How to Choose Where to Buy

Silicon Valley is filled with a range of exciting communities that appeal to homebuyers from all over the world. So which one should you consider buying your home in?

Narrowing the list of communities in which you would like to make your home is a process of elimination. The first factor to consider? Affordability. Click here for a guide to determine how much house you can afford.

Now that you have that number in hand, find the communities that make this first cut. The fastest way to do this is to work closely with a real estate agent like Julie, who has access to hundreds of properties through the MLS, as well as in-depth knowledge of the pricing in respect to each community. By giving your agent the price range you can afford, you may be able to immediately identify the communities where your budget will best be applied.

Once your agent provides you with a list of communities that match your price range, it’s time to narrow your choices according to your priorities, values, and overall lifestyle. Current needs and future expectations for your family all come into play at this point. To effectively make these decisions, click here (link to First-Time Homebuyers: Finding The Perfect Neighborhood For Your First Home).

Let’s say you end up with a list of five communities that meet your criteria. What then?

Research further to determine which of these areas are likely to experience the greatest appreciation in value. Again, working alongside Julie or another experienced agent will provide you with a wealth of information in terms of real estate appreciation. Click here for pointers. 

Any experienced agent will urge you to keep an eye on growing trends which could turn a second-tier city into a first-tier city. High prices in the latter category are forcing many homebuyers and investors to consider second-tier cities in search for better value, as reported by Forbes.

This is especially the case for millennials, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, are fleeing first-tier cities and heading to the suburbs in high-density areas like the Bay Area in search of more affordable housing.

Here’s a suggested chart to help your search:

Affordable Good Schools Safety Convenient Amenities Promising Development Plans Appreciation Expectations
Community A
Community B
Community C
Community D
Community E


Once you’ve narrowed your list further, it’s time for a second, third, even fourth date with your final candidates. Some people go to the length of renting a house (short-term) in their chosen area to get a deeper feel for the community. Your agent will be able to assist you in weighing all pros and cons, allowing you to finally determine where your next home should be.


Consider Julie and her expert team as your matchmakers. Our wealth of experience and nuanced knowledge of the market and communities in the Bay Area will help you make the right choice when it comes to selecting your home.

We look forward to helping you with any home buying questions you may have. Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

Which Areas Will Have The Greatest Appreciation

Much like investing in a particular stock, or buying or starting a business, investing in real estate requires a comprehensive due-diligence process to not only identify the best opportunities for value appreciation, but also understand the inherent risk factors.

The main factors which drive real estate values are:

  • The economy
  • Land values
  • Supply and demand
  • Future development plans
  • Building restrictions and legislation

The Economy

Most relevant to the housing market are interest rates which establish the cost of borrowing money. When interest rates rise, homes become less affordable pushing prices lower.

Interest rates are set by the US Federal Reserve in response to market forces and in fulfillment of its statutory objectives established by Congress: maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

For a closer look at short-term trends in interest rates, click here.

Land Values

Many first-time homebuyers believe the physical characteristics of a house will lead to increased property value, says Robert Stammers, director of investor engagement at CFA Institute. But in reality, a property’s physical structure tends to depreciate over time, while the land it sits on typically appreciates in value. Although this distinction may seem trivial, understanding how prospective land values influence property returns lets investors make better choices.

Land appreciates because it’s in limited supply. Consequently, as the population increases, so does the demand for land, driving its price up over time.

If you have the option of buying a larger, nicer house on a smaller piece of land, or a smaller, less luxurious building on a larger piece of land for the same amount of money, go for the latter. This will bring you more real estate appreciation in the long run.

Supply & Demand

Like any product or service, home prices are subject to the law of supply and demand.

For the past 10 years, California new home construction has lagged far behind the growth of the state’s population. Averaging less than 80,000 new homes annually, it is well below the projected housing needs of 180,000 per year. Through 2025, one of the highest percentages of household growth is expected to occur here in the Bay Area (22%).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 population growth estimates, the 10 fastest-growing cities and towns in the Bay Area between 2016 and 2017 were:


Percent Increase

Rio Vista
















San Carlos




An August 2017 report by the San Francisco Business Times shows that the 10 Bay Area cities with the fastest housing appreciation over the past five years aren’t traditionally the most sought-after communities and have seen housing prices grow by more than 15% over the time period. Cities like Richmond, Pittsburg, and Antioch have seen some of the highest increases regionally, yet still have median home prices under $500,000.

