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Why I spent $1,100 for 300 square feet

October 16, 2015






By Phillip Molnar,  San Diego Union Tribune 

Reporter Phillip Molnar moved to San Diego from Monterey. He moved into a 300-square-foot apartment that costs $1,100 a month.

I didn’t cry while searching for a San Diego apartment, but I came close.

Moving to the city on a Sunday night, I had a five-day reservation at a Motel 6 and needed to find an apartment fast. I also had my 6-year-old tabby cat with me and a new job as real estate reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune to start the next day.

I was fairly confident I’d find a place quickly because in the last decade I had managed to get apartments in London, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, rural New Jersey, Northeast Pennsylvania and, most recently, Monterey.

Not only did San Diego turn out to be the most difficult, it made me change nearly everything I thought I wanted.

My criteria was a one-bedroom apartment near the beach that allows cats, a rent of no more than $1,200 and was fairly close to work.

To say the least, I stayed at the Motel 6 longer than expected.

Ignorance of what neighborhood I was in most of the time was exacerbated only by a rental market that has seen prices increase — up to 6 percent in the last 12 months — and vacancy rates plummet.

The average rent in San Diego for a one-bedroom unit is $1,460 a month, according to the San Diego County Apartment Association, and the city has a low vacancy rate of 4.2 percent.

The county as a whole is fairly similar, says MarketPointe Realty Advisors, which conducts a wider rental survey of large apartment complexes. County studios rented for an average $1,301 a month in September and a one bedroom was $1,401. Out of 129,706 apartments in the MarketPointe study, 3,669 were vacant.

It took just two days for me to fight against every thrifty bone in my body to increase what I would spend from $1,250 to $1,300 to $1,350.

The first apartment I saw was a dive in North Park for $1,295 a month that looked like it was about to collapse. Its floorboards were warped, all the appliances looked at least 30 years old (and not in a cool, charming way) and it was boiling hot inside. Still, three people showed up to see it in the 15 minutes I was there.

The next dozen or so apartments were pretty similar. If the inside of the place looked nice, it usually meant the neighbor was blasting music through thin walls. If the price fit my budget, the apartment was smack dab on a major intersection with no street parking. If it was perfect, the landlord didn’t allow cats.

I stayed up late into the night at the Motel 6 sifting through more and more postings on Craigslist, which had the most listings and updated more quickly than other sites I used — Apartment List, Padmapper,, Live Lovely. I even went old school and checked out the San Diego Union-Tribune rentals page.

As the search dragged on I began considering areas outside the city, like El Cajon, Lemon Grove, Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach. My goal of living near work or the beach had to be thrown out.

Yet, even those far away searches were pretty awful on Craigslist. A lot of posters did not put an address, only had one terrible picture, and I could waste a whole night driving out there. Plus, it wasn’t nearly as cheap as I had hoped.

The worst night was when a co-worker and I drove around Bankers Hill calling every apartment building we saw. Out of at least 10 calls, only one called back. And it was selling condos — not renting.

Apparently, I was looking at the best possible time (end of September, beginning of October), according to Realtor Jason Cassity, who works with sellers and renters at City Consulting Group downtown.

“That last week and that first week of the month is going to have the most inventory,” he said.

But my problem continued to be a budget. I wanted to stick to it. Even though I would plug $1,350 a month into searches, I really didn’t mean it.

Sticker shock for renters like me in San Diego is the result of several factors, said Russ Valone, president of MarketPointe Realty Advisors. He said the lack of new homes being built has pushed buyers to purchase older houses that would have been used for rentals. Also the luxury apartments being built drive up rent and vacancy rates, allowing landlords ofolder properties to increase what they charge.

“You have to sort of look at it as a domino effect,” he said.

Cassity said he does not hear a lot of complaining about rents despite increases.

“I think downtown, specifically, you have a lot of young professionals who make money. They know (rent is) high, and higher than it’s been in the past, but at the same time they know they want to live in an urban environment,” he said.

There is some data to support expectations of renters but it does not necessarily reflect how happy they are about it. A September report from Apartment List found its users were typing $1,600 a month into a “max rent” form to start their search for a two-bedroom place. The median price for a two-bedroom is $1,900 on Apartment List so the study figured potential renters were not overly disappointed.

Having a cat, who basically adopted me at my first reporting job in New Jersey, turned out not to be a huge factor either. I didn’t even pay a pet deposit for my cat, Shanahan.

Cassity and San Diego County Apartment Association spokeswoman Molly Kirkland said pets are becoming less of an issue, especially those that are small. Many renters want pets so landlords are loosening restrictions.

