Low Home Inventory: Why It’s Important to Have a Well-Connected Real Estate Agent

Do you often think to yourself, “Boy, I sure have a lot of extra time and extra money to waste”? If you, like basically everyone else looking to buy or sell a home, want to maximize your investment and minimize the time and stress involved in your real estate transaction, then the first and perhaps most important step is to find your agent. Preferably an experienced, well-connected agent!

This practical guide to real estate agent skills and responsibilities will help you choose an agent capable of delivering tangible results in the most efficient, effective manner. In a competitive market, relying solely on old-school information from sources such as MLS databases or word of mouth is not going to get you the best possible results.  

Real Estate Agent Skills: Marketing Matters

If you are selling your property, then a big part of your real estate agent’s responsibilities should include a comprehensive marketing plan. This is needed to maximize your listing’s exposure to prospective buyers.

A few key components of your agent’s marketing strategy should include:

  • 1. Home staging to maximize visual appeal and desirability — not required, but recommended if your time-frame and finances allow
  • 2. High-quality, professional photographs utilized in digital and direct advertising campaigns
  • 3. Virtual tours to offer convenience to both the buyer and the seller
  • 4. Open houses that are strategically scheduled and well-promoted

The success of these marketing initiatives is largely correlated to how well-connected your agent is. What good are shiny new photographs or beautifully staged open houses if the right eyes don’t see them?

The same goes for the other side of the coin, too. If you’re on the hunt for your next home or investment property, a well-connected agent is an absolute must. This is especially true in a low-inventory market as exists in Orange County. Your agent will be vital in helping you find exactly what you’re looking for, and making a strategic offer before the listing is scooped up by your competition. 

A savvy real estate agent also understands that the best marketing campaigns don’t only showcase their properties; they also showcase the agent. If you’ve lived in your community for a while, what names come to mind when you think of real estate? Chances are that if they stand out in your mind, they stand out in the minds of others, too. Take note — this is a sign of a well-connected agent. 

The Importance of Relationships with Other Industry Professionals

Put simply, the more well-connected an agent is, the more resources they have at hand to offer you.

Your real estate agent should have a broad network of industry connections to streamline the entire buying or selling process from start to finish. This includes different industry professionals and services, such as attorneys, mortgage brokers and lenders, inspectors, contractors, appraisers, stagers, painters, moving companies and more.

It will save you a wealth of time to have referrals to reputable, high-quality service providers that you’ll need rather than having to seek out each from scratch. At the Stavros Group, we go the extra mile by scheduling and coordinating all the vendors and their work, while you sit back and relax.

The most important industry connections for a successful real estate agent are with other agents. Whether they are within your own team or brokerage or community, other local agents can serve as your eyes and ears, your “boots on the ground.” They can provide valuable feedback after showing the home, and close agent relationships are particularly helpful when trying to buy or sell an off-market property. Agents talk and share information about current active and upcoming listings. This information is absolutely invaluable.

In a low-inventory, fast-paced real estate market, an agent who is well-connected with other agents can make the difference between securing the property of your dreams or missing out on it entirely. Every agent has a style and a process, so it’s helpful to hire an agent who both knows his or her colleagues well, and is held in high regard by the real estate community. These seemingly small professional connections can make all the difference in your transaction.

The Role of Relationships Within the Community

An in-depth understanding of the local community enables your real estate agent to effectively match your needs to the most suitable properties. This applies to things like desired neighborhoods, proximity to particular amenities, schools and more. A well-connected agent is especially helpful if you are not very familiar with the neighborhoods where you’d like to buy a home. 

As recently described in Forbes, “there is no way to put a monetary value on the expert advice of an agent who actually lives and breathes real estate in the neighborhood their business is focused on.”

A real estate agent creates an ecosystem of trust and communication through a strong presence and good rapport with other local businesses, organizations and professionals. They are able to cultivate valuable word-of-mouth referrals and connections, all of which helps in making your transaction a quicker and more successful endeavor.

Never Underestimate the Power of the Internet 

To be a well-connected real estate agent these days means being active across a multitude of social media platforms. We’re talking Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest… the more, the merrier!