Trulia Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin said the recent housing appreciation in these communities makes sense when considering some of these areas are still shaking off the aftershocks of the Great Recession.

“The big picture here is that the more affordable areas are the ones that have seen the most price appreciation,” McLaughlin said. “Those areas were the ones that were hit the hardest by the housing crash, and working-class homeowners were the ones most disproportionately affected by the housing foreclosure crisis.”

A vast majority of the cities with the greatest housing appreciation are in the East Bay, but two of the markets that have led the charge are working-class enclaves adjacent to wealthy communities on the Peninsula. East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks (next to Redwood City) are adjacent to cities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton, where median home values are well over $1 million. Both have seen home value appreciation in excess of 18 percent over the past five years but have demographics and histories that more closely mirror other high-appreciation cities rather than their neighboring communities.

Determining which areas are likely to have the greatest appreciation in the future requires an ongoing analysis that contrasts annual building permits (supply) with household growth projections (demand).


Annual Building Permits

Annual Estimates of Resident Population Change

California’s Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities

Future Development Plans

While supply and demand are key forces driving real estate prices, future government and commercial development plans can also have a significant impact.

Buying a house in a not very lively suburb which is scheduled to undergo major infrastructural and commercial developments (connection to a city hub, new schools, hospitals, banks, restaurants, etc.) in the next 5-10 years, will likely experience greater appreciation in value (See: Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy for the San Francisco Bay area 2013-2040)

A close eye should also be kept on initiatives by major Bay Area corporations to alleviate housing shortages, such as Google’s announced plans to invest $1 billion dollars in land and money to construct housing in the Bay Area over the next decade.

Building Restrictions & Legislation

With the exception of one irregularly enforced state law, land use planning in California is a local process—and one that affords opponents of change ample opportunity to stall, stymie, or scale down, report Matt Levin and Ben Christopher for  The toolkit of local obstruction includes zoning restrictions, lengthy project design reviews, the California Environmental Quality Act, parking and other amenity requirements, and multi-hurdled approval processes.

Areas with more restrictive development regulations and/or well-organized opposition to future housing development will continue experiencing supply shortages and appreciation in real estate values.

However, with pressure mounting on the California Legislature to alleviate the state’s affordable housing shortage, real estate investors must keep a close watch on legislation initiatives which would increase supply and keep a lid on future price appreciation.

Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot initiative that caps how much local governments collect from property taxes, dilutes a city’s incentive to build new housing. Because property taxes are capped, local governments have become increasingly reliant on other revenue sources. Vacant land, for example, is much more valuable to the city’s coffers if a big box retailer gets built on it, as opposed to a multifamily apartment building.

This could change.

In August 2018, a coalition of social justice organizations, affordable housing advocates, and teachers unions, announced they had submitted signatures for a measure that would change a key provision in Proposition 13 that would significantly increase property taxes on California businesses and generate tens of billions in revenue for local and state governments.

The initiative is likely to qualify for the 2020 ballot.


Julie and her team of experts are ready to help you achieve your home buying goals, even advising you on the locations where you can find the best appreciation.


We look forward to helping you with any real estate appreciation questions you may have. Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

How To Find The Best Mortgage & Get Prequalified

Now that you’ve determined how much house you can afford (link to “Figuring Out How Much House You Can Afford”), it’s time to shop for a mortgage loan and get prequalified. Prequalification is a non binding promise from a lender about how much money you may borrow. Prequalification can lead to preapproval, which is a binding contract between you and a lender.

However, before you begin, it is essential you familiarize yourself with the marketplace and its terminology.

“What always astounds us,” says Hugh Frater, CEO of Fannie Mae, “is that more than 90% of homebuyer education is accessed AFTER the buyer has an accepted offer. There is inadequate consumer education around what it means to buy a home, and what it means to get a mortgage.”

“Many homebuyers get intimidated by the mortgage process and just go with whatever is easiest—usually what their local bank is offering,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for “Smart buyers shop around to uncover the lowest offers.”

Julie and her team will help you shop wisely, arming you with the knowledge to negotiate the best deal possible.