Stories of renters going above and beyond for apartments are common, but not as prevalent in San Diego as one might think. Kirkland said she hasn’t seen potential renters offering cash upfront for places or many people renting before seeing units, but she has heard of people writing individual letters to landlords.

I eventually decided I wanted a place with parking because so many apartments I checked out required me to park blocks away. Kirkland said it is difficult to have expectations for parking in the city because it almost varies street to street.

I finally found a 300-square-foot studio I really liked near Morley Field in North Park for $1,100 a month. I had reservations because it was so small, but the price was right and it was close to work. It also has a large backyard — perfect for my cat — with a parking spot, which was a relief.

The apartment was recently refurbished with new cabinets and appliances. It is missing the amenities the modern man might expect — washer and dryer, oven, microwave, a bedroom — but it works for me. Just a few days in and I’m surprised how much I love it.

When asked what advice he could give new renters, a real estate economist with CoStar Group, Sam Tenenbaum, could not help but laugh.

“One of the things we like to say about San Diego is it is perennially under-housed,” he said. “We’re tracking vacancies south of 3 percent . . . ‘Good luck’ is probably the best advice we could give.”

© Copyright 2015 The San Diego Union-Tribune. All rights reserved.


If you are tired of throwing high rent out the window each month or have friends that are doing it-let’s compare/contrast the cost of owning vs. renting.  In many cases it will cost the same or less to own and with ownership comes tax advantages, equity building and pride of ownership (you can paint your walls any color you want!). Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.


6 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On

October 8, 2015





Article by: Jamie Wiehe, ClientDirect


OK, we’ve said it time and again, but it bears repeating: Buying a home is a very big expense—and once you’ve kicked off all that spending, it’s easy to find yourself caught up in rampant lifestyle inflation. After all, you’ve got an enormous, shiny new house just waiting to be filled with all sorts of nice stuff, right?

Well, take some quick advice: Don’t keep spending.

Homeownership comes with its fair share of unique costs—property taxes and urgent repairs and energy bills, oh my. There’s no need to add to their cost by shelling out for unnecessary expenses. Here are six major cash outlays that buyers can avoid.

Too much house

This one requires some thought before you actually nail the deal: How much house do you really need? Just because you’re pre-approved for a hefty purchase price doesn’t mean you should go as big as you can.

“The house that you can afford with the money you’re lent can make the budget go out of whack,” says Andrew Gipner, a financial adviser at Longview Financial Advisors in Huntsville, AL.

Not sure where to trim? Consider having less closet space, buying fewer bedrooms, or—especially—eliminating a formal dining room.

“You don’t use the dining room nearly as often as you think,” says Noelle Hans-Daniels, a Sotheby’s Realtor® in Indianapolis. “It’s kind of a wasted space.”

Fixing up your outdoor space ASAP

Once you close on your home and move in, you might be itching to host your first late-season barbecue. Or maybe you’ve been dreaming about a koi pond, like, forever. But hold on: Updating your outdoor space shouldn’t be your first priority, especially if you’re tight on cash. Unlike couches and beds, which are essential to a functioning house, landscaping and decor can be put on pause.

That goes double if you’re building new: According to Hans-Daniels, building your backyard at the same time as your home can cost “a lot more than if you did it after the fact.”

So exercise some caution before committing: Try pricing out your plans with a landscape contractor, and consider rolling them out in phases.

Old, outdated insurance

Still using the same company that offered you renters insurance seven years ago? It might be time for a change. Shop around.

“You may stay with the same company, but you may find something that’s a little better price for the same thing,” Gipner says. “Sometimes, people may not want to shop around or may be married to a particular company.”

Just because the same company had a good deal on auto or renters insurance doesn’t mean it’s the best fit to protect your home. Go through all your options with a fine-toothed comb, looking for a deal that won’t crush you financially but also leaves your house and its belongings secure.

After all, now it’s not just your stuff—it’s your roof, yard, and foundation you have to protect, too.

Space-filling stuff

If you’re moving from an apartment, chances are good you’re astounded by how much space you have. There’s another bedroom and a dining room and … yet another bedroom!

Don’t feel like you have to fill it all at once. Give yourself—and your home—time for personality to emerge.

“A lot of people will go out and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to fill this space and buy stuff,’” Gipner says. “I’m not against possessions, but the way some people do it can be seriously detrimental to their finances.”

Instead of immediately stuffing the TV room with a generic, new couch and coffee table, wait it out. See what you really need and what you really like. In the meantime, stick the money you save into a renovation fund.

Extended warranties

Many homes don’t come with appliances installed, so first-time homeowners might find themselves making large purchases (like a dishwasher or refrigerator).

