Why Professional Copywriting Is Essential

Imagine you’re sitting inside a restaurant looking at the menu, and you have only two choices:

  • BBQ Peach Chipotle Chicken Wings – $13.00
  • Smothered Crisp Chicken Wings in Smoky Peach-Chipotle Glaze. A summertime favorite for years at the South Street block party! – 14

What you may not know is that both choices are the same dish, with the same ingredients.

Like most people, you’d probably choose the second dish, making the restaurant earn an extra 8% just by having used mouth-watering adjectives (smothered, crisp, smoky), de-emphasizing price (14 vs $13.00), and spicing the dish with a story no one wants to miss out on (South Street block party!).

“Chefs write the music and the menu becomes the lyrics. When the music is gorgeous but has the wrong lyrics, the lyrics will torpedo the music.”

—Danny Meyer, Founder & CEO of New York’s Union Square Restaurant Group

Why Good Copywriting Matters

As with food, so it is with everything else people purchase—including real estate. 

A keen understanding of consumer psychology under the pen of a professional wordsmith accompanied by top-quality images (insert link to article, “Homesellers, Why Professional Photography Is Essential”) is a three-punch approach of sheer marketing artistry at your service when you team up with Julie and our team.

When listing homes, we don’t just describe them. We paint lively pictures and write captivating stories to create a vivid feel in buyers’ imaginations of what it will be like to own and live in one of them. For example, under our creative touch, ‘large windows’ become ‘panoramic windows which permit plenty of natural light.’ A ‘large backyard’ is transformed into a ‘spacious outdoor gathering space for friends and loved ones.’ ‘Great views’ become ‘sweeping vistas.’ While we never exaggerate (a tactic which always results in home-shoppers’ disappointment), we creatively embellish the best a home has to offer.

If your house happens to be ‘at the epicenter of a vibrant culinary scene,’ or if your neighborhood has a ‘staggering number of artisan coffee shops,’ we’ll leverage these distinctions to pique buyers’ interest by appealing to their senses. Or, perhaps your home is ‘located in a world-class school district’ (a top choice for millennial parents in the Bay Area), or ‘within walking distance to miles of pristine nature trails.’ Our team strives to weave the unique selling-points of your neighborhood in an irresistible narrative bound to draw multiple offers.

Our Copywriting Goals

When highlighting the features of a home, our expert copywriting team are also rigorous grammarians and will never, ever describe your home’s ‘spacious walk-in closet’ as a ‘walking closet.’ Grammar and spelling DO matter. In fact, more than 40% of 1,291 people surveyed online say they would be much less inclined to tour a home if its online listing contained misspellings or improper grammar.

It all boils down to either selling plain old chicken wings or showcasing a mouthwatering plateful of smothered, crisp delicacies meant exclusively for discerning palates.

Your home is special and deserves to have its story written only by the best.  Let our creative team craft its unique narrative for maximum appeal.

Furthermore, Julie realizes that home-selling is a very personal endeavor. She believes all sellers deserve the best marketing available for their homes, especially in the Bay Area where homes command premium prices. By partnering with dedicated real estate copywriters, Julie and her team ensure that your home will be presented at the highest caliber possible.

Can We Help?

Making your home stand out in written form is an invaluable advantage. That’s why so many savvy Bay Area home-sellers have relied on Julie’s cutting-edge marketing tactics to sell their properties fast and for top value.

If you want your property to stand out from the pack, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Why internet marketing is important

In today’s digital age, getting noticed is harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. 


Today’s average person is inundated by over 30 gigabytes of daily information. So, getting someone’s attention requires sophisticated knowledge of how the internet works and ready access to a broad platform and network of communication channels. Putting all eggs in one basket no longer works. These dramatic changes require casting the widest net possible to attract the eyes of prized homebuyers.


Shifts In Marketing

In 1981, 22% of buyers read newspaper ads to find a home. By 2018, 44% were first looking for properties online. Buyers now have apps that allow them to search by location and neighborhoods. Online listings have virtual tours so viewers can look at many potential homes while narrowing their search to a select few in an effort to save time. Online searching maximizes the ability to compare and contrast homes by selected features. Most of this is done before a potential homebuyer connects with a real estate agent.

