OFF-MARKET LISTING!! NOT ON MLS! 37 North Ridgewood Road in Kent Woodlands

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Broker’s Open: Thursday, September 26th from 11am to 3pm

www.37NorthRidgewoodRoad.com

Located on a rare 1.76 acres (per tax record) in the coveted lower Kent Woodlands, this outstanding gated residence offers 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms (4,565 sq. ft. per appraisal) including a detached guest suite or pool house.

Thoughtfully designed and sited to capture the stunning views of Mount Tamalpais and the surrounding Woodlands, the open floor plan and grand scale rooms make this home well suited for entertaining.  The spacious home features high ceilings, oak flooring and detailed molding.  Numerous Andersen glass doors open to the many decks, patios and gardens providing fantastic flow from indoors to out.

The extraordinary property offers complete privacy and park like grounds including mature oaks, level lawn, two seasonal creeks, swimming pool, tennis court, putting green, potting shed and vegetable garden.

Conveniently located, 37 North Ridgewood Road is just steps to Woodlands Market, Kent Middle School, shops, restaurants and Marin’s legendary hiking and biking trails.

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Buyers Ready to Pay More for a Home Near School

A recent online survey by realtor.com revealed that a great number of buyers are willing to pay extra during the purchase of a home for a location near a preferred school.

According to the results, near 24% of buyers would be ready to stretch their budget by 1 to 5%, while 9% of them would agree to pay 11 to 20% more of their original budget! 40% of the people interviewed would not go over budget.

Others said they were willing to give up on certain amenities in order to live closer to the school to which they would like their children to go. More than 60% are willing to give up on a pool. 50% would be willing give up on accessibility to shopping while 40% would do without nearby parks.

It is also reported that schools with slightly better rankings than another school will motivate buyers to purchase a home nearby. Premiums are often even expected to reach over $200,000 of the original price just to be closer to a given school.

School rankings are therefore becoming key elements when processing a home purchase transaction. Brokers are more and more aware of this fact and will make sure to emphasis the proximity to a school when selling a property.

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Real Estate Roundup: US Home Prices Approach All-Time Peak

Here’s a look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious:look at recent news of interest to homebuyers, home sellers, and the home-curious:

Median U.S. Prices Near Record Highs

Median home sales prices in the country hit $213,500 in July, a year-over-year increase of 13.5 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. U.S. housing prices have experienced 17 consecutive months of year-over-year gains, and the median price is now just 7.3 percent below the all-time record of $230,400, set in July 2006.

Median sales prices in the nine-county Bay Area reached $720,000 in July–more than three times greater than the overall U.S. median sales prices.

NAR also found that sales volume across the country spiked 17.2 percent since last July, from 4.6 million units to 5.39 million. Months’ supply of inventory (MSI) held steady from June at 5.1 but is down 5 percent from a year ago. According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, the slim supply of home inventory will continue to push prices upward.

“Tight inventory in many areas means above-normal price growth for the foreseeable future,” Yun stated.

Oakland easily topped the list of markets with the tightest inventory, with homes lasting on the market an average of 20 days. Denver placed second, with an average time-on-market of 31 days.

To view the inventory and prices of homes for sale now, visit our current listings page.

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Solid Growth in Bay Area Home Prices & Sales

 August 20, 2013 by Pacific Union

New figures from the California Association of Realtors confirm that the region’s real estate markets continue to grow at a robust pace, with double-digit increases in July home prices in all nine Bay Area counties and solid sales growth in all but two.

The median sales price of existing, single-family homes in the Bay Area reached $720,000 in July, up 24.2 percent from a year ago.

The median marks the midpoint in the range of home prices. In Marin County, the median sales price in July held steady at $1 million, up 18.2 percent from a year earlier and the highest in the Bay Area. San Mateo County had the second-highest median sales price, at $919,000 (up 14.7 percent), followed by San Francisco at $842,550 (up 15.6 percent).

Sales growth was strongest in San Francisco, up 28.6 percent from July 2012. Sales slipped 2.4 percent year over year in Sonoma County and were down 14.1 percent in Solano County.

Overall, sales prices in the Bay Area were nearly double that of any other region in California, and year-over-year sales growth was more than three times greater than it was in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

CAR’s numbers support the strong results noted in other recent real estate reports, including Pacific Union’s July real estate update for the Bay Area and the Tahoe/Truckee region, as well as a regional summary from the research firm DataQuick.

Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR vice president and chief economist, said the outlook for California’s real estate markets remains bullish.

“Looking ahead, we should continue to see strong price growth but at a less accelerated pace than what we’ve experienced over the past year,” she said in a statement.  ”Inventory levels are starting to build in some areas as price gains free up previously underwater homes and encourage homeowners reluctant to list because of the scarcity of homes to purchase.” 

SOURCE: http://blog.pacunion.com/solid-growth-in-bay-area/

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Survey: Majority of Buyers Would Pay Extra for a Home in a Preferred School District

School-district boundaries are an important consideration for most homebuyers — so important, in fact, that 54 percent of people who plan to buy a home within the next two years said they would be willing to pay from 1 to 20 percent over their budget to purchase in a desirable school district.

In a recent survey by Realtor.com, 24 percent of future homebuyers said they would pay 1 to 5 percent above their budget for a home in the school district of their choice. Another 21 percent said they would pay 6 to 10 percent above budget, while 9 percent would shell out 11 to 20 percent above budget.

Most buyers said they would be willing to live without a variety of home and neighborhood amenities in order to be close to the right schools. For instance, 62 percent would do without a pool, 51 percent would forego easy access to shopping, 44 percent would give up a bonus room, and 42  percent would consent to live farther from parks and trails.

Also, 17 percent of buyers said they want to live within a mile of school so their children could walk to class.

Schools have long been an important part of the homebuying decision-making process in the Bay Area. Our region has some of the highest-rated schools in California, and it’s not uncommon for area homebuyers  to walk away from otherwise outstanding properties because they fall outside of a preferred school or district boundary.

Recently, we reported on a San Francisco Chronicle article that found Peninsula buyers regularly pay more than $200,000 extra for homes in neighborhoods with high-performing schools.

Homebuyers looking in San Francisco should also read our blog post from earlier this year that explains the San Francisco Unified School District’s notoriously complex enrollment lottery, which doesn’t guarantee students a spot at their neighborhood school.

Learn about what the different Marin neighborhoods have to offer – schools, amenities, and safety.

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The Rise of the All-Cash Offer

Photo of hundred-dollar bills

They say “cash is king,” and that’s true more than ever in today’s highly competitive real estate market of heated bidding wars and limited inventory.

All-cash offers were on the rise in the Bay Area in the first half of 2013, disappointing many would-be homebuyers who lost out repeatedly to deep-pocketed competitors with liquid assets galore.

“A lot of people have gotten so frustrated by being outbid by cash that they’re on the sidelines now,” said Rick Laws, branch executive of Pacific Union’s Sonoma County offices.

WHAT IS AN ALL-CASH OFFER?

When real estate professionals refer to an “all-cash offer,” they don’t usually mean the buyer showed up mafioso-style with a suitcase full of $100 bills.

“Their money’s wired in – they’ve got the money in the bank,” said Linda Carroll, branch executive for our Napaand St. Helena offices.

Most buyers who offer cash can do so because they’re simply wealthy or have just sold another property. But other types of homebuyers are using an arsenal of methods to scrape together the cash to win a bidding war – and then quickly obtain financing.

Some get a loan from a parent or friend. Others take out a line of credit on their current home, borrow against their stock portfolio or retirement account, or obtain a “bridge loan,” designed to help buyers afford a down payment on a new house before selling their old property.

A few will resort to borrowing from a “hard-money lender,” a practice many experts consider risky.

“We’ve met homebuyers pulling funds together from family members and other sources in order to get their offer accepted in multiple-offer situations,” said Sheila O’Neill, president of our mortgage affiliate.

Once the deal is in the bag, the homebuyer then refinances and pays back the debt.

Nonetheless, it’s important for buyers to work with a mortgage professional before the sale to make sure they qualify for financing – and secure all private loans against the home with a deed of trust to ensure better terms on the new mortgage, experts say.

WHY ARE CASH OFFERS SO ATTRACTIVE?

With mortgage rates hovering near historic lows, some would-be buyers may wonder whether it’s worth it to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

The reason cash offers usually prevail is because they’re more likely to close swiftly and without problems, compared with financed bids. That’s even truer in a competitive seller’s market, where multiple offers can push home prices over appraised values, prompting the lender to balk.

