Loving Where You Live

February 9th, 2017

Oftentimes in real estate, we get so swept up in thinking about each individual home that we forget about the bigger picture. But a key component to a successful real estate transaction is ensuring the happiness of each homebuyer, and this happiness is in large part predicated on one thing: the importance of loving where you live. And I don’t just mean loving your home, I mean loving your environment.

Loving Where You Live

What brings this to mind is an article I read today which notes that San Jose is the third-best place to live in the United States. The jobs, the lifestyle, the weather, the income…so many factors work together to make San Jose one of the best cities one could ever choose to live in. Which, of course, goes a long way to explain the high cost of living here…but when it comes to your happiness, isn’t it worth it to splurge?

Just as an example, let’s say you have an amazing job with a great company that you hope to continue working for until retirement. Now let’s say you’re considering buying a home, and you have a couple in mind that you’ve looked at with your Realtor. Naturally, the quality and comfort of the home will be a huge consideration, but what about the bigger picture? If the commute to and from work is significantly different between the two location, how will the longer commute affect you in the long run? How many hours will you sit in slowly crawling traffic until the quality of your life starts to suffer?

These are the sort of questions one must ask themselves when considering a move. A lengthy commute may seem tolerable in the abstract, but if a few months or years down the line you begin to dread it, it can affect the quality of your life in ways that money just can’t cover. The same goes for proximity to family and friends, or entertainment; if you’re too far away from the people and places that bring you joy, a sense of sadness or isolation can creep in. You may have a hard time loving where you live, no matter how great a deal you got on it.

In the end, each individual must decide how much weight to give each aspect of home buying in order to make a decision, but it would be wise to get to know a neighborhood before making a final decision on which home to buy. If you find an area that you fall in love with, it might make you happier in the long run to get a home that requires a bit more work or has a somewhat heftier price tag than some of the other options. Money is a crucial concern, but loving where you live can be absolutely priceless.

Remember, I’m always available as a resource to help you determine what would make you happiest. Email me at ejohal@kw.com and let’s work together to find the combination of factors that will help you love where you live!

Thinking of Buying a Home? Time to Get Serious.

January 26th, 2017

I’ve spoken a lot in recent weeks about how numerous factors are indicating we could be right in the middle of prime home-buying time. As we close out the first month of 2017, the indicators that this is the case are getting stronger and stronger. If you’ve been thinking about buying a home, it may be time to get serious and start figuring out a specific plan.

The Dream of Buying

This recent article outlines several reasons why you should consider buying a home before the year’s end. We’ve discussed many of them before: interest rates are on the rise, and increasing monthly mortgage payments are coming along with them. Locking in a rate on a mortgage now could save countless dollars over time.

Inventory is miniscule. We’re simply not seeing a lot of homes for sale on the market right now, which means high demand and increased competition are driving prices through the roof. Yet the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better, and if these patterns hold, by next year the current inventory could look massive by comparison.

Finally, prices are continuing to rise with no end in sight. As such, now is looking more and more to be the ideal time to act if you have any plans of homeownership in the foreseeable future. Buying now is certainly expensive due to the factors outlined above…but it’s likely to get even more so. In many cases, it’s best just to bite the bullet and lock in a price now.

The initial article I linked to notes that all of these elements working together have created an air of uncertainty. The future of real estate is harder to guess right now than it has been in a while, and the fear that comes from uncertainty can at times paralyze people or entice them to make poor decisions.

There is, however, one thing you can be certain about: you need a place to live. And homeownership remains the best way to do so, with all the security and equity renting simply doesn’t offer. If the biggest cloud on the horizon is this looming sense of uncertainty, the best way to combat it is to act quickly and decisively to secure things in the calm before the storm.

Thanks for reading, and remember: I’m always available as a resource! Home buying can be quite scary and intimidating, so feel free to reach out to me and my team for the knowledge and support you need to make the right decisions.

A Word on Renting Vs. Buying

January 19th, 2017

Renting or owning...which is right for you?

Recently, the San Jose Mercury News published an intriguing article comparing the costs of renting a home versus buying one. Basically, the results were as follows: in the Bay Area’s current market, we find ourselves in the interesting position of renting ostensibly being cheaper than buying. As anyone living in the area knows, neither option is exactly what one would consider cheap, but this study prompts the question…

If you’re considering buying a home, are you better off renting instead?