81% of older millennials, 80% of younger millennials, and 78% of Generation X found their home on a mobile device compared to 68% of younger boomers. 

—REALTORS® 2019 Report: ‘Real Estate in a Digital Age’

How Does Internet Marketing Help?

What this means is that savvy agents must now make use of all online access they can get their hands on. This may include social media and online platforms, messaging apps, public-facing websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, agent-specific groups like the MLS, Top Agent Network (TAN), VLS Homes, and any private online networks exclusive to your agent’s brokerage.


It means deploying the persuasive power (insert link to article “Homesellers, Why Professional Photography Is Essential”) of high-quality, professional images to make your home stand out from the rest.


It requires an up-to-date understanding of the ever-changing preferences in social media use by the majority of today’s buyers (millennials) while simultaneously responding to their desire for personal connection, authenticity, and honest dealings. It also means knowing how to use technology to make real estate transaction processes simple and straightforward. 

Finding the right property was ranked highest among all generations as the most difficult step in homebuying.

—REALTORS® 2019 Report: ‘Real Estate in a Digital Age’

How Do Agents Stay Relevant?

Part art and part science, today’s real estate marketing landscape requires cutting-edge knowledge, keen insight, and skillful use of a wide range of promotional tools.


In what seems a real-time race toward excellence, Julie and our team remain one step ahead, always adapting and refining our marketing approach to reach the greatest number of prized buyers to meet the timeline and value objectives of home-sellers.


But we always knew that (insert link to article “Homesellers, Selling Your Home With Julie”).

Our constant reach toward greater excellence is what’s kept us in business for close to twenty years, and it’s the reason why we’re recognized as one of the top agents in the nation.

Can We Help?

Securing attention is hard to come by in the digital age. That’s why so many savvy Bay Area home-sellers have relied on Julie’s cutting-edge marketing approach to sell their properties fast and for top value.

If you want your property to stand out from the pack, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Why Professional Photography Is Essential

Let’s face it: We now live in a digital age, and there’s no turning back.

By 2011, Americans were absorbing five times as much information per day as they did in 1986—the equivalent of 174 newspapers! During our leisure time (not including periods of work), experts estimate that each of us processes 34 gigabytes, or 100,000 words, every 24 hours. This doesn’t mean we read that much a day. It means that 100,000 words cross our eyes and ears in a single 24-hour period.

Photo Marketing Makes A Difference

With so much information, the most valuable commodity for marketers and advertisers is now our attention—and the most effective way of capturing it is through images. Images are crucial in marketing because they’re digested quicker. It takes readers almost ten seconds to process and decide on the value of written text, not to mention the time required to read it. On the other hand, the mental and emotional impact from an image happens almost instantly. 

Images also help make sales.

When people hear or read information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, studies show that people retain 65% of the information three days later. That’s the reason 80% of marketers today use visual assets in their social media marketing.

Quality Matters

Recent studies reveal that 67% of online shoppers consider the quality of an image as very important when choosing and purchasing products. Customers also think that image quality is more valuable than product information, a detailed product description, or customer ratings and reviews. 

In real estate marketing, the impact of using high-quality, professional images could not be more convincing:

  • Eighty-seven percent of homebuyers who searched online for a home found photos to be among the most useful features of REALTOR® websites, according to the 2018 NAR Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers.
  • Homes with high-quality photography sell 32% faster.
  • Homes with more photos sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends an average of 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spends an average of 32 days on the market.
  • For homes in the $200,000 to $1 million range, those that include high-quality photography in their listings sell for thousands of more dollars.

Keeping Up With The Times

Julie fully realizes the revolutionary transformation in the way homebuyers now search, view, select, and purchase a home. So, her team has partnered with a first-rate real estate photographer whose professional and artistic eye captures the distinct essence and features of a property. This attention to detail results in each home’s spaces being showcased by stunning, high-resolution images. The high level of professionalism these photos exemplify is capable of capturing the attention of the most discriminating buyers, standing out from the many low-quality listing images that inundate the local real estate marketplace.

