Top 3 Tuesday – Famous Marin Authors

As the weather begins to change, make sure you have a few good Fall books from world famous Marin #authors! @isabelallende @annelamott @amytan #books #writersoninstagram #writeslife #authors #awardwinning #nytimesbestsellers


#luxurylifestyle #luxuryproperty #Top3Tuesday #Marin #MarinCounty #SanFrancisco #Top3Challenge #1KentfieldRealtor #2RossRealtor #luxurymarinhomes #marinlivingoutsidethefourwalls #MDL #MillionDollarListing #Marin #MarinCounty #LuxuryRealEstate #Luxury #LuxuryLiving #Realtor #InstaHome #RealEstate #TopMarinRealtor @ChristiesInc @ChristiesRealEstate @PacificUnionRealEstate

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36 Hours in Marin County, Calif.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you arrive in Marin even before landing on solid ground. The county line hangs above the water’s edge, which is fitting, since the county itself feels suspended — ethereal, privileged, a place apart from the rest of the Bay Area. Fearing the perils of suburban sprawl, Marin invested early and often in conservation. Outside of a handful of small cities (San Rafael and Novato the largest among them), Marin is a surprisingly rural landscape of cattle ranches, rolling hills, redwood groves, houseboat communities and roadhouses. Among the wealthiest counties in the country, Marin’s affluence is apparent in towns like Mill Valley. But Marin, one of the state’s smallest counties, also has small towns, like Bolinas and Fairfax, that retain an endearing Northern California eccentricity.


3 p.m.
1. Past and Present

Housed in a Victorian on a hillside in old San Rafael, the Marin History Museum (1125 B Street, San Rafael; has an intriguing collection of local mementos and exhibitions about county icons and institutions like the Golden Gate Bridge or the notorious San Quentin Prison. Around the corner, the Falkirk Cultural Center (1408 Mission Avenue, San Rafael; is a magnificent Queen Anne mansion with floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows and a creaky staircase that leads to a gallery that features local artists.

5 p.m.
2. Dead and Alive

Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead modeled Terrapin Crossroads (100 Yacht Club Drive, San Rafael;, which opened last spring in San Rafael’s Canal district, after Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, N.Y. On the waterfront, the music space, restaurant and bar often hosts jam sessions featuring Mr. Lesh and his friends. Tuesday through Friday happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) has an exceptional list of Northern California draft beers for $4, half-off pizza from a flaming wood-fired oven and appetizers like the Hangtown Fry, a taco-size crepe with wilted spinach, crispy fried oysters and bacon ($11.50).

7 p.m.
3. For the Soul

Occupying an imposing lime green building in downtown San Rafael, Sol Food (901 Lincoln Avenue, San Rafael; is a bright, plant-filled space with communal tables and Puerto Rican classics like shrimp sautéed in a garlic, onion and tomato sauce, with mofongo (mashed green plantains), salad and fresh avocado (from $11.95). Sol Food serves no alcohol; wash dinner down with mango ice tea ($2.45) or Mexican Coke ($2.25). Save room for Fairfax Scoop (63 Broadway Boulevard, Fairfax), an elevator-size ice cream shop where there’s almost always a line. Try classics like mint chip and cookies-and-cream and more exotic options like vanilla honey lavender and toasted hazelnut (from $1.75 to $3.95). Open until 10 p.m.

9 p.m.
4. Fairfax for All

For an after-dinner drink, head over to 123 Bolinas (123 Bolinas Street, Fairfax;, a new wine bar across from Bolinas Park that serves small plates, local beer and regional wines. The bar top is carved from a 100-year-old fallen oak, the furniture is built of reclaimed barn siding, and there’s a U.F.O.-shaped fireplace. For something more casual, head to the cycle-centric beer and sausage spot, the Gestalt Haus Fairfax (28 Bolinas Road, Fairfax), which has board games, a CD jukebox, cyclocross posters on the walls and 20 or so tap beers ($5 to $7). Then sample one of the several lively spots in downtown Fairfax, a 7,500-person town that claims to have had live music every night for more than 30 years.


9:30 a.m.
5. Head for the Hills

Start the day with beignets and chicory coffee at the homey, New Orleans-inspired Hummingbird (57 Broadway Boulevard; Fairfax), which was opened by a Hurricane Katrina-displaced fine art photographer in 2010. Afterward go mountain biking in the sport’s self-proclaimed birthplace. Stop by Sunshine Bicycle Center (737 Center Boulevard, Fairfax; to rent a high-performance mountain bike ($60 or $90 a day, including helmet), grab a map and get directions to the Lagunitas Lake loop (known locally as the “Gentleman’s Loop”), a relatively nontechnical trail that travels past lakes and through chaparral, oak groves and meadows.

