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Despite information in the media, many households were caught unprepared for PG&E’s recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs in certain areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to PG&E, the effects of climate change are making California’s wildfire season longer and more intense, threatening homes and people’s lives. In order to prevent tragedies like the deadly Camp Fire, PG&E says the probability is great that it will proactively shut off electrical power to households during days of strong winds and extreme fire danger.

Below are steps recommended by PG&E, the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® and other sources, to help homeowners prepare before a shutoff occurs:

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR), knows the impact a fire can have on a family, since his home was destroyed during the 1985 Lexington fire and the family had to rebuild. “We were utterly devastated when our home burned down. We were fortunate to be safe, but the fear was very real,” said Barbic. “That’s why it is important to prepare as much as you can and have an emergency plan in advance in the event your family is affected by a power shutoff or should any type of emergency arise.”

Below are steps recommended by PG&E, SILVAR and other sources, to help homeowners prepare before a shutoff occurs

  • Visit http://www.pge.com to confirm or update your contact information, so PG&E can send you notifications in advance of a shutoff.
  • Create a safety plan for your family, including pets. This includes emergency contact information and an emergency supply kit with enough water and nonperishable food to last your family for a week. Refresh your kit once a year.
  • When there is no power, Wi-Fi and other devices that rely on electricity to function won’t work, so keep mobile phones and other devices charged. Better yet, have an external battery charger that can charge your phone and other devices. Make sure it is charged all the time.
  • Have a battery-operated radio so you can listen for news updates.
  • Have several flashlights available and store extra batteries for your flashlights and portable radio. Avoid using candles.
  • Keep cash on hand, preferably in small bills, since ATMs and credit card machines may not function during an outage.
  • Keep your gas tank always at least half full. Gas tanks need electricity to pump gas. If you own an electric vehicle, make sure it is fully charged.
  • If your garage door does not have a battery backup, learn how to manually open it.
  • If you live in a unit that has elevators or electronic key card access, talk with your building manager about how they will deal with a possible outage.

During a power shutoff:

  • Unplug or turn off appliances, computers and other electronics to avoid damage caused by surges when the power is restored.
  • Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours and a full freezer will keep its temperature for about two days if they are kept closed. Use coolers with ice or freeze water in plastic containers to keep food cold.
  • If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical technologies such as breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, and home oxygen or dialysis, make sure you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.
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Statewide housing affordability dipped in the second quarter of this year, according to the California Association of REALTORS®, though some San Francisco Bay Area counties showed some improvement.

According to the California Association of REALTORS® Traditional Housing Affordability Index, the percentage of homebuyers who could afford to purchase a median priced, single-family home statewide in second-quarter 2019 dipped to 30 percent from 32 percent in the first quarter of 2019 but was up from 26 percent in the second quarter a year ago.

A minimum annual income of $122,960 was needed to qualify for the purchase of a $608,660 statewide median priced, single-family home in the second quarter of 2019. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $3,070, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an interest rate of 4.17 percent. The interest rate was 4.62 percent in first-quarter 2019 and 4.70 percent in second-quarter 2018. 

San Francisco County was the least affordable county in the state, with just 17 percent of households able to purchase the $1,700,000 median-priced home. Forty-six percent of Solano County households could afford the $445,000 median-priced home, making it the most affordable Bay Area county.

In Silicon Valley, when compared with the first quarter of 2019, housing affordability stayed at the same level in the second quarter in the high-priced Silicon Valley counties of San Mateo (18 percent) and Santa Clara (20 percent) and San Francisco (17 percent).

“Home prices are starting to fall in line. Sellers are realizing they need to be realistic about pricing their home in this market. There is just so much buyers, especially first-time buyers, can afford, even with their high incomes and the low interest rates,” said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

Not surprisingly, San Francisco (17 percent) and San Mateo (18 percent) counties were the least affordable places in the Bay Area, and requiring the highest minimum qualifying incomes in the state. An annual income of $343,420 was needed to purchase a home in San Francisco County, and an annual income of $338,870 was required in San Mateo County.

In Santa Clara County, homebuyers needed an annual income of $268,680 to qualify for the purchase of a $1,330,000 countywide median-priced single-family home in the second quarter of 2019. The monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, would be $6,720, assuming a 20 percent down payment and an interest rate of 4.17 percent.

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.

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.

June is National Homeownership Month, and throughout the month the National Association of REALTORS®  and the nation’s state and local REALTOR® associations will be helping to raise awareness about the benefits of owning a home and help Americans achieve the American dream of homeownership.

“As leading advocates for homeownership, REALTORS® understand the value of owning a home,” said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “Owning a home is not only the best investment an individual can make to build their personal wealth, it also provides social stability, builds communities, and is a driving force for the economy.”

Homeownership reaps benefits for the homeowner, as well as the community. Through the mortgage interest deduction, homeowners are allowed to reduce their taxable income by a sizeable amount. Buying a home is also an investment because of equity gains and overall appreciation. In addition, studies show high and stable homeownership rates contribute many important social benefits to a community, by boosting the quality of living through education and civic involvement, while lowering crime rate and welfare dependency.