But it’s not just about your agent’s number of social media followers; even more important is their responsiveness and online activity. Are they posting regularly and staying at the top of the feed? Do they reply to tags, comments, and questions? This sort of online etiquette is akin to responding to phone calls and emails. It contributes to (or detracts from) an agent’s overall reputation. 

Are You Looking for an Agent Who Ticks All the Boxes? 

Real estate agent skills and duties are expansive and varied. Picking the right, well-connected real estate agent to work with can truly be a make-or-break moment for your entire buying or selling process. 

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. A real estate agent’s role is multifaceted, but it should always include an expansive network of industry and community connections. 

If are considering buying or selling a home in the Orange County area, connect with us. See how our local, experienced and well-connected team can exceed your expectations. Let’s talk strategy! 

Buyer Beware: Red Flags to Look Out for When House Hunting

If you are thinking of buying a home, you have probably already begun your search. It’s easy these days, with up-to-date listing information available on a wide variety of websites. And it’s fun!

House hunting is one of the most exciting parts of real estate, and it draws a lot of interest on TV shows and in-person open houses. Viewing and touring potential new homes means thinking of possibilities and dreaming about your future.

As fun as it is, though, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of house hunting — the perfectly staged rooms, the must-have features, the pool or kitchen you always wanted. Focusing too much on the aesthetics and amenities can lead you to miss some warning signs about a property, and a poor decision can lead to years of regrets.

We’re here to help you avoid making any costly mistakes in your home search. Read on for a quick guide on the red flags to spot when house hunting. 

No Photos in the Listing

The vast majority of homebuyers start their search online to get a feel for the market and their options. It’s a good way to get a glimpse of the types of homes available, their price, and which neighborhoods might suit you best. However, not all online listings are created equal. 

For example, if a listing has few photos (or zero photos), it’s probably not a good sign. Either the homeowner doesn’t want to show you what’s inside, or they don’t care enough to make an effort. Either way, chances are slim that it’s the right home for you.

Don’t just think about what’s shown in the pictures. Consider what’s not being shown.

Signs of Water Damage

Next, while touring homes, keep an eye out for signs of water damage. This can include cracking and bubbling paint, discolored walls and ceilings, pooling water, and moldy/mildewy smells.

Signs of water damage can be especially concerning because they can indicate damage to drywall, flooring, and structural components of the house, all of which may be very costly to remediate and repair. Worst of all, water damage can also mean the presence of toxic mold hidden throughout the house. 

Signs of Pests

Recent studies have shown that 84% of homes have some sort of pest presence. Typically, this means small, not-very-significant issues like the occasional bug or insect. However, if the home you visit while house hunting has obvious signs of a widespread infestation, you might want to think again.

Pest infestations can be tricky (and costly) to get rid of. Not to mention, most pests cause multiple forms of damage to a house. Termites chew through wood, rodents destroy materials and leave waste everywhere, etc.

As is the case with all these red flags, you might choose to simply move on and look at other homes. But if you really like some features of the home and think you can make it work, you can always negotiate a lower price, or ask the sellers to remedy the problem.

Obvious “DIY” Renovations

As you house hunt, work on your eye for spotting obvious DIY work. While there’s nothing wrong with a homeowner learning new skills and saving money by completing DIY repairs and updates, you can never be sure of the quality of their work. Additionally, the owners may have failed to follow the proper permitting process for a job. 

DIY repairs and renovations that violate the city coding laws could come back to haunt you, even if it was the previous owner who did them. More importantly, they may not be completely safe or sound.

Weird Odors

Weird smells are never a good sign while house hunting. Cleaning is an important part of the listing process, so if a home for sale still has lingering odors, they may be hard to fix or foretell deeper problems.

As noted previously, musty smells could be an indication of mold and mildew. Additionally, questionable smells could point to pests, pet accidents that weren’t properly cleaned up, rotting food lying somewhere and so on.

Similarly, if the home is covered in air fresheners, it might indicate lingering, foul smells. Of course, it could just be the seller and listing agent trying to make the home more inviting. But an excessive amount of scents could mean they’re trying to mask an unpleasant odor. 

