Happy 4th of July!

Hi everyone,
Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays.  It marks the beginning of summer with a big bang!  I hope this finds you and your family well.


2015 San Francisco Year in Review


2015 was a banner year for San Francisco real estate. The City-wide median sale price grew sixteen percent to $1,150,000 for the year. The median Days on Market (DOM) figure remained relatively unchanged at 19 days, versus 23 in 2014. The most expensive sale for the year (2701 Broadway) rang in at $31MM, versus 2014’s highest sale of $14MM (2040 Jackson). Yearly sales volume came to $7.15B, a five percent increase versus the previous year.

A strengthening national economy, steadfast tech sector growth and limited new construction are contributors to 2015’s stellar performance. Furthermore, average mortgage rates actually decreased eight percent for the year, coming in at 3.85 percent. Currently, there are about 200 properties listed on the MLS, equating to a 1/2 Month Supply of Inventory (MSI).



+ 19% year-over-year

Single Family
+ 13% year-over-year


2015 Year in Review!


It’s so like us Realtors to analyze the past year and try to predict the future. But, bear with us…it is what we do; we actually do try to make some sense of all the data and information we receive. And, although no one has a crystal ball, we can certainly learn from the past and site trends that might help us figure out the future. Before I get into a deeper analysis, let me break it down simply:

  • Inventory = low
  • Prices = high
  • Days on market = few
  • Economy = continues to chug along with intermittent good and bad news
  • Interest rates = slowly rising
  • Global buyers = for some properties, not all
  • Bidding wars = yes
  • Overpriced properties sitting on market = yes
  • Overpriced properties eventually getting sold at a reduced price = yes
  • Opportunities for 2016 = limitless!

It’s no secret the Marin Market (and most markets in the Bay Area) have been affected by low supply and heavy demand. But, in the real estate world, this has come to be our mantra…same old, same old. When have we not had low inventory and high demand in Marin – it’s almost a way of life. The fact is that Marin remains more affordable than San Francisco and most of the Peninsula, and it seems buyers are taking note, adding to the 60% of buyers who generally come from the local market. Long thought untouchable, SF buyers are realizing they can get more for their money here, better schools and the opportunity to live in paradise. While they may not be able to find fancy new construction, or even the perfect house, the bounty of Marin property is available to those with patience and vision.

Single Family Houses Sold in 2014 vs 2015

Marin is a hodgepodge of housing styles in varying levels of need for upgrades and improvements. I’ve always contended that most everyone “settles” in Marin to some extent. No matter at what price point, your dream home is always in the next higher price bracket. But, if you can understand that just getting into the Marin market is a feat unto itself, you’ll save yourself a lot of angst. Marinites tend to make their home – in whatever condition – their castle. Every shack can have double-paned windows, designer finishes, a Bosch dishwasher and crown molding… you just need to have the vision. However, if you’re like most buyers who require a turn-key property (I mean, who wouldn’t want to have everything done for you before you move in?), expect to pay top dollar and lose a few bidding wars.

Marin agents sold more than $3.7 billion dollars of residential real estate in Marin County throughout 2015. That, for a total of 2963 properties, fewer than in 2014, but at a higher price tag. 2254 of those homes were single family, and 705 condominiums. The median price in Marin County rose 8% to $947,000 from $875,000. Most of the activity happened in the first half of the year, tapering off July through December.

2015 was a year of acceptance. Acceptance of the idea that the economy will continue to go up and down, but that we must still go on with our day-to-day lives. Perhaps we don’t need to get so caught up in the short blips and look at the market from a more long-term perspective. It was a year of realizing it may be time to move on, time to upgrade to the larger house that provides some more room, or time to downsize to a living situation that is more manageable. Basically, 2015 was a time for homeowners and prospective home owners to say, “What am I waiting for?!”

This acceptance and acknowledgement has made it easier for people to consider getting their house ready for sale in 2016, or easier to bite the bullet and just buy a house, and not wait for the market to drop…because it might not drop. And, worse, it may continue to rise. But again, why wait, because it will probably do both. I’ll be blunt: if you sell high, you’re likely going to buy high. If you sell low, you’ll buy low. If you’re cashing out, you cash out. But, if you’re looking for a short-term profit, it’s definitely a gamble.

So, just deciding to buy or sell is not the end of your worries. A lot goes into buying these days: research, finding an effective agent who understands what it is you want/need, and being prepared to spring into action as soon as you see something you like. Conversely, sellers need to be realistic about price. Yes it’s a good market, but that doesn’t mean your house is worth $200,000 more than the market comps. Buyers are savvy; they look at the same comps that Realtors look at to determine price, and won’t pay more than a home is worth.

