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It’s never too early to prepare your home and family for an earthquake The earthquakes that hit Southern California last week left residents unnerved. The 6.4 magnitude quake hit near Ridgecrest last Thursday, was followed the next day by a 7.1 magnitude quake, the largest in Southern California in 20 years. The quake was also felt in Las Vegas and Mexico, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It is never too early to prepare your home and family for an earthquake, says Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “We need to review and practice earthquake safety measures, so if an earthquake or any kind of disaster strikes, we will be ready.”

This is why SILVAR periodically reminds consumers of the following important earthquake safety measures for homeowners from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), California’s Department of Conservation and the USGS:

Identify Potential Hazards in Your Home and Fix Them

• Move furniture away from where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time. Move heavy objects to lower shelves and secure hanging objects, cabinet doors and appliances with safety straps, fasteners and adhesives. Move flammable or hazardous materials stored in garages and utility rooms to low, more secure areas.

• Replace rigid gas connections to water heaters and other gas appliances with flexible (corrugated) stainless steel gas connectors. Excess-flow gas-shutoff valves for individual appliances will stop gas flow in case of a catastrophic leak.

Create a Disaster Supply Kit and Keep it in an Accessible Location

• First aid supplies, with medications not requiring refrigeration, including spare eyeglasses and essential hygiene items

• Drinking water (minimum one gallon per person per day)

• Whistle (to alert rescuers to your location)

• Emergency cash in small bills (ATMs may not work)

• Snack foods high in calories, canned and packaged foods and cooking utensils, including a manual can opener and food and a leash or carrier for your pet

• A working flashlight with extra batteries and/or light sticks

• Baby formula or powdered milk for infants, disposable diapers, baby wipes, bottles, pacifiers and comfort items for your children, like stuffed animals and other toys

• A battery-operated radio (and spare batteries)

• Warm clothing, gloves, sturdy shoes, extra socks, blankets/sleeping bags, dust masks

• Heavy-duty plastic bags for waste and other uses

• A-B-C type fire extinguisher

• Copies of vital documents, such as insurance policies, personal identification, medical consent forms for dependents

Replace perishable items like water, food, medication and batteries on a yearly basis.

Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan

Decide how and where your family will reunite if separated during a quake. Select an out-of-state friend or relative to call and alert other relatives and friends that you are all right.

During an Earthquake, Drop! Cover! and Hold On!

If you are indoors, drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, or stand against an interior wall. Stay away from exterior walls and windows. If you are outdoors, stay clear of buildings and power lines. If there is no shelter nearby, cover your head and neck with one arm and hand. Hold on until the shaking stops.

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The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), has awarded $18,000 in the form of $1,000 scholarships to each of 18 graduating seniors from public high schools in Silicon Valley. The scholarships are made possible by donations from members of the local trade association who are engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

The REALTOR® scholars program recognizes students for their outstanding achievements in academics, extracurricular activities and community involvement. The selection committee includes representatives from the local business community, area high schools, area colleges and SILVAR. Now on its 20th year, the program has awarded a total of $360,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in communities served by SILVAR members.

Students who received scholarships, the schools from which they graduated, and the colleges and universities they plan to attend in the fall of 2019 are Divya Rao, Cupertino High School (Carnegie Mellon University); Bryan Carrillo Martinez, Fremont High School (Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo); Arianna Morales, Gunn High School (Saint Mary’s College of California); Ritu Channagiri, Homestead High School (Baylor University); Rachel Huynh, Leigh High School (Brown University); Aashna Desai, Los Altos High School (UC Berkeley); Laura Herron, Los Gatos High School (UC Berkeley); Emily Zhang, Lynbrook High School (Pomona College); Chris Ikonomou, Menlo-Atherton High School (UCLA); Clara Shen, Monta Vista High School (University of Michigan); Valeria Gonzalez, Mountain View High School (Stanford University); Lucia Amieva-Wang, Palo Alto High School (Macalester College); Edmund Zhi, Prospect High School (UCLA); Riana Kaur Grewal, Santa Clara High School (UC Santa Cruz); Miya Uenaka, Saratoga High School (University of the Pacific); Alexis Weisend, Westmont High School (University of Oregon); Kuauhtemoc Gonzalez, Wilcox High School (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

“We are pleased that for 20 years our members have been able to assist our youth in beginning their college careers. The seniors selected each year are very deserving of recognition not only because of their academic accomplishments, but also for their contributions to their communities,” said Nina Yamaguchi, scholars program chair.

Members of SILVAR presenting the scholarship awards to the recipients at their school’s senior awards night are Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty), Alan Barbic (Sereno Group), Mark Burns (Referral Realty), Joanne Fraser (Compass), Jasmine Lee (Coldwell Banker), Theresa Loya (Coldwell Banker), Wendy Marioni (Compass), Russell Morris (Coldwell Banker), Nathan Nahouraii (Referral Realty), Robert Reid (Keller Williams Realty), Mary Tan (Coldwell Banker), David Tonna (Compass), Lynn Wilson Roberts (Pacific Union International Real Estate) and Suzanne Yost (Compass).

“REALTORS® are happy to give back to our communities through our scholars program. The scholars program is a longtime partnership effort between the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation and the dedicated educators in our service area,” said Charitable Foundation president Eileen Giorgi.