Though at a surface level the article would suggest that the answer to this question is “yes,” a closer examination reveals that things are not so simple. For one thing, the study only takes into account raw numbers on a pretty large scale. Individual cities and neighborhoods can vary pretty wildly in housing costs, and what is true for one area may not be applicable to another just a few miles up the road. A detailed analysis of each specific area one may be considering a move into is necessary to truly weigh the relative costs.

In addition, there’s the issue of immediacy versus long-term security. Sure, right now renting may make the most sense economically, but it’s a constantly shifting balance that may be quite different in the future. Meanwhile, mortgage rates are still at a relative low, though they are showing signs of trending upwards. Locking in a mortgage rate now will allow you to plan out the next several decades of housing costs, while still taking advantage of low rates, whereas renting poses a much greater risk…you may be able to assume your rent for the next few months or years, but what about years from now? The security of having a guaranteed mortgage rate can offset short-term savings.

That’s not even to mention the massive benefits of homeownership in the first place (you’re never going to have equity in a rental), nor the relative quality of rental dwellings versus homes listed for sale, or the security of living within a certain school district for those with children. It’s a complex issue, and not so cut and dry as one might think. Still, the study is a very valuable one, and presents some interesting data for anyone looking to weigh their housing options.

In the end, there is really no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of renting versus buying. Each individual must take stock of their own situation and goals in order to decide which is truly the best option for them. Fortunately, my team and I are always here to provide advice for any prospective home buyers weighing their options, so don’t be afraid to consult with me to decide what is truly the best course of action for you!

Taking Stock of Inventory

January 12th, 2017

Less than a dozen days into 2017, one thing has already become quite clear: we are in a very interesting real estate market. Among the numerous factors influencing things, one has become a huge topic of conversation lately: inventory. Specifically, the inventory of homes actively for sale in the Bay Area, which is currently historically low. This is having a profound effect on the market, which I would like to discuss a bit today.

Low Housing Inventory

Last month, I talked about how rising interest rates were already creating a sense of urgency in real estate sales. Recently, this urgency has hit a fever pitch in the Bay Area for one simple reason: there’s hardly anything on the market! As of the time of this writing, there are, for example, 15 active listings in Apple’s hometown of Cupertino, 14 homes for sale in the city of Campbell, 17 in Sunnyvale, and so forth. These numbers are crazy low, but to get a glimpse of the bigger picture, consider this: there are only about 700 active listings in all of Santa Clara county! Think about it: the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the most desirable places to live in the country, has only 718 homes for sale divided among its 1,304 square miles of area. It boggles the mind.

As you can imagine, this low inventory is creating a very favorable situation for Sellers, who are in the very advantageous position of being able to dictate supply in the face of overwhelming demand. Add to this the fact that many Buyers are scrambling to procure a home before mortgage rates climb even further, and you get the sort of rabid demand that can create truly incredible scenarios. As an extreme example, I’ve heard tales of a recent listing in Santa Clara that sold after a mindblowing 56 offers! This is the sort of situation that would be nearly impossible in most normal markets. But we are far past normal at this point.

So what is to be done?

Well, if you’re a Seller…sell! Or at least strongly consider it. Inventory simply cannot stay this low forever, especially with home prices peaking as a result of desperate bidding wars and giving homeowners a push to finally test the market for their own home. The sooner you act,the sooner you can take advantage of the current abundant demand, before a glut of new listings cools things down somewhat.

For Buyers, all hope is not lost. Patience is advised, since like I said, more listings are inevitably on the way. But if you cannot afford to be patient, or if you want to ensure you take advantage of the currently low mortgage rates, don’t despair. There are still deals to be had out there…you just need to be especially vigilant, thorough, and employ the services of a dedicated real estate agent who can work hard to sniff out some deals for you.

As always, I’m available to advise you on the best course of action for you amid this crazy market, and please don’t hesitate to call me to set up a free consultation. Being informed by an expert like me is the best way to navigate these unique situations, prepare for the future, and make this market work to your advantage. Whether buying or selling, having the information to stay one step ahead can pay massive dividends!

New Year, New Opportunities

January 5th, 2017

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start. It’s always lovely to have a fresh new beginning, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch, aiming to achieve greater heights than ever before. And, in the spirit of new beginnings, I am launching something special that I would love you to be a part of.

As of 2017, I am starting Elena Johal’s REAL ESTATE AMBASSADOR program, and I would like to know if you are interested in participating. What is this program, exactly? I’m glad you asked!