Barbic said the biggest hurdle for homeownership today is not demand; it is affordability. The California Association of REALTORS® reports the percentage of homebuyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in first-quarter 2019 rose to 32 percent from 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, and from 31 percent in the first quarter a year ago.

In Santa Clara County, 20 percent of households could afford to purchase a $1,220,000 median-priced home in the first quarter of this year, up from 18 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and up from 17 percent in first-quarter 2018. To qualify, homebuyers needed a minimum annual income of $256,720. Their monthly payment, including taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $6,420.

“Housing affordability has always been a challenge in the region because Silicon Valley is one of the best places to live in California. The weather here is great, the economy is good, and there is job growth,” said Barbic. “The door is still open for many homebuyers. First-time homebuyer programs and other programs for qualified families and individuals sponsored by public and private entities throughout the valley are seeking to help bridge the gap in affordability.”

Barbic noted when purchasing a home, choosing an agent is one of the most critical decisions a homebuyer will have to make. “Select an agent who is experienced and knowledgeable about the marketplace, down payment assistance programs that are available, the loan process, and one who is a good negotiator. These days many new models in real estate are offering buyers and sellers alternatives to the real estate transaction process, but they are not the same as having a trusted REALTOR®.”

A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate agent or broker who is a member of NAR, the world’s largest professional trade association. REALTORS® adhere to a strict code of ethics, which sets them apart from other real estate licensees and protects all parties to the real estate transaction. REALTORS®in violation of the code of ethics face disciplinary action by their association. They must complete 2.5 hours of ethics training once every two years to keep their membership in NAR.

“Living with the Code of Ethics means being honest and dependable, never putting your interests ahead of your client’s, and speaking the truth to all parties,” said Barbic. “REALTORS® don’t just sell homes, they build communities, and are committed to making homeownership a reality for those who strive to achieve it.”

The California Association of REALTORS® has announced its sponsorship of legislation intended to help first-time, low- and moderate-income home buyers in disadvantaged communities. AB 1590, authored by Assembly Member Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), would create a targeted tax credit to help working families achieve their goal of homeownership. This legislation is especially timely, given the tight housing market.

“REALTORS® are sponsoring AB 1590 to help make the dream of homeownership a reality for low- and moderate-income Californians in disadvantaged communities,” said C.A.R. president Jared Martin in a statement. “Asm. Rubio’s bill specifically targets regions of the state that will benefit most from increasing the homeownership rate and is an important part of California’s overall fight to beat the housing affordability crisis.”

AB 1590 allocates $50 million to provide a tax credit to first-time homebuyers who meet specific criteria, which include that the homebuyer must have never owned a home previously; must earn 120 percent or less of area median income; and must purchase a home in a state-designated disadvantaged community. Current law identifies disadvantaged communities as areas with, among other things, concentrations of low-income individuals and families facing high housing costs.

Qualified first-time homebuyers who purchase a home between January 1, 2020 and January 1, 2023, will receive a tax credit of up to $5,000. The tax credit will help these first-time homebuyers cover unanticipated costs associated with homeownership. AB 1590 will first be heard in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee on April 29.

“AB 1590’s targeted tax credit helps Californians who need it most,” said Martin. “It creates a pathway to homeownership for people who are currently priced out of the market. It gives working families an opportunity to build wealth and can lift entire communities across the state.”

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, indicated, “During his State of the State speech earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, ‘If we want a California for all, we have to build housing for all.’ REALTORS® pledge to work with the governor and legislature to make sure all Californians can achieve the American dream of homeownership.”

Barbic said state legislators have advanced a number of bills to help solve the housing crisis. AB 1590 is one of several bills that the California Association of REALTORS® is sponsoring.

“We need to address the affordability problem in order to keep our middle class families here. AB 1590 will help our skilled and service workers, our teachers, the bedrock of our state, achieve their dream of homeownership and remain in the state,” said Barbic.

On May 1, over 2,000 California REALTORS® from across the state will travel to Sacramento to the meet with their state senators and assembly members to discuss this and other housing-related bills. Members of the local trade association are scheduled to meet with State Senators Jim Beall and Jerry Hill, and Assembly Members Evan Low and Marc Berman.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, one in six Gen Xers purchased a multi-generational home, with 52 percent of those Gen X buyers indicating they did because their adult children have either moved back or never left home.

“The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parents’ homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

The study, which evaluates the generational differences of recent homebuyers and sellers, found older millennials have more similarities with Gen Xers and younger boomers, as this group also appears to be leaning toward the purchase of a multi-generational home. Older millennials who bought a multi-generational home (9 percent) were most likely to do so in order to take care of aging parents (33 percent), or to spend more time with those parents (30 percent).

Gen X typically refers to the group born between the mid-60s and early 1980s. Gen Y, also known as millennials, refers to the group born between the mid-1980s and 2000. Millennials as whole account for the largest share of buyers, at 37 percent. Gen Xers account to 26 percent of buyers.