Your Real Estate Agent is Also the Listing Agent

When looking for a house to buy, it’s always a good idea to hire a real estate agent. They can help you find the right house based on location, size, features, property size, etc. 

However, if your real estate agent is also the listing agent for the house you’re looking at, make sure that they have your best interests at heart. Agents are only people, after all. Most are good folks and they try to do right by their clients. But buying a home that’s also listed by your agent/agency can open things up to a conflict of interest. 

When you buy that listing, the agent makes double the commission since they represent both parties. If you have a good agent, this is not typically a problem. But an unscrupulous agent might be willing to withhold information or negative details about the home that might otherwise deter you from placing an offer.

The bigger lesson here is to work with an agent you trust!

Negative Drainage

When house hunting, it’s not just the interior of homes you should examine. You should also take a walk around the property to look for anything disconcerting. 

For example, take a look at the landscaping around the foundation of the house. Does the ground slope away from the house, toward the house, or is it flat? Ideally, the foundation should slope down away from the house to ensure positive drainage.

Negative drainage will drain water back toward the foundation, which can cause water leaks in the basement/crawl space, damages to the foundation, etc. All of these problems can be expensive and frustrating to deal with.

Questionable Roofing

The roof of a house is one of the most important components. It’s the primary defense for your home against the elements.

That means your roof is also the part of your home most susceptible to incurring damage. Inevitably over time, the wind, rain, hail, snow, ice and sun can break down a roof. 

If the roof needs to be replaced due to regular wear and tear, it won’t be covered by most insurance companies. This means the seller is less likely to invest in roof repairs or a replacement before selling. The last thing you want to do is buy a house that needs thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in roof repairs. 

An Insanely Low Price

We all know the importance of comparing house prices while house hunting. Comparable sales are the chief way that home values are determined by appraisers and other real estate pros.

When a sale price seems too good to be true, it probably is. In other words, a super cheap home is likely super cheap for a reason. 

If the home sounds too good to be true, there’s likely something fundamentally wrong. This is more common in homes that have been listed on the market for more than four or five months. 

If you run into this situation, ask your Realtor to find out why the listing price is so low. Alternatively, you could place a contingent offer on the home based on the results of a home inspection. It will cost you some money to get answers, but at least you’ll know what you’re dealing with.  

Ready to Start House Hunting?

It’s exciting to house hunt and think of the possibilities in your new home! Just make sure you keep an eye out for the red flags listed in this article while house hunting. A home is a huge investment, and the last thing you want is for an oversight to come back and haunt you.

Whether you’ve been searching real estate listings for a while, or you’re just getting started or mulling your options, we’re here to help. Connect with us today to start the conversation and discuss your options to buy, or sell and buy, a home! We would love to help you achieve your goals and find a home that’ll make you happy for years to come.

What to Know Before Buying a Second or Vacation Home

Are you interested in purchasing a vacation home? Are you wondering what you should know before you take the plunge?

Whether it’s across the country or across the road, buying a second home can be appealing for a variety of reasons. You may be looking to make a sound investment, establish rental income for retirement, or own your dream vacation home in a destination you love to visit.

That said, it’s still wise to weigh the pros and cons of all your options, before you purchase a second home.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider.

1. Know Your Budget

If you’ve worked hard and saved, you may be looking forward to rewarding yourself with that gorgeous condo near the water or cozy mountain cottage you’ve always dreamed of. When reviewing your finances, just keep in mind that the purchase price isn’t the only cost that second-home owners face.

No doubt you will pay taxes and homeowner’s insurance on your new home. There will also be utilities such as heat, hot water, and electricity to consider, as well as inevitable maintenance to keep things in good, working condition.

If your home is a condo or located in a gated community, you might also be responsible for HOA fees. This may include services like lawn mowing or the use of a community pool. If it doesn’t, remember that you may need to pay someone to maintain the property if you don’t plan on living there full time. In this regard, an HOA can be a big plus for a second home, since you won’t need to manage as much upkeep while you’re away from the property.

