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Ted Strodder


415.377.5222
Golden Gate
Sotheby's International Realty
189 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Greenbrae CA 94904

Marin Real Estate Blog

October in Marin: Will Buyers Finally Hit the Pause Button or Will Prices Continue to Rise?

October is here in Marin and our “New Market” continues with buyers still leaving the confines of nearby cities to find a new place to shelter. Marin, Sonoma and Napa are all seeing strong home sales though that isn’t unusual. But even Tahoe properties are selling like hotcakes. The big question is, will it continue? If history is any guide, the short term answer would seem to be yes, but after that, it gets a little cloudy, to say the least. 

Beginning just after Labor Day, our fall market usually is a last gasp for Marin real estate. Buying activity tends to thrive right through October, then slow as Thanksgiving approaches. By Christmas, it’s generally pretty quiet. Throw in an election year and it could get really  quiet. At least that’s in years past. This year, who knows with the pandemic and people now working and living from home full time. Maybe we’ll see a busy winter. It doesn’t hurt that mortgage rates are hovering at (or below) 3%. You can see a chart of those in the center of this newsletter, but by the time you take your mortgage write off, you’re borrowing money at around 2%! Reports tell us they could stay low for another two years and if that isn’t a motivator, I don’t know what is.  

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy October wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

September in Marin: Marin Real Estate Market Moves Forward Even During Normally “Slow” Months as Home Buyers Flee Nearby Cities

September is here in Marin and our “New Market” continues. Gone are the normally slow months of July and August as these last two were incredibly busy, mostly with more buyers leaving the confines of nearby cities to find a new place to shelter. Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Tahoe, they’re all seeing strong home sales though that isn’t unusual for the last three there. It is for Marin, no question. Most residents focus on vacations or getting ready for school, but not this summer. It was a buying frenzy for well-located, well-priced homes with at least 4 br’s and a pool (a pool?) if possible.  

City buyers still dominated the lists for most agents as people from apartments or condos sought out the safety and open spaces of Marin. Multiple offers slowed down somewhat last month, but were still the norm on most well-priced homes that checked all the buyer-boxes. Those that were “Done” and remodeled remained in the highest demand. Buyers sheltering in place look now for enough bedrooms to convert one into an office as many large (and small) companies have issued work-at-home guidelines into 2022. 

Mortgage rates sure didn’t hurt things as we started seeing rates below 3%. Look up in the center of his newsletter and see those numbers. It’s crazy. That too is a first and we don’t see that ending anytime soon, either. 

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy September wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

August in Marin: Crazy Times For Real Estate as Home Buyers Flee San Francisco

It’s August already here in Marin and as I look back, I can’t believe how things changed so quickly. Our normal busy months of March and April were basically at a buying halt due to the SIP in Marin and throughout the Bay Area. But as of May 1st, things were back to normal, with buyers looking to buy and get moved for the summer. By June 1st? The craziness was in full swing with unheard of buying activity, going straight through July with no end in sight. 

City buyers dominated the lists for most agents as people mainly from apartments or condos sought out the safety and open spaces of Marin. Multiple offers were the norm on most well-priced homes with those “Done” and remodeled remaining in the highest demand. Buyers sheltering in place look now for enough bedrooms to convert one into an office. And for the first time since I can remember, pools are all the rage. If you gotta stay at home, why not make it your own private resort, right? 

Mortgage rates sure didn’t hurt things as we started seeing rates below 3%. That too is a first and we don’t see that ending anytime soon, either. 

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy August wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

July in Marin: Crazy Times For Marin Real Estate as Home Buyers Flee San Francisco Looking For Fresh Air

It’s July in Marin and it looks like the home-buying fireworks from June are going to add to those in celebration of the Fourth. These last two months are usually a fairly busy time for active real estate agents, but I have to say May and June have been some of the craziest ever in my thirty four year career (I started when I was three). In addition to sellers trading within the county–often in the same town–we’ve seen a threefold increase of city buyers seeking all that Marin has to offer: a house with an actual yard or view, great schools, ample parking everywhere you go, plus miles of open space with all the fresh air you need for safe social distancing. Let’s hope everyone keeps that distance and continues with a mask. Life can go on, just with some strict modifications for our health and safety, along with those around us. But back to the market. 