Basic Mortgage Loans

  1. Conventional/Fixed Rate

Known as a plain-vanilla mortgage, a conventional fixed rate loan offers an unchanging monthly payment, with 15 and 30 years being the most common terms. With a locked-in rate, you’ll always know what your payment will be. This is the best route for those who prefer constancy and predictability. If you’re planning to stay in your home for at least a decade, a 30-year fixed-rate loan is your best bet. If you can afford higher payments, consider a 15-year fixed-rate loan which features a lower interest rate and could save you thousands over the life of the loan. 

  1. Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

ARMs begin with a fixed interest rate for a specified period of time, then the rate is adjusted periodically—usually once a year—based on the cost of borrowing money. A common ARM is the 5/1 loan in which the interest is fixed for the first 5 years and adjusted thereafter. Because ARM interest rates start lower than fixed-rate loans, they are most often chosen by first-time homebuyers to boost their buying power.

  1. Interest-Only

Interest-only mortgages allow the borrower to pay only the interest portion of the loan during the first 5 or 10 years. The monthly loan payments are subsequently increased to pay both interest and principal.

  1. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

Designed for low-to-moderate income borrowers, FHA loans require lower down payments (3.5% and 10%) and lower credit scores than conventional loans. Currently, a credit score of at least 580 will allow you borrow up to 96.5% of the value of a home. A credit score between 500 and 579 will require a 10% down payment.

Finding The Best Mortgage

Once you’ve run your numbers and decided on the type of loan that best suits your needs, it’s time to shop around.

When doing this, leave no stone unturned.

1. Start by comparing current mortgage rates and best deals at

2. Next, shop for a mortgage at a variety of lenders, including your bank, mortgage brokers, online originators like Quicken Loans, and aggregators like Lending Tree.

3. Call or visit your local credit unions and community banks. Smaller lenders typically have better rates for ARMs and offer better terms and rates to people with variable income streams, like the self-employed.

4. Once you’ve found the best deal, it’s time to gather your information and complete the necessary paperwork. While information requirements vary by lender, refer to this basic checklist.

5. After you’re prequalified, your next step is to get pre-approved. Getting pre-approved is almost like applying for a real loan, but it happens before you select a home. This is an in-depth process, and you’ll need to submit paperwork about your income, assets, employment history, and residency status. Refer to Zillow’s checklist of what’s usually required.


Julie and her team of experts are ready to help you achieve your home buying goals. We will prepare you with all the necessary info, and even recommend tried-and-true financial professionals with competitive rates.

We look forward to helping you with any real estate financing questions you may have. Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

Financing Options For Purchasing A Larger Home



As of 2018, household net worth was at an all-time high of $100.3 trillion, nearly double the level in 2008 when wealth was devastated by the recession.

“Affluent households have greatly benefited from strong growth in the stock market in recent years, and the steady rise in home prices has likely given them reassurance that real estate remains an attractive long-term investment,” says Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors. 

Commenting on the growing trend of second home purchases, Yun says it “reflects long-term growth in the numbers of baby boomers moving closer to retirement and buying second homes to convert into their primary home in a few years.”

The impressive gains in household net worth and investment portfolios are allowing young families and near-retirees alike the opportunity to move up into larger homes. Since purchasing a second home before selling an existing, primary residence offers many advantages (Homesellers, Owner-Occupied VS. Vacant Homes), move-up buyers are using a variety of financing options.

Partially Liquidating Investment Portfolios

Some people are selling part of their investment portfolios (stocks, bonds, etc.) to lock-in the significant gains in the stock market while freeing-up cash for the down payment or outright (cash) purchase of a second home. Liquidating part, or all of your portfolio, however, has tax implications you should review with your investment broker and tax advisor before proceeding.

Using An Investment Portfolio As Collateral

You can borrow against your stock portfolio by taking out a securities-based line of credit or SBLOC. A typical SBLOC agreement permits you to borrow from 50 to 95% of the value of the assets in your investment account depending on the value of your overall holdings and the types of assets in the account. SBLOCs generally allow you to borrow as little as $100,000 and up to $5 million. Click here for more information.

401(K) Loans

Technically, 401(k) loans are not true loans because they do not involve either a lender or an evaluation of your credit history. They are more accurately described as the ability to access a portion of your own retirement plan money—usually up to $50,000 or 50% of the assets, whichever is less—on a tax-free basis.