You’ll also want to consider what it will cost to furnish your home, as well as the ongoing costs of maintenance. Make sure you leave yourself a little cushion for emergencies.

Add up your estimated costs and decide what you can truly afford. Consider the rent you’ll need to charge in order to keep up with your monthly expenses. Is this enough to cover the costs, and will you be able to generate a little income? Depending on the leasing rates in your target second-home area, you may come out with considerable monthly profit, or you may be cutting things uncomfortably close.

Buying a second home or vacation home can be a wonderful opportunity, and carefully planning your budget will ensure that you can enjoy the experience rather than regret it down the line.

2. Location, Location, Location

As with all real estate, it’s important to consider where your potential second home is located. If you intend it to be a vacation home, will you be happy visiting the same place again and again?

Many of us have somewhere away from home that we truly love, but many others prefer not to be locked down to one location. If your options are a second home or occasional trips to far-flung lands, consider which is best for you. (If you have the resources for both, even better!)

Location is perhaps even more important with an income property. As mentioned above, it’s critical that you research the going rates for rent in the neighborhood to make sure your costs are covered. Also, you will have some responsibilities as a landlord.

If your income property is near your primary residence, it’s less hassle to manage the property and tenants yourself. However, if the property is further away, or if you simply don’t want to deal with the extra work of being a landlord, you may want to hire a property management company.

3. Know About Appreciation

You may be purchasing a house to renovate and flip, or you may want to use it as an investment property over a period of years. In this case, it’s important that your home increases in value over time. Do a little research and make sure that this is a fairly safe bet before you purchase.

First, the home should be located in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Are there good schools and a growing population? Are there enough amenities to attract young families or retirees? An income property in a dwindling rural area is probably not going to appreciate much in value, but in a popular city or destination it has great potential.

Do some research on the projected growth for a particular area before you make an offer. Interview real estate agents in the area, and find a good fit with an experienced agent whose guidance you trust. As an expert in the area, they will be your greatest resource.

4. Spend Some Time

Maybe it goes without saying, but before you drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on a vacation home, it’s important to know you really like the place! To get a sense of living in an area, it’s a good idea to rent a home, or at least a hotel, for a time before making the big investment.

If you’re planning on eventually making your vacation home your full-time residence, make sure you take a trip during different seasons. Are you ready for southern heat in the summer? How about chilly nights in the mountains? Does the area have sufficient local business and amenities to meet your needs while you’re on vacation — say, restaurants, grocery stores, conveniences like gas stations, or medical facilities?

There’s no one perfect place for everyone; it’s just a matter of finding the right place for you. Once you know what you can realistically expect from your vacation home, and you are happy with it, then go for it!

Your Dream Vacation Home

Real estate transactions are among the largest purchases we make, so buying the perfect second home will take a bit of research. However, once you’ve found the right property in a location you love, you’re on your way toward a very rewarding lifestyle! Your family and your stress levels will be thanking you for years to come.

Don’t stop getting smart about vacation and rental homes now. For guidance on buying or selling a home in the Orange County area, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact the Stavros Group today! 

Top 7 Tips to Get Your Home Ready For a Baby

With a baby on the way, you might feel overwhelmed by all the preparation needed to make your home safe and functional before the new family member arrives. You’re not alone. According to a new survey by Orlando Health, 40 percent of new mothers feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed following their baby’s delivery. 

Although it takes some work, preparing your home for a new baby ahead of time can actually help put your mind at ease. You’ll be able to focus solely on taking care of your baby instead of trying to find the right items that have gotten lost in cabinets, closets or under the bed. We’re here to help make baby-proofing your home easier and give you peace of mind.

Read on for our top seven tips on preparing a space and bringing baby home! 