GET WITH THE (AMBASSADOR) PROGRAM

New Year, New Opportunities

The REAL ESTATE AMBASSADOR program is referral-based, easy and fun!

The possibilities are endless and enticing. Imagine going to your favorite restaurant with your friends and paying for your meal with my gift card, or going shopping at the store of your choice at a deep discount. This can all be possible just by becoming my marketing assistant and utilizing this Ambassador program as a fun, easy new income avenue for you.

Real Estate is my passion, and I love changing peoples’ lives and helping them enjoy their new home! This program is the natural extension of that, allowing us all to work together for our mutual benefit. Become a part of my REAL ESTATE AMBASSADOR program and see what wonderful things we can accomplish together!

If this sounds good to you, email me at ejohal@kw.com and let’s talk in more detail about how you can be a part of the program. I look forward to hearing from you and kicking off the new year with new opportunities!

In real estate market news, the numbers are in for November, and home sales jumped in the Bay Area. I’m eagerly awaiting seeing the statistics for December, and analyzing the patterns leading us into the year ahead. The new year is always an exciting time, and it looks to present opportunities for both buyers and sellers who keep their finger on the pulse of the market and heed the advice of real estate professionals…like me!

As always, thanks for reading, and let’s work together to make 2017 the best year yet!

Into the Future

December 29th, 2016

Hello everyone! We’re heading into the future in a few days, as 2017 is coming fast upon us. I hope you’re enjoying these last few days of the holiday season, and getting some relaxation with family and friends to close out the year. Still, even as you relax, it’s important to keep an eye on this imminent future and plan accordingly.

For example, as I have mentioned before, the economy is in flux right now. Specifically, the Fed has increased mortgage rates recently, and the effects are already being felt (for some examples in the Bay Area, see this recent article in The Mercury News). As such, it pays to take these moments now when perhaps work is a bit slow or you even have some vacation time on hand to map out your real estate goals in light of these developments. And of course, I’m always available as a resource to help you out with any questions and concerns you may have!

And then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s almost time for New Year’s Resolutions! If you need some inspiration, there a great article here about some bad habits of homeowners; if you happen to exhibit any of these, there’s no time like the present to kick these bad habits for the sake of your home’s present and future.

Finally, let’s take a look at the big picture: what’s the forecast for 2017? While, as this article from CBS News mentions, “this year could be especially difficult to predict” in terms of the real estate market, check out these predictions for real estate trends in 2017 and see what the future may hold. One thing is for sure, though: I’ll be here to help, no matter what trends may come to pass!

Enjoy the rest of 2016! For the time being, I’ll just relax with some Ferrero Rocher and enjoy these last few moments before the future arrives. See you on the other side!

Celebrating the future with Ferrero Rocher.

Celebrating the future with Ferrero Rocher.

“Interest”-ing News for Real Estate

December 15th, 2016

We are in the final weeks of 2016, and conventional wisdom in real estate pegs this time of year as “the dead zone.” With holidays and shopping and travel and family time and cold, wet weather and winter breaks from school…massive financial transactions involving homes tend to go on the back burner for a lot of people. As the clock ticks down to the new year, interest in real estate in general tends to be quite low.

Interest, You Say?

Interest Chart from the Wall Street Journal

Interest Chart from the Wall Street Journal

Let’s put aside conventional wisdom for a moment. Some huge financial news hit the presses this week: the Fed not only raised rates for the first time this year, they also anticipate raising them multiple times in 2017. This reaction reflects tremendous optimism about the U.S. economy in the near future. It also has massive repercussions for the real estate market. All of a sudden, the end of the year has become an absolutely crucial time in anticipation of this news coming to pass.

As the Fed raises rates, so too raise the monthly interest rates people will have to pay for their loans…like, for example, their mortgages. All of a sudden, a new home buyer’s monthly payment is higher than it would have been a month ago, and as the rates continue to climb, so will their payment amounts. Budgets will need to be recalculated, and what was once within reach for some people may simply slip out of it.

So what does this mean for real estate? In short: the time to sell is now! As interest rates rise up, the buyers who were able to afford higher loans and more expensive homes are going to be looking for homes of lesser value. Affordability, already a massive concern in the Bay Area, will become even more paramount. Which means this: if you have a home to sell, now could very well be the time to put it on the market. Right now there is the maximum amount of buyers for the foreseeable future-before rising interest rates start forcing people to change their plans-which means increased competition and, ideally, higher prices.

