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Real estate roundup with Sharon Alva: Something’s gotta give

Submitted by on 1, August 13, 2010 – 4:50 am2 Comments

Despite what you may have read, this is not a buyer’s market. Yes, it’s a good time to buy, but in Alameda it is not truly a buyer’s market. Our inventory has remained low and prices are still relatively high — relative to area income, that is.

And the bad news does not end there. Foreclosures are not a great deal where banks are willing to sell at any price. Short sales ditto. They both can be had for about five to 10 percent below market value but will have other impacts on the transaction. In the case of short sales, negotiating repairs can be near impossible once the lender has agreed on a price and the process can be long and unpredictable. With bank owned (also known as REO) homes there is often competition, the house may be in bad shape, and the seller often chooses the escrow company, a situation that has caused longer escrow periods.

Buyers have to make some tough choices. So when you start looking be ready to give something up. It may be square footage, it may be charm, it’s likely price, and maybe a garage. You may find all those things but be taking on year-long projects, like foundation, kitchen remodel, or moisture behind the stucco. Or you may be looking for a foreclosed property but the timing is just not right, or the process is daunting.

So be honest with yourself. What are you willing to give up? Choose three things in order of how much it will hurt.

For example:

1. Big yard

2. Quiet street

3. Serious work to be done (we’re not taking paint here)


1. Charm

2. Extra bedroom

3. Garage

Even if price is no object (and we’d all like to be in that situation) you may have to give up on time, because inventory is tight and you may have to wait for the right house.

Now write your personal list on a piece of paper and make sure you and your partner, if you have one, are carrying identical pieces of paper. The importance of this last bit of advice cannot be overstated.

Before going in to see a house, take a glance at those slips of paper and embrace the choice you have made. You’ve given this thought. You know the choice you are making is the right one, and tiny yard and garage may just be what you give up for charm and location.

Don’t despair. Alameda has eclectic architecture and there is something for everyone. A tenacious agent will squeeze every drop of value out of your purchase, advising you every step of the way how to make a good purchase. You will find the right home, even if it is not perfect. It could well be that you only have to compromise on one item on your list. Having written out all three will highlight the things your new home has that other properties did not.

With a purchase this big it makes sense to be picky, and I am not suggesting you buy the first house you can afford. But the process will be less painful if you choose in advance those things on which you are willing to compromise.

Sharon Alva is a real estate agent with Alain Pine Realtors, living in Alameda. You can reach her at sharon@alvaproperties.com.


  • hobnob says:

    Great Advice Sharon! Even when we were looking for a house a couple of years ago and the foreclosures and short sales started to hit the market, they were by no means a bargain.

    Foreclosure housees had about 100k worth in damages/fixes needed. As a first time homebuyer, too daunting.
    Short sales also had problems – due to foundation of house or even just the process with the bank itself.

    I find that even regular house sales have some issues. With the fact that most homes in alameda are well over 40+ years old, they require fixes no matter what. But I found not to pursue a foreclosure or short sale dream, b/c the houses are usually subpar, I’ll leave it to contractors and flippers.

    With that, I agree, a house is the largest purchase of your lifetime… you NEED to be picky and have all your ducks in a row.

  • Jeff says:

    Rather than compromise, why not rent? Inventory will loosen up eventually.

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