Conventional wisdom advises against withdrawing funds from your 401(k) early; however, borrowing from yourself is different from withdrawing funds permanently and does not incur the same tax penalties as withdrawing funds. If you fail to repay your loan within the allotted timeframe, it will be treated as a taxable withdrawal.

Using Existing Homes As Collateral

By means of a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, you can borrow up to 85% of your primary home’s value, minus the amount you owe on your existing mortgage loan. To get a home equity line of credit, you’ll typically need a debt-to-income ratio in the lower 40s or less, a credit score of 620 or higher, and home value that’s at least 15% more than you owe.

This type of loan is different from your primary mortgage in that you don’t get a lump sum. Instead, the loan acts as an on-call line of credit from which you can take out sums at any time during the withdrawal period and only required to pay interest until the end of the term. Note, however, that the interest rate is almost always variable. Click here for more information.

Cash-Out Refinancing

A cash-out refinance replaces your existing mortgage with a new home loan for more than you owe on your house. The difference goes to you in cash, and you can spend it on home improvements, debt consolidation, or other financial needs. You must have equity built up in your house to use a cash-out refinance. Click here to learn the differences between a cash-out refinance and a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

Can We Help?

When considering the different financing options at your disposal, make sure you contact your investment and tax advisors to choose the right one. Julie and her team are ready with excellent tax professionals we can recommend to you if needed.

For more information on how we can help with your move-up needs, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.


Finding The Right Time To Buy A House

Unless you are an investor, purchasing a home is much more than a financial transaction. It evokes the same exhilarating emotions of when proclaiming “I do” in marriage—after all, it is a committed response to our desire for stability, belonging, and communion.

More than simply a “house,” our home is a refuge from the world. A storehouse for future memories. The cradle and launchpad for our children’s dreams. Our sunny patch in the world in which to sink roots. The cozy, nurturing womb of friendship and camaraderie. A sacred space of arrival. A safe harbor.

Like marriage, the timing for buying a house is when we are ready to entwine our roots in a community and landscape which resonate with our unique lifestyle and innermost needs and values. It is a decision with an expanded horizon.

Charged with such profound human emotions, it is imperative to approach this decision with a clear head, wide-open eyes, and the guidance of a real estate professional familiar with the many pitfalls into which far too many buyers—especially first-timers—usually fall into. You need a trusted ally who will place your interests and desires ahead of the sale.

Based on our vast experience developed over decades in this industry, we have devised a roadmap that has come in handy while helping scores of families acquire their first homes. Below are the essential pieces that must be in place before you are ready to say “I do” to your first home:

Familiarity & Long-Term Commitment

You’ve taken the time to become intimately acquainted with the community, neighborhood, schools, open spaces, amenities, etc. of your chosen location, and are ready to make a long-term commitment. Your time-horizon should be no less than five years. Don’t buy for the life you have today. Reflect on your long-term plans. If you’re not yet certain, consider renting for a while to further your exploration.

Job Stability

Your source of income must be stable and with solid future prospects. Not having steady work for the last two years could potentially impact your eligibility for a mortgage loan.


  • You have saved enough for a 20% down payment which will lower your monthly payments, and, in most cases, eliminate the need to carry private mortgage insurance.  
  • Your debt payments – credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and future mortgage – must not exceed 36% of your gross monthly income.
  • You have enough cash to cover moving expenses, furnishings, and potential improvements to your new home.

Financial House In Order

  • Your credit score is the first thing a mortgage lender will check to determine your eligibility. For a conventional mortgage loan, your FICO score should not be lower than 620. Before applying for a loan, check your credit score and, if needed, take steps to improve it.
  • Make sure your tax filings are up to date. Lenders generally expect to see one to two years’ worth of tax returns.
  • Lenders will also require bank statements and proof of income (W-2s, paystubs, etc.) from the past one to two months.

Whatever you do, don’t buy a house simply because:

  • Mortgage rates are low.
  • Someone told you it’s a good investment.
  • You just graduated and got a job.
  • Most of your friends are doing it.

Choosing a home is one of the most important choices you can make in life. As much as it is part of the American Dream, it can also turn into a nightmare.

Julie and her team of experts are ready to safely guide you through the process and ensure you make the right decision.