As you read last month, the low and mid price ranges have been incredibly active since home sales dipped following the SIP announced on March 16th. Prices didn’t drop during that brief period, but as is common with any big news event, people just hunkered down and did nothing. Sellers stopped selling and buyers stopped buying, for the most part, just not entirely. We hit the bottom of the trough in mid April and the market started to slowly ramp back up, averaging roughly 5 home sales per day. Since then, we’ve seen 158 homes sell in May and another 280 in June, (over 9 per day) pushing the average sale price up to $1,758,000, much of it again driven by San Francisco residents moving to Marin. But it’s the higher price range sales that’s helped move the average up north of $1.7 mil. We’re now seeing that strata of the market get just as hot in the lower ranges, especially if there’s level land and “done” condition involved. And speaking of hot, pool homes are all the rage again as people hope to shelter in their own mini-resort if possible. Watch for sales of properties to continue here, especially if interest rates stay at these crazy-low levels. 

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy July wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

May in Marin: Despite Inventory Reduced by Half, Strong Sales Continue, But How Long Will it Last?

Welcome to the New World, and not the one discovered by Columbus. Things are different now for all of us in nearly every aspect of life. What isn’t different is our resolve as Americans to get through this–or any–crisis, intact and maybe down, but certainly not out. We’ve had our challenges before and this too shall pass, ultimately. In the meantime, the resilience we’re seeing out there is incredible. It hasn’t gone perfectly by any means, but it was (and is) a brand new challenge where we all had to think on our feet, while at the same time staying OFF those same feet and sheltering in place. We will get through this, just watch, and the way the real estate community has responded is certainly no exception to our ability for flexibility and compromise. This is my fifth downturn cycle and by all accounts it will be the shortest recovery of all of them. 

For those of you who read this blog last month, you know that buyers continued to buy in Marin, even after the SIP was announced here on March 16th. April saw 94 properties go into escrow, down from 109 in March. This is roughly half what we see normally this time of year, but inventory itself is down more than half. So we are seeing fewer sales, but still multiple offers and over asking sold prices for the right property at the right price. Yes, that surprises even us seasoned veterans. We had 120 properties close escrow and post as Sold, down from the 174 of March, but again buyers had slim pickings to choose from.

So even despite restrictions on “safe showings” with masks, gloves, groups of no more than two and social distancing at all times, people continued to look at their home here as a long term investment, so look they did. Some made offers even after simply viewing photos and online videos, with a safe walk thru to follow once the home was able to be temporarily vacant. But as of May 4th, we can now carefully move to showing homes that are occupied but only AFTER prospective buyers have driven by, looked at all posted media and presented proof of being approved for a mortgage or all-cash. There’s also a California PEAD form that needs to be submitted by the agent prior to showing, indicating all the guidelines have been met. We’ll see how it goes. 

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy May wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

April in Marin: Surprise of Strong Sales in Late March, But Will it Continue?

I’m going to make this quick as things are changing almost day to day, so anything I write here could easily be outdated very quickly. But I trust all you readers are safe and aiming to stay that way. It’s a new world and one that is certainly going to impact us all for many months to come, if not years in some regards. For those of us who have been around awhile, we’ve discovered that we’ve never been so aware of our own hygiene and social distancing. Ironically, we should all have been practicing this our entire lives, but seems like that’s only been most of our medical professional friends or clients. It’s now all of us, hopefully, more aware of potential germs than ever before. But now to the Marin real estate market, which has gone through its own changes and a few surprises. 

First, the surprising part. Many of you who follow this in real-time and already know that despite the worldwide pandemic and historic stock market declines, buyers continued to buy in Marin for the month of March, even long after our SIP began. Last month saw 109 properties go into escrow, with just over half of those being after the SIP of March 17th, even yesterday or the preceding days. We had 174 properties close escrow and post as Sold, with 88 of them being after March 17th. So even despite restrictions on “safe showings” with masks, gloves, groups of no more than two and social distancing at all times, people continued to look at their home here as a long term investment, so look they did. Some made offers even after looking at photos and online videos, with a safe walk thru to follow once the home was able to be temporarily vacant. Who knows if this continues in April, but I have to agree with those who chose to step and buy when many weren’t. We’re going to get over this at some point, maybe in a series of weeks or months, but it IS beatable and we will go on as a society.

Let me know of any questions on that. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy April wherever you are and please stay safe. As always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

Marin Market Marches Ahead, Are “Stupid Low” Interest Rates Balancing Buyer Hesitation?

March is here and whoa, what exactly is going to happen this month? We’ve seen stock market gyrations and global health news before here, but never to such extremes and never at the same time. So I’m asked constantly, “What’s going to happen with home prices and sales”? My answer is simple, “Nothing. Yet, anyway”. Nothing will happen immediately, and in fact the market has been busier in the last few weeks than any February on record. Multiple offers abound as people always need a place to live and interest rates are “stupid low”, likely softening the blow of uncertainty to any would be home buyer. But what happens here long term depends on what happens nationally and globally going forward. As we’ve seen in the short run, offers will be submitted, escrows will close and buyers will move into their new homes as it appears that any economic or health scares are going to be relatively short lived. But as each day brings new (and news) updates, things may change. It’s just not clear in which direction. 

