US home construction hits highest pace in 5 years


Updated 12:04 pm, Wednesday, December 18, 2013
In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 photo, construction continues on a new single family home in Mount Lebanon, Pa. The Commerce Department reports the pace at which builders broke ground on homes in November on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. builders broke ground on homes at the fastest pace in more than five years, strong evidence that the housing recovery is accelerating despite higher mortgage rates.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that developers began construction on houses and apartments in November at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million. That’s 23 percent more than October’s pace of 889,000 and the fastest since February 2008, just a few months after the recession began.

Construction of single-family homes jumped 21 percent to an annual pace of 727,000, also the highest in more than five years. Apartment construction soared 26 percent to a 354,000 annual pace.

Permits for future building slipped 3 percent to just over 1 million, down from 1.04 million in October. The drop reflected a decline in apartments, which can be volatile. Permits for single-family homes rose.

“Evidently, builders in the field are genuinely confident about the outlook for sales of new single-family houses, despite the rise in mortgage rates,” said Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics.

The housing market has been improving steadily since early last year, but construction had leveled off this summer after first reaching a 1 million annual pace in March. Last month’s surge comes as mortgage rates remain about a percentage point higher than they were in the spring. That suggests home building will boost economic growth in the final three months of the year.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage fell to 4.42 percent last week. That’s down from a peak of 4.6 percent in August.

Rates jumped by more than a full percentage point after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first suggested in May that the Fed would pull back on its $85 billion bond-buying program before the end of the year. The Fed concludes a two-day meeting Wednesday, but most economists expect it won’t start reducing its purchases until January or March.

Home construction soared in the Midwest and South, while it fell in the Northeast and rose modestly in the West.

The surge comes as homebuilders are more confident. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index, released Tuesday, matched an eight-year high first reached in August.

Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to NAHB statistics.

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Mortgage-Rule Changes Could Push More Bay Area Buyers into Pricey Jumbo Loans

Future Bay Area homebuyers will want to keep an eye on real estate news in the coming months, as a proposed change to mortgage regulations could cost them many thousands of dollars in added expenses and higher down payments.

Photo of hundred-dollar billsThe change would lower the conforming loan limits for mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, forcing many buyers in high-price regions such as the Bay Area to secure so-called jumbo loans — private financing that requires higher down payments and credit scores and, typically, heftier interest rates and fees.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, last week postponed a decision to reduce the conforming loan limits after fierce objections from state and national real estate associations. But it hinted that the stricter limits will be in place by the end of 2014.

Conforming loans are currently capped at $417,000 across much of the country, although in costlier regions such as the Bay Area the maximum loan amount limits are higher.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee mortgages up to $625,000 in San FranciscoAlamedaContra CostaMarin, and San Mateo counties, and up to $592,250 in Napa County and $520,950 in Sonoma County. FHA loans have higher limits: $729,750 in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and Napa counties, and $662,500 in Sonoma County.

Jumbo mortgages generally carry steeper interest rates than conforming loans because issuing banks assume more risk without federal loan guarantees. But in an unprecedented twist, interest rates for jumbo loans have matched conforming loans in recent months, or even posted slightly lower rates. However, the added fees and higher down payments and credit score requirements are still in place.

The FHFA has proposed lowering the standard conforming limit to $400,000, and to $600,000 in high-price regions, pushing even more homebuyers in the Bay Area into jumbo territory.

Ken Harney, perhaps the nation’s best-known real estate columnist, wrote recently that the FHFA changes would usher in a much more challenging mortgage landscape for many buyers and sellers in 2014.

His advice echoes the words of wisdom we’ve been repeating here at Pacific Union in recent months: If you’re considering buying a home, you’ll likely save thousands of dollars by taking action sooner rather than laterbecause of rising prices and interest rates — and now the increasing likelihood of jumbo loans.

The bottom line, according to Harney: “If you’re thinking about buying — or selling — a house with an above-average price for your area next year, think jumbo mortgages. They may be your main, or only, financing option.”


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Home Price Per Square Foot: The Bay Area’s Most- and Least-Expensive Cities

For many prospective buyers in the Bay Area, location is the key factor driving a home purchase, whether it’s to live near the office, within the boundaries of a certain school district, or in close proximity to family and friends.   tape_measure

For others, however, a home’s size may be of particular importance – especially for growing families who want to upgrade their space or empty-nesters who no longer need a sprawling house in the suburbs.

