What to do / not to do at an open house

What is the etiquette at an open house?

I recently did an open house on one my listings and found myself in shock about how open house attendees treated the property. Somehow, I think people forget that they are in someone else’s home and it should be treated as such. The Golden Rule is the easy answer here; do to others as you would have done to you. 377298-14_0


Look at the home thoroughly. You are there to see if you would like to own it/live in it.

Open closets, cabinets, the refrigerator, dishwasher; in short, things that go with the property.

Turn on the water, shower included, flush the toilet, make sure the water works.

Ask lots of questions. What has the seller repaired during their ownership, have they remodeled, did you have a pre-sale pest report or any other inspections.

Ask to come back at different times of the day so you can see how it changes during the time of day, is it noisy during different times of the day (i.e. rush hour, neighbors, etc..)

Be careful walking through the property. Watch for things could be unexpected and that you can trip on.

Ask how to see disclosures after you have seen the property if you are interested in further information.

Turn lights on and off so that you can see how a space looks in different light.

Hold your children’s hand and keep them with you at all times.

Leave pets at home. If you are out on a walk, please tie them up outside. If they are companion animals, have your paperwork with you for the agent to see; if you don’t you will need to carry the pet.


Do not

Open drawers/doors on furniture. That doesn’t go with the property; you don’t need to know what’s inside.

Touch art work.

Use the bathroom without asking. Some sellers are funny about that. 9 times of 10 it’s not a problem, but please do ask. It’s respectful.

Let your kids run around unattended. Kids like to explore and that’s great. But, picking up someone else’s things, eating their food and sitting, lying or jumping on someone’s bed/furniture is not cool. I do not want to reprimand other people’s children and I’m sure they don’t want me to.

Bring in coffee, drinks or food-they can spill and cause damage or a mess.

Take pictures without asking first. There may be other sources of better pictures for you to download, which the agent would be happy to share.

West Portal Property Values up again for 2014

The West Portal/Inner Parkside 2014 Year-End Real Estate Market Update

2014 started out with a bang real estate wise and I expect we will see that again in 2015. A lack of inventory has kept prices on their move up.

Of particular note at the present time, is that a home’s selling price seems to have less to do with their location, as it is with

Eric Castongia-2655 16th Ave.

the type of property and the condition it’s in. A great example is a home on Claremont that was priced appropriately for its location and condition; it received 21 offers. The fact that the home is a grand, two story detached home mean

t more than the busy street; it sold for more over asking than I expected.

Buyers are very educated, so not every home sells for more. Another two story on Forest Side that needed significant work, sold for un

der asking, despite its multiple offers.

  • The total number of sales for 2014 was 60, a slight decrease from 64 last year. Historically, the normal in previous years has been around 50; perhaps we are seeing a new normal.
  • At the close of the fourth quarter of 2014, we had one active, 18 sold (closed) and two failed to sell properties. Of the 18 sold, 15 received multiple offers and 16 sold over their asking price. The amount of over bids ranged from as little as $10,000 to as much as $462,000.
  • There were many similarities comparing the last quarters of 2013 and 2014. There were 18 sold properties in each, both received 16 received multiple offers and the amount of over bids ranged from as little as $31,000 to as much as $405,000.
  • Three of the 18 sales (17 percent) were reported as all cash (meaning no loan on the property); and we had 14 reported for the year (23 percent).
  • There were no short sales or bank owned properties this year.
  • There were four ‘failed to sell’ listings for the year; two in the last quarter. One of these came back on and is still active.
  • A few ‘apples’ on the market in the last quarter, meaning properties that have sold in the recent past. One on 15th that sold in 2004, sold for $502,000 more in 2014.
  • In my analysis to determine market value, I do not use median price. Rather, I compare specific property types, sizes, conditions and locations, from quarter to quarter and year to year. Using that comparison method, I determined that property values went up both quarter to quarter and year over year.
  • From the third quarter to the fourth, prices went up as much as seven percent.
  • Year over year, we gained as much as 19 percent.
  • List prices started to change this year, going up along with the increase in value, but still needing to take into account that buyers expect to overbid.
  • I expect the usual first quarter bump up in prices; as there isn’t much inventory and we haven’t had much on over the holidays.
  • I have also heard from several staging companies that they are poised to be very busy at the beginning of the year.

Eric Castongia, Residential Sales Specialist at Zephyr Real Estate (BRE Lic. No. 01188380) provided the information in this article. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace. Eric can be reached by e-mail at Eric@SFHotBuy.com, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700.

Documents to keep after close of escrow

  • Your buyers final closing statement-you will need this for tax purposes.
  • Sellers will receive a substitute 1099-you will need to claim your sale on your tax return.
  • All transaction documentation. ( I provide my clients with a complete transaction CD with the documents in pdf format within a few weeks of closing.)
  • All loan documentation.
  • The deed and title insurance policies.  Expect these to arrive within 3-4 weeks after closing.  Make sure to put them in a safe deposit box, or other firesafe box for safe keeping.
  • Insurance policies to prove coverage.  These should be kept in safe place in your property, such as a fireproof box.

