Permits, Building Codes, Hurricanes

Image

Picture2Homeowners often question the time and expenses vs the value of obtaining permits while doing work on their homes, whether for repairs, upgrades, or new builds of the homes.

The main reason for the permit process is to ensure work done fits or exceeds the current building codes for health and safety reasons.  Building codes are revised periodically to reflect current findings and incorporate new technology in our ever-changing environment.

One example is if one lives in the WUI (Wildlife Urban Interface) area where homes are more prone to wildfire, the building codes, depending on areas, can have special requirements for exterior windows, wall sidings and sheathing, under eaves, and decking.

This recent Washington Post article about real-life testing of Florida’s newer building codes battered by Hurricane Irma, to see if buildings were able to withhold the rages of Hurricanes sheds a light on the importance of adhering to building codes.

Click to read Irma Could Test Strength of Florida’s Strict Building Codes

Burglary Prevention Tips

Featured

burglaryWith the busy Holiday Season upon us, many will be rushing from one place to another; doing chores, shopping, visiting family and friends.  This is also the time when we hear more about cars or houses being burglarized. We were burglarized many years ago by local teenagers.  Not only did we lose many items that were sentimental to us, the sense of being violated is something you don’t ever want to experience!

Novato Police Department sent out a Press Release back in 2015 with Tips on Burglary Prevention.  I thought this is a good time to share it with neighbors.


The Novato Police Department is committed to working with our residents to provide a safe and secure community. We would like our residents to be well informed partners in our crime prevention efforts.

Every 15 seconds in the US, a home burglary takes place, but there are so many things we can do to dramatically reduce the chances of falling victim.

Some of those home burglaries will be by scam artists who previously checked the homes out by posing as legitimate visitors, talking their way in and maybe even opening a window in a bathroom for easy access when they return.

Some will be opportunists, who just happen to spot an easy target in a neighborhood — like an open door or window.

And yet others will be experienced crooks who know how to “case a joint” without being noticed, and know all the tricks of the trade for breaking and entering.

The average time it takes for a burglar to break into a home is less than a minute, and the amount of time they spend inside is little more than 10 minutes — though, posing as contractors or furniture removers, they’ve been known to take much longer and completely empty a home.

15 Burglary Prevention Tips

  1. Be a visibly nosy neighbor. Let anyone walking the neighborhood or sitting in a parked car see you watching them.  Make a note of car license plates and if anyone behaves suspiciously or stays in their car for a lengthy period, call Novato Police at 415-897-1122.
  2. Tell close neighbors you trust if you plan to be away or expect any deliveries. If they’re in the know they’re more likely to notice something you didn’t mention and spot unexpected callers at your home.
  3. If you are going away, use timers to switch lights on and off at random, cancel newspapers, bring in your garbage cans, and put a hold on your mail deliveries — or, to guard your schedule, arrange for the trusted neighbor to collect them.
  4. Having a dog is a huge deterrent. Ironically, burglars are far more likely to avoid a house with a small dog than a big one — small dogs tend to be nervous and less easy to trick into calming down. They’re less trustful and bark louder and longer.
  5. Take a walk around your home, inside and out, to figure where the weakest link in your security might be — like leaving a window open in a secluded spot. High-risk places include the door from your garage into the house, back doors, side “breezeways” where a burglar would not be seen, and large shrubs close to the residence where thieves could hide.
  6. Take action to increase protection in these vulnerable places — like installing keyed window locks and deadbolts on doors and using toughened glass in windows and doors. Remove those shrubs. If you leave windows open on the second floor, make sure your extension ladder is locked away.
  7. Be wary about who you allow into your home and how much information you give about your belongings and schedule. This applies even with neighbors you don’t know or fully trust. Don’t leave valuables in view, inside or from outside the house.
  8. If you’re able, vary the times you leave and return home. If your household has several cars, vary who drives them, making it more difficult for an observer to know who is home and when.
  9. Make it tough for home burglary prowlers to know whether they’re under surveillance. Fake cameras can be good — but only if they could be taken for the real thing, not cheap plastic devices with flashing lights, which home burglars easily identify. Fake security stickers or signs don’t work either, but, if you have an alarm, real stickers and signs work.
  10. Control access to and around your property. Consider motion-activated lights. Neighborhood Watch, Video Surveillance, No Parking, and No Outlet signs can be effective against home burglary too. This way, would-be thieves know you mean business.
  11. Motion-activated cameras are another powerful weapon — both as a home burglary deterrent and, linked to a computer (and, better yet, to a home network), to record images of your unwelcome visitors. These days, these devices are inexpensive. Network-linked cameras costing around $85 can even email images so you have an off-site backup (it sends images automatically to a separate email account, so even if the camera is disabled, you still have the pictures online).
  12. An alarm system, preferably with a visible box outside the house, will not only deter crooks but sound an immediate alert of a home burglary. You might seriously consider a system that’s monitored 24/7 by a security company who will quickly notify law enforcement of an incident.
  13. Gates, both to your property and in gated communities, can also be a home burglary deterrent.
  14. Avoid creating temptation. Don’t leave things like lawn mowers and bikes unattended outside; lock them up. Close your garage. Inside, burglars are more likely to go for “middle of the road” valuables than expensive jewelry and appliances — because they’re easier to redeem for cash.
  15. Don’t hide a key. Home burglary crooks know all those “secret” places.