Furthermore, Julie realizes that home-selling is a very personal endeavor. She believes all sellers deserve the best marketing available for their homes, especially in the Bay Area where homes command premium prices. By partnering with a dedicated real estate photographer, Julie and her team ensure that your home will be presented at the highest caliber possible.

Can We Help?

Securing attention is hard to come by in the digital age. That’s why so many savvy Bay Area home-sellers have relied on Julie’s cutting-edge marketing approach to sell their properties fast and for top value.

If you want your property to stand out from the pack, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Should You Use Cash Or Home Equity

Looking for options to purchase your move-up home? Using your cash reserves to make the down payment on a new home versus funding it through an equity loan (insert link to “Move-Up Buyers, Using Your Home Equity To Move Up) on your primary residence is a matter of the cost of opportunity.

So, if there are investment alternatives out there for your cash which offer a higher real return than the prevailing mortgage rate, it would make numerical sense to invest your cash elsewhere and leverage your home equity to fund the new purchase.

Why Use Cash?

Keep in mind that not investing your cash (basically keeping it in the bank) has a cost as well – the cost of inflation, which reduces the purchasing power of cash over time. Currently that cost, in the U.S., is 2.5% per year. A real return is calculated by subtracting the prevailing annual inflation rate (2.5%) from the nominal return offered by the different investment options available. For instance, if you invested your cash today (3.17) in 30-year Treasury Bonds, the nominal rate of return would be 1.56% per year. 

However, your real return, after subtracting inflation, would be negative 0.94%. Therefore, since the current home equity loan interest rate is higher (5.5% as of 3.17), it makes financial sense to use your cash reserves to make as high a down payment as possible on a new home.

Making a higher down payment—20% plus—not only will lower your monthly mortgage payment but save you up to 1% per year on private mortgage insurance, which lenders require for loans with less than 20% down.

Alternative Options

Homeowners with little cash reserves but substantial holdings in the stock and/or bond markets—either owned outright or through a 401k plan—often wonder if it’s smart to liquidate their portfolio or borrow against it to fund the purchase of a home.

While such decision is one you should consult directly with your investment and tax advisors, the following are options to leverage your portfolio:

  • 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.


  • 410(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, however, it will be treated as a taxable withdrawal.

Can We Help?

Be sure to consult with both your financial and tax advisors before choosing between a HELOC and a home equity loan. If needed, Julie and our team can provide you with the right references to guide you through the different options available to fund the purchase of a new home.

Then, when you’re ready to move up, you can rely on our experience to help you find and purchase your next home. For more information on how we can best help you with your home-buying goals, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com 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 Calmatters.org.  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 Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com 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 Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Downsizers: Use Your Existing Home To Finance Your Next Move



With some of the highest rental rates in the country, many Bay Area homeowners who are near retirement or are recent empty-nesters are using their existing homes as a creative source of income. This option allows them to downsize and relocate in-state, out-of-state, abroad—or even stay right on their properties.

Opportunity In Disparity

It’s no secret that high local housing costs have been part of a recent exodus from California to places with much lower housing costs. For example, close to 700,000 people left California in 2018. Texas was their first choice, followed by Arizona, Washington, Nevada, and Oregon. No doubt many were lured by the relative affordability of single-family homes in those areas: Texas at $209,000, Arizona at $272,000, Washington at $419,000, Nevada at $303,000, and Oregon at $366,000 (according to data provided by Zillow through January 2020).

With an average cost of $313,000 across these five states, the monthly mortgage payment for a new home would amount to roughly $1,400, if financed at 100% loan-to-value at current interest rates.

Conversely, with rental rates in San Jose, for example, at $3,200 per month for a two-bedroom unit, or San Francisco at $4,520 (according to Rent Jungle), Bay Area homeowners are uniquely positioned to convert their primary home into a rental property to finance a move to a smaller home.