2 p.m.
6. Coastal Picnic

Stop into the Cowgirl Creamery (80 Fourth Street, Point Reyes Station;, which sells exceptional cheeses, like triple-cream Red Hawk and Mt. Tam, along with baguettes, charcuterie and wine, in a restored barn in downtown Point Reyes Station. Then head to Hog Island Oyster Company (20215 Highway 1, Marshall;, where the $5 shuck-your-own oyster picnic gets you a picnic table and grill, rubber shucking gloves and knife, oyster condiments (lemon, hot sauce and freshly grated horseradish) and views of Tomales Bay. There are two three-hour time slots each day, and reservations are required, often weeks in advance. For bivalves without the elbow grease (or the planning), Hog Island also has a walk-up oyster bar (Friday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) housed in a half-buried boat. The Marshall Store (19225 Shoreline Highway, Marshall; is a waterfront seafood shack that serves barbecued oysters in chorizo butter ($14), smoked oysters on crostini ($13) and grilled fish tacos with chile lime slaw and avocado-tomatillo salsa ($13).

4 p.m.
7. Down to Drakes

At the entrance to the historic Drakes Bay Hereford Ranch, take theEstero Trail, one of Point Reyes’s lesser-known hikes, through grasslands and a Christmas tree farm and egret rookery. Then descend to a wooden bridge across a narrow inlet of Drakes Estero, an estuary that’s a breeding ground for seals. From the bridge, it’s possible to spot the leopard sharks gliding back and forth at the water’s surface. If time allows, continue to Sunset Beach, for a total round-trip hike of eight miles.

8 p.m.
8. Get Fresh

Opened in June in the town of Inverness (population 1,300), Saltwater (12781 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Inverness; is an unusual restaurant. A partnership with Pickleweed Point Community Shellfish Farm, which trains “underserved youth” to work in the oyster industry, the 34-seat bistro was crowdsource-financed. Painted in grays, white and mustard yellow, the restaurant has exposed rafters, local wines on tap and an open invitation for local fishermen to sell their catch directly at the kitchen door. The menu changes with the harvest and includes artfully executed dishes like local king salmon with garbanzo beans, eggplant relish and arugula pesto ($20), and pizza with lamb sausage, Padrón peppers, Manchego cheese and picholine olives ($16) and crispy lamb tongue with lentils and fingerling potatoes ($17).


8 a.m.
9. To Market, To Market

The third largest farmers’ market in California, the 26-year-old Sunday Marin Farmers Market (10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael; in San Rafael has 160 vendors selling everything from radishes to prepared foods at the Marin Civic Center, Frank Lloyd Wright’s last major commission. Pick up one of the mini pies at Little Ladybug Bakery, which come in seasonal flavors like heirloom pumpkin and pecan-walnut, or the So Good Belgian waffles at the Waffle Mania food truck. For a local take on Mexican, Donna’s Tamales makes vegetarian enchiladas, breakfast burritos and tamales in flavors like smoked Cheddar, black bean and yam. The Sunday market is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

10 a.m.
10. Over the Hill

Take your picnic breakfast and join the slow Sunday parade of drivers winding their way over Mount Tamalpais. The views, which sweep back toward the bay and then west to Stinson Beach, are worth the crawl. On the coast, stop in at the Bolinas Museum (48 Wharf Road, Bolinas;, which opens at noon and has a regional history museum, three contemporary art galleries and a permanent collection of works by West Marin artists. Another option, for those averse to the drive, is the short but breathtaking 1.7-mile walk through the Tennessee Valley to the cliff-flanked Tennessee Beach.

1 p.m.
11. Through the Woods

Back in East Marin, stop in Mill Valley, at the base of the Dipsea Trail, which is known for its 670 or so steps (give or take a few) that climb toward Muir Woods. Next continue on to the Sun Trail, which leads to the Nature Friends Tourist Club (, a Bavarian-style private lodge and hiking club that serves beer on an open deck from 1 to 5 p.m. most weekends (except the second and third weekend of each month). Check the Web site for details and trail directions. Tucked away on a dead-end street beside a marina, Fish. Restaurant (350 Harbor Drive, Sausalito; serves a decadent Dungeness crab roll ($25), among many other worthy offerings, at picnic tables overlooking the water. Beware the aggressive sea gulls. Then walk the waterfront for a glimpse of Sausalito’s eclectic houseboats.


