Myth Busters: Stocks Outperforming Real Estate Since 2011?

Real estate and the stock market are often compared to each other, mostly because they are the two most common places for people to invest their money. However, simply comparing growth in home prices to that of the stock market is problematic when trying to determine which is the better investment, as it doesn’t paint a complete and accurate picture.

Take for example a recent Business Insider blog titled, “Is buying a house a better investment than the stock market? We did the math, and the answer is clear”. In it, they charted home prices against the S&P 500 at various points throughout the housing crisis until now in order to demonstrate that stocks have consistently outperformed real estate.

Since May ‘11, which roughly marks the beginning of the housing market recovery, home prices are up 48%, while the S&P 500 has shot up 99%. That means the house you bought for $1 million in 2011 is now worth $1,480,000, and the $1 million you invested in stocks around the same time has nearly doubled. These numbers alone would certainly seem to support the Business Insiders’ claim that stocks are the better investment, at least over that specific period of time. But they‘re forgetting one very important detail…

Buying a $1 million house doesn’t cost $1 million. Assuming you paid a 20% down payment, it only cost you $200,000 initially. So that $480,000 of equity you’ve built up over 7 years is actually a 240% increase on your initial down payment. Even after factoring in 7 years of an estimated $4,500/month in mortgage, property taxes and insurance, the $578,000 total that you have invested into your home has yielded an 83% return. Further, if you’ve been operating this home as a rental property, that extra $378,000 you’ve spent on monthly overhead was likely recouped (and then some) by the rental income you’ve collected, as well as the tax advantages you’ve benefited from.

Don’t get me wrong, investing in real estate isn’t necessarily for everyone. It requires more maintenance than stock investments, and it comes with a lot more headaches. But if you’re up for the challenge, it can prove to be a highly rewarding endeavor. Trust me, I keep going back for more after 25+ years!

RealSmart People in the News!

Our very own, Denis Vorrises, made an appearance in the San Mateo Daily Journal this past week! He and his wonderful family stopped for a photo at the Belmont Greek festival over Labor Day weekend.  If you were there,  you just might have caught his two daughters, Emmanuela & Sofia, performing with the Levendia Dance Group.  Yamas!

Then vs. Now – A Look at Recently Resold RS Fund Projects

Every now and then, a home we flipped years ago will pop back up on the market for sale, which always makes for an interesting trip down memory lane. Given market conditions over the past several years, these homes have usually appreciated considerably, without the new owners having to make any significant improvements. Below is a home we bought and flipped over 5 years ago, which just sold again this June – it’s a great snapshot of how drastically home values have grown in such a short period of time.

We purchased this 3BD/2BA Mt. Carmel home back in August 2012 for just $585,000. After rehabbing the kitchen, bathrooms, landscaping, and making other miscellaneous improvements, we sold for $813,000 – a healthy return for the times. Now, just over 5 years later, the home has resold at $1,440,000 – a 77% increase in value with no major improvements made. While this may seem like a gaudy number, it’s remarkably in lockstep with city-wide price growth over that same period of time. In 2013, the average sales price for a single-family home in Redwood City was $1,050,074. Year to date in 2018, the number increased to $1,844,518. That’s a nearly 76% price increase, virtually identical to the growth Ruby saw over that same period of time. It’s been a wild 5 years in RWC real estate to say the least…

Are People Really Leaving the Bay Area in Droves?

For years now, reports have been circulating of people fleeing the Bay Area in favor of cities with comparable job opportunities and a lower cost of living. It makes perfect sense – cities like Austin, Portland, Seattle and Denver offer lifestyles similar to the SF Bay Area but at a discounted price, the perfect draw for young families struggling to establish themselves in this relentlessly competitive housing market. But is this information being used to create an accurate narrative? Does an emigration of a small fraction of the Bay Area’s workforce point to the end of Silicon Valley’s reign as the country’s preeminent tech hub? Or worse yet, is this the beginning of a mass exodus that will bring about our next market crash? Not so fast…