When you get to the point of securing a home to purchase, or securing a buyer for your home, there’s still more negotiating. 2015 could be called “the year of the deal.” Once in contract, buyers and sellers continued negotiations. Anecdotally, at least a third of our transactions involved some kind of seller concessions or “fixes” before the buyers would agree to move forward. The attitude of today’s buyer is, “Yes, we’ll pay a premium for your property, but it better be in good shape or we’re walking.”

The condominium market in Marin (which accounted for 24% of sales this past year) acted very similarly to the single family home market, but with more sales: 705 in 2015 vs 687 in 2014, with the median condo price in 2014 $495,000 vs $560,000 in 2015 (so a 13% increase). Condominiums are a growing segment of the Marin market as most new developments are trying to maximize housing options and provide greater options for affordable housing in Marin.

According to the Marin County Community Development Departments October 2015 presentation, “Preserving Housing Affordability” delivered to the Marin Association:

  • Our housing stock in Marin is just over 111,000 units countywide
  • About 30,0000 of those are in the form of apartments and multi-units
  • Approximately 2,000 are mobile homes
  • 83% of our housing is single family (about 7,000 units)
  • 96% of the housing is deemed market-rate housing
  • Sadly, 19 percent of households are low income and paying more than 50% of their income on housing. This includes approximately 20,000 persons that they listed as “disabled.”

Marin’s housing issues are not going away, and developers are looking for ways to provide more affordable units to house Marin’s growing service population, particularly as we look at the increase in commercial activity in the County.

There was nearly 12% increase in pricing for A-class commercial office space – an unusual amount of activity. In August Kaiser Foundation health purchased a 148,000 square foot office building in San Rafael. Several other office buildings in San Rafael and Novato were sold this past year. Rising rents in San Francisco has pushed companies to seek more friendly commercial rents in the North & East Bays. The vacancy rate is just 15.5%, down from 20% during the recession. There is good job growth in Marin, and confidence in the market. Rumors are circulating regarding Google in Fireman’s Fun (still unsubstantiated, but widely speculated) and the Facebook water ferry is in full operation, as well as other tech shuttle buses that are making the commute much easier for Marin residents. A strengthening national economy, steadfast growth in the tech sector and limited new construction are contributors to 2015 booming real estate performance.

Economy and interest rates:  Average mortgage rates actually decreased eight percent for the year, coming in at 3.85 percent, but we expect this to rise as indicated (but not directly affected) by the Feds’ raising of interest rates in December, for the first time since 2006. But since mortgage rates had been at a historic low, this rise should still be manageable for buyers, and rises in longer-term rates in 2016 are expected to be modest.

If you want more info on the rates, click on the image below to see the video:

Fun Facts:

  • The most expensive home sold in 2015 was for $47.5 million in Belvedere
  • The least expensive home was sold at auction for $252,843 (condo: $107,000)
  • There are currently 13 homes above $5 million in Marin on the market
  • 43 homes in the $2 million to $5 million range
  • 37 homes under $1,000,000

The year ahead will be an exciting one. It’s an election year. It’s a leap year. We have the Olympics in Rio and it’s the year of the monkey! The big news in real estate for 2016 according to the National Association of Realtors is that prices will mostly stabilize, rising slightly but not by the dramatic amounts we’ve seen in the recent past – maybe 4% or so nationally (about 6% for the state). Inventory will remain tight, so align yourself with a good real estate agent who will work to overcome that small market detail.

Note to Marin Agents: This is where I usually insert a paragraph for agents that provides a call to action and/or a wrap-up about why that particular agent would be a great choice as the end-reader’s Realtor. These reports are written each month for Vanguard agents specifically to send to their sphere of influence. They are meant to be conversational in tone and easy to understand – not too statistic heavy as we believe that most of our readers are looking for more of an analysis and straight-talk on what’s going on in the Marin real estate market. They don’t want to have to do the analysis themselves. Putting it in easy-to-read language helps them follow along with what’s truly going on in the Marin real estate marketplace. All agents are given a custom masthead and can tweak the verbiage however they like, or just use as is. Just one more tool we provide, in addition to a free RealScout account, free DocuSign account, free photography and the use of our in-house marketing department for custom marketing and branding materials, to name a few.  If you are looking to increase your business and are willing to break out of your comfort zone to do it, I invite you to call or email me for an appointment today. We are active participants in this real estate market, and do not wait for things to happen. We make them happen!