Part of a local three-hotel chain, the 25-room Mill Valley Inn (165 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley; is surrounded by redwood trees at the foot of Mount Tamalpais. Rooms start at $189, with a two-night minimum on weekends. An evening wine reception, continental breakfast, with an espresso bar, and hybrid bikes are all included.

The Gerstle Park Inn (34 Grove Street, San Rafael; is a self-described “English-style estate,” with eight opulent rooms (from $189), elegant gardens, free wine, and a full eggs-to-order breakfast.


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San Francisco Returns to Top of Hottest U.S. Housing Markets Rankings

San Francisco, which lost its title as the hottest U.S. real estate market to a Bay Area suburb back in the spring, returned to the head of the class in September, coinciding with a miniature Indian summer heat wave in Northern California.

That’s according to’s recurring monthly list of the nation’s 20 hottest housing market, as gauged by the briskest pace of sales and the most listing views on its website. Homes in these metro areas typically sell 23 to 43 days faster than the national average and can receive nearly four times as much online traffic.

For much of the past year, San Francisco has topped that list but was usurped by the Vallejo-Fairfield metro area in May. In September, the San Francisco metro area — which includes nearby cities such as Oakland and Hayward — regained the No. 1 position, up from No. 4 in August. Vallejo fell one spot on the hot list to end the month at No. 2.

California cities have been mainstays on the hot-markets list since its inception, and September was no exception, with the state claiming 10 of the 20 spots. The rest of the Golden State pack: San Diego (No. 5), Stockton (No. 6), Sacramento (No. 8), San Jose (No. 9), Modesto (No. 11), Yuba City (No. 13), Santa Rosa (No. 15), and Santa Cruz (No. 17). All 10 of those communities made the hot list in August, while Fresno dropped off in September.

The rankings come shortly after named the country’s 10 hottest ZIP codes, based on the same criteria it uses for its monthly list. That list included two Bay Area ZIP codes — Pleasant Hill’s 94523 and Petaluma’s 94954. Both cities are relatively affordable compared with other parts of the Bay Area; the median sales price is $630,000 in Pleasant Hill and $596,000 in Petaluma.

But it’s not just California and Bay Area markets that were on a hot streak last month. says that the U.S. median sales price held steady at $250,000, up 9 percent year over year and a record high for September. Amidst tight inventory conditions nationwide, homes are selling 4 percent faster than they did one year ago. In a statement accompanying the rankings, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said that he expects low supply and high demand to persist through the final quarter of the year.


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California Adds More Jobs in August Than in Any Other Month This Year

Unemployment rates improved in every Bay Area county last month, with California’s economy adding substantially more jobs than it did in July.

In its most recent monthly jobs report, the California Employment Development Department says that the state’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, unchanged from July. The national unemployment rate also held steady from the previous month at 4.9 percent.

California added 63,100 nonfarm positions in August compared with 36,400 in July. That makes August the busiest month so far this year for hiring and the second month that the state has added in excess of 60,000 new jobs.

As in July, the construction sector led California’s job growth in August, with an annual gain of 4.0 percent. The professional and business services sector, which includes many tech jobs, also posted solid year-over-year job growth of 3.6 percent, followed closely by the educational and health services and leisure and hospitality industries.

Those high-paying tech jobs are driving California and the Bay Area’s economy, with the San Jose metropolitan area posting the largest annual gross domestic product growth in the U.S. in 2015, at 8.9 percent. According to a recent analysis of the California economy by Pacific Union Chief Economist Selma Hepp, while many of nation’s tech epicenters are also its fastest-growing economies, the industry appears to have particularly benefited the Golden State’s economy, which is now the world’s sixth-largest.

A separate report on job creation called the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which captures data quarterly but is considered more accurate, showed tech-industry gains of 8.5 percent year over year in the first quarter. Monthly data referred to above, called Current Employment Statistics, showed a 3.4 percent increase for the same period.

Jobless claims dropped in all nine Bay Area counties from July to August on a nonseasonally adjusted basis and remain below 5 percent in every county except Solano, the only place in the Bay Area with a unemployment rate higher than the statewide average. San Mateo County has California’s lowest unemployment rate, at 3.2 percent, followed by San Francisco (3.5 percent), Marin (3.5 percent), Santa Clara (4.0 percent), Napa (4.1 percent), and Sonoma (4.1 percent) counties.