Even if you’re thinking of downsizing but not planning to vacate entirely, you may even consider consolidating your belongings and living arrangements and renting out a bedroom or portion of your home to create supplemental income.

Ease Of Property Management

In the past, homeowners were reluctant to rent out their properties because of the hassles involved in being a landlord. However, a growing number of professional property management companies is now making it possible to outsource the hassle at a very competitive price, usually averaging 8% of the monthly rent. If you’re considering renting out your property, Julie and our team can help you find the property management team that best suits the intentions for your property.

New Legislation

Recent rental legislation in California allows landlords to raise rents by 5% annually. This is in addition to the regional cost-of-living increase, or a maximum of 10%. Based on current inflation rates, Bay Area landlords could raise rents by an estimated 7.7% per year, which could translate to a healthy, regular profit that downsizers can put towards a smaller, less expensive home.

Accessory Dwelling Units

Another option being considered by a growing number of aging couples is building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their existing property. When ready, they can move into this ADU while concurrently renting out their primary residence to outsiders or younger family members. Recent housing legislation now gives homeowners greater flexibility to consider this option. Click here (“Homesellers, New ADU Housing Bills Could Add Value To Your Home”) for more information.  

Can We Help?

Of course, the viability of pursuing a strategy like this will obviously depend on your current monthly mortgage payment, property insurance, and ongoing maintenance costs, as well as the carrying costs of the new house. As with any key financial decision, considering turning your primary home into an income property to finance your next move should be done under professional counsel from your financial, tax, and real estate advisors.

For more information on how we can help with your downsizing needs, please contact Julie at 650.799.8888 or Julie@JulieTsaiLaw.com to schedule a free consultation.


Seasonality & Real Estate Markets, June 2019

A Compass Special Report with 17 Charted Analyses

Seasonality typically plays an enormous role in the ebb and flow of supply and demand within real estate markets. Below we look at seasonality from virtually every angle we can think of to illustrate its effects. In this report, San Francisco’s market is used as the sample, but, generally speaking, seasonality plays out in a similar manner throughout most Bay Area markets.

The market begins to wake up early in the beginning of the year after the doldrums of the mid-winter holiday period – mid-November to mid-January – with the number of new listings as well as buyer demand rapidly climbing, and sometimes peaking, in spring. Summer usually brings a significant slowdown, hitting its nadir in August. In early autumn, listings start pouring on the market after Labor Day for the relatively short fall selling season through mid-November – with a concomitant jump in sales. Then before Thanksgiving, activity plunges dramatically for the mid-winter period. Many listings are pulled off the market at this time to await the beginning of the new year or the next spring market.

The luxury home market is even more fiercely seasonal than the general market, and charts illustrating that segment follow the large number of charts on the overall market. The seasonality of luxury home sales plays a significant role in median sales price changes – pushing median prices up during its active periods, spring and autumn, and letting them fall when luxury home sales decline in summer and mid-winter.

Of course, general economic conditions – booms, recessions, financial market volatility, big changes in interest rates, natural disasters, and so on – can affect, and sometimes over-shadow, typical seasonal changes.

In the Bay Area, Napa and Sonoma Counties have a somewhat different seasonal rhythm due to their large second-home markets. There, listing and sales generally climb through spring to peak in mid-late summer, and then drop through the end of the year. Their charts (not included in this report) look more like mountains, climbing up and down, while other counties usually see more variations in the ebbs and flows of activity during the year.

Listings, Accepted Offers & Sales



Note that after new listings come on market, there will be, on average, at least a 2 to 3 week interval before they go into contract – even in a hot market – because of the marketing and showing period. After an offer is accepted, there is typically 3 to 5 weeks before the sale closes. Thus closed sales usually reflect the heat of the market in the previous month or so. Thus, October’s sales reflect the surge of new listings – and buyers jumping on those new listings – in September (and early October).