Remember the three L’s of Crime Prevention: LIGHTS, LOCKS, & the LAW!

LIGHT up your home, LOCK your doors, and call the LAW when you see something suspicious.

New Area Code ‘628’ added to Marin County starting March, 2015

Image

415+628 Area CodesGet ready for new area code overlay ‘628’ being added to Marin and San Francisco starting March, 2015.  New subscribers for local phone systems will be assigned the new ‘628’ area code while current subscribes retain their current ‘415’ area code.

The only twist to the new area code for current subscribers with 415 prefix is the new procedure of adding 1-415 prefix to all local 415- area code calls.

Per Marin IJ, “the biggest digital change for local residents who continue to have the 415 prefix is a new routine that requires dialing or tapping 1-415 before a local number — starting Saturday. It’s as if you were making a long distance call, although local rates remain the same.

Phone officials advise customers to reprogram all services, automatic dialing equipment or gear with a seven-digit number, in order to incorporate the new 1-415 procedure. Examples include life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, call forwarding settings and voicemail systems.”

However, this will not affect the 9-1-1 emergency system: ““The overlay will have no effect on people dialing 9-1-1 to report an emergency, and the Sheriff’s Office continues to encourage callers to use that 9-1-1 system anytime they require immediate assistance from their law enforcement or fire agencies,”

Update on the State of Novato Real Estate Market

Featured

The following article first appeared on Novato Patch: Update on the State of Novato Real Estate Market :

On this Labor Day weekend, I thought I will provide a quick update on the Novato Real Estate Market since my last blog post on Aug. 21 to the end of August.

Below are statistics of Single Family Residences (SFR) and Commen Interest Developments (CID/Condos) that are either new on market (Active), under cotract (Contingent), Pending (All cotingencies removed) and Sold during the 10 day period.

I also included breakdown of single family residences that are new on market or sold during the 10-day period by price range.

A quick glance at the statistics on 08/31/2012 supports a strong sellers’ market.

Fun facts – The lowest price SOLD single family home during the period is a small Black Point home with a private hill top setting, closed at $270K. On the other spectrum, a beautifully top to bottom, completely redone single story home, 4 bedrooms, 2 and half baths, 2358sf home sited on close to 1/5 acre lot on Mill Road, priced at $699K, quickly went into escrow with multiple offers and closed in 20 days at $800K; an all cash purchase. A Bel Marin Keys on the water house closed at $865K and a single story Country Club home on the Golf Course closed at $915K, both homes are nicely updated; while a Stonetree Home, 4700+sf, one of the hard hit areas by the depressed market, closed at $1Million, was the highest priced sale of the period.

Have a Wonderful and Safe Labor Day Weekend!