We took a look at October MLS data as of Nov. 18 to determine the average price per square foot for single-family homes in our Bay Area regions, as well as towns and cities where buyers paid the most and least for the average amount of space.

We also assembled a list of the 10 most expensive and affordable cities in terms of square footage; scroll down to see the charts.


In October buyers paid an average of $384 per square foot across Contra Costa County, a year-over-year increase of 16 percent.

Homes in Martinez are the most affordable in Contra Costa in terms of square footage, an average of $277 – 28 percent cheaper than the county average. At $280 per square foot, Concord was the only other city in the region under $300 per square foot.

On the other side of the spectrum were Diablo ($574 per square foot) and Lafayette ($514 per square foot) – the two Contra Costa cities where buyers paid the most for space.


Buyers in our East Bay region shelled out an average of $452 per square foot in October, also a yearly gain of 16 percent.

At $369 per square foot, homes in El Cerrito were the most affordable in the East Bay, 18 percent less expensive than those in the entire region. Homes in Piedmont, meanwhile, ran $615 per square foot, 27 percent higher than in the rest of the region.


With an average home sales size of 2,185 square feet in October, Marin County properties were the second largest in our eight Bay Area regions. Buyers paid an average of $531 per square foot, 20 percent more than they did a year ago.

Novato was the only Marin County city where homes cost less than $400 per square foot: $347. Homes in San RafaelGreenbrae, and Fairfax sold for between $435 and $473 per square foot.

In Belvedere, meanwhile, buyers paid an average of $917 per square foot – 42 percent higher than in the rest of the county. Still, it was a substantial price drop from September, when homes sold for $1,410 per square foot.


In October, the average price per square foot for a Napa County home was $330, short of its 12-month July high but up a bit from the previous month.

Homes in American Canyon boasted the lowest price per square foot of any city, town, or district that we examined — $160. American Canyon was the only city in the Bay Area where the price per square foot was below $200.

On the top end, buyers in St. Helena forked over an average of $729 per square foot in October, 55 percent higher than the county average.


With an average price of $737 per square foot, homes in San Francisco sold for 17 percent more than they did last October, when the average price per square foot was $610.

Single-family homes in District 8, which includes the neighborhoods of North BeachRussian Hill, and Telegraph Hill, were the priciest in the Bay Area in terms of square footage: a whopping $1,476. Homes in District 7, which includes Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights, also broke the $1,000-per-square-foot mark, at $1,147.

San Francisco home hunters seeking the most size per buck should perhaps focus on District 10 in the city’s southeastern corner, where the average price per square foot was $446.


Our Silicon Valley region showed the largest overall per-square-footage numbers in October, both in terms of average size (2,722) and average price ($946).

Although homes in Palo Alto were an average of 20 percent smaller than those in the rest of Silicon Valley, they commanded $1,152 per square foot: the highest in the region and the second most in the Bay Area. Homes in Woodside sold for exactly $1,000 per square foot in October, fourth highest in the Bay Area.

Homebuyers seeking the most space per dollar should investigate Portola Valley: at $680 per square foot, homes are 28 percent cheaper than the Silicon Valley average.


The average price per square foot in Sonoma County showed the largest year-over-year gains in our Bay Area regions, at 21 percent. In October, the average price per square foot was $317, a 12-month high.

Rohnert Park and Windsor were the second and third most affordable cities in terms of price per square foot in the Bay Area, at $240 and $261 respectively. Buyers in Healdsburg paid the second most per square foot in Sonoma County, at $490.


Homes in our Sonoma Valley region sold for an average of $448 in October, a yearly increase of 17 percent.

At $414 per square foot, homes in Kenwood were the most affordable in Sonoma Valley. Homes in the city of Sonoma cost slightly more per square foot ($434), while those in Glen Ellen were $776, the most in the Wine Country.





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Real Estate Roundup: Two Bay Area Housing Markets Fastest-Moving in Nation

More listings in the San Jose and San Francisco metropolitan areas were under contract within two weeks than anywhere else in the U.S. in October, according to data collected by Redfin.Fast-moving market

The firm’s study revealed that 48.9 percent of homes in San Jose were under contract within two weeks, followed by San Francisco at 43.1 percent. Redfin estimated that an average of 28.1 percent of homes in the 23 U.S. markets included in the study were under contract within two weeks of being listed.