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association ofREALTORS®, is seeing these trends in the Bay Area. “With rents rising and housing affordability challenging, we are seeing families moving in together and seeing it as an advantage,” says Barbic. “Parents want to help their children save so they can someday afford their own home. Older millennials want to take care of their parents. Some bookended boomers are helping their children on one end and their parents on the other.”

Barbic adds, “Many municipalities are now easing restrictions allowing secondary units to be built on single-family residential properties, which helps families and alleviates the growing lack of housing at the same time. These reasons also point to the family unit being important to many Americans.”

Interestingly, downsizing to a smaller home is not currently common among any of the generations. The study speculates Gen Xers and boomers who may have been interested in downsizing could have been hindered by a lack of smaller inventory; or may have been impeded by the increase in multi-generational living to accommodate the needs of adult children and aging parents.

The survey also reveals buyers and sellers across all age groups (87 percent) continue to seek the assistance of a real estate agent when buying and selling a home. “Help understanding the buying process” was cited as the top benefit younger millennials said their agent provided.

A Bankrate survey conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2019 found nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent of millennial homeowners have regrets about buying their home. Overall, 44 percent of American homeowners have regrets about their home purchase, according to the survey.

The most common regret cited was not factoring in unexpected maintenance or hidden costs (18 percent). Other areas of regret included feeling the house was too small (12 percent), house was too big (5 percent); house was in a bad location (8 percent); house was a poor investment (7 percent); monthly mortgage payments were too high (7 percent); and mortgage rate was not the best available (6 percent).

A lot of regret stems from high expectations and being unprepared for the home buying process, said Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors. “Purchasing a home is the most important decision a person can make. After spending a lot of money on the down payment, closing costs and other fees, it is likely to have an impact on a new homeowner,” said Barbic. “You can minimize buyer’s remorse by taking time to prepare for homeownership. It is not something you should rush into.”

Below are suggestions Barbic makes to take the trauma out of the home buying process:

  1. Find a professional and experienced Realtor with whom you are comfortable and trust. “Real estate is changing now that we have so much information at our finger tips. How we use that information is important. We have heard of many buyers who have made offers sight-unseen,” said Barbic. “You need a good agent whom you can trust, who knows the market and has experience handling the particular needs of homebuyers, whether it is identifying homes and neighborhoods, or negotiating for the best deal. Remember you are not just buying a home; you’re investing in your future.”

    2. Get pre-approved for a home loan right away.
    A preapproval letter sends a powerful message to the seller that you’re a serious qualified buyer and ready to go.

    3. Factor maintenance and repair costs into your budget.
    Even if you buy a new home, there will be some expenses that you did not expect.

    4. Accept that no house is ever perfect.
    Don’t get so caught up in the physical aspects of the house that you overlook issues like amenities, noise level, schools, or traffic that could have a big impact once you live in the home.

    5. Don’t get caught in a buying frenzy. Just because there is competition does not mean you should just buy anything. Even though you want to make your offer attractive, don’t neglect inspections that help ensure that your house is sound.

“Choose a home first because you love it, not solely for its future appreciation. A home’s most important function is to be a comfortable, safe place to live for you and your family,” said Barbic.

While many people know that a REALTOR® helps consumers buy and sell homes, not many know that a REALTOR® and a real estate agent are not the same. Last week, the National Association of REALTOR® (NAR) launched the “That’s Who We R” campaign that seeks to educate consumers on the difference and the value of a REALTOR®.

The term “REALTOR®” is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and abides by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. More than just agents who help clients buy and sell homes, REALTORS® are advocates for property owners, engaged community members and trusted advisors with in-depth knowledge of the industry. The new NAR campaign features compelling stories about REALTORS® helping individuals and families find homes and property, build communities and turn their dreams into realities.

“Our story is a century in the making as we began to set NAR members apart from the rest by establishing a Code of Ethics in 1913. This code is as relevant now as it was one hundred years ago; it’s our pledge of honesty, integrity, professionalism and community service as a true partner for buying or selling a home, or property,” says John Smaby, NAR 2019 president. “’That’s Who We R®’ reinforces that partnering with a REALTOR®, delivers the peace of mind that can only come from working with a real person who is committed to their clients’ futures and neighborhoods just as much as they are.”

Founded in 1908, NAR has grown to be America’s largest trade association representing more than 1.3 million REALTORS® involved in residential and commercial real estate as brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors, and others who are engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry. Members belong to one or more of 1,700 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations of REALTORS®. Additionally, NAR provides a facility for professional development, research, and exchange of information among its members.

Alan Barbic, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, which has over 5,000 REALTOR® and affiliate members practicing real estate on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, says the REALTOR® pledge to a strict Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice raises the bar among real estate professionals.

“Today’s homebuyers and sellers deserve a real estate professional whom they can trust and who has their best interests at heart. The Code of Ethics goes beyond state licensing requirements and protects all parties to the real estate transaction, not just a REALTOR®’s client. If a local association of REALTORS® finds a REALTOR® member in violation of the Code of Ethics, disciplinary action can be imposed,” explains Barbic.

Barbic adds in order to maintain membership with NAR, SILVAR or any other local association of REALTORS®, NAR requires every REALTOR® to complete two and a half hours of Code of Ethics training every two years.

 

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