Real Estate Resources

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Vanguard Properties

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Corte Madera, CA 94925


Marin Q3 Newsletter | Kearney Hart Group


Like clockwork, the market gets hot in Spring and Fall and slows in the summer and around the holidays.  But is the market truly soft in those “off peak times?” Aren’t people still looking for houses? And, don’t houses still get sold? Yes, and plenty of them. Our statistics show that a total of 633 houses (and an additional 184 condos) traded hands in Marin this past quarter (July through September) as compared with 623 homes (and 199 condos) in the same period of 2014. In comparison, this quarter was just as hot as last year’s third quarter market!

Q3 Median Sold Price by Area

This Quarter’s lowest Single Family Home sale was an auction property in San Rafael for $252,843 – less than the land value. The luxury markets of Belvedere and Stinson beach saw huge median price gains this quarter, helped by the highest SFH sale at 440 Golden Gate Ave in Belvedere for $47,500,000. The towns of Corte Madera, Sausalito, and San Anselmo also saw minor increases in the price of homes sold this past quarter. Mill Valley and Novato remained at the top (as compared with third quarter of last year) with plenty of inventory switching hands, while San Rafael increased in amount of homes sold substantially compared with last year’s third quarter.

Q3 unit sales by area

What do we say about the fourth quarter? More of the same. No matter how “soft” a selling season may seem, there will always be a demand for homes in Marin, at every time of the year!

Marin will most likely always have an inventory shortage. We’re just not building enough homes to keep up with the growing demand. But, our annual bump after Labor Day did something interesting this year: it paralyzed the buyers. What to do with all these choices? Why not wait for the perfect home? Because of this lack of urgency, many homes actually sat for longer – can you believe some more than two weeks before an offer? With the new influx of homes, buyers felt they were back in charge. They could take their time and only bid on the homes that were perfect for them!

Is there a perfect home in Marin? I’ve always contended that no matter at what price range, there will be some type of sacrifice. When you have the ideal view, you’re missing the flat yard. When you are just a short walk to town, you may not have the square footage you like. A quintessential Marin craftsman home may look incredibly cute, but the plumbing is shot. Those who grasp that it’s not a perfect housing county (and we actually love it for that) will start seeing the beauty in today’s current inventory. The best thing about buying a home in Marin, is that you get to live in Marin!

Prices may stabilize (and perhaps even drop a bit), but certainly not while interest rates are still at record lows with the economy showing sporadic signs of strength. The Fed held off raising rates when it had the chance in September. The dismal jobs report in October may have also stopped the FED from raising rates until December 2015. Even if the FED raises short-term rates, long-term rates should remain low because of market factors, including: slower growth in China, weakness in Europe in spite of quantitative easing there, and lower consumer confidence in the US. Almost everyone agrees, however, that rates will rise next year.

September 2015 year over year sales show very similar numbers to September 2014. There was a -2% change in supply with 233 homes sold this year compared to 238 in 2014, and a 0.6% increase in the sales price of this year compared to last year.

Q3 price-volume

There seems to be a window of opportunity right now. With 235 homes on the market in September, an average 57 “Days on Market,” and low interest rates, all signs point to a healthy Q4. Any perceived slowness may be attributed to a false sense of the market falling. Mark my words though, the market will heat up again. However, some sellers are panicking and thinking that this slowdown may last so they are eager to accept an offer. Hence, a real window of buying opportunity, but one that probably won’t last long. Inventory that was plentiful after Labor Day is slowly dwindling. Properties are getting snatched up and there is less and less from which buyers can choose. The laws of supply and demand are pointing to another strong selling season in the last months of 2015! Sellers, this absolutely is a great time to list your properties!

Deciding whether to rent or buy is another consideration for buyers. The longer you plan to stay in a home, the more purchasing it makes good financial sense. In some Bay Area markets the cost of a mortgage, insurance, and property taxes can actually be lower or similar to rental prices. Remember too, that mortgage interest and property taxes are tax-deductible.

Of course there is the down payment to consider. While many lenders want to see 20% down, there are a number of programs available that allow: 10% down with a first and second mortgage, only 3.5% down through FHA, and equity sharing programs that give borrowers 50% of the down payment in exchange for sharing appreciation at the time of resale.