Here’s a tip: You don’t need the extended warranty.

“I’m against them,” Gipner says. “What are the chances everything you own is going to break or not work anymore?”

Yes, something might break within the relatively slim service window—but the money you’ll spend fixing one thing will be far less than the extended warranties on all the things. Your average warranty costs about $123 for major appliances, according to Consumer Reports, and a single repair costs not much more (and might not even be covered). Just risk it—you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

Yard maintenance

Having your own yard is definitely exciting, and while it’s important to keep it healthy and watered, you don’t need to go overboard. Resist the pressure to hire additional help for your yard—even if you’ve lucked into an HOA that covers it.

“You can still be part of an HOA and cut your own grass,” Gipner says. “You don’t have to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to come out and cut your grass.”

Don’t be tempted by the sales pitches you’ll inevitably receive after your purchase goes through. A gorgeous lawn is achievable—and it can be done all on your own. Really.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Married to Your Mortgage?

October 1, 2015






Every homeowner has mortgage payments on the brain. Whether it’s a 15- or 30-year term, standard, fully amortizing mortgages are designed so that homeowners pay off the balance over the life of the loan. This means that homeowners with a 15-year term will make 180 payments – double that to 360 for a 30-year term.

Homeownership, like marriage, is not a commitment to be taken lightly.

“Buying a home is one of the most important purchases a consumer will make in their lifetime,” says John Schleck, Centralized Sales & Online Exec, Bank of America, noting that when planning a financial future, it’s important to look at the big picture in order to achieve goals.

Homeowners may not be in it for life (like marriages ought to be), but they are in it for the long haul. If you want to pay off your mortgage as soon as possible, consider adopting one of these strategies.

Pay off other debts first. It sounds counterproductive, but it’s important to be in good standing financially before attempting to pre-pay a mortgage.

“I always recommend that credit cards, which normally have high interest rates, be paid first,” says Joe Petrowsky, owner of Right Trac Financial Group. “Pay off the smallest account, then continue with the next lowest balance, so that they’re paid at an accelerated rate. Credit cards first, installment debts next.”

This method makes the most sense in terms of financial health. The sooner smaller debts are paid off, the sooner you’ll be able to allot more of your income to pre-paying a mortgage.

Break up your monthly payments. Another strategy to pay off your mortgage sooner involves paying multiple times per month. Many lenders offer loan repayment programs in biweekly or bimonthly installments. Over the course of a loan, biweekly plans typically save more, because you end up paying an extra month each year – paying half of your monthly payment every other week (for 26 weeks a year) adds up to 13 full payments, rather than 12. Biweekly payments are credited monthly, so there aren’t any interest savings, but it does shorten the life of a loan considerably.

Borrowers on a bimonthly plan pay the same amount they would on a biweekly plan, but the payments must be made on the 1st and 15th of each month. This equates to 24 bimonthly periods in a year; compare that to the 26 biweekly payments you’d be making in the previous scenario, and it’s clear that a bimonthly payment plan has little effect on how soon your mortgage is paid off.

Increase your monthly payments. “The simplest way to pre-pay a mortgage is to pay as much additional money to the regular mortgage payment,” Petrowsky says. “Most folks add a specific amount, but others pay the amount of extra money they have available each month.”

There are a variety of ways you can increase your payments, depending on your goals and budget. Talk with your lender to ensure these payments are applied to the principal, not the interest.

The round-up method – Rounding up your monthly payments to the nearest hundred could significantly shave months off your loan. Most homeowners round up when they’re budgeting anyway, so it’s unlikely you’ll miss those few extra dollars.

The 1/12 method – Interestingly enough, you can achieve the same result of biweekly payments (without the biweekly burden) by adding a 12th of your monthly payment to each month. For simplicity’s sake, if your monthly payment is usually $840, adding a 1/12 of that every month ($70) will add up to one more month paid off each year.

The $1 dollar method – For a virtually painless strategy, add one more dollar to each monthly payment. You may be thinking this won’t amount to much, but staying consistent with this method actually does pay your mortgage off sooner.

It’s important to note that the success of these strategies depend entirely on your specific loan. Be sure to speak with your mortgage lender to find out which method will work best for you.

Article by: Suzanne De Vita, RISMedia

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Millennials’ Obstacles to Buying A Home

September 24, 2015
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The Home Seller’s Guide to Understanding Comparable Sales

September 17, 2015



When looking at square footage and amenities, comparing apples-to-apples (or avocados to avocados) is the only way to fairly value your home. - Courtesy: Trulia

When looking at square footage and amenities, comparing apples-to-apples (or avocados to avocados) is the only way to fairly value your home.