“If you have no loan, you have no appraisal,” said Brent Thomson, branch executive for our Marin Countyoffices. “In multiple-bid situations, sometimes it’s tough for a property to appraise (at the sale price) because it’s going way over the asking price.”

Many eager buyers are seeing the advantages to offering all cash.

“In our Sonoma Valley region, all-cash deals accounted for a whopping 38 percent of second-quarter sales as of June 24,” said Jill Silvas, branch executive for our Sonoma Valley office. A full 35 percent of sales in Tahoe/Truckee were all cash as of June 25, followed by our Sonoma County region, where cash deals comprised 29 percent of transactions that closed between April 1 and June 27.

WHEN CASH DOESN’T WIN

Of course, sometimes a seller has reason to choose a financed offer over an all-cash bid.

Sonoma County, for example, has seen somewhat of a backlash against investors who snap up properties to flip them or rent them out at a profit, Laws said.

“I see an increasing number of people who don’t want to sell their home to an investor,” he noted. “They would rather sell to somebody who is going to live in their home and is a member of the community.”

And in second-home markets like our Tahoe/Truckee region, buyers are often highly qualified for a mortgage. That means financed offers can win out if they come in more than a couple of thousand dollars above a cash bid.

“People are very solid if they’re financing up here,” said Sally Gardner, branch executive for our Tahoe/Truckeeoffices. “If an all-cash offer is within $1,000 or $2,000 of a financed offer, the seller’s taking the cash offer. If it’s more than a $3,000 to $5,000 difference, I don’t think it really matters.”

HOW TO COMPETE

So how can buyers unable to offer cash compete?

Many are waiving contingencies — including the appraisal contingency, writing “love letters” that describe why they want the home, or offering to let the owners stay put for several months rent-free.

And of course, finding the right real estate professional to represent you is always a shrewd move. In some cases they are privy to off-market sales, which can keep competition to a minimum, or may be able to plead your case with a seller’s agent.

“You have to get a really savvy agent who has good communication with other agents in the marketplace,” Laws said. “Find out what the seller wants, and try to structure your offer to give it to them.”

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Real Estate Roundup: San Francisco Prices Expected to Lead US in 2014

up_building

San Francisco Real Estate Appreciation Expected to Lead U.S. in Coming Year

Homes in some Bay Area regions will continue to be a hot commodity and are expected to lead the nation in price appreciation rates over the coming year.

A recent forecast from real estate analytics firm Veros predicts that residential real estate prices in the San Francisco and East Bay metropolitan areas will spike an average of 12.7 percent by June 2014. The company attributes the projected increase to the region’s low unemployment rate and scant housing supply.

Veros also forecasts robust growth for the Los Angeles and San Jose metropolitan areas, which placed second and third on the list with expected price gains of 11.6 percent and 11.1 percent respectively. The news comes less than two weeks after the California Association of Realtors announced that home-price gains in the state reached highs not seen since 1980.

Western states will continue to lead the U.S. in home-price increases over the next 12 months, according to Veros, which places the Midland, Texas and Phoenix metropolitan regions tied for third and fourth place on the list respectively. The firm predicts that markets in Northeastern states — including those in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey — will be weakest in the coming year, with value declines of up to 2.9 percent.


Even more Good News for Western Home Sellers

While Veros expects a bright upcoming year for home-price increases in the Western U.S., a survey by ZipRealty.com indicates that things are already rosy for sellers in that part of the country.

Ten Western cities led 32 U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed in terms of highest list-to-close price ratio. Homes in those cities — located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington — all boasted closing prices of at least 98.3 percent of the initial list price.

California cities accounted for half of the survey’s top 10 hottest seller’s markets, and homes in all five of those locations had average sales prices that exceeded 100 percent of list. Not surprisingly, San Francisco ranked first, with an average list-to-close price of 102.5 percent, followed closely by San Diego at 101.3 percent.


Buyers Pay More Per Square Foot – Especially in California 

Just last month we noted that housing inventories are on the upswing, both locally and nationally. A study by real estate classified ads website operator Movoto suggests that, while there were indeed more houses on the market in June than in May, price per-square-foot is up substantially in many U.S. markets over the past year.

Movoto’s numbers show that last month there were about 3,600 more U.S. homes on the market than in May. In that one-month time frame, per-square-foot list prices rose by an ever-so-slight 1 percent.