Novato Real Estate Market Activites
08/21/12 to 08/31/12
SFR CIDs
Actie 16 6
Contingent 21 6
Pending 9 3
Sold 21 7
Single Family Home Activites
Price Range NEW SOLD
$0-$500K 3 9
$500,000 – $600K 3 4
$600,001 – $700K 3 2
$700,001 – $800K 6 3
$800,001 – $999,999 1 2
$1M – $1.25M 1
$1,25M – $1.5M
$1.5M+
Total 16 21
Novato Real Etate Market Statistics
Week of August 31, 2012
Type # of Total Units % of Total
# Total Units IN Escrow Active
In Escrow S/B
SFRs 170 101 41% 59% S
CIDs 67 49 27% 73% S
All SFR/CIDs 237 150 37% 63% S
SFD by Price Range
$0-$500K 42 34 19% 81% S
$500,000 – $600K 28 18 36% 64% S
$600,001 – $700K 28 16 43% 57% S
$700,001 – $800K 28 13 54% 46% S
$800,001 – $999,999 22 15 32% 68% S
$1M – $1.25M 10 2 80% 20% B
$1,25M – $1.5M 5 3 40% 60% S
$1.5M+ 11 2 82% 18% B
Total 174 103 41% 59% S
% in Contract Type of Market
Less than 25% Buyers’ Market
25% to 40% Neutral Market
Greater than 40% Seller’s Market

Footnote:

(*) Data collected from the local Multiple Listing Services (BAREIS – Bay Area Real Estate Information Service).

Refinance while Underwater? HARP Expanded to Reach More Borrowers

A ray of hope has just been offered to some homeowners with properties that are seriously upside down, according to the California Association of Realtors.

In order to help a broader range of distressed homeowners and offer relief to the housing market, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced on Oct. 24 that the mortgage relief program HARP — the Home Affordable Refinance Program — has just been expanded.

Per FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped approximately 9 million families refinance into a lower cost or more sustainable mortgage product, approximately 10 percent of those via HARP. HARP is unique in that it is the only refinance program that enables borrowers who owe more than their home is worth to take advantage of lower interest rates and other refinancing benefits.

One of the biggest hurdles for borrowers who are current on their home loans and are considering refinance is the fact that the equity on their house is too low to qualify for a refinance. Until now, Fannie Me and Freddie Mac would only allow fixed-rate mortgages if the borrower’s property stays under 125 percent loan-to-value.  This requirement prevented many upside-down borrowers from refinancing to take advantage of the current low interest rates that they desperately need.  The enhanced HARP guideline lifted that restriction.

Other HARP program enhancements effectively reduced certain fees associated with the refinance as well as eliminated the need for a new property appraisal if the FHFA has a reliable automated valuation model estimate.  Both allowed cash strapped borrowers the ability to refinance without the steep fees a refinance might require.  The HARP program, schedule to expire at the end of 2011 has now been extended until the end of 2013.  New federal guidelines for the HARP changes should be released to mortgage lenders and servicers by Nov. 15.

According to the California Association of Realtors, the basic eligibility requirements for an enhanced HARP loan are as follows:

  • Existing mortgage loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  Borrowers can check whether they have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan by going to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/get-assistance/loan-look-up/Pages/default.aspx.
  • Existing mortgage loan must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before June 1, 2009.
  • Existing mortgage loan cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously (except for Fannie Mae loans refinanced between March and May 2009).
  • Current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be more than 80%.
  • Existing mortgage loan must be current, with no late payments in the past six months, and no more than one late payment in the past 12 months.

Words of Caution:  Remember my previous blog about SCAMs – Too Good To be True, Then Beware? There are a lot of scammers out there to take advantage of distressed homeowners at their most vulunable stage.  Before engaging services that promise to modify your loans or save your home from being foreclosed on, make sure you check out the FTC Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule that outlaws advanced fees and false claims and requires clear disclosures from the servicers.

More Information About HARP:

More information about HARP is available from FHFA.

Other Resources for Distressed Homeowners:

Marin County Property Tax Deadline is Friday, December 10th

Featured

Are you like most of the other property owners who like to wait until the last day to pay your property tax?

The deadline for payment of the first installment of the 2010-11 county property tax bill is 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10.

Payments must be postmarked by Friday or delivered to the tax collector’s office at the Civic Center no later than 5 p.m. that day to avoid a 10-percent penalty.

Property taxes may be paid online at http://www.co.marin.ca.us/paytax or by phone at 800-985-7277 with either a credit card or electronic funds transfer.

The second tax payment is due April 10.

For more information, including programs helping those who cannot afford their tax bill, call the tax collector’s office at 499-6133 or visit http://www.co.marin.ca.us/taxes.