This is not to say it isn’t the right time to buy, either; quite the contrary! Delaying purchasing a home at this point means being subject to ever-increasing interest rates. And since, as we noted earlier, the multitude of December happenings oftentimes distracts people from real estate, now could be the best possible time to buy a home, when competition and interest rates are both at a low.

Bottom line: right now is the time to buy or sell. At the very least, take a moment to reevaluate your own short-term and long-term real estate goals with this information in mind. Those who act quickly in light of this recent news will be well-positioned in 2017 and beyond.

For more information about the raise in interest rates and how it affects you, please feel free to call me at (408)  836-6369 or email me at ejohal@kw.com. I will be happy to help guide you through whatever questions you may have.

Teamwork

December 7th, 2016

Real estate as a field tends to attract self-starters; no matter which brokerage one may hang their license at, an agent is effectively his or her own boss. Realtors can set their own schedules, work as much and as often as they choose, and determine whether they work from an office, their home, a coffee shop or whatever works best for them. It can therefore be tempting to think of each agent as a solitary being, their destiny solely in their own hands.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, most agents work on their own, but a strong support system can make all the difference between a wildly successful career in realty and a frustrating grind to stay afloat. As I have often noted, this is an insanely competitive field, and there is strength, as they say, in numbers.

As such, I’ve been focusing a lot of energy into team building lately. There are a LOT of Buyers and Sellers in the Bay Area, and I’d like to help as many of them as possible, so it is with great pleasure that I announce some wonderful additions to the Elena Johal Team!

Travis Masterbone of the Elena Johal Team

Travis Masterbone of the Elena Johal Team

Travis Masterbone has recently begun his career in real estate, coming from a background in athletics and fitness. His decision to shift gears into the Real Estate industry was motivated by a passion for the business and a desire to leave a positive impact on the lives of others. Travis’s competitive nature inspires him in his relentless pursuit of success, so in order to be the best he reached out to one of the top Real Estate Agents in California…me! I am excited to have Travis as a part of my team, and his energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn make him an invaluable asset.

Lucy Ramos of the Elena Johal Team

Lucy Ramos of the Elena Johal Team

Lucy Ramos is committed to excellence in customer service. A licensed agent of over 15 years, her extensive experience in Silicon Valley real estate and dedication to helping her clients reach their goals has enabled Lucy to establish a loyal client base. She guarantees a successful transaction to her clients, a goal that her consummate professionalism and strong negotiating skills help her achieve. I am thrilled to have Lucy on my team, and am looking forward to working together to bring our collective business to new heights!

Please take a moment to welcome my new team members…I’m looking forward to ringing in the new year with these wonderful agents by my side!

Fortitude

November 2nd, 2016

Recently, I completed a strenuous five-day workout course known as Hell Week. As you might imagine based on the name, it took quite a monumental effort…and I got a t-shirt for my trouble! Beyond that, though, I got the greatest gift you can give yourself: the gift of health. Being in shape and physically strong is greater than any t-shirt (having said that, it is a pretty great t-shirt).

Health and the Hell Week shirt.

                           The spoils of Hell Week.

All of this got me thinking about how important health is to those of us in the real estate business. The fact is, it is a very demanding industry. For the unprepared, every week could turn into Hell Week! It is a business without limits, a business devoid of closing times and off days. Sure, you set your own schedule, and you’re free to take time off and set limits to your working hours to your heart’s content. But some clients won’t wait, and some situations don’t halt just because you’ve made yourself unavailable. Real estate is a 24-7 business, and if you’re in it for the long haul, you’d best be prepared for quite a marathon.

That’s why real estate agents would be well advised to keep themselves in shape. It’s not necessary to spend all day in the gym (nor should you; those leads won’t follow up on themselves!), but it’s amazing the difference it makes when you’re healthy. Running between appointments for sixteen hours a day gets a lot easier when you spend a little time running on the treadmill. Otherwise, the physical toll of the job can get to you. There are staircases to climb, lunches to skip and neighborhoods to door knock. It’s hard enough doing these things with the occasional cold, let alone with general everyday physical sluggishness. Health may not be the sole determining factor of real estate success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

This extends beyond physical health, too. Keeping yourself mentally strong is incredibly important as well. A large number of agents are big on positive affirmations, motivational seminars and intensive coaching. There’s a reason for this: the business requires intense mental toughness! Competition is beyond fierce, as the Bay Area is essentially a shark tank filled with knowledgeable, intelligent and experienced realtors. In order to compete, one must be prepared, one must be motivated, and one must be strong. And each deal is its own struggle, as countless factors must be taken into account, and unexpected problems can arise at any moment. The best way to deal with these issues is to remain cool, calm and collected, and personal affirmations and gatherings of like-minded individuals can give just the support you need to make this possible.