Year-on-year, however, the per-square-foot price gains were much greater, especially in some California cities. From June 2012 to June 2013, Sacramento homes saw the most dramatic per-square-foot spikes in the country: a whopping 68 percent. Oakland was third on the list, with increases of nearly 38 percent. Other California cities that experienced double-digit, per-square-foot price hikes included Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and San Francisco.

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Bay Area Buyers Paying a Premium for High-Scoring Schools

Bacich school

Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield is one of the most sought-after schools in Marin, in part thanks to its high test scores.

It’s no secret that schools play a starring role in Bay Area home purchasing, with many buyers willing to fork out a sizable premium for properties that feed into top districts.

A recent San Francisco Chronicle article found that Peninsula buyers regularly pay more than $200,000 extra for homes in neighborhoods with high-performing schools. Meanwhile, nearby properties in good but lower-scoring districts garner fewer offers.

Surprisingly, some of these buyers don’t even have children yet. “People will come to an open house in Rockridge and ask if it feeds into Chabot (Elementary School),” said one of Pacific Union’s top East Bay real estate professionals. “If it doesn’t go to Chabot, sometimes they’ll walk away.”

Of course, in many cities, including Oakland where Chabot is located, living in a specific neighborhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a spot at the local school. If the school is full, your child may receive a different assignment. In San Francisco the school enrollment lottery is even more complicated and less tied to street address, leading many families who don’t land their top choices to leave for the suburbs or choose private schools.

A big chunk of those families move north to Marin, where they’re eager to find homes in Tiburon, Mill Valley, Kentfield, and Ross – cities with high-scoring school districts, said Brent Thomson, a senior vice president and branch executive for our Marin offices.

“Bidding wars will break out because those are desirable areas, and if buyers have kids, they’re even more desirable to them,” Thomson said.

She noted that San Rafael’s Dixie School District is also very strong but tends to receive less attention than better-known districts in southern Marin.

The problem of “over-hyped” schools – whose reputations often stem from high test scores available online — is one that Peninsula school officials are trying to tackle head on, partly with educational workshops for real estate professionals.

Carrie Du Bois, a Sequoia Union High School District board member and real estate professional, told the Chronicle that buyers will often eschew high-ranking schools just because schools nearby scored slightly better on state tests.

She recalled one buyer who pulled an offer on a home in San Carlos because it fed into the city’s lowest-scoring school — a school that had earned a very solid 880 out of 1,000 on state Academic Performance Index tests. The kicker? The buyer was a single man with no children.

In Contra Costa County, many buyers come from San Francisco or Oakland for the high-scoring schools in Lamorinda (the Lafayette-Moraga-Orinda communities) and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said Ellen Anderson, senior vice president and regional manager for our Contra Costa County offices.

Of course, commute length also remains a major factor for buyers. “If you’re coming from San Francisco or Oakland, you’re going to pay 10 to 15 percent more for the Acalanes school district in Lamorinda,” Anderson said. “If you’re coming from Silicon Valley, you’re going to pay that much more to be in the San Ramon Valley school district.”

But for buyers with very young children – and those who haven’t yet had a baby – guessing which schools will be strong in several years can be challenging, our East Bay real estate professional said.

“Often I don’t know how good the schools are going to be in five years when your child’s ready to attend,” our real estate professional said. “Glenview Elementary School in Oakland used to not be a good school, but people have moved in, sent their kids there, and they’ve spent their time and energy there. Now it’s a good school.

“I try not to make a lot of claims about schools because I think it’s such a personal decision,” she added.

(Photo by Peter Giordano, via Flickr.)

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America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids

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New rankings highlight communities that are safe and child-friendly.

America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids, a new set of rankings by U.S. News, highlights counties that feature, among other child-friendly data, fewer infant deaths, fewer low-birth-weight babies, fewer deaths from injuries, fewer teen births and fewer children in poverty.

Experts say the analysis, released as part of U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals 2013-2014, represents the first national, county-level assessment of how health and environmental factors affect the well-being of children younger than 18. Perhaps the most striking finding is that what it takes to make a county healthy for kids can’t be reduced to one or two numbers. As shown in the table below, even the highest-ranking counties grapple with such challenges as large numbers of children in poverty and high teen birth rates. Top-ranked Marin County, a northern suburb of San Francisco, struggles with rates of teen births and children in poverty almost twice as high as 5th-ranked metro Milwaukee’s Ozaukee County.