It seems that whenever I run into an article discussing people leaving the Bay Area, its headline is peppered with words that exist solely to stoke fear in those who read them. A classic tactic in the clickbait era of online news. Take for instance this article published by the Business Insider, titled, “The San Francisco Housing Market is so Dire that People are Leaving in Droves”. Based off the headline, you would expect there to be some significant numbers to back up the claim. Instead, they csite a report released by an organization called the Bay Area Council, which found that 46% of their survey respondents plan to move away soon. This is an interesting discovery, if not incredibly vague, but who did they ask? Turns out, this study (which has been csited by fairly reputable outlets like the Mercury News and the San Francisco Business Times) was based off a poll of just 1,000 registered voters in the nine-county Bay Area. That is roughly 0.014% percent of the 7 million people who live here. Hardly a statistically significant sample size.

But the Business Insider isn’t the only source making the “leaving in droves” argument. Many have. The most compelling evidence I have seen to back this argument up is that people leaving the Bay Area for other states last year outnumber those who moved here by the 10’s of thousands (I have seen it as high as 46,000 in one report). But this is just a measure of domestic migration, or people moving within the United States. What these articles always omit, is that net immigration – people coming and leaving from other countries – has remained positive. In fact, according to census estimates, about 58,000 more people moved to the Bay Area from abroad than left last year, which significantly outweighs the reported deficit in domestic migration. Further, the people moving here from other countries tend to be highly educated, work skilled jobs, and earn above the area’s median salary.

In a sense, what’s actually happening here in the Bay Area is quite the opposite of what many reports are suggesting. While some current residents are in fact leaving for other states, our total population is still increasing. And the people who are moving here are taking skilled jobs that further cement our status as the world leader in tech innovation. Jobs that pay enough for them to jump right into the frenzy that is our housing market, further driving up competition. So while it makes for some excellent clickbait material, there is no mass exodus taking place in the Bay Area. Not yet anyway.

Fannie & Freddie Want to Make it Easier for “Gig” Workers to Get Mortgages


Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the country’s two largest sources of mortgage money, are reportedly working on ways to make qualifying for a home purchase easier for people earning money in the “gig” economy.

The gig economy refers to activities such as driving for Uber, shopping with Instacart, renting your home out on Airbnb, or any other job that allows workers to set their own hours, work for as little or as long as they please, and get paid as an independent contractor.  Last year, a report released by Intuit, which owns TurboTax, estimated that roughly 34% of the U.S. workforce earned money in the gig economy, and projected that number to grow to as high as 43% by 2020.

While these “gigs” have proven to be reliable sources of income for many Americans, using them for mortgage qualification purposes has been problematic. Lenders typically look for 2-years of documented income and reason to believe that those earnings will continue for several years. Earnings from gig economy jobs don’t always neatly fit into these boxes, making it difficult for lenders to use them for mortgage qualification. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are looking for ways around this, so that people earning thousands/month in the gig economy can use that money to gain access to credit in the mortgage market. Neither Freddie nor Fannie have disclosed what options they are pursuing, but Freddie has confirmed a partnership with Loan Beam, a software company which provides automated income verification for gig-economy workers. Depending on what Fannie and Freddie implement, this could help many out U.S. workers who supplement their income in the gig economy get on the path to homeownership.

A Historic Decision: California to Require Solar Panels for New Homes


On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved a policy requiring virtually all new homes to incorporate solar panels.  The requirement will take effect in 2020, making California the first state with such a policy.

California is already the nation’s leading solar market, with over 5 times more solar installed than any other state, and roughly 40% of the total solar installed in the U.S.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the solar industry has created $43 billion of investment in California’s economy, and employs more than 86,000 people.  The SEIA hopes that this historic policy decision with set a precedent and pave the way for other states to follow suit.  New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., have already begun considering legislation that would require new nuildings to be solar-ready.

Of course, for current homeowners, or people buying homes built before 2020, this policy won’t apply.  Still, this policy is a big step towards helping California meet it’s goal of getting at least 50% of it’s electricity from non-carbon producing sources by 2030.

If you’ve considered installing solar-roof panels on your home and would like to explore your options, feel free to give us a call.  We would be happy to connect you with one of our trusted green-roofing experts.