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Proud to Be a Californian: State Among the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Economies

Executive Summary:

  • The Federal Open Market Committee did not raise interest rates yesterday but not for the lack of confidence in the economy. The FOMC wants further confirmation that everyone is benefiting from the employment growth.
  • A separate report says that California leads the nation in economic output, with the San Jose metro area growing at the fastest pace in the nation in 2015, an impressive 8.9 percent. The Bay Area follows closely, with 5.8 percent annual growth.
  • Tech-heavy metro areas are seeing the fastest economic growth in the nation.
  • The Bay Area is one the most attractive places for businesses, due to talent, knowledge, and the spillover effects of the tech industry (not to mention the weather).
  • Three of the five largest U.S. companies by market valuation are located in the Bay Area.
  • California’s economy is poised for strong growth, though addressing the housing affordability conundrum is critical.

Getting a grasp on the U.S. economy has become increasingly more divisive. Some say the country is doing great, and some say we are doing awful. At the very least, FOMC Chairwoman Janet Yellen announced yesterday that it will not raise interest rates this month. The group came across feeling conflicted on the course of action, much like the rest of the economic experts who closely watch the Federal Reserve’s decisions. It seems that the U.S. is truly starting at the tale of two economies. On one hand, tech-heavy areas are bustling, while in others there are still people who are unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise not better off than they were a few years ago.

One thing we can say with certainty is that most of the California’s metropolitan areas are doing an outstanding job on the economic front. The Bureau of Economic Analysis released 2015 gross domestic product estimates this week for the U.S. metropolitan areas. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area saw its GDP grow by 8.9 percent in 2015, the largest increase in the U.S. The San Francisco metro area grew its GDP by 4.1 percent, No. 6 in the country. Combined, the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas accounted for 8 percent of the national GDP growth from 2010 to 2015. According to Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, the Bay Area’s GDP grew by 5.8 percent in 2015, outpacing both California (4.1 percent) and the U.S. (2.4 percent). In fact, all major California regions grew faster in 2015 that the nation in aggregate.

The Bay Area now ranks No. 18 in the world in terms of goods and services output, up from No. 21 in 2014. California improved its ranking too, climbing to the world’s sixth largest economy, with a 2015 GDP of $2.5 trillion.

A recent article in The New York Times sheds some light on what makes California special. In short, “California is the capital of American business.” One in five companies on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq are located in California. According to the author’s analysis: “From 1965 through 1979, 10.07 percent of public companies were based in California. The number has continued to grow, so that from 2000-13, 19.46 percent of public companies had their headquarters in California.” At the same time, California’s population increased from comprising 10 percent of the total U.S. population to 12 percent.

It helps that three of the five biggest companies in the U.S. are tech companies based in the Bay Area: Apple, Facebook, and Google. (Seattle-based and Microsoft round out the top five.)

The technology revolution has benefited other parts of the country as well. The fastest growing U.S. economies — including Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Denver — are also tech-heavy markets. The technology boom, however, seems to have benefited California relatively more than those other areas.

According to The New York Times, it appears that economies of agglomeration are driving the growth. In urban economics, economies of agglomeration are benefits obtained by firms locating close to each other and deriving economies of scale and network effects. In other words, interesting job opportunities draw people to a particular location where they interact with other interesting people and share and develop new ideas, and this transfer of knowledge benefits everyone.

And now with that accumulation of the talent, ideas, and entrepreneurship, California is poised to continue to lead the technology revolution and nurture a new crop of valuable companies. The challenge for the Golden State remains its prohibitive housing costs, as well as the share of residents who have not benefited from the economic activity and still live below the poverty level.


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A Look at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Property Portfolio

With the unexpected news that Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt— legal documents cite irreconcilable differences but celebrity gossip juggernaut TMZ reports she became “fed up” with his pot smoking, concerned with his “anger problem,” and unhappy with his parenting methods — we thought we’d have a quick poke around the couple’s impressive international property portfolio.


In three separate transactions during the mid- to late-1990s Mister Pitt paid a total of $2.55 million for three contiguous properties in an affluent and celeb-soaked pocket of Los Angeles’s Los Feliz area. Giovanni Ribisi owns one of the neighboring properties and Rooney Mara owns a nearby home she scooped up in early 2015 for $2.9 million from Alexander Skarsgard. Subsequent to the Jolie-Pitt’s coupling the almost freakishly attractive pair added two more adjoining properties that combined cost $2,387,500. All together, according to property records and other online resources, the gated and, no doubt, heavily secured compound cost a total of $4,942,500 and encompasses 1.9 acres with at least four structures including a 1915 Craftsman that clocks in at 6,692-square-feet with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

In the latter days of 2006, not too long after they hooked up but almost eight years before their August 2014 wedding, the Jolie-Pitts splashed out $3.5 million for a 1930s masonry mansion in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. In May 2015 they put the mansion up for sale at $6.5 million and the price plummeted to $5.65 million before it was taken off the market in mid-December. Listing details from the time show that in addition to a “Magnificently renovated” main house with elevator, Venetian plastered walls and a “gourmet kitchen” with “top of the line appliances,” the property has a two-story guesthouse with one bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms, a private and spacious courtyard with swimming pool, and off-street parking for two cars.