Healthiest Counties for Kids
Rank County Score(0-100) Low Birthweight(under 5.5 lbs) Infant Death Rate
(per 100,000)
Teen Birth Rate
(per 1,000)
Children in Poverty Injury Death Rate
Ages 1-19
(per 100,000)
U.S. Median 7.9% 697.2 44.0 24.0% 21.7
1 Marin County, Calif. 100.0 6.3% 319.2 13.6 10.8% 8.7
2 San Francisco County, Calif. 94.0 7.0% 446.6 16.9 16.0% 13.0
3 Chittenden County, Vt. 93.6 6.7% 337.6 10.9 10.7% 7.9
4 Norfolk County, Mass. 93.4 7.2% 354.4 7.1 6.7% 8.8
5 Ozaukee County, Wis. 91.8 5.4% 372.3 7.3 6.0% 14.5
6 Middlesex County, Mass. 90.8 7.5% 426.8 12.2 9.3% 6.5
7 Boulder County, Colo. 90.7 7.7% 571.0 18.2 13.0% 10.3
8 Douglas County, Colo. 90.5 8.9% 401.7 10.5 4.9% 10.3
9 Montgomery County, Md. 90.1 8.1% 563.8 20.6 8.8% 9.9
9 San Mateo County, Calif. 90.1 6.7% 385.3 22.4 10.0% 10.0
11 Placer County, Calif. 89.6 5.7% 399.2 16.5 9.9% 10.2
12 Johnson County, Iowa 88.5 6.6% 554.2 11.4 15.9% 11.8
13 Hunterdon County, N.J. 87.9 6.7% 267.0 4.3 4.5% 8.5
14 Bergen County, N.J. 87.6 7.7% 337.0 5.6  8.2% 7.3
14 Hampshire County, Mass. 87.6 6.7% 425.2 6.8  12.3% 5.8
16 Waukesha County, Wis. 87.5 6.4% 546.0 10.2  6.6% 10.1
16 Westchester County, N.Y. 87.5 8.4% 524.9 13.6 6.8% 17.7
18 Nassau County, N.Y. 87.4 8.0% 504.6 8.6  9.3% 11.8
19 Santa Clara County, Calif. 87.3 6.7% 376.3 8.0  12.6% 25.7
20 DuPage County, Ill. 87.2 7.2% 612.6 8.0  11.0% 15.8
21 Dane County, Wis. 86.7 6.2% 507.3 10.8  14.5% 18.7
22 Cass County, N.D. 86.4 6.5% 589.3 7.9  12.1% 18.7
23 Olmsted County, Minn. 86.1 6.4% 663.9 12.4  10.8% 25.1
24 Morris County, N.J. 85.5 7.5% 367.8 6.9 5.5% 6.8
24 Yolo County, Calif. 85.5 5.3% 393.2 20.2 20.5% 13.0
26 Howard County, Md. 85.4 7.8% 517.3 12.8 7.5% 12.0
27 Johnson County, Kan. 85.2 6.3% 621.5 19.3 8.4% 11.8
28 Fairfax County, Va. 85.1 6.9% 515.4 16.5 9.0% 8.7
28 La Crosse County, Wis. 85.1 6.0% 461.1 17.5 15.4% 14.9
28 Somerset County, N.J. 85.1 8.0% 281.7 12.0 6.2% 8.4
31 Santa Cruz County, Calif. 84.8 5.8% 404.5 27.2 18.5% 11.3
32 King County, Wash. 84.3 6.6% 420.3 19.8 14.5% 11.8
33 Washington County, Minn. 84.0 6.1% 505.6 14.4 7.1% 11.2
34 Grand Forks County, N.D. 83.9 6.5% 418.6 20.9 14.6% 14.5
35 Montgomery County, Pa. 83.4 7.2% 526.8 14.9 7.2% 9.6
36 Orange County, Calif. 83.2 6.4% 474.7 28.0 17.9% 10.2
37 Alameda County, Calif. 83.1 7.1% 469.8 26.6 16.8% 16.1
38 Delaware County, Ohio 83.0 7.2% 383.8 15.1 5.8% 7.3
38 Grafton County, N.H. 83.0 6.4% 530.6 14.5 14.3% 9.9
38 New York County, N.Y. 83.0 8.7% 458.2 26.1 26.7% 7.6
41 Dakota County, Minn. 82.8 6.2% 350.2 18.6 9.2% 8.1
42 Cumberland County, Maine 82.5 6.6% 618.9 16.0 15.1% 13.2
43 Fairfield County, Conn. 82.3 7.6% 504.2 18.9 12.4% 9.2
44 Carver County, Minn. 82.0 5.7% 443.9 11.3 6.2% 12.3
45 Gallatin County, Mont. 81.7 6.5% 629.1 16.4 13.1% 10.5
45 San Luis Obispo County, Calif. 81.7 6.0% 383.0 19.1 17.5% 16.5
47 Monmouth County, N.J. 81.5 7.6% 417.9 14.4 9.3% 10.9
48 Larimer County, Colo. 81.3 7.8% 475.7 21.3 14.0% 10.9
49 Sonoma County, Calif. 81.0 5.8% 435.8 25.4 15.9% 9.6
50 Williamson County, Tenn. 80.9 6.9% 263.9 13.0 7.3% 8.4
James Perrin, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says the new analysis offers a “really useful” tool for assessing the health status of children in communities across the U.S. “If I’m a mayor of a small town in Iowa, this analysis gives me a guide to what we should be thinking about,” says Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