We look forward to helping you with your home buying questions. Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

Financially Preparing To Buy Your First Home

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Having made a thoughtful decision to buy a home (link to “Homebuyers: Finding The Right Time To Buy A Home”) and after calculating how much you can afford (link to “Homebuyers: Figuring Out How Much House You Can Afford”), it is time to sharpen your ax and prepare your personal finances. This foresight will ensure you can cover the upfront costs and obtain the most favorable terms on your mortgage loan.

Upfront Costs

  • A 20% down payment will lower your monthly payments and, in most cases, eliminate the need to carry private mortgage insurance.
  • Closing costs include a variety of expenses above the purchase price of your property, such as attorney fees, title search, title insurance, taxes, lender costs, and some upfront expenses such as homeowner’s insurance. The amount you’ll pay varies according to the size of your loan and tax laws in your area. Closing costs are average between 2% and 5% of the purchase price.
  • While moving costs are dependent on the amount of furniture, appliances, and other household items you currently own, average costs for local relocation within the Bay Area are below:
    • 1-bedroom home: $200-$500, 3-5 hours of labor
    • 2-bedroom home: $375-$750, 5-6 hours of labor
    • 3-bedroom home: $800-$1,500, 7-10 hours of labor
    • 4-bedroom home (and up): $1,000-$2,000, 10+ hours of labor

The hourly cost of labor varies widely among moving companies, so it is helpful to get a few estimates from different companies for a more accurate idea of expected costs.

Because Julie has collaborated with many different moving companies when assisting her clients with relocations, she has several prospects she can recommend to you.

  • Minor repairs and additional furnishings should also be considered. Cosmetic issues and normal wear-and-tear are not usually the responsibility of the seller, so keep some money aside for minor repairs. If you’re moving to a larger space, make a list and price out any additional furnishings.    

Most Favorable Loan Terms

  • Your credit score is the first thing a mortgage lender will check to determine your eligibility. For a conventional mortgage loan, your FICO score should not be lower than 620. Before applying for a loan, check your credit score and, if needed, take steps to improve it.
  • The 28/36 rule is generally used by lenders when considering a conventional loan. The 28/36 rule states that a household should spend no more than 28% of its gross monthly income on total housing costs, and no more than 36% on all debt which includes total housing costs plus other recurring debt payments. Taking steps to reduce the amount of these other recurring debt payments—car loans, student loans, and credit cards—will bring you closer to meeting the 28/36 rule. Before applying for a loan, keep these tips in mind:
    • Lower your monthly student loan payments by: (a) extending your repayment plan, (b) opting for a graduated payment plan, (c) enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan, (d) consolidating your student loans, or (e) refinancing at a lower interest rate (for details, click here and here). If your student loans are being paid by a third party (such as your parents), lenders will not consider them when calculating your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.
    • Banks will exclude your car loan from your recurring debt payments when only nine months (or less) are left to pay it off.
    • Whenever possible, pay off your credit card debt. If you don’t have the cash at hand, consider borrowing from your 401K plan. While lenders won’t consider this new loan as part of your DTI, it is good practice to disclose it during negotiations.
    • Avoid taking on more debt until after you close on your loan.

Discover more about your debt-to-income ratio here.

Julie and her team of experts are ready to help you sharpen your ax and prepare you to achieve your dream of homeownership. We look forward to helping you with your home buying questions.

Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

Buy Before Sell? Or Sell Before Buy

The answer to this chicken-or-egg dilemma can be summarized in three words: “It all depends.”

The determining factors are these two things:

  1. Your finances, and
  2. Prevailing market conditions.


Buying Before You Sell

In a competitive environment, with continued home-value appreciation like the one prevailing in the Bay Area, it makes sense to buy before you sell.

You won’t have to move twice, won’t be pressured to quickly pick a house that may not exactly be what you want, and you’ll be able to vacate your home and properly stage it (“Sellers: Owner-Occupied Vs. Vacant Homes”) to appeal to a greater number of buyers.

If you don’t have the cash reserves to make the down payment on your new home and temporarily cover two mortgages, you can use the built-up equity on your existing home to take out a line of credit, or HELOC, in which a lender promises to advance you a particular amount which you can draw upon as needed.

This type of loan is different from your primary mortgage in that you don’t get a lump sum. Instead, the loan acts as an on-call line of credit from which you can take out sums at any time during the withdrawal period. You are only required to pay interest until the end of the term.