Create Baby Stations

One of the most helpful things you can do to prepare your home for a new baby is to create baby stations throughout your home. Here are some of our recommendations: 

1. Changing Station

A dedicated area helps when trying to change a crying, messy baby! Consider including all of these items in drawers or baskets: 

– Unwrapped diapers (ready to grab and use)

– Diaper creams

– Wipes

– Clean clothes

– Towel

– Spit up cloths

– Trash can/diaper pail

– Hamper

– Toys to keep your baby occupied

Babies are usually wriggling and active when it’s time to change them. You’ll have your hands full keeping them still, so this is why we recommend including as many items as you think you’ll need. You can also keep a pre-packed diaper bag in this area for when you’re ready to hit the road. 

2. Feeding Station

The kitchen is where you might prepare formula for your baby, but of course you’ll also need a dedicated station for feeding, formula or not. Start with a comfortable chair in the nursery so that you can have privacy if there are guests in your home. Here are more items you’ll want to include: 

– Spit-up cloths

– Baby books if your baby is ready to fall asleep

– Nightlight or soft task light

– Bottles of water for mom

– Snacks for mom

– A small tv or a stand for an iPhone/tablet 

Feeding your baby takes some time, so it’s a nice opportunity to try and relax, listen to a podcast or catch up on your favorite show. 

3. Nighttime Station

Routines can help prepare your baby for sleep, especially if they’re fussy. By creating a nighttime station, you won’t have to search throughout your house to find items that will comfort your baby. Try including:

– Bedtime baby books

– Soft night lamp or nursery lamp

– Calming music

– Spit-up cloth

Baby monitor

We recommend setting your baby monitor in a dedicated space that gives a good view of your baby’s crib, like a nearby shelf or a dresser. To get the positioning just right, you might also consider installing a small shelf strictly for the baby monitor. 

Baby-Proof Your Home

Once you have some dedicated stations, your next step should be baby-proofing your home. We recommend baby-proofing sooner rather than later, as it’s hard to find the time once you have a crying and needy infant to manage! Here are a few steps to get started: 

4. Secure Furniture

Make sure that you install corner protectors on sharp furniture corners so that your child doesn’t injure themself as they grow and move around. You’ll also want to secure furniture to the wall so that it isn’t prone to tipping and falling. 

5. Electrical Equipment

Cover up unused electric outlets with covers. You’ll also want to do some basic cord management by bundling cords with zip ties and mounting them to the wall instead of in a tangle on the floor to prevent catches and snags.

6. Sleep Safety

When it comes to baby safety, making sure their sleeping area is safe is one of the most important tasks you can do. Make sure that the crib is free of stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets that your baby may suffocate on since they’re not able to control their bodies. You’ll also want the crib in your room until they’re one year old. 

7. Choking Hazards

Check your home for any small, loose items that may become choking hazards if your baby picks them up and puts them in their mouth. This can include items like pen caps, loose change, Legos, glass nick nacks, and a whole lot more. 

Hanging pull-cords for blinds can also pose hazards for your baby to play with. They can easily wrap around small necks or get caught on hands and wrists. Wrap them up, or invest in some cordless blinds. 

You’ll also want to do some research into houseplants. If they’re within reach of your baby or small child, they can easily be choking hazards. Some plants are also toxic for humans and animals, so make sure you’re only purchasing safe plants. 

If you find that some plants you already own are toxic, you can donate them to someone you know or place them in spots where your child will never reach.

Bringing Baby Home: One Step at a Time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do before your baby arrives, from home improvement projects to stocking up on all the essentials. However, if you keep a list of things to do and make progress one step at a time, you’ll be able to get things done without stressing more than you already might be!

On the hunt for a new home that’s perfect for your growing family? Connect with us today to begin your home search!

Ways COVID-19 Will Affect Future Home Design and What to Look For

Are you looking to build a new construction home in Orange County? Do you wonder what the difference will be in home design pre- and post-COVID-19? If so, then you’ll be interested to learn how the coronavirus might affect future home design.

Understanding future home design trends will help to stir your imagination and plan for the features you want, before you set out to find or build your next home. We are beginning to see old spaces used in new ways, with novel additions to current homes and adjusted open floor plans, just to name a few.

See below for an in-depth guide on several COVID-19 architecture design solutions that you can expect to see in a post-COVID world!