The rankings were developed with the help of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which evaluates health data for the U.S. population as part of its County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Besides the data displayed here, the percentage of uninsured children, air quality (except for Alaska and Hawaii); rates of adult smoking and adult obesity, and access to physicians and parks also were considered. All of the variables were equally weighted.

Other than Williamson County, Tenn., a relatively high-income community in metro Nashville that ranked No. 50 on the list, no high-ranking county is in the South. The other 49 ranked counties are fairly evenly distributed around the country — with clusters in the Northeast and California — and vary in population size, from about 66,000 in Grand Forks County, N.D., to more than 3 million in Orange County, a Los Angeles suburb. All of the top-ranked counties had lower percentages of low-birth-weight babies and lower rates of infant deaths and teen pregnancies than the U.S. median. Access to primary care physicians, however, ranged widely even within a single state. For instance, in Olmstead County, Minn., home of the Mayo Clinic, there is one physician for every 420 people, compared with just one for every 1,495 in Dakota County, just a few counties to the north. Even in the top-ranking counties, such variations were the rule rather than the exception.

Some of the variables that went into the rankings, such as low birth weight, infant mortality and teen pregnancy, directly relate to health outcomes. Others, such as access to primary care physicians, air quality and parks, are more indirect. “Everybody lives in an environment that helps them to be healthy or is detrimental to health,” says the University of Wisconsin’s Bridget Catlin, director of the county health rankings program. “It starts with a mother’s health, her health behaviors during pregnancy, the care she gets during pregnancy and what environment a child lives in after birth. A parent can’t feed a child healthy food if there’s no healthy food to be found.” And Perrin observes that “communities where it’s not safe to be outside, where there aren’t good parks, are really not good for kids.”

About 1,200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties (a total that takes in county equivalents such as Louisiana’s parishes) were evaluated for the rankings. Many states don’t collect county-level information on residents’ health, whereas populous states, such as California, Florida and New York, tend to gather and report more data. In some counties, the population is so small that the numbers are unreliable, or the few events fall below state or federal reporting thresholds. And because states don’t collect county-level information on childhood smoking and obesity, the rankings incorporated percentages for adults. Catlin says this is justified because more adult smokers mean more children are exposed to secondhand smoke, a demonstrated health risk. Studies have also shown a moderately strong correlation between adult and childhood obesity, she says.

The experts who study community health yearn for more and better data. “We don’t have county-level data on kids with diabetes, controlled or uncontrolled, or on childhood obesity rates,” says Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “Almost every kid in this country goes to school. We could measure height and weight, but nobody’s connecting the dots.”

Perhaps the most tragic statistic is the rate at which children die from injuries of all kinds; it is more than three times higher in counties in the bottom 10 percent of all of those evaluated than those at the top. “How can this be happening in a country like ours, with our resources?” says Mokdad.

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To Buy or Sell First in Today’s Hot Bay Area Real Estate Market?

The age-old real estate quandary of whether to buy a new home or sell your existing property first can prove tricky in any market.

But in the Bay Area’s current highly competitive seller’s market, some buyers may worry about their prospects of landing a new house — or even finding a temporary place to rent — once they’ve sold their current home.