Future appreciation significantly sweetens the attractiveness of owning verses renting. Although historically real estate appreciates 3% per year, the Bay Area has seen much higher rates of appreciation in the last few years. While there is no guarantee that property prices will appreciate at the same rate, long-term ownership will generally help soften the impact of the market’s volatility.

Q3 condos price-volume

The Marin Luxury market ($3 million and above) had 40 SFH sold this quarter with a median price of $3,680,000. The highest priced home was the aforementioned Belvedere house for $47,500,000. The hottest areas for luxury homes this quarter were Belvedere and Tiburon, compared to Tiburon and Kentfield last year. During the third quarter last year, 41 SFH luxury homes were sold with a median price of $3,850,000, and the most expensive sold at $12,250,000.

Advice for Sellers: Try, try, try not to list your home for more than it may be worth in the market. Review the comps in your area with your agent and be realistic about the value, possibly even underpricing it against the closest matching comparable property. Believe me, if it’s worth more, the market will take it there! If your property has been on the market for a while, you must either be very patient and wait for that perfect buyer, or consider a price reduction. Consult with your agent about a strategy to move forward, and be open to making some changes based on feedback you’ve received to date. You do want to sell your home, don’t you?

Advice for Buyers: Don’t hesitate. There’s a window of opportunity in the market right now and we just don’t know that it’s going to get any better. Sure, you can wait around for prices to drop and the market to bottom out, but I’m not betting on it. Historically, Marin homes have always held their value.  While there may be blips of price drops, they always seem to rise again. So, if you’re looking for a family home and plan to stay in your house for more than 5-7 years, chances are you’re going to be just fine.  If you’re looking for an investment and a quick flip, timing may or may not be in your favor, depending on whether you’re in a dip or a spike. Like any short-term investment, there’s always a lot more risk involved.

Advice for those sitting on the sidelines: What are you waiting for? Call me today and let’s get you into escrow!

what is escrow

And don’t worry, I will gladly explain what escrow is all about!

Hear The Beep Where You Sleep – Fire Prevention Week!

I got an email from the City of Mill Valley about Fire Prevention week.  I thought it worth a share:

History on Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.  According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow, belonging to Mrs. Catherine O’Leary, kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city on fire. Chances are you’ve heard some version of this story yourself; people have been blaming the Great Chicago Fire on the cow and Mrs. O’Leary for more than 130 years.

Keep your family safe with a working smoke alarm in every bedroom

Hear the BEEP where you SLEEP Flyer.jpg

Did you know that roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep?

Smoke alarms save lives. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. In fact, having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half!

Mill Valley Fire Department will be emphasizing these safety tips during Fire Prevention Week:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Working smoke alarms can make a life-saving difference in a fire. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do. Roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported at night between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Home smoke alarms can alert people to a fire before it spreads, giving everyone enough time to get out.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly. To learn more about smoke alarms and installation.
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear it.

Remember in the event of a fire, every second counts, you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.

For further Smoke Alarm Safety Tips and information on  Emergency Preparedness.

Staging Your Home for Great Listing Photos


Kevin_Stacy_Group_4701966_White copy4

Thinking of selling your home? The photos you include in the listing description can pique a buyer’s interest or prompt them to keep scrolling. Below are several tips to help you present your home in the best light and stage your home for listing photos. Forward this information to family and friends who are thinking of putting their homes on the market.  We also have more great resources on our website Prepare Your Home.



Kevin Kearney and Stacy Hart

Oh, by the way®… if you know of someone who would appreciate the level of service we provide, please call us with their name and business number. We’ll be happy to follow up and take great care of them.