As with any real estate market, we won’t know what the trend is until we’re past it and able to look back. But in my experience, long term uncertainty tends to freeze people in their tracks from making big short term decisions. They can click and trade stocks in an instant, but real estate purchases are much more long term and people tend to look forward, months or years from now. While every day can be  a revelation of further virus outbreaks or wild stock market swings, those could be good revelations, not bad, with fewer virus outbreaks and ultimate control of the disease. We just don’t know yet. It’s way too soon.

All that said, the past month revealed multiple cases of multiple offers, with three escrows of my own all having 3-4 buyers on each one. Smart sellers price to move their homes quickly, not fight the dreaded DOM (Days on Market) and are often rewarded with whopping offers with no (or very limited) contingencies. Remember, it’s not always the higher offer that wins. It’s usually the best offer and if that “best” is a slightly lower price but contingent-free, a sure bird in the hand for the seller usually takes it. Keep that in mind as you choose to write it up this spring. Get your financing all 100% in place and review comprehensive Disclosure Packets up front. You can then write a clean offer that could very well put you at the top of the stack, if there is a stack to compete with. Just know that any bad headlines are soon to disappear and things will be right back to where they were. These are very interesting times for all of us, but the dynamics of supply and demand in Marin are still in place. Nothing has changed here, yet anyway. 

Let me know of any questions. I’m here to help. Meantime, enjoy March wherever you are and as always, thanks for reading.

Ted

415.377.5222

ted@gomarin.com

February Real Estate Market in Marin: Optimism Abounds as Home Buying Starts Early

As we start our second month of 2020 here in Marin, I can sum up the sentiment on the Bay Area real estate market in one word: optimism. Maybe it’s the fluid synergy the way 20 and 20 just flows off the tongue, the renaissance beginning of a new decade, or the fact we all just need a dose of optimism right now. But every buyer, seller, agent and real estate manager or company owner I’ve spoken with so far has said more or less the same thing, “It feels like it’s going to be a great year”. Not just for real estate of course, but for all of us as we move forward with prosperity and hope into the coming year. 

Take a look at the chart to the left of this article. Mortgage rates have dipped back down towards historic lows, motivating buyers to buy and sellers to sell, many of whom trade up or down within the county. Fewer people move out of here voluntarily than almost anywhere else and those who sell, often trade up or down within Marin. (The national average hovers around 7% annually, while Marin is closer to 6%). If you have any doubt if that has been the trend for the last ten years, just take a look at the number of Active listings currently for sale on any given day here. Back in 2010 that number was approx 1200 total homes and condos for sale. Today? That number is exactly 208. Take out the condos and it drops to 155 single family homes. Granted, we will see more come up for sale into the month and once Superbowl is behind us, but even if the number of For Sale signs double, there still isn’t much for buyers to choose from.

Sellers? Keep your expectations well in check. Do not overestimate the value of your great place. Be cautious and reasonable, in line with the market that day. Do not forecast a big uptick in the short term and price accordingly. Be optimistic, but realistic and by all means, do every thing on the punch list put together by you and your agent.  You will be rewarded every time. 

Buyers? The watchwords of “compromise and flexibility” remain very much in place for you in 2020. Get too picky and the market will pass you by, which can be an expensive proposition. If history and current projections are any indication, home prices should be up in the 5% range on average with our usual slow and steady appreciation. No jack rabbit swings in either direction, especially in the lower price ranges in any of our twelve towns. Given buyer activity last month in January, they appear to be out in force with multiple offers being placed on the table already. Let’s see how this blog reads a year from now, but it looks to be another solid year for Marin County real estate. 

Until then, thanks for reading. Let me know of any questions and here’s to continued optimism and a terrific 2020 for all of you. 

TS

ted@gomarin.com

c- 415.377.5222

January Market in Marin: The New Year Starts Now For Buyers and Sellers

It’s 2020. Wow. When Barbara Walters launched the news program of the same name way back in 1978, who would have imagined what our world today looked like, at least that far into the future. Well it’s here and I for one am astounded by the changes in our society with technology and changes in our society due to technology. Think of all the apps, websites and software not around even twenty years ago, including those for real estate home searches. 