Comparing your home with other similar homes is the only way to truly determine the right list price. Forget finding a real estate agent, working on renovations, and home staging: Choosing the right asking price may be the hardest part of selling your home.

If you’ve done your research, you know that not just any number will do: If you overprice your home, it will sit idle on the market, and if you underprice it, you’ll miss out on cash and equity that could’ve been earned in the sale.

So think like a buyer and scope out other homes that are for sale or have recently sold in your neighborhood. Use Trulia to get familiar with what homes are listed for (and selling for) nearby, then swing by a few nearby open houses.

But before you head out the door and start comparing your home with the rest of your neighborhood, heed these tips when looking for comparable sales.

1. Compare apples to apples

Analyzing comps entails some detective work, since chances are, your house isn’t exactly like every other on the block. Wade through the comparable homes and find one that is most like yours. Then use the following list to make note of what similar homes have that yours doesn’t, and what your home has that others lack.

Square footage. This is significant for most buyers. When it comes to pricing, the bigger the property, the bigger the price tag.

Age and condition. Newer homes don’t necessarily command higher prices (neither do vintage ones), but condition relative to age does factor into price. When you compare your home with others, stay within a five-year range.

Number of bedrooms and baths. How many your home has — and where they’re located — can radically change the price.

Amenities. The more perks you have, such as walk-in closets, a pool, spa, gourmet kitchen, and so on, the higher the price.

Lot size. The exact acreage of your land correlates to price. When you compare your home with others, stay within 0.5 acre.

Condition. A teardown, a fixer-upper, updated, or pristine — the condition of your house can be a deal maker or a deal breaker. Pay close attention to other homes’ upgrades to make a fair assessment of how they affect value.

Location. This factor is multifaceted. It relates not only to your state, city, and neighborhood but also to where your house sits on the street. Does it face an eyesore or busy intersection? Does it have a view? Does it get nearby freeway noise or sit on the bank of a tranquil lake? Don’t forget to take these location nuances into consideration.

2. Don’t look back (too far)

The price of your home today can’t be compared with the selling price of your neighbor’s identical home six months ago. If you’re looking at comps further back than three months, dump them. Your house could be worth more. In fact, in some of the fastest-sales-pace cities, such as New York, Miami, and San Diego, homes move so rapidly that sellers should look only at the prior 60 days of sales, if possible.

3. Go online and check prices

Research what homes have recently sold for in your neighborhood by searching for your ZIP code and selecting “sold” from the filters menu on Trulia. Just be sure to think of the info as a ballpark guide — not an exact number.

4. Check out the competition in person

Ask your real estate agent to recommend homes you should drive by or open houses you should attend. It’s important for you as a home seller to know what’s out there. Find out up close and in person how your home stacks up against the competition.

5. Study list vs. sale prices

The difference in percentage between list prices and actual sale prices for the homes in your neighborhood speaks volumes about the current real estate climate. This number strongly indicates which direction the market is moving in, and it will suggest how much under — or over — your ideal asking price you can expect to get for your home.

Anyone can throw a house on the market at a high price. But the number you want to look at closely is the sale price of the home, which is much more indicative of the actual value.

6. Know what’s not selling

You can learn a lot by observing not only what is selling nearby but also what’s not selling. Is a home that initially looks like a comp really overpriced for what it offers? How does it compare with your house? What is it lacking that yours isn’t? Once you identify why it’s not selling at its current price, you can avoid the same mistake when determining your own home’s price tag.

Article from:  Trulia


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Homeowners’ Insurance: 7 Things to Consider Before Signing

September 10, 2015



Homeowner sInsurance


For most of us, our home is the center of our world. It’s where family and friends meet and where we bring our dreams to life. It’s also one of the most expensive investments you’ll ever make — and so it’s important to make sure it’s protected.

A homeowners’ insurance policy helps cover damage from fire, lightning, windstorms, hail, explosions, smoke, vandalism, and many types of theft. And if you’re forced out of your property because of covered damage, your homeowners’ coverage may also help pay for additional living expenses such as a hotel while the repairs are being made.

But before you secure homeowners’ insurance, make sure you know what you need to do to keep your policy up to date.

What is replacement cost?

Replacement cost is an estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild your home the way it was before a total loss. It’s extremely important that the dwelling coverage figure listed in your policy will cover the costs of rebuilding your home.

Many homeowners incorrectly assume that if a home is insured for its estimated market value, assessed value, or cost to construct new, they’ll have adequate coverage if their home is destroyed.

However, replacement cost is not the same as market value.