However, note that the interest rate is almost always variable.


Selling Before You Buy

What if you have neither the cash nor the equity? 

  • Sell with contingencies.


Homeowners can sell their properties with contingencies built into their contracts, stating that they must be able to buy a replacement house, or the deal is off. The time limit is usually between 30 and 60 days.

However, a contingent agreement may include a kick-out clause allowing the seller to continue showing the house and “kick out” the buyer if the seller receives an offer from another buyer without a home sale contingency. Sellers are likely to view contingent offers as less attractive than those with no strings attached.

All things being equal in terms of the amount of the offer and credit qualifications, a would-be buyer making a contingent offer is likely to lose out if the seller also has an offer on the table from someone who is ready to fully commit. 

  1. Implement a rent-back agreement.

A rent-back agreement essentially lets you become the new buyer’s temporary tenant, giving you extra time to live in your home after closing. It doesn’t last for long, but it will give you a chance to close on your new home and pack up for the big move.

Of course, just like the previous contingency option, a rent-back requirement will likely get fewer offers. 

  1. Sell and hope for the best.

Since contingencies and rent-back agreements may place you at a disadvantage compared to other buyers, the alternative is to sell without conditional clauses. If you don’t have family or friends you can move in with in the meantime, then you can temporarily rent elsewhere.

This option can buy you plenty of time to focus on searching for your next home. Julie and her team can help with this too, as we’ve helped many of our satisfied clients find temporary housing while in between homes.


Can We Help?

Whatever your circumstances, Julie and her team will help you navigate through every option to choose the one that best meets your needs.

For more information on how we can help with your buying and selling needs, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

A Targeted Remodel Before Moving Up



Savvy Bay Area homeowners looking to purchase and move to a larger house are increasingly utilizing a new, targeted approach: remodeling their existing home to extract maximum value upon sale.

Rather than basing their choices on what they would like, they are considering renovations from the perspective of future buyers. At 83 million strong, those buyers are millennials, who, in 2019, made up the largest share of homebuyers according the National Association of Realtors.

The next generation of homeowners wants smart, stylish homes that enable them to connect with friends and family. 

– Jill Waage, Editorial Director at Better Homes & Gardens

With nearly three-quarters of this demographic preferring experiences over things, millennials—now representing one-third of the national population—are often referred to as the “Experiences Generation.” Thus, how a home “lives” and “feels” is becoming the blueprint for design and the vital criterion for home features. 

New Trends To Consider

  • Open-Concept Living


Millennials’ strong desire to connect and engage with people is breaking down the walls in interior home design, resulting in flexible, open-concept floorplans. For example, being raised on cooking shows and the “foodie” movement explains their strong desire for an open kitchen that faces a family room so they can engage with others during meal preparation. Front-row seats for family and friends to marvel at their culinary skills is another hot trend in kitchen design. Function over size is now the main driver.

  • Outdoor Entertaining


Outdoor spaces for entertaining are also now a “must-have” feature in multi-family and single-family homes. Three out of four millennials say outdoor space is important for entertaining ,and consider an outdoor living space an extension of the home and a relaxing retreat for family and friends to spend time together.

  • Working From Home


Savvy developers and designers are also responding to the growing trend in remote work. This conceptis revising workplace needs and enhancing a desired work/life balance by the upcoming generation. Future housing may contain design features that allow millennials the flexibility to work or play depending on the time of day. Living spaces may now double as workspaces with plenty of built-in storage to help maximize space and furniture that can serve more than one purpose. Smart, flexible, efficient, and minimalistic are now the guideposts for interior design.

  • Home Sustainability


Known also as the “Green Generation,” millennials continue to be most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings. Consequently, they’re more interested than ever in sustainable and regenerative features such as solar panels and dual-pane windows, as well as eco-friendly materials, including paint and floor coverings that don’t contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Energy Star appliances, LEED-compliant lighting, and organic materials such as wood and stone. Heating and cooling cost efficiencies are also top of mind with 33% of millennials saying they are a very important consideration.

Preferred Features

  • Eco-Friendly


Millennials’ concerns about the environment and desire for a closer connection to the natural world are driving their preferences for more organic materials that give the feeling of bringing the outdoors in. Tile in all its forms—from ceramic to stone—along with hardwood floors, river-rock shower flooring, rainfall showers, and quartz kitchen countertops, are among features being used by developers and designers to respond to the growing environmental awareness and concerns of their clients.