Going Green: Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Options

Solar roof

The last RealSmart Fund Fixer Mixer was a special “50 Shades of Green” event, to which we invited a few of our trusted vendors to provide information on eco-friendly home improvement options. From solar panels to fireplace inserts, there are many ways to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency, at various levels of affordability. Below is an overview of our vendors and some of the green home improvement options they offer.  If you’d like details on options not listed, feel free to give us a call and we will point you in the right direction.

Mr. Roofing – Green Roof Options
This family owned and operated business based in South San Francisco has fully embraced green roofing practices. They can install building-integrated and conventional photovalic solar systems (solar paneled roofs), solar tunnel skylights, green live roofs, and more. Mr. Roofing is a Diamond Certified company, and having used their services many times ourselves we can attest to the quality and relliability of their work.

If you’d like to explore green roofing options for your home, give Mr. Roofing a call, ask for Carlos, and tell him RealSmart sent you.

(650) 605-3927
Ask for: Carlos Rodriguez

SDI Insulation – Energy Efficient Insulation Upgrades
While most people overlook the quality of insulation when buying a home, it does play a key role in how much energy you use when running the heater or A/C. If your insulation is old or of poor quality, chances are you are spending more on your monthly energy bill than needed. The team at SDI Insulation will test your home’s energy efficiency, identify area’s of weakness, and upgrade them in order to decrease your monthly energy usage. If you’d like to test your home’s energy efficiency and explore your options for upgrading, we highly recommend you call the experts at SDI Insulation for a free estimate:

(650) 685-5500
Ask for: Joran Stromberg

Carpeteria – Green Flooring Options
Our friends at Carpeteria offer a number of fantastic envronmentally concious flooring options. Among them are Mohawk carpets, some of which are made with up to 100% recycled material. Mohawk recycles around 3 billion plastic bottles annually for use in over 500 of their products. They even recycle old carpet fibers for use in other industries.

Carpeteria also carries Shaw’s Epic engineered hardwood floors, which are made from 50% less newly harvested wood than conventional engineered wood flooring. Their Scuffresist Platinum coating also makes them remarkably durable.

For more information call:
(650) 965-9600
Ask for: Vick Balian

Shelly’s Top Green(ish) Paint Colors


We recently held a “50 Shades of Green” themes St. Patty’s Day party, to which we invited several of our trusted vendors to showcase eco-friendly home improvement options.  In keeping with the theme of going green, we also had our resident interior designer, Shelly, select 6 of her favorite shades of green paint colors (all from Benjamin Moore’s selection). Admittedly, these colors are only vaguely green (the subtle green hues don’t show well online), but if you’re going to paint part of your home green, you’re better off going with an earthy understated tone rather than full on shamrock green. But hey! It’s your home, and if you feel like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day year-round then that’s your prerogative.

With Spring officially upon us, now is as good a time as any for a new look in your home. If you think any of these colors would look good in one of your bedrooms, as an accent wall in the living room, or anywhere else, stop by the RealSmart office (50 Edgewood Road, Redwood City) and pick up a sample! We have plenty of each of the 6 colors shown.

Please note – the images below are computer generated conceptual renderings pulled from Benjamin Moore’s website.

Cloud Nine: 2144-60 (walls)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 13.33.36

Silken Pine: 2144-50 (Fireplace Wall)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 13.36.33

White Marigold: 2149-60 (walls)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 13.45.25

Mellowed Ivory: 2149-50 (walls)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 13.56.28

Old Prairie: 2143-50 (walls)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 14.12.06

Camouflage: 2143-40 (walls)

Screenshot 2018-04-16 14.14.34


What Does Legal Marijuana Mean for CA Real Estate?

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Thanks to a yes vote on Prop 64 in 2016, recreational marijuana became legal on January 1 of this year. While local governments grapple with how to regulate the once illicit industry, and community leaders struggle to reconcile their disdain for the devil’s lettuce with its status as a revenue generating crop… some real estate investors are licking their chops at the opportunity they feel is headed their way.