Homes in San Francisco and San Jose also led the country in terms of shortest amount of time on market. Properties in both regions left the market in an average of 14 days in October, less than half the national study average of 31 days.


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Our New Marin County Listings

I have the pleasure to announce that two beautiful new listings have been added to our Marin County homes for sale page.

The first property is 58 Inverness Drive in San Rafael and the second is 37 North Ridgewood Road in Kent Woodlands.

58 Inverness Drive: the ultimate outdoors Marin house

This residence is absolutely unique. Built in 1998, it offers some of the most breathtaking nature views of the entire county of Marin. It provides plenty of light and multiple areas of relaxation and privacy thanks to its half wood, half stone deck surrounding a beautiful swimming pool with direct view onto Mount Tamalpais.

The main level boasts a wood burning fireplace, sliding glass doors, black granite counters in the kitchen, modern appliances, and more. The master suite includes a larger walk-in closet, a sitting area and hardwood floors.

On the lower level we find French doors leading to a second family room and to the deck. There is also a large private too with immense walk-in closet and glass doors.

All in all this 3,794 sq. ft. house with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a saltwater swimming pool, a spa, a sauna and outstanding natural surroundings is currently priced at $1,695,000.

Head over to our dedicated property page to read more about 58 Inverness Drive in San Rafael.

58 Inverness Drive San Rafael


37 North Ridgewood Road: isolated luxury in Kent Woodlands

This gated residence is one of the most luxurious and gorgeous-looking houses on market at this time in Marin County. Built on 1.76 acres, the house as well as it’s gardens, pool and tennis court will blow you away. It offers breathtaking views of Mount Tamalpais and the surrounding Woodlands.

The main area boasts a large foyer, a fantastic kitchen (custom designed with black granite counters, stainless steel appliances, dishwasher, a 6 burner cooktop, and more), while the bedroom wing has a total 5 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms.

The family room has built-in media cabinets and bookshelves, a gas fireplace and the pool house offers a wet bar with mini fridge, a full bath, a sauna, doors to the fabulous deck, the swimming pool, and the tennis court!

The number of features of this magnificent $5,400,000 gated estate is large so we recommend that you head over to our 37 North Ridgewood Road, Kent Woodlands page for more information or click directly to our dedicated site:!

37 North Ridgewood Road

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Post-War And Contemporary Art





Christie’s two-day auction series devoted to Post-War and Contemporary Art achieved a grand total of $782,368,375 setting a new record high for any auction series.

Three auctions have been completed thus far — an unprecedented $691 million Evening Sale, followed by a $55.2 million Morning Sale and a $35.6 million Afternoon Sale, all of which saw individual auction records set for both established masters and rising stars of the category. A companion Online-Only sale of nearly 50 more exceptional contemporary works continues through November 19.

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Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin Named Nation’s Top Real Estate Leader

Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin Named Nation’s Top Real Estate Leader

 San Francisco, November 11, 2013 – Mark A. McLaughlin, CEO of Pacific Union, has been named the recipient of the 2013 RISMedia Real Estate Leadership Award. McLaughlin accepted the award at RISMedia’s annual Power Broker Dinner on November 8, held in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

The national award recognizes a member of the real estate community who embraces innovation and exercises resilience to blaze new paths to success for real estate professionals and consumers alike.

“I am seriously humbled by this award, which goes to my team at Pacific Union as I am far more dependent on them than they are on me,” said McLaughlin. “It’s exciting for all of us to see our hard work recognized with this exceptional industry accolade.”

Since McLaughlin took the helm of Pacific Union in 2009, the company has enjoyed exceptional growth. Sales volume more than doubled, market share increased by at least double digits in all regions served by the brokerage, and its 70% growth from 2010-2012 prompted the San Francisco Business Times to recognize Pacific Union as one of the Bay Area Top 100 fastest-growing companies. It was one of only two real estate brokerages to make the list.

In addition, Pacific Union was included in the 2012 Inc. 5000 list – the only full-service real estate brokerage in the Bay Area to make the cut.

Pacific Union has established itself as an innovator in both marketing and technology. Earlier this year it initiated a partnership with the America’s Cup Challenger of Record, Artemis Racing, that created unprecedented opportunities for client engagement and spawned a jaw-dropping advertising campaign featuring images of the sailing team in action.