Seasonality does not necessarily mean that slower market periods – typically, mid-late summer and mid-winter – are bad times to sell one’s home. That depends on a number of issues specific to the property, its location, the supply of competitive listings for sale, and the particular state of the market at that time. Listings continue to sell throughout the year.

Slower market periods can be very good times to buy: There is typically much less competition between buyers and more leverage in negotiating – the trade off being that there are usually fewer listings on the market to choose from.



Days on Market, Buyer Competition (Overbidding), Price Reductions & Listings Pulled Off the Market



Median Sales Price/Home Value Changes



The CoreLogic S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index – graphed in the next chart – does not use median sales prices to track appreciation, but instead uses its own proprietary algorithm. But it too generally sees the largest price increases in the spring months, reflecting the heighten buyer demand during that period.



Seasonality in the Luxury Home Market

Generally speaking, seasonality in the luxury home segment is similar to that in the general market, except with even more intense ebbs and flows in activity.


Source: Compass

It is impossible to know how median and average value statistics apply to any particular home without a specific comparative market analysis. These analyses were made in good faith with data from sources deemed reliable, but may contain errors and are subject to revision. It is not our intent to convince you of a particular position, but to attempt to provide straightforward data and analysis, so you can make your own informed decisions. Median and average statistics are enormous generalities: There are hundreds of different markets in San Francisco and the Bay Area, each with its own unique dynamics. Median prices and average dollar per square foot values can be and often are affected by other factors besides changes in fair market value. Longer term trends are much more meaningful than short-term.

Compass is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, DRE 01527235. Equal Housing Opportunity. This report has been prepared solely for information purposes. The information herein is based on or derived from information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Compass disclaims any and all liability relating to this report, including without limitation any express or implied representations or warranties for statements contained in, and omissions from, the report. Nothing contained herein is intended to be or should be read as any regulatory, legal, tax, accounting or other advice and Compass does not provide such advice. All opinions are subject to change without notice. Compass makes no representation regarding the accuracy of any statements regarding any references to the laws, statutes or regulations of any state are those of the author(s). Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Where Are The Best Local Places To Invest

In a previous article (“Which Areas Will Have The Greatest Appreciation?”), we covered the factors you need to consider when investing in real estate for appreciation.

Now we’ll look at investing for cash flow, and how to discover the most promising areas in the Bay Area.

In real estate terms, cash flow is the byproduct of owning a property and leasing it to tenants for a monthly rental income. The higher the net cash return, the better the return on your investment. The rental income must cover your total expenses and reap a surplus of cash as extra income to deem a rental property profitable.

Cash-On-Cash (CoC) Return

The most popular metric used in real estate investing is the cash-on-cash return (CoC). Also called the equity dividend rate, the CoC return is calculated by dividing the cash flow (net operating rental income, before tax) by the amount of cash invested.

The CoC return is calculated in the following way:

Annual Pre-Tax Cash Flow

Total Cash Invested

Because pre-tax cash flow is used in the calculation, you should be aware of the tax treatment of your investment. If the CoC return is low, high taxes may erase any potential investment returns.

Capitalization (Cap) Rate

This calculation is also very important because it is the purest form of understanding a property’s returns. The cap rate reveals the investment return of a property independent of its financing. Therefore, this number indicates the return as if the property was already paid for.

The cap rate is calculated by dividing the net operating income by the property’s price.

(Click here for more on how to analyze an investment property and determine its quality and/or estimating its profitability through calculating the property’s cash flow.)

Mashadvisor offers an interactive investment property calculator that not only gives returns based on what is entered, but also provides insights by using predictive, comparative data and algorithms. The tool also gives investors an understanding of an overall neighborhood by providing data on the neighborhood’s average median home price, traditional rental income, and Airbnb rental income and occupancy rate.

Trends To Observes

Honing down on a good location and neighborhood for attracting the right tenants and maintaining high rental demand requires patience and meticulous analysis. While CoC returns and cap rates allow you to determine a property’s profitability in present terms, you also need to consider long-term trends which will sustain those returns during the lifetime of your investment.