Luckily for investors in California, the precedent for legalization has already been set. Colorado voted for legalization 4 years ahead of us, and since that time the real estate market has been thriving. The most obvious growth has been in industrial real estate, where growers look for warehouses to set up shop. According to DCT Industrial Trust, a company specializing in industrial real estate investment, marijuana legalization drove up the cost of warehouse space in the Denver Area by 60% in 2015, and lease renewal rates by 25%. Of course, here in the Bay Area where industrial space already comes at such a premium, growth will not likely be as dramatic. Less impacted markets just outside the Bay Area might offer more alluring opportunities.

The residential market stands to benefit as well, though in a less quantifiable way. The job growth created by legalization in warehouses and dispensaries, but also in auxiliary industries like HVAC and security, can increase the demand for housing. It’s much like how the tech boom in the Bay Area led to dramatic growth in trades like plumbing, electrical, and carpentry. This isn’t to say a weed boom could impact the market to the same degree the tech boom has, but it could have similar effects on a much smaller scale. However, investors (and their real estate agents) need to be aware of local regulations around the industry, as they vary from city to city, and could limit or even prohibit the use of land for cultivation or sale of marijuana.

Fed Raises Interest Rates Again – What This Means for Your Loans


On Wednesday, March 21st, The Federal Reserve raised interest rates (prime rate) by a quarter percent. For people with a traditional 30-year fixed, this has no effect on their loan. But it could affect those who have ARM loans that are adjusting, equity lines of credit and credit cards. Those loans are tied to the prime rate, and will see the actual increase show up within 60 days.

Items such as mortgages and credit cards are benchmarked against the prime rate, and banks are in charge of implementing such Fed Rate changes. Higher rates have already begun hitting the housing market, and though still low by historical standards, mortgage rates are on the rise at a time when inventory of affordable houses is low.

You may see an increase in your monthly payments if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that is maturing, a home equity loan, or balances on credit cards. Furthermore, with the new tax changes that have occurred, the interest you pay on Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC’s) are no longer a tax deduction. Given that information, now may be a good time to consider refinancing into a 30-year mortgage to avoid this increase in payment or to consolidate your 1st and 2nd mortgage into one affordable fixed payment.

7-Story Residential Project Approved Just Outside Downtown RWC

An artistic rendering shows a seven-story, 125-unit residential development at 353 Main Street near downtown that was approved by the Redwood City Planning Commission on March 6, 2018. (City of Redwood City)

An artistic rendering shows a seven-story, 125-unit residential development at 353 Main Street near downtown that was approved by the Redwood City Planning Commission on March 6, 2018. (City of Redwood City)

The Redwood City Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a 7-story, 125 unit housing project just outside of downtown Redwood City at 353 Main Street.  The project will stretch 2 stories higher than the adjacent Township Luxury Apartments, and will take the place of an existing 1-story office strip.

353 Main will include 19 units of below market rate housing, fulfilling the city’s 15% requirement for new residential development.   Also, since the project will offer 7 units to families earning less than half the area income ($60,000/year for a family of 4), it will qualify for a state density bonus allowing the building to increase its size to 143 total units.  Those 7 units are expected to rent for $888/month.

All of the below market rate housing will be retained as such for 55 years after occupancy

Commissioners requested the Developer, ROEM Development, make 20% of the units BMR and maintain the housing protections for 99 years, but they did not mandate it.  As such, the those conditions will not likely be met.

More information available at the city website: 353 Main Street

Office Cap Reached in RWC – Still, Developers Pushing for More


In downtown Redwood City, a 500,000 square foot cap on office space that was intended to guide development for 20 years was reached in just 6.  Now, a developer is hoping Redwood City Council will raise that cap to allow another new office complex on Main Street.

The Acclaim Companies wants to build a four-story mixed-use building with 78,832 square feet of offices and 6,900 square feet of retail on three contiguous parcels at 847-851 Main, 855-857 Main and 852-860 Walnut St. While buildings will be razed at two parcels, the one at 847-851 Main will only partially be demolished because the city has ruled that some portions of it are a historical resource. The project also includes two levels of underground parking with access along Walnut Street and valet parking for 246 vehicles.