This month, Pacific Union unveiled a $650,000, custom-commissioned technology tool that with the touch of a button allows real estate professionals to offer clients a comparative market analysis that may be presented three ways: via a proprietary and fully interactive iPad app, on a secure website, or as a high-quality printed presentation.

It’s also the only Bay Area brokerage to fully fund and support an in-house digital media division staffed by journalists.

However, said McLaughlin, such innovation isn’t a goal in and of itself; all the company’s trailblazing choices have been made with the fundamentals of client service in mind.

“Our business thrives on trusted relationships, knowledge, advice, and recommendations,” he said. “We choose to make investments in technology and solutions that support these linchpins to our success and enable our real estate professionals to offer extraordinary service to their clients. Our results – and the RISMedia Leadership Award — are proof positive that while everyone says they’re doing something different, we are actually executing on our vision.”

About Mark A. McLaughlin

Mark A. McLaughlin is Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Union, which he acquired in August 2009. A visionary leader in the real estate industry for more than 20 years, the hallmark of McLaughlin’s successes has consistently been executive team leadership, early adoption of technology applications, open communication and teamwork with keen emphasis on quantitative goals, and exceeding client expectations.

With the launch of Morgan Lane in September 2006, McLaughlin built the company in just three years to be Marin County’s most respected luxury brand. By nearly every measure, including productivity per professional of $13 million per year in 2009, Morgan Lane was revered as being at the pinnacle of the Marin County market.

Since 2009, McLaughlin has grown Pacific Union from $2.2 billion in sales volume to over $5 billion in 2013. In addition, McLaughlin also drove initiatives to develop joint ventures in the mortgage, insurance and property management service lines to benefit Pacific Union’s clients.

Before the Morgan Lane start-up, McLaughlin served as the interim President of Sperry Van Ness International, an Irvine, CA based commercial real estate firm; served as the first executive recruited to LoopNet, Inc., the world’s leading online real estate marketplace; and held key management roles with Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL) and Colliers International.

About Pacific Union

Pacific Union is the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier luxury real estate brand operating in eight regions, including Contra Costa County, the East Bay, Marin County, Napa County, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Sonoma County, and the Tahoe/Truckee region. The brand enjoys a relationship with Christie’s International Real Estate, the premier global organization of residential real estate service firms.

Pacific Union offers a full range of personal and commercial real-estate services, including buying, selling, and relocation.


Locally owned, Pacific Union’s leadership operates with an entrepreneurial mindset and unwavering commitment to deliver exceptional service and expertise to ensure deep, long-standing client and agent relationships.

Quick Facts:

  • 25 offices
  • 525 real estate professionals
  • 2009 sales volume: $2.2 billion
  • 2013 sales volume: $5.2 billion
  • #3 in U.S., 2012 average sale price (REAL Trends)
  • #3 largest real estate firm in the Bay Area, 2012 (San Francisco Business Times)
  • #5 in U.S., 2012 sales volume per associate (REAL Trends)
  • #18 in U.S., 2012 total sales volume (RISMedia)
  • #125 on U.S. Power Broker list (RISMedia)
  • Named to 2012 Inc. 5000 list

For more information, please visit us at, get our real estate news and insights at, or find us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@pacunion).

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Pacific Union Quarterly Report: Q3 2013

October 22, 2013 by Pacific Union


Although portions of Pacific Union’s Bay Area region experienced slight seasonal slowdowns at some point during the third quarter, prices remained strong overall.

The median sales price tied or exceeded its 12-month high in MarinNapa, and Sonoma counties in the third quarter, and single-family homes in the Tahoe/Truckee region also reached yearly plateaus.

Almost all of our markets saw inventory increase in September, though the number of available condos in the Tahoe/Truckee region has been gradually decreasing for the past four months.

Pacific Union’s third quarter report packs in data and regional summaries that show why we’re optimistic that the Bay Area’s thriving real estate market will continue to be a solid investment in the coming months and into 2014.

Our Q3 report also boasts a massive chart that tracks 10 years of home sales throughout the Bay Area and Tahoe/Truckee — 67 cities, towns, and neighborhoods in eight regions. A smaller version of that chart, showing regional totals, appears below. Click anywhere on the chart to see the full data set.