In 2008 the now erstwhile pair rented Chateau Miraval, a sprawling, multi-residence estate near the village of Correns in the south of France and they purchased the approximately 1,200-acre spread in 2012 from American businessman Tom Bove for a reported $60 million. Just over an hour by car north of Toulon and roughly 1.5 hours by car west of Cannes, the village-like compound has numerous structures, some of which date to the 18th-century. In addition to a main house that some reports sayhas 35 or more rooms there are several smaller cottages for guests and/or staff, a Romanesque chapel where the couple wed, and a recording studio . The property, which they bought from American businessman was once owned by French jazz pianist Jacques Loussier — where Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Muse and Sting have all been reported to have recorded. The property is has pine forests, olive groves, a private pond, and extensive organic vineyards along with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spa and gym facilities, a professional-grade screening room, a video game arcade, a dirt bike course, and a couple of helicopter landing pads.

Miz Jolie, nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for “Changeling” and an Oscar winner in 2000 for “Girl Interrupted,” has owned a 1,232-square-foot apartment on a high floor of the elegant and architecturally distinguished Ansonia building on New York City’s Upper West Side since December of 1997 and in 2003 she bought a traditional home on almost 100 acres in Cambodia’s Battambang Province where she later bought about 12,000 acres of land she turned into a wildlife preserve. And, finally, in late 2000, shortly after Mister Pitt married his first wife Jennifer Aniston, the six-time Oscar nominated and one-time Oscar-winning actor paid an unknown amount for an 11.5 acre ocean-front compound along a rugged and otherwise unspoiled stretch of beach just outside of Santa Barbara, California.

Of course, this property gossip doesn’t know an apple from and apple cart so we really can’t say what will come of the Jolie-Pitt’s numerous properties but we assume without any inside intel that each will keep what they brought to their ten-plus year union and that Chateau Miraval and their New Orleans pied-a-terre will be sold off. We shall see, butter beans, we shall see.

aerial image (Los Angeles): Google
street image (New Orleans): Latter & Blum via Zillow
aerial image (Correns, France): via
street image (New York): Christopher Bride for Property Shark
coastline image (Santa Barbara): Copyright (C) 2002-2016 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project,


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Real Estate Roundup: U.S. Annual Income Growth Climbs to 50-Year High


The average American worker got a much-needed monetary boost last year, though incomes have not yet returned to their prerecession highs.

Citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, The Wall Street Journal reports that the median household income increased by 5.2 percent from 2014 to 2015 to $56,516. That’s the largest annual gain since 1967 but still 2.4 percent below the record high U.S. incomes of 1999. Incomes are 1.6 percent below their precession levels of 2007 and may surpass them next year at the current growth rate.

The news comes on the heels of an analysis by CNBC, which found that incomes in Silicon Valley grew by more than 20 percent from 2009 to 2014. The Bay Area is home to most of the highest-paying companies in the nation, with the overwhelming majority in the technology sector.


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William Randolph Hearst Mansion in Beverly Hills Seeks $195 Million

President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis vacationed at the home as part of their honeymoon.

Known as the Beverly Compound, the property includes a mansion previously owned by William Randolph Hearst and actress Marion Davies.
Known as the Beverly Compound, the property includes a mansion previously owned by William Randolph Hearst and actress Marion Davies. PHOTO: LEONARD ROSS

A Beverly Hills estate once owned by William Randolph Hearst and featured in the movie “The Godfather” will list for $195 million—up 18% from its last formal listing price of $165 million in 2007.

The owner, Leonard Ross, an attorney and real-estate investor, is selling the Beverly Compound, a roughly 5-acre estate with six structures. Including the 50,000-square-foot 1927 Hearst property there is a total of about 28 bedrooms and 38 bathrooms. A subsection of the property, on about 4 acres and including the Hearst mansion, will also be available for $175 million.

The mansion was last officially on the market in 2007 for $165 million and was taken off of the market the next year. It has since been leased at a monthly rate of $600,000.