In order for this project to move forward, Redwood City will need to amend the General Plan.  There is a possibility this will happen, as the city is set to release a study on the impact of allowing more than the 500,000 S/F of office space called for in the 2011 Downtown Precise Plan.  Stay tuned…

You can find more information on the project at the city’s website: 851 Main Street

Hotel Tax on Short Term Rentals, and Other Rules, Approved by RWC

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A set of regulations for rentals under 30-days received an initial vote of approval by Redwood City Council last week.  Among them are: a requirement for homeowners to live in the residence they are listing for rent, limiting the number of days a renter can stay in the home without a host present, prohibiting rentals for special events, requiring on-site parking for renters, and collecting transient occupancy tax (hotel tax) on short term rentals.

A 12% transient occupancy tax would be applied on top of what homeowners charge for their rentals.  The tax would be collected on short term rental platforms like Airbnb, who would periodically dole it out to the city.  The city estimates that this tax would generate roughly $400,000 annually, which would be dedicated entirely to an affordable housing fund.

Though the ordinance was approved by a 4-0 vote by city council last week, won’t take effect until 2019.  It will be brought back to council for a second reading in February, as three Councilmembers were absent from last week’s meeting.

For more information, read this San Mateo Daily Journal release

Redwood City Approves Affordable Housing Complex, Pursuing Another


Late last year, Redwood City approved a 7-story 117-unit residential complex for low-income seniors at 707 Bradford Street, and now they are close to commissioning proposals for additional affordable housing at a vacant lot on 611 Heller Street. Both the Bradford and Heller lots were purchased by the city with redevelopment funds for affordable housing before state Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved in 2012.

Mid-Pen Housing, a non-profit affordable housing developer, is taking on the project at 707 Bradford, which will include an 8,000-square-foot child care facility to accommodate up to 70 children, and a new public trail along Redwood Creek with trees, lighting and bike racks. Redwood City Council is expected to authorize staff to obtain development proposals for the Heller lot sometime late January.

To ensure there are funds for similar projects in the future, City Council is also considering dedicating hotel tax revenue generated from short term rentals (i.e. Airbnb) towards affordable housing.

The council also recently approved new rules making it easier to build small living units on properties that include single-family residences. It also approved revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan that dedicated 375 units out of a a maximum of 2,500 to affordable housing.

Dumbarton Rail Plan Takes Small Step Forward


For decades, there have been discussions among regional officials about reactivating the long defunct Dumbarton rail, which runs along the Dumbarton bridge connecting Menlo Park and Union City. Such talks have never gained any legs, mostly due to an inability to source sufficient funding for the project. However, last Tuesday San Mateo County Transit District officials approved a plan to make a number of short-term and long-term improvements along the Dumbarton transportation corridor, including a $1.27 billion overhaul of the 100+ year old rail bridge. This plan is the culmination of a study into reviving the corridor led by SamTrans, who have owned the rail bridge since 1994.

The rail would require major improvements before it could become operational again, but if active, it would link Caltrain, BART, the Altamont Corridor Express, and Capitol Corridor. Proponents of the project call it the “missing link” to a regional rail system that would carry passengers from as far as Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley to jobs in Silicon Valley.

While it’s encouraging to see San Mateo County Transit officials taking steps to push the project forward, cooperation would be needed from several other regional bodies before any improvements could be made, since the rail corridor spans multiple counties and transportation agencies.

Funding is another major challenge, as currently no funds have been allocated towards any of the improvements specified in the plan. Regional Measure 3, which could be on the ballot as early as next year, proposes a $3 toll increase on the region’s 7 state-owned bridges. If passed, $130 million of the toll increase’s projected $4.5 billion in revenue would go towards Dumbarton Corridor improvements. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that funds which were set aside for the Dumbarton Corridor from the last bridge toll increase have since been reallocated.

In reality, if we are ever going to see the Dumbarton Rail Corrdior project move forward, it is going to take significant contributions from the private sector, specifically Silicon Valley companies whose employees would be filling the train’s seats every day. Competition for government money is tight, and $1.24 billion is a funding gap far too large for a bridge toll increase to fill.