10yearchart Q3

Below are some specifics on what’s happening in our regional real estate markets. For further information, including detailed charts, please view our complete Q3 Quarterly Real Estate Report.

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Where in the World Top Buyers Shop

The strongest home purchasers tend to look for property investments in tried-and-true markets that offer both low risk and some potential for price appreciation. Outside of such safe havens, shoppers tend to buy in or near their own areas.
Foreign buyers are willing to pay top dollar for second homes abroad, but the location needs to be a safe bet, according to a coming report on foreign ownership.

Global Getaways

Foreign buyers are willing to pay top dollar for second homes abroad, but the location needs to be a safe bet, according to a report by global property consultancy Knight Frank. Getty Images/Flickr RF

About 47% of prime home buyers are drawn to locations they view as solid investments, according to a report by Knight Frank, a global property consultancy based in London. To buyers, locations such as London and New York are protected from economic and political risk, plus offer potential for property appreciation.

High-end buyers seek out tried-and-true places because they are still reeling from the economic downturn five years ago, says James Price, head of international residential development at Knight Frank who worked on the report. “They want liquidity. They want the best places to invest and be secure,” he says. “The reasons London and New York are very popular is they are two genuine safe havens.”

Buyers looking for trophy assets may be willing to try a more offbeat locale for lifestyle features, but that isn’t a typical motivation, he adds.

The Global Hunt for Homes

Source: Knight Frank Research; Flag illustrations by Andrew Janik

Knight Frank’s Global Development Insight report, set to be released Friday, looks at buyer requirements for prime, newly built residential properties. The report—based on Knight Frank search data, sales data and survey responses from 54 individuals world-wide—ranked the leading countries from which buyers originate, and the most common sales locations and prices.

Latin American buyers are big players in Miami, but they aren’t ranked in Knight Frank’s list, says Mr. Price.

The strongest home purchasers tend to look for property investments in tried-and-true markets that offer both low risk and some potential for price appreciation. Outside of such safe havens, shoppers tend to buy in or near their own areas. Photo: Tips.

Outside of the safe havens, buyers tend to buy in their own regions, the report shows. Buyers in China are the most significant purchasers of prime new-build properties internationally, spurred by a strong yuan and slowing domestic economy, the report says. Although their interest extends to properties in New York and London, their primary interest remains regional, the report shows.

In Russia, which ranked third on Knight Frank’s list, buyers look abroad after exhausting local options. “They already have property portfolios in Russia—a city home, a country home—and then they’re looking for another property abroad,” says Elena Yurgeneva, director of residential at Knight Frank in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Write to Sanette Tanaka at


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Positive Predictions for California Real Estate in 2014

As the seasons turn and 2013 winds down, it is in our nature to look forward into a new year. What can we leave behind, what will be next, and what opportunities will arise? We all have our own answers for ourselves, but the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) has an answer that home sellers should all be happy to hear regarding real estate – a healthy growth for sales and prices is projected for 2014.

“The housing market has improved over the past year, and we expect this trend to continue into 2014,” said C.A.R. President Don Faught. The C.A.R. foresees a 3.2 percent gain in sales next year, up from 430,000 homes sold in 2013 to 444,000 projected in 2014. The median home price is forecasted to increase 6 percent, up to $432,800.

Over the past four years the economy has been slowly recovering, and it is projected that homeownership will now become a highly sought after desire. C.A.R. expects the growth in the U.S. GDP to be up 2.8 percent in 2014. As the economy rises, buyers have less competition with investors and loans are more readily available. The growth of the economy and the fall in unemployment, also predicted, will naturally boost sales.

“We’ve seen a marked improvement in housing market conditions in a year with the distressed market shrinking from one in three sales a year ago to less than one in five in recent months, thanks primarily to sharp gains in home prices,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. She continues,  “As the market continues to improve, more previously underwater homeowners will look toward selling, making housing inventory less scarce in 2014.  As a result of these factors, we’ll see home price increases moderate from the double-digit increases we saw for much of this year to mid-single digits in most of the state.”

As this report was released, I can’t help but be excited for the rise of the economy, the fall of unemployment, and the positive predictions for real estate in California. Does this news have you excited to begin to look for your new home? Browse luxury Marin properties for sale on my website, and contact me with any questions or inquiries. Cheers to the future!


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