  • Minimalist


Perceptive developers are incorporating sleek, simple design lines, light/muted color palettes, and abundant natural light to respond to millennials’ desire for natural, harmonious, and uncluttered living spaces.

  • Technologically Advanced


More connected and tech-savvy than any previous generation, millennials also prefer homes to be pre-wired with plenty of electrical outlets that offer USB ports for charging their devices, ethernet ports for connecting wireless routers, and HDMI jacks for flat-panel televisions and home theater systems. Smart home technology is fast becoming an essential component in home design, offering this new generation what they want and need: greater automation, connectivity, and control.

Can We Help?

Whether you are ready to move-up to a larger home or just considering a remodel for the time being, Julie and her team of experts are ready to help. Our vast experience and high-quality network of contractors and providers will ensure you maximize your investment return while preparing your home for maximum buyer appeal when ready to sell. 

For more information on how we can help with your buying and selling needs, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.


Figuring Out How Much House You Can Afford

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Americans are an optimistic bunch. Consider a recent study from Bank of The West that found 85% of millennials are confident they’ll achieve the American Dream, of which owning a home is a big piece. Yet more than half of those surveyed don’t have a plan to actually get there, and once they start on the path, are often shocked at how much it costs. Not surprisingly, 68% reported buyer’s remorse, wishing they had been more prepared going into the purchase.

The last thing you want to do is jump into a home loan that’s too expensive for your budget, even if you can find a lender willing to underwrite the mortgage.

What You Should Consider

  1. The 28/36 Rule

Lenders generally use the 28/36 rule when considering a conventional loan. The 28/36 rule states that a household should spend no more than 28% of its gross monthly income on total housing costs, and no more than 36% on all debt which includes total housing costs plus other recurring debt payments.

The first part of the 28/36 rule requires your front-end ratio to be no more than 28%. The front-end ratio equals your monthly housing costs divided by your gross monthly income. Monthly housing costs, or PITI, include:

  • The principal and interest portion of your mortgage payment
  • Property taxes, and
  • Property and hazard insurance.

The second part of the 28/36 rule requires your back-end ratio to be no more than 36%. The back-end ratio equals your monthly housing costs (PITI) plus your other monthly debt payments (car loans, student loans, credit cards, etc.), divided by your gross monthly income. Where applicable, the back-end ratio also includes required child support or alimony payments.

Example: Add together the amount you and your spouse earn per month (before taxes) to determine your gross monthly income. Let’s say each of you earn $5,000.

Multiply your combined income by 0.28 to determine the maximum monthly housing costs (PITI) you can afford. In this example, you’d multiply $10,000 by 0.28 to get $2,800, which means you can afford up to $2,800 per month based on the front-end ratio.

Next, determine your and your spouse’s total monthly non-housing debt payments, such as car loans, student loans, credit cards, and alimony and child support. For this exercise, we’ll assume you and your spouse pay $1,000 in total monthly non-housing debt payments. Multiply your gross monthly income by 0.36 to determine the total monthly debt payments you can afford, including your mortgage payment and non-housing debt payments. Following the example, you’d multiply $10,000 by 0.36 to get $3,600, which means you can afford up to $3,600 per month in total debt payments.

Subtract your monthly non-housing debt payments from your result to determine the maximum monthly mortgage payment you can afford based on the back-end debt-to-income ratio. In this example, subtract $1,000 from $3,600 to get a $2,600 maximum monthly mortgage payment.

The $2,600 back-end ratio mortgage payment is the lower payment of your two ratios, which means you can afford up to $2,600 for a total monthly mortgage payment.

2.       Property Taxes

Counties in California collect an average of 0.74% of a property’s assessed fair market value as property tax per year. Based on the median price of $ 830,000 reported for the San Francisco Bay Area in March 2019, the annual property tax payment would be $6,142, or $511/month. (For county-specific average property taxes click here).

3.       Property Insurance

According to a 2018 study by, average home insurance costs vary widely from state to state. Generally, you can expect to pay roughly $3.50 for every $1,000 of property value. For a median home price of $830,000, insurance payments would total $242/month (for a comprehensive look at property insurance click here).