In addition to Mr. Hearst, the newspaper magnate, the mansion was later owned by actress Marion Davies. President John F. Kennedy andJacqueline Kennedy Onassis vacationed at the home as part of their honeymoon. Scenes in “The Godfather” were filmed in the home, as were scenes from “The Bodyguard.”

President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis vacationed at the home as part of their honeymoon.
President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis vacationed at the home as part of their honeymoon. PHOTO: LEONARD ROSS

Mr. Ross bought the property about 40 years ago for less than $2 million as an investment property, he said. He added about 20,000 square feet during a 1990s renovation and said parts of the home have bullet-proof glass windows. (He has had many high-profile renters, including royalty, Mr. Ross said.)

The estate features a 725-foot-long driveway leading to the H-shaped mansion. There is a lighted tennis court, and two ponds that flow into a long pool. A roughly 6,600-square-foot seven-bedroom guest house has its own pool, and can be roughly doubled in size, Mr. Ross said.

Mr. Ross, 71, says he is selling because “he’s getting up there” in age.Mauricio Umansky of the Agency has the listing.


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What Trends Are Ahead for the U.S. and Bay Area Housing Markets?

Executive Summary:

  • Millennials are increasingly active buyers and now represent about 50 percent of first-time buyers in the U.S. California’s affordability constraints hold back the first-time buyer share at 30 percent.
  • Minorities will also emerge as a hypergrowing demographic of homebuyers in the U.S. By 2020, minorities will account for all growth in homeownership.
  • Mortgage creditors will need to consider the changing face of homebuyers and accommodate their needs and cultural differences.
  • In San Francisco, the share of income spent on rent is 46 percent, up from 31 percent historically. The share of income spent on mortgage payments is 41 percent, up from 39 percent historically.
  • Affordability constraints are especially challenging for the bottom two-thirds of income levels, where a lack of supply is particularly problematic.
  • Income inequality has been increasing dramatically over time. The share of middle-income households nationally decreased from 65 percent in the 1970s to 40 percent today.

I recently attended the “Housing Renaissance” conference in San Diego. The event featured some of the smartest housing analysts in the country, and the following six major themes emerged in the discussions¹:

The Millennial Generation

  • Millennials are more educated than any generation before them, hence they carry large student debt, but their education allows them higher income-growth potential over their lifetime.
  • Student debt affects only those who didn’t actually finish school. If they had obtained a degree — even with student debt — the probability of homeownership has remained consistent over time.
  • The oldest millennials — who are now 34 — are 38 percent more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than previous generations. At the age of 34, 21 percent of baby boomers and 36 percent of Gen Xers had a B.A.
  • First-time buyers are rebounding strongly and now represent 50 percent of buyers. In California, the share of first-time buyers remains lower because of affordability constraints.
  • One important factor holding back homeownership rates among millennials is the decline in marriage rates. In 1980, 53 percent of those between age 20 and 36 were defined as currently married. Today, only 26 percent of the population age 20 to 36 are defined as currently married.
  • Millennials are now moving into age groups with higher headship rates, meaning they will start creating households at a higher rate than in the last few years.
  • TransUnion estimates that the market will see 12 to 16 million first-time buyers over the next five years.

Figure 1:


Source: Joe Mellman, vice president, Financial Services, TransUnion.

  • But first-time buyers, which include both millennials and/or Gen-Xers, tend to purchase homes in noncoastal areas. Thirty-three percent of first-time buyers purchased homes in coastal areas, whereas 67 percent of millennials bought in noncoastal areas
  • Still, there will be continued interest in renting because the generation is so large and the youngest millennials are still only 20 years old.
  • One cautionary sign are apartment property prices in hot markets, which have surged well above previous peaks.

Ethnic Diversity

  • Minorities will account for the vast majority of net household growth over the next decade
  • However, whites are on average significantly older than Hispanics. In fact, a large share of the Hispanic population is beginning to enter the traditional homebuying age, and they will represent the majority of homebuyers in the future. Figure 2 illustrates the age distribution of the white and Hispanic populations. More than 80 percent of Hispanics are younger than 50 years of age.