  • Look for areas where properties are comparatively more affordable based on their price-to-rent ratio, a simple metric that measures the ratio between property prices in a particular area and annual rent. Zillow offers a searchable database for estimated median market rate rents by housing type across a given region.

As earlier reported, 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 percent 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.

  • Look for areas which are experiencing comparatively higher rates of population growth which will underpin rents in the future. Make sure the property is located in an area where the job market is robust. Job and income growth are key when deciding where to invest.

According to the US 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




  • Look for areas which have future development plans likely to attract more residents, such as transport links to major job hubs, new schools, shopping centers, restaurants, amenities, etc.
  • As environmental consciousness continues to grow, especially among millennials, look for cities leading the pack in sustainable living. A recent nationwide study done by SmartAsset shows nine Bay Area’s cities among the top 25.

The highest-ranked city is Mountain View. Not too far behind, at #9, is San Francisco. The other cities which made it to the 25 Best Green Cities For Families are:


South San Francisco



San Mateo

Palo Alto

Whether you are investing in real estate for appreciation or cash flow, hiring a professional real estate agent is key. A real estate agent has the right knowledge and expertise to identify the most promising income properties, help you conduct the proper analysis and assessment, and, most importantly, negotiating for the right price.


Julie and her team of experts are ready to help you achieve your real estate investment goals. We will prepare you with all the necessary info, and even recommend the best places for investment.

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

Moving Up To Strengthen The Family



Family is at the core of many cultures around the world.

In many Asian and Latin American cultures, for instance, most young adults stay home until they marry. When their parents age, they move in with their children who consider it an honor to care for them in their later years. 

Keeping Family Close

Family has long been a key component within Chinese society, and many aspects of Chinese life are tied to honoring one’s parents or ancestors. In fact, the majority of the “Five Relationships” espoused by Confucius were directly centered on the family. Due to this focus, it has historically been common for the Chinese—even when fully grown with children of their own—to not only remain in or close to their hometown, but also to have many living generations of a family living under the same roof.

While in the United States, the small nuclear family—father, mother, and one or two children—still predominates, things appear to be changing. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014 a record 60.6 million people (19% of the US population) lived with multiple generations under one roof. More than one-fifth of Americans older than 55 now live in a multigenerational household.

Reasons For Staying Together

Fueling this shift are rising home prices, staggering childcare expenses, college debt, longer life expectancies, high costs of elderly care, and the growth of ethnic communities in which extended families traditionally live together.

Economics might be forcing the issue, but people now are rediscovering the advantages of this way of life, according to Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a family research nonprofit and advocacy group. The Great Recession of 2008 drove a lot of young adult “boomerang children” back to their parents’ homes when they couldn’t find a job.

“People came together by necessity, and they stayed together by choice,” says Butts. “In many other countries, it’s just a way of life. It helps strengthen the family.”

With home prices in the Bay Area out of reach for most young adults, families are increasingly purchasing larger homes to keep everyone close while helping their children save money for an eventual down payment on their own home. Even those who don’t have relatives living with them fulltime are looking at larger homes to accommodate international relatives during their long visits from abroad.

Enhanced Benefits

New housing bills (“New ADU Housing Bills Could Add Value To Your Home) passed by the California legislature are making things easier by giving existing homeowners greater flexibility and options to add auxiliary dwelling units, or ADUs, to their properties. Also known as ‘granny flats,’ ‘in-law units,’ and ‘guest apartments,’ these additional units can be added around the main house in a larger property, creating a sort of family compound.

Closeness to family is not the only benefit of moving up. Larger homes are usually located in higher-priced neighborhoods which generate higher property-tax income—a significant funding source for public schools. More resources mean state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and better paid and trained teachers. Realizing how critical a top-notch education is becoming in the 21st century, savvy parents in the Bay Area are actively seeking better schools to give their younger children a competitive edge.

A better neighborhood also means less congestion, noise, and closer proximity to open spaces with proven benefits to physical and mental wellbeing. 

Of course, moving up will usually cost you more—but considering the benefits, the trade-off is more than worth it. 

Can We Help?

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


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