Fannie Mae Offers New Buyer Incentives on Homepath Homes

Featured

New Buyer Incentive on Fannie Mae HomePath® Homes

Fannie Mae is offering buyers up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance on HomePath properties through December 31, 2010.

Buyers must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for the incentive:

  • HomePath property sale must close on or before December 31, 2010 and close within 60 days of offer acceptance
  • Only owner occupants purchasing a HomePath property as their primary residence will receive up to 3.5% in closing cost assistance
  • the initial offer must be submitted on or after September 23, close within 60 days of offer acceptance and close on or before December 31, 2010. No bonus will be given for investor purchases.
  • Buyers must request incentive upon submission of initial offer in order to be eligible.

Note: Offers submitted after November 15, 2010 may be difficult to close by incentive deadline of December 31, 2010.

Terms & Conditions:

  • The 3.5% seller contribution is to be used towards closing costs, including a home warranty, if desired and available.
  • Retail and public entities are eligible for the incentive however pool and auction sales, and sales to investors are not eligible.
  • Fannie Mae reserves the right to remove any property from promotion or end the promotion at any time. Any dispute over the payment of a bonus shall be resolved by Fannie Mae in its sole discretion.
  • Buyers should consult their lenders for guidance on financing. Lenders and mortgage products may impose their own limitations on the use of the 3.5% incentive. For example, the lender may consider the incentive a Seller Contribution and limit the amount to 3.0%. In those instances, the remaining 0.5% will no longer be available to the buyer.

See link to search for Fannie Mae Homepath Homes

CA State Assembly extended Anti-Deficiency Proection for Original Loan Refinances

Featured

Unfortunately, this very logical bill, which passed both the assembly and senate was vetoed by the Governor.  But CAR (California Association of Realtor) will renew its fight next year for a similar bill – Sylvia

A relief for homeowners with deficiency on thier refinanced original mortgage loans and who are now facing foreclosure is one the way –

According to news just released by California Association of Realtors on August 19, 2010 that CA State Assembly passes SB 1178 protecting homeowners:

The bill essentially allows homeowners who defaulted on the mortgage that are part of refinance of the original purchase debt to limit their liability to the property itself; same as the treatment of the original ‘purchase money’ loan.

The bill moves to Government Schwarzenegetter for signature and if signed, will become effective June 2011.

This Only Makes Sense!

Following is the Press Release:

For release:

Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010

California State Assembly passes SB 1178 protecting homeowners

Measure protecting consumers from overreaching lenders now goes to governor’s desk for signature

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 19) – The California State Assembly today approved SB 1178 (D-Corbett) by a 49 to 14 vote, extending anti-deficiency protection for consumers who have refinanced their original mortgage loans and now are facing foreclosure. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) is the sponsor of the consumer-protection legislation.

Under existing law, if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage used to purchase a home-commonly referred to as a “purchase money mortgage”-the homeowner’s liability on the mortgage is limited to the property itself. However, homeowners who refinanced the original purchase debt, even if only to obtain a lower interest rate, were not extended the same protections. SB 1178 corrects this unfairness and extends the same protections to consumers who refinance their home loans.

“Cash-out” debt for home improvement or consumer expenses is not protected by SB 1178. Similarly, additional new debt secured by the home, such as a home improvement loan, is not protected-only original acquisition debt.

“Today’s vote was a victory for homeowners in California, but the fight is not yet finished,” said C.A.R. President Steve Goddard. “We are urging Gov. Schwarzenegger to swiftly sign into law this crucial piece of legislation. Passage of SB 1178 will ensure lenders underwrite refinance loans at least as carefully as purchase money mortgages and will provide much-needed consumer protection.”

SB 1178 now moves to Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signature. If signed, SB 1178 will become effective June 2011.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States with nearly 160,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles. ###

Living Green? Small Space? Check out the Space Saving Furniture!

Featured

According to Kentfield, Marin county Architect, Sarah Robinson, an Alumni of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; that Being Green is not just to tear down and build from scratch but it’s about “Seeing the untapped potential that already exists.”

“Green Living” is not limited to only use ‘Green’ products such as energy efficient appliances, water saving faucets, shower heads, toilets, bamboo flooring, recycled water, drought resistant plants, solar energy, double/triple paned windows, reuse building material, no VOC paint, and such.