The latest consumer findings from a National Association of REALTORS® survey reveal many more Americans believe now is a good time to sell a home. An increasing number of Americans also believe now is a good time to buy a home. The positive feeling many Americans have about the housing market is largely due to their attitude towards the economy, according to NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey.

The quarterly survey, which tracks real estate trends, renters and homeowner views and aspirations regarding homeownership, and expectations in the mortgage market, found 46 percent of those surveyed strongly believe now is a good time to sell a home, up from 37 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Seventy-three percent of people believe now is a good time to sell, while 27 percent say now is not a good time to sell. Those who are in the West (70 percent) are most likely to think now is a good time to sell a home.

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun noted home prices have increased only moderately and that is a contributing factor as to why an overwhelming majority of Americans feel now is a good time to sell. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand that the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over,” said Yun.

The number of Americans who think now is a good time to buy a home also has increased. Of those respondents, 38 percent answered they strongly believe that notion, and 27 percent said they moderately believe the present is a good time to buy. Meanwhile, 35 percent disagreed, stating now is not a good time to make a home purchase, which is unchanged from the first quarter.

The optimistic feelings about buying and selling are attributed to positive outlooks on the economy. Fifty-five percent of those polled feel the economy is improving, up from 53 percent in the previous quarter. Optimism was greatest among those who earn $100,000 or more and those who reside in rural areas.

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, believes it is definitely a good time to sell a home and a good time to buy, as well. “Homes may not sell for as much as they would have a year ago, but they have appreciated enough that many sellers feel it is still a good time to sell,” said Barbic. “On the other hand, the strong demand for homes has never diminished and now that mortgage interest rate hikes don’t appear to be coming in the near future, buyers are encouraged to continue with their home search.”

Yun said that mortgage affordability was promising over the second quarter, and he expects this trend will continue. “Lower mortgage rates, along with job and wage growth, will lead to an increase in sales and thereby contribute positively to economic growth in the upcoming quarters,” Yun predicted.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® 8th Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) Institute was held June 10-14. The CIPS Institute provides training in international business issues, including currency conversion, cultural awareness, legal and tax requirements, transaction principles of international real estate, and specifics about the real estate markets in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

After completing five courses and other requirements, REALTORS® earn the prestigious National Association of Realtors CIPS designation. There are about 3,250 CIPS designees in the U.S.

SILVAR has offered the CIPS Institute every year since 2012. Teaching this year’s classes was REALTOR® and broker associate Bobbi Decker, a NAR REBAC instructor.

“We had a very vital and enthusiastic group for this CIPS class at SILVAR this week. NAR is very eager to have its members up their professionalism, particularly in this global economy and changing market dynamics of the real estate industry,” said Decker.

The CIPS designation gives REALTORS® an edge over other agents when dealing with foreign clients. Decker noted that Silicon Valley is an epicenter for innovation. “Certified International Property Specialist is an essential designation for REALTORS® working in this melting pot that draws people from all over the world.”

According to NAR’s “2018 Profile of International Activity in U.S.Residential Real Estate,” foreign buyers purchased $121 billion of residential property from April 201 to March 2018. Five states accounted for 53 percent of total residential property purchases: Florida (19 percent), California (14 percent), Texas (9 percent), New York (five percent), and Arizona (five percent). The major foreign buyers were China ($30.4B), Canada ($10.5B), the United Kingdom ($7.3B), India ($7.2B), and Mexico ($4.2B).

The CIPS Institute had five sponsors this year. Anita Rodal, international liaison with AFEX (Associated Foreign Exchange) and president of SBPI Services, Inc., informed Realtors the exchange rate can fluctuate on a second by second basis, so the exchange rate on the internet is not be the actual exchange rate. She also explained how market volatility affects inter-bank currency exchange rates and how AFEX helps foreign buyers convert their money to dollars quickly and at a competitive rate.

Avery Bibbs, business development manager with First American Exchange Company, delivered a presentation on the 1031 exchange and tax updates for 2019. A 1031 exchange allows an investor to sell a property, reinvest the proceeds from the sale in a “like kind” property that is of equal or greater value and defer all capital gain taxes. Examples of “like-kind” property exchanges are a single-family rental house for a duplex, an apartment building for a retail center, land for an income producing vineyard, etc.

Michael Cobb, CEO of ECI Development, spoke on how local REALTORS® can help clients interested in purchasing property abroad. Cobb said in addition to investors buying property overseas, Americans are looking at retiring abroad. Their move overseas is driven by cost, having a higher quality of life for less money.

Lisa Wendl, a loan officer with General Mortgage Capital Corp., provided information on loan requirements for foreign buyers. Wendl said because it is getting harder for Chinese living abroad to get money out of China, she has clients who have bought high-end properties in the Bay Area who are seeking to do cash-out refinancing in order to remain liquid. If the China government does not ease up on its restrictions on the outflow of money, Wendl anticipates some Chinese will be forced to sell their homes.

Amy Ku, Sandy Lee and Dean Chang represented the team of Winnie Ho, premier mortgage consultant with HSBC. Ku said a portfolio lending bank, HSBC is a one-stop shop designed to accommodate global clients. HSBC a number of programs that offer flexible terms to foreign buyers, like interest-only loans and family assisted programs for buyers who need help in qualifying for loans.

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