What to look for on the final walkthrough

  • Does the property look substantially the same as when you wrote your offer?
  • Are all items that were to be left with the property still there?  Like refrigerator, washer and dryer, curtains, light fixtures.
  • Extra keys and garage door remotes are on the property.
  • Operating manuals, appliance warranties, alarm codes, and alarm contact information are on the premises.
  • All sellers personal items removed.
  • Debris on the property removed, including unwanted paint cans.
  • Consider obtaining a buyers home warranty to cover unexpected repairs of covered items for the first year; a small deductible applies.

West Portal Real Estate Market 2013

West Portal Real Estate Market goes up for another year

The West Portal/Inner Parkside 2013 Year-End Real Estate Market Update

By Eric Castongia, Zephyr Real Estate

Eric Castongia

This was an interesting year to look back on.  In looking at the analysis I did for 2011 and 2012, it’s amazing how far we’ve come!  In 2011, we had price reductions, withdrawn listings and properties sat on the market.  In February 2012, we roared back to life and we’ve been running ever since, although I felt a pause in the fall.   Even over the holidays this year, we saw properties come on right up to Christmas and then they sold right away.

  • The total number of sales for 2013 was 64, a huge increase from the normal of around 50; that’s a 28 percent jump. 2012 was 50.  Even in a down market, 2011 saw 51 sales because of our consistency and built-in demand.
  • At the close of the fourth quarter of 2013, we had two active, two pending (not yet closed) and 18 sold (closed) properties.  Of the 18 sold, 16 received multiple offers and 16 sold over their asking price.  The amount of over bids ranged from as little as $25,000 to as much as $251,000.
  • Technically, no properties sold under asking, but if you dig a bit deeper, two of the sold properties had been reduced, then sold for over asking.  Another property sold at asking.
  • For a little perspective, at the close of the fourth quarter of 2012, we had 17 sold (closed) properties.  Of the 17 sold, 12 received multiple offers and all 12 of them sold over their asking price.  The amount of over bids ranged from as little as $2,000 to as much as $262,000.
  • There was one short sale this year and it is still pending.  In 2012 there were six.  It seems that property value increases and previous sales have flushed out most of the short sales and foreclosures.
  • There were four ‘failed to sell’ listings for the year; one came back on and is still pending (the short sale mentioned above), so net affect is three; in 2012, we had seven.  Again an indication of an accelerated market.
  • Interestingly, a property that had sold on 17th Ave. in 2008 for $1.3m, sold in the fourth quarter for $1.4m.  That’s a pretty good return considering that three of those nearly five years where in an economic downturn.  The property would have gone down between 2008 and 2011, then recovered between 2011 and 2013.
  • As you may know, my scientific method for establishing value is spreading sold properties from different quarters across my dining room table.  In that way, I can compare apples and apples and avoid median price, which I think is not too useful.
  • By my interpolation, property values went up year over year, but down quarter to quarter.
  • From the third quarter to the fourth, it looks like prices went down as much as three percent; that’s the pause I felt.
  • Year over year, we gained approximately four to eight percent.  That seems like a big spread, but consider this.  The target moves every single quarter.  I compare properties between quarters and the properties I compare change, because I have to find similar properties between quarters.  Since each house and block is different, we have little control in coming up with firm numbers.
  • Interestingly, list prices didn’t seem to change; it was the overbids that did.  Being part of the dotcom mentality, we have to take into account that buyers expect to overbid.  Note that I mentioned above that the minimum overbid was $25,000 in the fourth quarter, in the third it was $2,000.  Price your property near where you think it will sell and you won’t get activity, or a buyer.
  • I expect the usual first quarter bump in prices; there isn’t much inventory, so if you go on the market right now, you’ll likely get a premium.
  • If you read the national news, they expect equilibrium in the real estate market this year; I do not agree for San Francisco.  Our real estate market has always reacted differently and I don’t think this year will be any different.  We are still likely to see short supply and buyers staying the course trying to buy before interest rates go up.

Eric Castongia, Residential Sales Specialist at Zephyr Real Estate provided the information in this article. The content of this article is an interpretation of data from the San Francisco Multiple Listing Service and Eric’s observations in the marketplace.  Eric can be reached by e-mail at Eric@SFHotBuy.com, or via mobile phone at (415)307-1700. DRE Lic. No. 01188380

How to look for hazard insurance

Obtaining hazard insurance on property has gotten more difficult, so please get started immediately on securing hazard insurance on your property.  This is because of the extraordinary losses that insurance companies have paid out from disasters and mold claims.  Obtaining insurance for properties that are older, have brick foundations, are mixed use or commercial buildings, or multiple unit buildings can be even more challenging. 
Since lenders require hazard insurance to be in place prior to close of escrow; unknown claims discovered prior to close and after you are in a purchase contract could be frustrating and expensive should you not be able to close escrow until insurance is secured.  While you are in contract, the sellers through their agent, should disclose (or be asked to disclose) any claims on the property and if possible, order a CLUE report from their insurance carrier to disclose any claims that may have been made.  The seller can order one from www.choicetrust.com, or their insurance agent can provide one; we cannot get one on their behalf.

If you are purchasing a condominium, there is a master insurance policy on the complex and this is an issue of which you should not have the same concern as when you are buying the entire property.  You should still consider getting a condominium contents policy, however, to cover the contents in the case of fire, theft, or other disaster.  Be sure to note that you may need an ‘HO-6’ policy that would cover appliances, kitchen cabinets, fixtures and finishes.

When shopping for insurance, make sure you talk to several insurers.  Generally, you will have a better grasp on what are important features in policies by talking to multiple people because you’ll know what features and exclusions each policy have.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Look for exclusions in coverage.  For example, rental property coverage is much more limited; you will need a specific landlord policy and perhaps a separate liability or umbrella policy.
  2. Earthquake insurance is extra if available.  It is offered by the California Earthquake Authority 30 days after you close escrow.
  3. Look for dollar limitations on claims.  Even if a policy claims to be guaranteed replacement, there are caps on the policy-find out what they are to avoid being under-insured.
  4. Special items of value might have to be scheduled separately; things like antiques, jewelry, computers, or firearms in order to be covered.
  5. If an insurer offers actual cash value, make sure you ask what this means.
  6. Understand the liability portion of your policy and what it covers and does not.  You may need a separate umbrella policy if it is not sufficient.
  7. Look at the deductible on your policy.  By raising it, you may be able to reduce your premiums.
  8. Discounts are generally given when multiple policies (i.e. house and auto) are issued by the same company-check into whether this is possible.
  9. Discounts are also sometimes given when you have smoke detectors, alarm systems, dead-bolt locks, etc…  Also see if group discounts are given.
  10. Many insurers may not insure properties that are not bolted to their foundations, do not have circuit breaking electrical systems, or are on brick foundations; this will limit the available insurers for your property, which may also be more expensive coverage.  For tough to insure properties, this may be a government sponsored plan, such as the California Fair Plan.
  11. Be sure to review your policy limits annually to stay up to date.  Insurance might have some sort of cost of living rider, but it is usually not sufficient to maintain adequate insurance coverage.
  12. Make your home safer and keep up maintenance.  Keep roofs in good repair, take care of items which could lead to a claim such as cracked and heaving sidewalk tripping hazards, consider seismic retrofitting.
  13. Be careful in the claims you make.  Insignificant work may be better taken care of out of your own pocket, rather than risk being canceled by your carrier, or making your property difficult to sell when a new buyer has to get insurance.
  14. For personal property, it would be unusual to have an insurer offer replacement value-be sure and ask.

Items in list above inspired by Realtor Online Magazine, reprinted with permission of the NAR, copyright 2003.  All rights reserved.

What to expect at the title company

Prior to meeting your escrow officer at the title company, both you and your real estate professional should have received a copy of the estimated closing costs for your transaction.  This will be an accounting of all fees and what you have left to pay (if you are buying, receiving if you are selling) prior to closing your transaction.  You will be bringing a cashiers check or arranging for a wire transfer to deliver the balance of funds to escrow.  If you are selling, you can have remaining funds wired to you, or a check cut and delivered to you.

You should also have worked out:

  • all the conditions of your loan with the mortgage broker or lender.
  • obtained hazard insurance on the property
  • bring a valid driver’s license or passport so that the notary can verify your identity
  • decide how you would like to hold title-this may require conversations with estate attorneys or accountants far in advance of closing escrow, as estate and tax planning require time to implement.

After the signing you will be waiting for the lenders final review of your loan documents, funding the loan and the title company recording your deed, making you the owner (or not if you are selling) of your new property.  Once all these things have occurred, usually within a few  business days, you will be notified of closing and get (or give) your keys
Expect to receive your policy of title insurance and the deed to your new property sometime within the next month after closing.  They should be put into a safe deposit or other firesafe box.

Selecting how to hold title to your new property

The form of ownership chosen in your purchase, known as the vesting (holding title), will determine who may sign various documents and future rights of the individuals in the transaction; it can have an effect on one person buying as well as multiple people. You may have already heard some of the terms, joint tenancy, community property, tenants in common, sole ownership, or held in trust.

These rights associated with each type of vesting involve such matters as: real property taxes, income taxes, inheritance and gift taxes, transferability of title, exposure to creditor’s claims and significant probate implications in the event of death.

Before you can close escrow (or get loan documents), you must have selected a method of ownership.  Please get started on that process as soon as you begin the search for property.  Living trusts for instance, can take months to set up, so your preparation is important.

I urge you to speak with your attorney and/or tax advisor as soon as possible for vesting questions.  Your advisor may make recommendations which require partnership agreements, trust documents, wills, or other such documents.  Since these decisions and the accompanying documents may take time to be generated, I urge you to start this process immediately so that they may be accomplished prior to close of escrow.