Figure 2:


Source: Mark Fleming, chief economist, First American


  • Housing is the primary source of wealth creation for the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution.
  • The U.S. homeownership rate has been falling for a number of reasons. The rate is a ratio of homeowners to households, and since there are more households being created than homeowners, the ratio is falling. Millennials are also marrying and having children later than previous generations.
  • However, interest in homeownership is not fading. The vast majority of households who currently do not own expect to own in the future. For persons between 30 and 39, about 14 percent expect to buy a home someday, and 17 percent expect to buy a home when they next move. For those under the age of 30, 28 percent expect to buy a home in the next move, and 33 percent expect to buy someday.
  • Homeownership differs vastly by race, which is partly due to income and wealth inequalities.
  • By the 2020s, minorities will account for all growth in homeownership.
  • Nevertheless, a rental surge is continuing: 59 percent of the 22 million new households that will form between 2010 and 2030 will rent rather than buy their homes. The housing market is not prepared for this, and therefore rents will likely continue to increase.
  • Some analysts are forecasting the U.S. homeownership rate to continue to drop from 65.1 percent in 2010 to 61.3 percent by 2030. A larger proportion of minority households who will become homeowners will be offset by an aging population, who will exit homeownership.

Housing-Finance Reform

  • Given the high likelihood that the Democratic Party will win the upcoming presidential election, housing reform is most likely to remain in status quo. Democrats will focus on the following: preserving the 30-year, fixed rate mortgage; modernizing credit scoring; clarifying lending rules; expanding access to housing counseling; defending and strengthening the Fair Housing Act; and ensuring that regulators have the clear direction, resources, and authority to enforce those rules effectively. The party will also prevent predatory lending by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


  • Affordability is a real concern in many parts of the country. However, when adjusted for mortgage rates, real home prices are still well below historic levels nationally, though not in California.
  • Nevertheless, real incomes are flat, especially for the lowest two-thirds of the income distribution, which is a serious concern for affordability.
  • Affordability constraints are especially striking in expensive markets. In San Francisco, the share of income spent on rent is 46 percent, and the share of income spent on mortgage payments is 41 percent. Historically, those shares were 31 percent and 41 percent, respectively. The highest-tier home-price segment grew fastest in the last recovery and has flattened out. But now, the bottom one-third of home values are appreciating at the fastest rates.

The charts below are adopted from a Zillow presentation and represent median home-value changes in San Francisco:

Figure 3:


Source: Svenja Gudell, chief economist, Zillow

Annual home-price appreciation in San Francisco by price tiers:


Figure 4:


Source: Svenja Gudell, chief economist, Zillow

Being able to afford a home in bottom one-third of home-price distribution for households with an income in the bottom one-third of income distribution is incredibly difficult. Figure 5 below shows that a household in San Francisco would need to spent almost 70 percent of its income on a mortgage payment.

Figure 5:


Source: Svenja Gudell, chief economist, Zillow

Rental affordably for the same group of people is virtually impossible. A household in the bottom one-third of income distribution would need to spend 90 percent of its income on rent in San Francisco.

Figure 6:


Source: Svenja Gudell, chief economist, Zillow

  • While the number of cost-burdened homeowners has fallen due to lower mortgage rates, the number of cost-burdened renters has reached a new high. Furthermore, high rents make it difficult to save for a down payment, which is a major impediment to purchasing a home for first-time buyers.
  • Income inequality has been increasing dramatically over time. The share of middle-income households nationally decreased from 65 percent in the 1970s to 40 percent today.
  • The affordability crisis is further exacerbated by persistent supply constraints. According to Laurie Goodman at the Urban Institute, the U.S. is currently undersupplied by 430,000 units annually. Inventory shortages are particularly acute for homes in the bottom- and middle-third price tiers of the market.

Figure 7:


Source: Chris Herbert, managing director, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

The Mortgage Market

  • There has been an increase in purchase applications from last year, with broad improvement by loan sizes.
  • Independent mortgage lenders continue to gain market share and accounted for 43 percent of the market in 2014. They accounted for 23 percent in 2007, and today the share is most likely even higher. Commercial bank share was down from 74 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2014.
  • The origination business remains tough due to cost overlays. In addition, production expenses increased from $5,800 in 2011 to $7,800 per transaction now, which is largely driven by increases in personnel expenses. Mortgages are also more time-consuming to underwrite, with servicing costs increasing from $59 in 2008 to $158 in 2014 for performing loans and from $482 in 2008 to $1,949 in 2014 for nonperforming loans.
  • Credit availability remains very tight.
  • Since minorities will account for all growth in homeownership, the mortgage industry must adjust credit access to account for differences in cultural preferences. For example, Hispanics mostly pay with cash and therefore lack credit histories. Minorities also often buy homes as multigenerational households, and income sources come from more than two people.
  • One of the challenges for potential homeowners is their ability to access credit markets, of which the first step is being credit “scoreable.” There are a large number of potential homeowners who are currently invisible based on an analysis by VantageScore, representing about 11 percent of the U.S. population and significantly more if one considers only the adult population.
  • According to new scoring developed by VantageScore, there are additional consumers that are not being included under conventional scoring methods. According to VantageScore’s new scoring system, there are addition 21 million consumers with scores between 500 and 580, 6 million additional consumers with scores between 580 and 620, and 7.6 million consumers with scores between 620 and 850.