Back in 2000, the internet had not yet seamlessly merged with real estate. There was only one public portal for listings that was courtesy of our own MLS service, but the data was delayed and limited at best. Today, we have over a dozen ways for the non-licensed public to browse new or existing listings, with Zillow, Trulia and Redfin leading the pack, none of which were in existence then. The data is now in real-time, but it too is limited with two very important missing pieces: 

  1. Off-Market listings are usually shared only to top agents who have to pay for the software that keeps us updated on what’s Coming Soon, or what properties may not even hit the active market and MLS.  
  2. Confidential non-public remarks are posted only to licensees. This is important stuff and often includes a seller’s motivation to sell, pricing strategy, level of activity and a set date to look at offers. None of this is available to the public and often (if not always) can mean the difference between a winning and losing bid by an active buyer. All of this can only be passed on by a licensed agent and those buyers who choose to “go it alone” by relying on the limited data published to a public portal are at an extreme disadvantage.

How can all this be so critical? One word: inventory. 

Marin has one of the lowest attrition rates in the country. Fewer people move out of here voluntarily than almost anywhere else and those who sell, often trade up or down within the county. (The national average hovers around 7% annually, while Marin is closer to 6%). With a long standing steady track record of solid appreciation over the last seventy years (when they started keeping records), many homeowners have learned that once they sell and move out, the chances of getting back in at the same price point usually means a substantial trade off: they can buy back in, but usually get less house and less property in a lesser location. And with so little for sale here, smart buyers hire a local expert to pass on Off-Market listings and to disseminate the Confidential Remarks (it’s literally called that) section of the MLS. I’ve seen my clients win time and again with this, and others lose, continually, so it’s a no-brainer as to whether or not buyers or sellers should hire a local, experienced agent. Going forward in 2020, we see this only increasing in importance, not going by the wayside of a new app’ or site. 

As for home values, we saw a steady 2251 homes change hands for an average price just under $1.7 mil and a median of $1.3 mil. All of these are basically flat from last year, but this is for the entire county. The more accurate data is reflected not only by town, but by area or neighborhood, most of which revolve around level land and proximity to schools, shops, parks and the commute. Those streets that “checked all the boxes” were up, often by quite a bit. Many central, flat areas in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, Greenbrae and Kentfield were up 5%-10%, offsetting less-desirable parts of the county. 

Where do we go in 2020? Well if history and current projections by the big brains are any indication, likely more of the same. Slow and steady appreciation overall will likely rule the markets as it has in the last several years, with no jack rabbit swings in either direction, unlike other investments. But let’s see how this blog reads a year from now. 

Until then, thanks for ready. Let me know of any questions and here’s to a terrific 2020 for all of you. 

TS

ted@gomarin.com

c- 415.377.5222

December Market Likely to Slow After Record Sales in November

December is here in Marin, bringing cold temperatures (by California standards) and lots of early rain. After a parched fall with the lowest rainfall on record (nearly 0), the skies opened up around Thanksgiving and it hasn’t stopped since.  

What didn’t get a break was the pace of home sales. Last month was one of the busiest for us in recent years with 214 homes and condos changing hands, up 5% from last November. Prices were also up with the average approaching $1.6 mil versus $1.450 mil for the same month in 2018. The median also rose, cresting near $1.2 mil versus $1.1 mil for the same month. Those are both up 10% for the month, which should contribute to a year end in the 7%-8% that was forecast at the start of this year. Just keep in mind those prices are for homes and condos. Just homes themselves are always approx $200k higher in value here. 

Multiple offers continued right through November with my last three listings getting swarmed with buyers who had cash or preapprovals in hand, ready to close in 3-4 weeks, often with all their due diligence done upfront. Smart sellers continue to prep their homes, with turnkey, move-in condition properties continuing to well outpace fixer uppers of any variety. If they order all their inspections and reports weeks before they sell, they likely will receive several clean, As-Is offers with no last minute, unexpected negotiations. People are busy and seem to prefer to spend their time at home, enjoying their surroundings, instead of embarking on major fix up projects. This is a trend that’s likely to continue, so let me know if there’s anything I can advise on here. Being involved in multiple offers as a buyer or seller is a very distinct specialty that isn’t for the meek or unseasoned. There are a lot of moving parts, with any missteps resulting in potentially big financial missteps.   

Where we go from here is anybody’s guess, but if history is any guide, December tends to be our slowest month of the year. This is a great time for sellers to embark on any projects (big or small) to add good value for the early spring market, which we predict will be another strong one for home sales. Buyers, if you find a deal out there that meets at least 6 out of 10 on your Wish List, consider making an offer. Anybody on the market this time of year is usually committed to sell, so don’t be afraid to step up and make an offer. You never know. 

Until then, enjoy December wherever you are and let me know what I can help with. Ask me anything. If I don’t already know the answer, I’ll seek it out. 

Thanks for reading, 

TS

ted@gomarin.com

c- 415.377.5222