“What we’re finding is inventory is staying level because sellers don’t see where they’re going to go,” said Ellen Anderson, senior vice president and regional manager for Pacific Union’s Contra Costa County offices. “They’re holding their homes off the market because they just don’t see enough to choose from.”

In Contra Costa County, rentals are costly and scarce these days — and usually require a one-year commitment, making them unappealing as a temporary solution for move-up buyers, Anderson said. Move-up buyers already own a home and are looking for a new higher-priced property, typically thanks to a growing family or greater personal wealth.

And given the competitive nature of the current real estate market, “no one is going to want to accept an offer from a buyer who has a house to sell because that’s a huge contingency,” said Jill Silvas, vice president of Pacific Union’s relocation services and branch executive for our Sonoma Valley offices.

“There’s always an option for a seller to put into the contract that the closing of their house is contingent upon them finding a replacement property, but a buyer might be a little leery about making an offer on a house like that,” Silvas said.

However, some buyers will agree to let the seller stay put beyond the close of escrow if they really love the property, Silvas noted.

“Rent-Backs” Growing in Popularity
Indeed, we’ve seen rent-backs — in which a buyer lets the seller rent back the home for a fixed period after the closing — becoming more common in inventory-constrained San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area. With numerous buyers vying against each other for few available properties, it’s increasingly possible for sellers to negotiate such deals.

“In an inventory-constrained market, there certainly are buyers who are bending over backwards,” said Patrick Barber, president of our San Francisco region. Nonetheless, sellers should be careful about demanding too much since “every offer is price and terms, and the better the terms, the more enticing it is for a buyer,” he said.

And even when the buyer is amenable to a lengthy rent-back, such a deal may not be possible under the terms of the loan.

Selling First, “Most Conservative Approach”
While some move-up homeowners are banking on their ability to sell fast in the current market, it’s always less financially risky to unload your existing home before buying a new one, Barber said.

“You’ve got people who are trying to be tricky – they’re finding a place and going into contract and then they’re trying to get their own property sold fast,” he said. “The most conservative approach is always to sell your property first unless you’re in the enviable position of being a person who can afford two homes and money is not an object.”

Financing Options for Move-Up Buyers 
Still, for those intent on buying a new home before selling their existing property, there are some options, said Gordon Friedman, a San Francisco mortgage advisor.

In many cases, move-up buyers who have enough income to cover two mortgages but lack the cash for a down payment can take out a line of credit on their existing home, providing they have sufficient equity, Friedman said.

The homeowner should apply for the line of credit at least 30 to 60 days in advance of making an offer on a new home to ensure sure the money is available when needed, Friedman said.

“Bridge loans” specifically designed to help move-up buyers afford a down payment on a new home before selling their old property are somewhat less common in the Bay Area.

Pacific Union partner RPM Mortgage offers bridge loans to buyers who have at least 30 percent equity in their existing home, including the current mortgage and the amount of the proposed bridge loan.

Payments on the bridge loan don’t begin until the buyer closes on the new home.

Buyers who lack sufficient income to cover payments on two properties – and haven’t taken out a bridge loan — also may choose to rent out their current home to tenants after finding a new house.

Lenders will generally exempt such homeowners from the usual requirement for a two-year landlord history and let them use a portion of rental income from their “departing residence” to qualify for a new mortgage, Friedman said.

Such an exemption requires that the applicant have 30 percent equity in the rental home, an executed lease, and proof of a deposit from the tenants, he noted.

Time is Right for Move-Up Buyers
Even though the prospect of finding a new home can seem daunting in a competitive market, we believe sellers looking to trade up to higher-priced homes are in an enviable position today.

For one, price appreciation generally starts at the bottom and moves up in a recovering market. That means sellers often can get a higher price for their home while locking in savings as they trade up to a more expensive property.

And even when price appreciation remains flat across the market, trade-up buyers stand to make significant gains.

So what’s the solution if your property sells before you can find a new home?

“It could be short-term rentals; it could be moving in with parents; it could be summertime, and, ‘Gee, this is a great opportunity for us to have a place up in Sonoma while we scour the market in San Francisco,’” Barber said. “I’ve literally seen people move into hotels and just wait.

“You’ve got the money in the bank and now when you go shopping, you don’t have any trepidations.”

(Photo by Woodleywonderworks, via Flickr.)

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