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Marin’s Redwood High Among Top Public High Schools in U.S.: Newsweek

BREAKING: The list of “America’s Best High Schools,” released Thursday by Newsweek, ranks the 500 best high schools in the country for 2016.

Marin's Redwood High Among Top Public High Schools in U.S.: Newsweek

LARKSPUR, CA — Marin County’s Redwood High School was among 51 public high schools in California to make Newsweek’s 2016 list of “America’s Best High Schools,” which was released Thursday.

Among 500 high schools on the list, Tamalpais Union High School District’s Redwood High in Larkspur was ranked 81st.

The school rankings are borne of legitimate research. Newsweek, along with the analytics firm Westat, uses legitimate and objective measurements to put together its annual ranking of the country’s best high schools.

Newsweek looked at six measurements and weighted them to come up with a “college readiness index.” The rankings are meant to show how well high schools do at preparing students for college.

Those measurements and their weight are:

  • Holding power: 10 percent
  • Ratio of counselor/full-time equivalent to student enrollment: 10 percent
  • Weighted SAT/ACT: 17.5 percent
  • Weighted Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate (AP/IB) dual enrollment composite: 17.5 percent
  • Graduation rate: 20 percent
  • College enrollment rate: 25 percent

According to Newsweek, Redwood High has a college readiness score of 84.3; a graduation rate of 98.9; a college-bound rate of 95.1; a poverty rate of 5 percent; an SAT/ACT composite score of 62.8; and an AP/IB dual enrollment composite score of 78.3.

In all, 6,477 of the nation’s 15,819 public high schools met the criteria to be considered in Newsweek’s rankings. Newsweek used school performance data from the National Center for Education Statistics to narrow down the list of schools.

The top-ranking school in the state was Whitney (Gretchen) High School in Cerritos, which came in seventh nationwide. The school ranked the highest in California for 2015.

Here’s a look at all of the California high schools that made Newsweek’s list and where they came in on the list: (Click here to view the full list of Newsweek’s 500 best.)

(7) Whitney (Gretchen) High School Cerritos
(18) Monta Vista High School Cupertino
(25) Northwood High School Irvine
(29) Lynbrook High School San Jose
(35) Cupertino High School Cupertino
(50) Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Rolling Hills Estates
(51) Oak Park High School Oak Park
(57) University High School Irvine
(69) Woodbridge High School Irvine
(74) Homestead High School Cupertino
(81) Redwood High School Larkspur
(83) Westview High School San Diego
(90) Leland High School San Jose
(100) Corona del Mar High School Newport Beach
(119) Westlake High School Westlake Village
(120) California High School San Ramon
(121) Monte Vista High School Danville
(124) Aragon San Mateo
(128) Diamond Bar High School Diamond Bar
(136) Classical Academy High School Escondido
(155) Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academ Gilroy
(161) University High School Fresno
(164) Palisades Charter High School Pacific Palisades
(172) Yorba Linda High School Yorba Linda
(174) Palos Verdes High School Palos Verdes Estates
(200) Mira Loma High School Sacramento
(238) West High School Torrance
(245) Scotts Valley High School Scotts Valley
(252) Aliso Niguel High School Aliso Viejo
(253) Henry M. Gunn High School Palo Alto
(284) Nuview Bridge Early College High School Nuevo
(289) South High School Torrance
(295) Arnold O. Beckman High School Irvine
(303) Shasta High School Redding
(318) River Valley Charter School Lakeside
(321) Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy Wilmington
(323) Tesoro High School Las Flores
(326) Glendora High School Glendora
(331) Palo Alto High School Palo Alto
(333) Rio Americano High School Sacramento
(335) Trabuco Hills High School Mission Viejo
(346) Huntington Beach High School Huntington Beach
(352) Analy High School Sebastopol
(385) International Polytechnic High School Pomona
(393) Foothill Technology High School Ventura
(403) San Clemente High School San Clemente
(455) Walnut High School Walnut
(456) HighTech LA Van Nuys
(465) Maria Carrillo High School Santa Rosa
(475) Marina High School Huntington Beach
(494) William S. Hart High School Newhall

The best high school in America, according to the list, is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.


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