Stay tuned to our blog for updates on this and other local news

A Look at Benjamin Moore’s Top Paint Colors of 2018

Every year, Benjamin Moore releases a list of their top colors, showcasing what they have found to be their most popular paint colors around the world.  It’s a great list to reference if you’re doing any home renovation, or are just looking to freshen your home up a bit with a new look.  Their 2018 list was recently released, which includes their 2018 color of the year: Caliente.  The video below shows a little about how they chose Caliente as the color of the year, and highlights some of it’s uses.

The RealSmart Fund (the investment arm of RealSmart Group) used several of Bejamin Moore’s top colors of 2018 at our most recent flip in Redwood City.  Below is a slideshow with pictures of the home, where you can see these colors in action – if you like what you see, let us know!  We’ll let you know which colors were used where, and we have samples of all of these colors at the office for you to try out for yourself!

Follow this link for the complete list of 2018’s top paint colors


Redwood City Close to Adopting El Camino Corridor Plan

A rendering shows a vision of what El Camino Real in Redwood City could look like in the future. The Planning Commission discussed the draft El Camino Real Corridor Plan and recommended it to the City Council for approval this week. (City of Redwood City)

A rendering shows a vision of what El Camino Real in Redwood City could look like in the future. The Planning Commission discussed the draft El Camino Real Corridor Plan and recommended it to the City Council for approval. (City of Redwood City)

Last week, the Redwood City Planning Commission unanimously endorsed The El Camino Corrdior Plan, which aims to improve travel and business along the city’s main thoroughfare. The plan was launched by City Council in January of 2016, and took form over 6 public meetings led by a 10-member citizens advisory panel. It prioritizes improving all forms of travel along El Camino- car, bike, public, and foot – without removing any existing car lanes, and calls for additional ground floor retail and affordable housing.

The recommendations for improving transportation include: adding a bike lane separated by a barrier from vehicles (which would involve removing some street parking), making sidewalks continuous, and adding more trees and pedestrian lights along the street for better walkability.

While the plan doesn’t currently call for any zoning amendments that would allow taller buildings, the El Camino corridor could be an ideal location for the higher density housing that many people feel Redwood City needs in order to adequately address demand for rental units. The ease of access to public transit along El Camino has the potential to mitigate some of the traffic concerns higher density housing can bring, especially after improvements are made to the corridor to facilitate smoother travel.

The Planning Commission’s recent endorsement of the El Camino Corridor Plan is not an official approval. It will be brought to City Council on December 4th for official consideration and possible adoption.

Follow this link for more information and updates on the progress on the El Camino Corridor Plan.

Non-Profit Developer Planning 67 Affordable Units in RWC


67 affordable rental housing units for low income families and homeless/at-risk veterans are being planned at 2821 El Camino Real in unincorporated Redwood City, thanks to a $3.5 million dollar loan that just funded from HEART of San Mateo County to non-profit developer, Palo Alto Housing Corp (PAH). The money was given on a one-year loan with a very low interest rate in order to facilitate PAH’s purchase of the 0.59-acre site, which is currently home to an Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

Plans call for the construction of 67 studio and one bedroom apartments. 34 of those units will be made available to families making 30-60% of the area’s median income which, according to the San Mateo County Department of Housing, is between $39,500 and $78,960 annually for a family of four. 27 units will be reserved for homeless or at-risk veterans, and the remaining 6 will be set aside for homeless or at-risk individuals with mental illness. Support services for these tenants will be provided on-site as well. The project is currently in the preliminary stages of the the application process as PAH waits for the property to be rezoned, which they hope will occur sometime in November. If all goes as planned (which is rarely the case in development), construction will begin early 2019, and the property will be fully leased by late 2020.

The Housing Endowment and Regional Trust (HEART) of San Mateo County has been a crucial resource for getting affordable housing projects up and running, especially since the dissolution of California’s 400 plus redevelopment agencies in 2012. HEART is a public/private partnership formed by the county, cities, and labor, business, and education non-profits with the purpose of providing more affordable housing opportunities. Since it’s inception in 2003, the organization has received $14 million in funding gifts and pledges, enabling them to invest around $12.4 million into more than 950 affordable homes across the county. That money goes towards land purchase, architectural drawings, environmental impact reports, and other costly obstacles that cash-strapped non-profit developers face before they can even break ground on a project.