When you buy your home, you may initially insure it accurately, but what if you then forget to notify your insurance agent after making significant improvements such as remodeling or replaced appliances, furnace, etc.? These items will often affect a home’s replacement cost.

The bottom line: Make sure your insurance policy will provide the necessary coverage to protect your dreams.

Why is it so expensive to rebuild?

Here are seven factors that can make rebuilding a damaged home more costly than you might expect.

1. Site access

Rebuilding a damaged or destroyed home amid existing structures often means limited access for large equipment due to trees, fences, sheds … the list goes on. If access is difficult, costlier labor may be needed.

2. Site preparation

A badly damaged structure may need to be — sigh — demolished. At the very least, debris from the damage needs to be collected and removed before rebuilding can begin. Either way, professionals will need to prepare the site, and that costs money.

3. Economies of scale

Contractors who build many homes during a short period gain significant volume discounts from material suppliers and skilled workers. When they’re rebuilding or repairing an existing home, these economies of scale might swing out of your favor, resulting in higher rebuild costs.

4. Custom features and materials

Older homes in particular may have custom features and materials that are expensive, if not impossible, to duplicate or acquire today.

5. Inflation rate

The cost of building materials often increases at a higher rate than other products and significantly faster than the general rate of inflation. What it might have cost to rebuild your home even just a few years ago could be vastly different in the current market.

6. Supply and demand

If several homes close by are damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster, local construction costs may rise in response to the increase in demand.

7. Property protection

Any remaining property and personal belongings on the site must be safeguarded against further damage or vandalism. This may require placing some personal property in temporary storage.

Of course, every situation is unique. These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards. If you have questions, your biggest resource is your insurance agent. They can help review your coverage, make sure your policy is up to date, and offer committed support to ensure your home is always fully protected.

Article by: American Family

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Who’s responsible for defects discovered after closing?

September 3, 2015

Home buyers who buy during the dry season can be in for an unpleasant surprise when the roof leaks or the basement floods after the first rain. Who is responsible for damage caused by water intrusion and for making the necessary repairs to prevent it from happening again?

It’s possible that you are responsible if information about potential water intrusion was disclosed to you before you closed the sale and you accepted the property in its “as is” condition regarding this.

For example, if there are trees overhanging the roof gutters, and the sellers and your home inspector told you the gutters need to be kept free of debris, you probably won’t get very far asking the sellers to repair roof leaks if it turns out they were caused by your lack of maintenance. When gutters get clogged, water can back up and run into the house.

The first thing you should do if you discover a defect after closing that you think is either a new condition or something you’re sure has happened in the past is to look through the inspection reports and disclosures, if there were any, to see if you were made aware of this before you bought.

Plenty of paperwork is generated during today’s home-sale transactions, but many buyers and sellers are prone to recycle most of it as soon as the sale closes. It’s a good idea to reduce the amount of paper, but not the critical information you’ll need for tax purposes, such as your settlement statement and documentation of the property’s condition.

Ideally, the purchase contract and addenda, any disclosures and all inspection reports should be burned to a CD for your records before recycling the paper copies.

What should you do if you clean the gutters but the roof still leaks during the next rain? Did you have the roof inspected before you bought? Was maintenance recommended? Did you have the work done? If so, call the roofer. If the seller hired a roofer to maintain the roof, make sure you have documentation that identifies the work that was done, and contact that roofer.

Dealing with defects discovered after closing is not always black and white.

For example, let’s say the sellers told you that they occasionally found a small amount of water in the basement after a heavy rain.

In fact, the basement floods when it rains so that it can’t be used for storage, and the flooding is rusting the bottom of the furnace and the hot water heater. A fix for a problem like this could be expensive if it requires a new drainage system.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Your purchase contract should detail how disputes will be dealt with if they can’t be solved by the parties involved or with the help of their real estate agents.

Some contracts call for disputes to be mediated before they are either resolved through arbitration or in court. In any event, you should contact a knowledgeable real estate attorney for answers to any questions regarding who’s responsible for defects disclosed after closing.

Be sure to hire the best inspectors you can find in your area. Disclosure requirements vary from state to state. Also, many buyers buy bank-owned or estate-sale properties where there typically aren’t thorough disclosures because the owners didn’t occupy the property and may be exempt from providing disclosures.

A good home inspector would see signs of flooding in the basement, such as bubbling paint on the foundation walls, rust on the bottom of the furnace, and water stains, unless they have been intentionally covered up by the seller. If the home inspector recommends hiring a drainage specialist to look at the property, be sure to follow through with this.

THE CLOSING: It’s best to resolve property defect issues before closing, if possible.

Dian Hymer is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

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