The Additional Cost of Buying a Home – what some realtors won’t tell you.


The “Spring or Pre-Spring Market” which is typically the most active time of year will be kicked off after the Super Bowl. Therefore, every day, new listings will be “springing” up, posting onto the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and then populating to your favorite search engines. It’s also the time of year when new Buyers come out from the winter lull ready to get in contract before the next school year.

When I work with first time Buyers, I often noticed that while they seem well-informed searching the Internet for that perfect home, AND are surprisingly knowledgeable about the list-to-sales price of past properties, they’re often far less well-informed about the costs of buying a home; closing costs, or the ongoing costs of ownership; annual property taxes and maintenance.

Buyers pay the full cost of title and escrow insurance which your lender will require in order to ensure clean title on the property, meaning that all liens have been paid off and most importantly, that the Sellers are actually the owners of the property and have the authority to sell it. Itimp is therefore important to read that Preliminary Title Report in the Disclosure Packet!

At the closing of your house, title/escrow will collect pro-rated property taxes, the first year of homeowners’ insurance (also required by the lender), loan origination fees and other expenses such as notary and recording fees. Altogether, you may be looking at close to 3% of purchase price. On a $1 million house, your closing fees could be as much as $30,000 and this is not money the lender folds into the loan, so budget accordingly.

“Point-of-sale ordinances” are items like sidewalk inspections (required in Piedmont and Oakland but not Berkeley), energy conservation ordinances (required in Berkeley only, known as BESO), and sewer lateral certification (required by EBMUD). Sewer lateral replacements MUST be completed within 180 days of the transfer of ownership (unless already compliant) and average between $5,000 – $8,000. These costs are typically passed along to the Buyers when there are multiple offers.

What does the Seller pay? BOTH sides of the commission as well as getting the house ready for the market such as painting, and staging which can add $15,000 – $30,000 to their out-of-pocket expenses.
So yes, buying or selling a home can be expensive, daunting and a bit overwhelming, but it’s also the best way for average Americans to accumulate wealth over time. I’m here to help you navigate the process from beginning to end and I will let you know these costs in detail before you begin your search – not after – which is what you’d expect from your trusted Real Estate advisor.

To Remodel or Not…what not to do

People often talk to me about their desire to renovate their home after they saw what their neighbors did, or went to an open house down the street where they were impressed by somebody’s awesome remodeling.

Sometimes it’s worth undertaking projects with a low return on investment, such as adding a new bathroom, if it improves your comfort and your home’s livability. But many cosmetic changes (say, swapping out a perfectly good set of kitchen cabinetry for another) likely won’t have a high return on investment if you sell the home. I’ve been on so many broker tours where I am amazed at the choice of quirky personal tastes. This house in Oakland below was in a great location with a view of the Bay, ideal layout and open concept living. However, even though the updates were extremely high quality, the personal choices such as the kitchen hood, sink and other finishes throughout dissuaded many buyers. This home end it up staying on the market 2 weeks more than our usual 14 days. I can bet that the sold price was less than what the sellers were hoping for with all the expensive upgrades.

Renovations often cost more than originally planned, so you should wait until you have 15 to 20 percent more than the in the bank before taking the plunge. Once the project gets underway, there’s no telling what money-draining horrors may be lurking behind the walls, from unforeseen pest damage to building code violations.

Resale value is less important in your “forever” home, but if you’re in a starter home or somewhere in the middle, it’s a good idea to consider what future buyers will want. Quirky or excessive customization—adding brightly colored tiles or vintage appliances, for example—may decrease the value of your home.

Rockridge New Thai Restaurant Yimm is a Hit and other food musings

In my pursuit of yummy Asian cuisine, I was  disappointed when Osmanthus on College Ave in Rockridge closed although I can’t say I was surprised. Osmanthus never created a presence in the Rockridge food scene. The Asian fusion menu was limited, the food mediocre and the outside patio under utilized.

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Thai restaurant in place of Osmanthus. It claims to be Thai home cooking which includes fried egg with rice (often my favorite dinner), Yeh Tai Fo (seafoood noodles with red sauce) and Lord’s Noodle (steamed glass noodles). What’s great about Yimm is the absence of MSG in their food, even the soup. This is very significant since there’s an overwhelming amount of soup stocks which are  served in restaurants have MSG.

I’ve been there now 4 times and each time the food have been satisfying. I’ve taken my co-workers there and now they’re hooked too.Yimm menu