Since this project is on county lands, it doesn’t fall under Redwood City jurisdiction and therefore will be voted on by county officials rather than the Redwood City Planning Commission. Still, if approved, this would be the largest stand alone affordable housing development to be approved in the Redwood City area since the passing of the Downtown Precise Plan in 2011. It will lose that distinction however, if Sobrato is able to gain approval for their massive Broadway Plaza redevelopment, which includes a separate 120 unit affordable housing development.

Stay tuned!

To Stage or Not to Stage


You’re getting ready to sell your home and your Realtor recommends staging it prior to going on the market. You think to yourself: ‘Why waste the money? We’re in a seller’s market, and I have a beautiful home that should sell no problem, with or without staging.’ Well, you might be right, but the question isn’t whether staging will be the difference between your home selling or not. The question is whether staging will increase the likelihood of your home selling quickly and at the highest price the market will bear. In cases where the home isn’t a complete fixer, the answer to that question is usually yes.

First impressions mean a lot in real estate, even in a highly competitive market like the Bay Area. For a buyer to feel confident writing their highest and best offer for your property, you want them to feel at home as soon as they walk through the front door. Needless to say, it’s hard for most people to feel comfortable in a dark and empty house. If one of our clients has a vacant home, we almost always hire a professional stager to furnish it before going on the market.

If you currently live in the house you’re selling, “staging” becomes more a matter of rearranging furniture, decluttering and hiding/removing personal effects. As much as your home feels like home to you, it might not feel that way to the next family. Whether vacant or owner occupied, it’s important to present a neutral living space that appeals to the broadest demographic of buyers possible.

Foster City Must Upgrade Levee or Become Flood Zone


Flooding and flood insurance is the top of the news stories with the multiple hurricanes arriving on the Florida coastline. Here in California, we don’t think too much about hurricanes or flooding, but the latter may be more of a reality than we are aware of. We live in the Bay Area – aptly named as our cities surround approximately 1600 square miles of “bay” water – and while hurricanes don’t pose much of a flood threat here, rising bay levels do. One bayside community is currently at the middle of a battle to protect their city from flood hazards, as well as the costly insurance premiums that come along with them.

Foster City officials are currently mulling over their options for updating the levee running between their city and the bayfront. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had previously certified the levee as providing the city with sufficient protection from flood risk, but a new study found that due to rising water levels roughly 85% of the levee no longer meets FEMA standards. As a result, most of the city could be designated as a flood zone unless appropriate updates are made to the levee.

A flood zone designation would have an immediate impact on Foster City’s real estate market. Any property purchased with federally backed loans would require a flood insurance policy, which can cost thousands annually, depending on the property. Homeowners would also have to disclose the flood insurance requirement when selling, which could adversely affect property values. Fortunately for homeowners, the city is taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen.

We recently hosted Foster City Community Development Director, Curtis Banks, at one of RealSmart’s weekly networking meetings. He explained to us that FEMA granted Foster City a “seclusion mapping” designation in 2015, which has allowed them to temporarily avoid the flood zone designation so long as they show they are taking steps to improve the levee. Since then, he says Foster City has held 37 public, regulatory and general project meetings to decide how much to invest in raising the levee – the higher they raise it, the longer they will be protected from rising sea levels. It’s worth noting that in 2010, Redwood City spent about $2.7 million adding 1-2 feet to about 8 miles of levee in the Redwood Shores community. At the time, the city predicted sea level rise would mandate another round of improvements in 20 years.

Continual levee improvements/maintenance are a burden that fall on many Bayside peninsula communities, not just Foster City. Whether or not these communities do enough to maintain their levees could be the difference of thousands of dollars every year to homeowners. Something to keep in mind if you own a home, or are looking to buy a home in places like Redwood Shores or Foster City, where FEMA accredited levees are the only thing standing between you and a costly flood insurance policy…….or the bay.