In short, real estate isn’t easy, but there are many things an agent can do to make it easier for him or herself. It can be hard to find the time to work out or to get oneself calm and centered mentally, due to the fact that there is just so much going on at any given moment. But a little extra effort to take care of oneself pays dividends, as it leads to so much more energy and focus to make more efficient use of one’s time. And, best of all, it will help you live longer to enjoy your success!

I hope you enjoyed this little rumination on the importance of health in the real estate industry. Please leave any feedback in the comments section, and have a wonderful, healthy day!

Seasonal, Effective

October 26th, 2016

Seasonal Autumn Leaves

There’s a change in the air, these past few weeks. The endless heat of summer has slowly softened into more mild days. The nights are longer, and bring with them a definite chill unlike any we’ve felt in months. Fall is most definitely upon us…and the air isn’t the only thing changing.

In real estate, business has a tendency to follow a seasonal pattern. Spring historically brings an uptick in business, peaking in the summer, then steadily declining through the fall to reach a low during the winter, bottoming out right around the holidays. This pattern makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. Numerous factors make the warmer months more attractive to buyers and sellers: less rain means more motivation to go outside and visit potential listings or move large loads of furniture; summer vacation allows for a grace period in terms of school, a boon for anyone wanting minimal disruption in their children’s education; less distractions from holidays and work functions mean more time to plan a move and less need to accomodate visiting relatives. All these and more contribute to what can be referred to as a year-end lull for the real estate industry. As such, many real estate agents begin to slow down as the year comes to a close…after all, why continue putting in the same amount of work when the seasonal trends promise diminishing returns?

The trouble with that line of thinking, though, is that the real estate business is far too complex to be defined by such simple patterns. General economic conditions play far more of a part in determining a hot real estate market, for example, and any number of other factors influence the ebb and flow of the real estate economy. Seasons are a market influencer, but not a sole determinant.

In addition, I’m located in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area region of California, which is one of the most active real estate markets in the country, so “hot” is certainly relative. That is to say, even the slowest times of year for home sales are very active, with high prices and, on average, short times on the market. It’s like comparing molten lava to a bonfire: sure, one may be hotter than the other, but they’re both still hot by any definition. The winter may have a tendency to slow home sales down, but buyers and sellers aren’t exactly going into hibernation.

In fact, the so-called conventional wisdom of slower seasons can backfire on agents who put too much stock in it. For one thing, with the proliferation of real estate information on the internet, consumers are more well-informed now than ever. The seasonal cycle and its effects are no secret, and buyers are often keen to utilize that inormation in the hopes of snagging a deal when competition is at a low point. Sellers, meanwhile, can see a chance to fetch top dollar for their home, taking advantage of demand at a time when inventory is more limited.  Add in the fact that, in the cultural melting pot known as the Bay Area, many people just don’t consider the holiday season to be much different than any other time of year, and it becomes clear that opportunities are out there.

The trouble is, if an agent has already decided to slow down for the latter months of the year, these opportunities can pass them by, snagged by colleagues who have decided to brave the sleet and snow (well, this is California, so it’s more like braving the occasional rain and somewhat chilly temperatures) to keep working hard at expanding their business despite the quieter office and early onset of night. Looking around at all those empty desks and dark offices at a real estate office in December is proof enough that there are roles out there that need to be filled. You can be the one to fill them.

This isn’t to say that one cannot take time for a vacation, or spend time with their family during the holidays. These sorts of activities are important in order to avoid burning out. But one must be cautious of taking it too far, and giving oneself too much time off, losing focus and missing opportunities that are right in front of them. One of the great things about real estate is the ability to set one’s own schedule. Take advantage of this by working when so many others are not, and you might end up having the hottest winter on record. And there’s no better time to start thinking about this than now, as the leaves take on vibrant shades of yellow and red, and sweaters start making their way out of the dresser drawer. While you’re carving your jack-o’-lantern in the days ahead, think about carving some time out during the holidays as well to make the seasonal shift work for you. You (and your clients) will be happy you did.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think of this article in the comments, and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Halloween!