If you are purchasing a condo, property insurance is typically covered under a master policy which homeowners pay along with homeowner association (HOA) dues. It is essential you review the HOA’s financial documents and by-laws to ascertain coverage.

4.      Other Recurring Costs

    • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): If you put down less than 20%, your lender will most likely require you to buy insurance from a PMI company. PMI protects lenders from the risk of default and allows buyers who cannot make a significant down payment – or those who choose not to – to obtain mortgage financing at affordable rates. PMI typically costs between 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount on an annual basis.
    • Maintenance: According to the Harvard University Joint Center on Housing Studies, you should plan on paying 1% to 2% (annually) of the value of your home in maintenance and upkeep. If you’re purchasing a condo, general maintenance costs are usually covered by HOA dues. However, make sure your HOA has adequate reserves for large-scale maintenance projects such as roof replacement, exterior paint, access-road maintenance, and wood rot and siding repairs.

Julie understands purchasing a home might seem overwhelming. This is why we have a team of seasoned experts ready to help you navigate this complex process, developing a prudent financial plan to achieve your dream of homeownership.

We look forward to helping you with your real estate questions. Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.

Finding The Perfect Neighborhood For Your First Home

As a first-time homebuyer, determining the neighborhood that fits your needs is pivotal to narrowing your home selection.

Choosing the neighborhood for your first home should follow a prescription whittled down by your values and priorities, always keeping your future plans in mind. You will eliminate much anxiety if you first decide upon a checklist of qualities which resonate most deeply with what you value in a home and in a location.

Julie and her team have years and years of experience in helping our clients devise checklists of preferences for their future neighborhoods. Here are our suggestions for major points to consider when deciding upon your new neighborhood.


Safety first, right? This is especially true if you have or intend to have children. The easiest way to learn about crime in a particular area is to visit

Future Plans For The Neighborhood

Development plans can have a major impact on your home value, lifestyle, and traffic conditions. We can help you get in contact with the area’s Planning Division for zoning information and future development plans in your preferred neighborhood.

High-Performing Schools

For general information about schools in your desired neighborhood, you can always go to the National Center for Education Statistics website. More detailed information, including parent reviews, can be found at After you’ve done your online research, we recommend scheduling a tour of the schools, which Julie and her team can also help you arrange. You may even ask to be put in contact with other parents who can answer any additional questions you may have.

Make sure the schools are in good financial health. Ed-Data enables you to access financial information for school districts and county offices of education. You may also review a school’s financial information at the Foundation Center’s website.


Consider if your commute to work from your desired neighborhood is tolerable. Taking a test drive at your normal commuting times may be helpful. Also find out if grocery stores, gyms, car repair and service shops, public transportation, schools, and health services are within reasonable distance.

Activities & Amenities

Think of your daily and weekend routines. Some buyers will never consider choosing a place which does not offer ready access to open spaces, while others consider a vibrant cultural or culinary scene essential to their sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. List your essentials and then research the different neighborhoods you are considering. Julie and her team will work closely with you in determining which neighborhood is the closest match.

Once you’ve narrowed your search, it is time to hit the streets and “date” your potential choices. As you do, use all your senses and trust your gut. First impressions are often reliable. Visualize yourself in the neighborhood. Where will you jog or walk your dog in the morning? Are there sidewalks? Look up an address on the Walk Score website to obtain a “walkability” rating for the area. Check the traffic at different hours. How congested does it get?

Visit the neighborhoods at different times of the day. Are people out and about during the evening hours? Are kids playing along the street? Enter a café and get a feel for the level of interconnectedness of your future neighbors. Is the social scene vibrant or are people basically keeping to themselves?

Look for activities that show owners are keeping up or investing in their properties. Also look for signs that the city is doing a proper job in maintaining public areas. Beware of cracked streets and sidewalks, broken streetlights, and vacant homes with shattered windows and overgrown yards. Find out all you can about the city’s Operating and Capital Improvement Budget and its overall financial health.   

If you already have your eye on a specific property, knock on doors and chat with your potential future neighbors. Ask about crime, noise, traffic, and neighborhood issues. Julie can even help you find a neighborhood group and attend one of its meetings.

Julie and her team of experts are ready to guide and help you choose the neighborhood that most closely matches your priorities, values, and overall lifestyle. We look forward to helping you on your neighborhood search.

Please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or to schedule a free consultation.