Today, a friend of my shared a video of space saving furniture, which I thought would fit in nicely with green minded, sustainable living friends. these furniture has intelligent design where each piece of furniture has several purposes and fits in a tight space, are artistic an allow for smaller space thus reduce footprint of the new building design.

On a practical side, for friends or college kids who live in small apartments, houses, dormitories; these furniture allow them to have better quality of life while dealing with the tight space.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do

_____________________________________________________

Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate 
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frank Howard Allen Realtors 
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.   Starter Home to Luxury Property.  REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architectural Distinctive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange.

Prepare Your (Marin County) Home for the High Wild Fire Season – An Annual Exercise!

Featured

Living in Marin and Sonoma Count, San Francisco North Bay, and for that matter, the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the entire state of California, we are constant on “High Fire Alert” during the dry summer seasons.

With the state budget cut, which deeply affected the state, county park as well as municipal fire department budgets, it is with even more urgency that homeowners heed to the advise and guidelines on how to prepare yours homes for the fire season during the next few months.

In 2008, San Francisco Chronicle published an article highlighing what builders in the Oakland Hills did while rebuilding homes after the 1991 Oakland Fire. The Oakland Fire “ultimately killed 25 people and injured 150 others. The 1,520 acres (6.2 km²) destroyed included 2,843 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. The economic loss has been estimated at $1.5 billion.”

Along with the article, S.F. Chronicle included a partial list of checklist developed by (of all the places) Travis County, Texas about what how to prepare for a fire:

I am following suit and quoting below:

Wildfire Preparedness Check List

The more “yes” answers you have, the more prepared you are in the event of a wildfire threat.

The House

  • Fire-resistant roof i.e. metal, tile, composition?
  • Non-flammable siding materials?
  • Home is located down-slope?
  • Wooden deck facing or overhanging level ground?
  • Large glass windows, facing level ground?
  • Deck, porch, vents or house screened to keep sparks out?
  • Chimney extending above the roofline?
  • Chimney spark arrester in place?
  • Roof and gutters clean of debris?

Around the House

  • A fire defensible space (D-space) zone of 30 – 100 ft?
  • Adequate clearance of weeds, tall grasses and brush?
  • Leaves raked?
  • Trees pruned 10 ft up from base of trunk?
  • Debris cleared from beneath trees and near structures?
  • Tree limbs pruned at least 10 ft from roof or within 15 ft laterally from chimney?
  • House location or address clearly marked (3 inch letters)?
  • Small amounts of mulch used near wooden structures?
  • Firewood and other burnable items stored at least 30 ft from the house?

Access

  • Easy access to home by emergency vehicles?
  • Road grade less than 15% (not steep)?
  • Road wide and accommodating to two-way traffic?
  • Road straight with wide turns?
  • Large areas for vehicles to turn around?
  • Short driveway from main road?
  • Home area level and easily plowed or raked for fire line?
  • Multiple roads into and out of developed area for safe and easy access and evacuation?

Water Supply

  • Pressurized hydrants available?
  • Non-pressurized or dry hydrants available?
  • Water sources such as ponds or streams accessible?
  • Power lines buried and not susceptible to fire?
  • Well pumps maintained with uninterrupted electricity?

Ten Quick and Easy Steps to Prepare for a Wildfire

1. Cut grass and weeds, rake leaves and pine needles and remove yard debris and branches.

2. Relocate woodpile and left over building materials at least 30′ from house.
NOTE: It is best to not locate the woodpile directly uphill or downhill of any structure.

3. Signs, address and access are well marked, and visible both night and day. Reflective numbering/lettering that is 3″ or larger is recommended.

4. Prune dead and low-hanging tree limbs 6 to 10 feet from the ground around house. Remove all dead vegetation in brush and shrubbery.

5. Store all gas, oil and other chemicals away from the house. This includes propane tanks on BBQ pits.

6. Keep roof and gutters free from leaves and needles.

7. Enclose spaces under porches, decks, foundations and overhangs, and roof/attic vent openings with 1/8″ metal screening.

8. Have garden hoses connected on all sides of your house.

9. Place tools (such as ladders, shovels, rakes and hoes) for easy access to fire fighters.

10. Check driveway for adequate clearance for emergency vehicles. (Both height and width).

_____________________________________________________

Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate 
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frank Howard Allen Realtors 
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.   Starter Home to Luxury Property.  REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architectural Distinctive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange.