be a lot of bidding wars.  If you can, you should purchase now

If you only like to go to open houses, awesome!  I've got resources to help you make an informed decision.  Just ask me and when you're ready, I'll negotiate the best value based on research and 20+ years of experience. I want to win your real estate business. 

-Elizabeth Russo, your total home resource

P.S.  Check out the Oakland and Berkeley homes for sale by clicking here: http://www.elizabethrusso.com/search/advanced_search/

Oakland and Berkeley Inventory vs Sold 2018

My Google Analytics website data for the past quarter (ALL AWESOME!):

1/2018-4/2018 compared to 9/2017-12/2017

Website Data for Past Quarter 2018

My most helpful assistants, Michele and Amy:

I made them take selfies for this blog :-D

Michele with ElizabethRusso.comAmy with ElizabethRusso.com



Posted in Local Happenings
April 22, 2018

Sale vs. List Price Ratios in Oakland and Berkeley

Sale vs. List Price Ratios in Oakland and Berkeley

When searching for a home in the Oakland and Berkeley areas, you should keep in mind the list vs sold ratios.  For example, a home that's listed for $900,000 will sell for around $1,062,000 and this difference is 18%. In the graphs below, you'll find the data is from April of 2017-2018.  And the average, list vs sold, for a single family home is somewhere around the 20% mark. Keep in mind, if this home has an awesome view or is unique, the list vs sold value can climb up to 40%!  

When setting up your search, keep this simple thought in mind, so you can stay within budget and on target for your home purchase.  

I also have a really neat instant home value link (along with the MLS link) at the top of the screen.  In the instant home value link, you can type in the address and get a high, medium, and low value of the home you're considering. 

Start your search here: http://www.elizabethrusso.com/search/advanced_search/

Run an instant home value here: http://www.elizabethrusso.com/cma/property-valuation/

I'd like to win your business.  Please contact me when you're ready.

Elizabeth Russo, your favorite Realtor ;-) 

Oakland Percent Difference for List to Sold

Oakland Percent Difference for List to Sold

Posted in Tips and Tricks
April 21, 2018

Most Resent Multi Unit Residential Homes for Sale

So you think you're ready to become a landlord?

Have you thought about investing in a multi plex home?  For example, a duplex, or a triplex, or even a 7-plex residential property?  If you have thought about it, and it's just a little daunting...  Did you know you only need 25% down to make it work?   I've got a lender who can help.  Check out some of the most recent multi unit residential homes currently for sale: http://www.elizabethrusso.com/homes-for-sale/multi-unit-residential-plex/

Helpful Information

Have questions?  I've got answers!  Contact me when you're ready.

Elizabeth Russo, your total home resource


Multi Plex Homes for Sale

Posted in Listings
April 19, 2018

Mortgage Rates: Week ending 4/19/18

Interest Rates for Mortgages in California

Here are some helpful numbers to plan for your next home purchase.

Don't forget to contact me when you're ready?

Elizabeth Russo, your total home resource

Fast Facts

Mortgage Rates: Week ending 4/19/18:

  • 30-year fixed: 4.47%
    • Fees/points: 0.5%
  • 15-year fixed: 3.94%
    • Fees/points: 0.4%

Calif. Median Home Price: March 2017:

  • California: $564,831
  • Calif. highest median home price by region/county: San Francisco, $1,680,000
  • Calif. lowest median home price by region/county: Lassen, $135,000
Posted in Local Happenings
April 12, 2018

California Median Home Price and Mortgage Rates

Interest Rates for Mortgages in California

Fast Facts

Wondering what to plug into those interest rate calculators?  Trying to figure out how to plan for the future?  Here are some fast facts to get you started.

I'm ready when you're ready,

Elizabeth Russo, your total home resource

Mortgage Rates: Week ending 4/12/18

  • 30-year fixed: 4.42%
    • Fees/points: 0.4%
  • 15-year fixed: 3.87%
    • Fees/points: 0.4%

California Median Home Price: March 2017:

  • California: $564,831
  • California highest median home price by region/county: San Francisco, $1,680,000
  • California lowest median home price by region/county: Lassen, $135,000

Source: C.A.R. Newsline

Posted in Local Happenings
Dec. 12, 2017

ABCs of Real Estate by Zillow

Posted in Tips and Tricks
Aug. 28, 2017

Interactive 3d Tour + Seller Interview: 3318 Cottingham Ct, Walnut Creek CA 94598-4013

Nestled into a cul-de-sac, walking distance from schools, you'll find a home you'll never have to leave.  There's room to grow and time to play.  Pool, hot tub, dog run, side yard large enough to park your boat or RV.  Northgate High and Foothill Middle are close enough to not have to buy your kiddo a car. :) Not to mention Mt. Diablo walking/hiking and equestrian trails.  San Francisco commute from BART is about 38 minutes.  This one won't last... 

An Interview with The Seller: 3318 Cottingham Ct, Walnut Creek CA 94598-4013

Active status and more info: http://www.elizabethrusso.com/property/40794938

5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3,043 sq ft home, 11,000 sq ft property

How come you're moving?

Our baby birds have flown the coop and bought a home of their own, we retired, and we're ready to hit the open road and see the rest of the United States. 

Tell us 3 features you love most about your home?

  1. My favorite feature of the home is the size of the rooms, that there are two stories and the house is large. This provides the ability to have many things going on in the home at one time without disturbing each other.
  2. The family room has been especially nice with high schoolers able to have a feeling of separate space with parents actually immediately nearby.
  3. I also love the wood in the house. It attracted me when I first saw it. 

3 besties about the location of your home?

  1. The house is in a great school attendance area with Northgate High School. The academic performance of the school is high, the extracurricular offerings have been wonderful. There is a culture of success at the school and it is available in many different forms for those with differing interests. The wonderful school is within walking distance of the house. The walk is safe.
  2. There are many, varied commercial and food establishments nearby. Much new commercial has been built at Ygnacio Ave and Oak Grove Blvd. It is also great to see the older and original  shopping continue to be successful; securing new tenants when there are departures and investing in the stores structure and maintenance.
  3. Transportation to work centers is good, especially with BART. There are efficient and regular buses, and you can successfully commute to San Francisco from the house.

Tell us about any upgrades or updates you've done?

  • We bought the house without window coverings except in the family room. We added the window draperies in the dinning & living room. 
  • Rebuilt the furnace in 2014.
  • Replaced downstairs vinyl floors in the common bathroom, kitchen, wet bar and laundry room in 2015.
  • Replaced built in oven and range-top in 2016.
  • Replaced the swimming pool two stage pump and the associated booster pump in 2016.
  • Replaced lighting in family room, 5th bedroom master bedroom and master bathroom, dining room and laundry room in 2017.
  • Painted parts or all of interior of home, 4 bedrooms, dining room, downstairs bathroom and shared spaces, entry, steps, lading and hallway in 2017.
  • Secured a pest report and hired contractor to remedy and documents work. We cleared all outstanding items on the report. 
  • Painted all exterior woods on the house 2017.

Schools per http://demo.mdusd.org/schoolfinder:

  • Elementary School: Walnut Acres Elementary 
  • Middle School: Foothill Middle
  • High School: Northgate High 

Tell us about your utility costs?

Electric Provider: PG&E
Average bill: $350
Winter bill: $465
Summer bill: 330
Gas Provider: PG&E
Average bill: $40
Winter bill: $180
Summer bill: $12

Tell us about your house or give us a a room-by-room description?

Floor Plan: Living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, separate family room, and one bedroom on first floor.  The second floor has the master suite has a master bathroom, three additional bedrooms and a common bathroom on second floor.

Kitchen: Large with built in oven and dishwasher. Jenn-Aire range-top and separate cooking grill arranged under brick arch work with original charm. Expansive counter space. Lots of cabinet storage and pantry cupboard.Large, sunny breakfast eating area for 6 persons.  The kitchen overlooks the pool.

Living Room:  Very large living room accommodates our piano. Custom draperies. Pleasant formal setting.

Master Bedroom Suite:  Large master bedroom suite with lots of closets and double vanity plus a master bathroom, Buyers have option to open double sliding doors to 5th bedroom and create a truly larger than expected master suite with office or Library. Also master suite has walk in shoe closet.

Outside Features: Pool and extensive yard. Yard includes basketball sports court, large swimming pool patio with outdoor lighting.  Roses garden area and concealed pet run. Yard has shed and an automated sprinkler system. Stucco exterior, two story, three car garage.  Fireproof concrete tile roofing.
Posted in Listings
June 24, 2017

Common Credit Misconceptions by Michael Miller

Common Credit Misconceptions

Happy Saturday!  I wanted to share a short list of common client misconceptions that I have dealt with this year.  It seems that clients are more informed these days, but not always accurately.  Are you waiting for their credit score to improve before you buy?  Make sure you talk to me about the fastest way to get a credit score up using legal and ethical means.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t take more than a month in most cases!       

Here are the biggest myths of credit scores and credit repair.    

Myth # 1: Disputing a credit report is easy - any consumer can do it themselves. Restoring your own credit is like representing yourself in court; it is possible, but you have to be willing to invest the time to learn the processes, assume the risks of inexperience and realize that it will probably take you much longer. And you will be considerably less effective than a professional.    

Myth # 2: The credit bureau allows me to submit my 100-word explanation. Creditors will read my statement and take it into consideration.  No known creditors consider the information submitted in your statement. This statement only verifies some of the negative items on your report. The 100-word explanation should never be added, and it should be the first thing deleted from your credit file.    

Myth # 3: I can create a totally new credit file by getting a federal tax ID number or changing a few numbers on my social security number.  This fraudulent scheme has proven to be complex, difficult and illegal. Lying on a credit application is a criminal offense.    

Myth # 4: Closing an account will help your score.  If you have been responsible with credit in the past, the chances are that you are likely to continue to be responsible in the future. After all, that is the basic principle behind credit scoring. It rewards behaviors that show moderate and responsible use of credit over time, because those habits are likely to continue. The score also punishes behavior that's not responsible, such as applying for a lot of credit you don't need. Many people with high credit scores find that one of the few marks against them in their reason codes is the number of credit accounts listed on their reports. When they go to get their credit scores, they're told that one of the reasons their score isn't even higher is that they have "too many open accounts." Many then erroneously assume they can fix this problem by closing accounts. But after you've opened the accounts, the damage has been already done.    

Myth #5: You don't have to use credit to have a high score.  Unfortunately, there are some people who are so suspicious of credit that they advise giving up credit cards and living on a cash-only basis. They acknowledge that most people need mortgages and auto loans, but they feel the best way to impress a lender is by living a credit-free lifestyle. This is unfortunate, because it is just plain wrong. The credit scoring formula is designed to judge how well you handle credit over time. If you have no credit, or you don't at least occasionally use the credit you have, the formula won't have enough information to generate a score for you.    

Your Partner in SUCCESS!             

Michael Miller | Branch Manager | NMLS# 248381 | Email: MMiller@PRMG.NET | Office:   925-208-0340 ext. 3001 | Paramount Residential Mortgage Group, Inc.

Paramount Residential Mortgage Group, Inc.  PRMG

Posted in Tips and Tricks
March 28, 2017

Is Danville, CA, a Good Place to Live? [Realtor’s Review]

Across the nation, families are attracted to homes in suburban neighborhoods. These days, however, just being suburban doesn’t necessarily mean a place is a great neighborhood to lay down roots. Danville, CA, however, is a very attractive location for people of all ages to call home.

Danville offers a range of amenities, from its small-town way of life to its access to fantastic nearby big-city amenities. If you’re wondering whether this might be the place for you, explore the neighborhood of Danville, the local amenities, attractions, and the answer to the question, “Is Danville, CA, a good place to live?”

Small Town Living

Ask anyone what it’s like living in Danville, CA, and they’ll tell you it’s a small town feel with big city amenities. This is a community who enjoys the best of all worlds. They have a quiet, small-town way of life that allows you to relax and take it slow after a busy work day.

Close-Knit, Welcoming Community

Of course, hand-in-hand with small town living comes a welcoming and close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Living in Danville means friendly neighbors who watch out for one another’s well-being, and where character and personality go a long way. People in Danville are happy to welcome new residents, and they take care of each other.

Danville is the Place for Families

Danville is among the best places to live in California if you’re looking to raise a family. In fact, most of the population of this area are between the ages of five and seventeen years old! Not only will your kids have a lot of others their age with whom to spend time, the range of families in the area mean it’s a very safe place as well. There are great local schools and the crime rate is far below the U.S. average.

Tons of Outdoor Parks and Recreation

Another great feature of this neighborhood is the sheer number of parks and outdoor recreational facilities available to residents. From the historic walking tour available of downtown, to the wealth of community parks, the Dog Park, Mount Diablo, and tons of sports fields, picnic areas and trails for biking or hiking, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do outside.

Easy Access to All the Local Attractions

As if all of the great arts, culture, shopping and fine dining right in the neighborhood aren’t enough, Danville also offers easy access to local big city amenities and nightlife. It’s just minutes away from both Alamo, CA and San Ramon, CA right on interstate 680.

It’s hard to beat living in an area that offers you a nice, quiet and historic place to relax, while being so close to exciting nightlife and all of the entertainment, amenities and opportunities offered by the local city.

Put simply, Danville, CA, is not just a good place to live — it’s a great one. If you’re looking to find the best place for your family, there’s no time like the present to start your search. Elizabeth Russo is an expert Realtor in Danville California, who has years of experience helping people find the home of their dreams. Give a call today to start your search for a new home!


When buying or selling a home, contact Elizabeth Russo, an experienced Danville Realtor.

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Posted in Tips and Tricks