Marin Market Update – September 2015 | Kearney Hart Real Estate Group


Vanguard September
Marin Market Update

A look at how the international economy, mortgage rates,
the moods of today’s buyers & sellers and local market issues affect Marin Real Estate.
Well, we made it through summer vacations, got everyone back to school, and are ourselves now getting back into the work groove.  For those watching the real estate market, we can safely declare that the Fall selling season is upon us. Sellers who’ve been waiting until after Labor Day are poised to put their properties on the market and we expect plenty of increased inventory for Marin County in the coming weeks. Buyers, start your engines!This past summer 887 homes sold in Marin from June through August as compared with 939 last year. August prices for Marin real estate ranged from $110,250 to $2,175,000 for condominiums –  and $390,000 to $47,500,000 (a record setting estate in Belvedere) for single family homes, with a median single family home sale price of $1,085,000 (compared with $960,000 last August).
Who exactly is buying in Marin these days? The spectrum is broad: young families priced out of San Francisco; downsizers who are tired of caring for their large homes; upsizers who are realizing they can get a good price for their current home and find a larger home for their growing family, and; investors who are also looking to cash in on fixers or buyers who are eager to invest in a project. We’re living in a very prosperous time in a very prosperous area. The Bay Area is a global wealth center and that means demand for housing will not be slowing down anytime soon.
The current real estate market is complex. Many are wondering: how long mortgage rates will stay low? Will housing prices start to stabilize or even drop? When will all this happen?  The stock market has been volatile. There are questions about the global economy and how that will affect Marin County. Some would-be cash buyers, especially at the higher end, will likely wait and see what happens. But, for many who are thinking about a home purchase with financing, now is a great time to buy.Sellers, too, need to be aware of the myriad of changing market conditions.Most economists were predicting the Federal Reserve would start raising rates this fall as the economy shows signs of improvement, but are now talking about a continued easing policy. In other words, low rates should stick around longer.

Low mortgage rates increase affordability. The lower the rates are, the more buyers are willing to spend on a house. Low mortgage rates also drive investors into the housing market since they can leverage their money and earn positive cash flow on rent. Bottom line: low mortgage rates stimulate high housing valuations.

The August jobs report showed unemployment rate falling to a seven year low. With this news, the Fed may announce on September 17 it will begin moving interest rates higher. The only thing that would hold it back is uncertainty about the global economy and the U.S. market volatility. Even so, many believe if there is a rate hike it would be only a quarter percent. The impact to Marin real estate? It might possibly create a sense of urgency with the sellers who feel that any increase in interest rates could mean less buying power and potentially lower prices.

Foreign investors, especially  Chinese investors, are very active in high-demand markets in places like New York, London and Sydney, and yes, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Marin County. Chinese investors looking for alternatives to their country’s crashing stock market and the devaluation of their currency now account for 25% of all real estate purchases made by foreigners in the US — a record high at $29 billion in the 12 months to March 30 according to the National Association of Realtors.

Some of U.S. consumers – those who lost their homes to foreclosures or short-sales during the real estate downturn in 2008 Recession – are also back. It generally takes seven years for a foreclosure to drop off a credit report, and these “boomerang buyers” are reclaiming their credit scores and many are ready to buy.  Nearly 700,000 of the 7.3 million homeowners who went through foreclosure or short sales during the bust have the potential to get a mortgage again this year. Experts say these boomerang buyers will be an important segment of the real estate market in the coming years.

And, with equity back, those who were able to make their mortgage payments through the rough economic downturn have been rewarded by rising home prices. Millions are experiencing significant equity increases in their homes, allowing them to sell in this current market and trade up for their next purchase. Overall, that can trigger more homes on the market for first-time buyers.

Renters, too, are thinking now could be a good time to buy. With rental rates skyrocketing in the Bay Area, many renters are realizing that the cost of home ownership is lower than renewing a lease. On average in the second quarter of 2015, homeowners in the U.S. devoted 15% of their income to mortgage, whereas experts say 33% is a comfortable number.  Some people living in rentals in the Bay Area devote as much as 50% of their average income on housing.

Demand for Marin real estate in the coming year will also be fueled by the new high speed rail system Smart Train, as well as a continued influx of life sciences and biotech companies into the North Bay. Home values in key areas near the train route and the work centers in San Rafael and Novato are expected to thrive.

Also of interest to Marin home buyers and sellers are continued adoptions by local municipalities to disclose and correct sewer lateral issues prior to the sale of real property. The Marin Association of Realtors has outlined an overall disclosure for consumers to be sure they are complying with local regulations. With all parties aware up front there will be less potential for delays in closings.

Additionally, city inspectors throughout Marin are paying much closer attention to decks and balconies, holding them to higher health/safety standards than in the past, following the recent the deck collapse and fatalities in Berkeley.

For those following the technical aspects of escrows in California, new lending regulations take effect on October 1st and are meant to simplify the reports generated at the end of escrow to clearly show where all proceeds go and to whom. The new forms and disclosures call for ample time to be given for review of files and any changes in the original contract such as credits, accommodations or prices changes. Attorneys who work closely with the National Association of Realtors® have recommended as conservative advice to build into your escrows an extra 15 days for closings. If for example, you had expected a 30 day closing, now plan for a 45-day escrow as a precautionary measure.

So, that’s it for the September report. Lots going on, lots to look forward to and lots to observe in this exciting market. I look forward to sharing more with you about Marin Real estate in October.