1. The New-Look Open Floor Plan

Everyone loves an open floor plan. It’s a trend that has become commonplace in many modern home designs, whether you’re building a new construction home or remodeling an existing structure. 

However, the worldwide pandemic revealed something to us about open floor plans that we didn’t consider before: productivity is just as important at home as it is in the workplace. Really, the home has become a workplace itself. 

Among those who were able to maintain their employment during the pandemic, many were forced to share space with their family members in ways they had never imagined. Suddenly, mom and pop were forced to work at home, while kids ran around, eating, playing, destroying, sometimes learning…

All of a sudden, those coveted open floor plans became more distracting than invigorating. Productivity declined as a result. 

That brought on the invention of what we’re calling the “new-look open floor plan”. In this design, the entire space is maximized. What was once a living room/kitchen combo is now a living room, kitchen, office, arts and craft station, play area, study room, and more.

When looking at a new home, we at the Stavros Group believe that we need to embrace these changes, not run from them. It makes your home more functional and, thus, more valuable to your family!

2. Super Porches

Sounds like an awesome comic book title, right? While it might not be picked up by Marvel for their next blockbuster, this is certainly a growing trend in the home design industry.

We all had those neighbors, friends, and relatives that used the 2020 pandemic as a way to catch up on their home renovations, both inside and outside. Maybe you did too.

Many homeowners used that opportunity to improve the outside of their properties, like patios and porches. For some, it was the deck in their front yard. For others, it was the balcony or the roof lounge atop their home.

With more time spent at home, homeowners want better exterior living spaces to maximize their enjoyment of the great outdoors. A good portion of them preferred covered patios so that they could enjoy the fresh air in any weather (it helps that we’re blessed in Southern California with great weather most of the year). 

These homeowners are on to something! Not only does the “super porch” give you more ways to enjoy the outdoors, but it also enhances the curb appeal of your home for when it comes time to sell. It’s what we like to call a “win-win,” improving your enjoyment of the home now and your sale price later. 

3. At-Home Gyms

Did you know that Orange County has been ranked the healthiest county in California

This can be attributed to the residents, who are often health-conscious and committed to bettering their health and fitness each day. Unfortunately, when the pandemic struck, all the gyms we frequent to stay in shape were temporarily shuttered.

Everything was closed: CrossFit gyms, big-name gyms, the track at the nearest high school football field. All completely closed off to the public. Even public parks were shut down for a time!

So, many homeowners made their own workout solution. They invested in creating an at-home gym, which gradually continued to evolve as the year 2020 went on. Since everyone at once started looking for gym equipment, buyers had to hunt and buy piecemeal to put it all together. But now, a home gym has become a feature that many homebuyers are looking for in their next home.

4. Potential for Additions

As if land wasn’t already at a premium in Orange County real estate, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic made it even more of a hot commodity.

Economists believe that this is a direct correlation to many families having relatives move in with them during the pandemic, especially elderly relatives. Now, they’re with them for the long haul, and many homeowners are looking to build additional living space to give their new “roommates” their own private area.

Having a bonus bedroom suite or standalone ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit, aka “granny flat”) is a huge boon for housing multiple generations of family. An ADU is amazing when you have teens or grandparents living with you. Homebuyers know this too and will pay a premium for it!

5. Healthy Homes

An aging, dirty or broken HVAC system is never great, but homebuyers these days are putting even more attention on ventilation and comfort. After all, if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s to be more conscious of the air we’re breathing (and who’s breathing it near us). 

The indoor air quality of a home is no different. Home inspectors put an emphasis on checking the home’s HVAC system for signs of mold or build-up in the air ducts, signs of poor air quality, etc.

Good cooling and heating has become a primary selling point. If you’re in the market for a new home, make sure that the home’s HVAC system is inspected by an expert. This pandemic has shown us all how much air quality truly matters!

Consider These Future Home Design Trends as You Search

Now that you have seen a few ways that COVID-19 has affected future home design, be sure to use these to your advantage while you search for or build your new house!

Getting ready for a big move? It’s never too early to start planning. See this article for a list of tips and tricks for a stress-free move.

For any other inquiries and questions about real estate, please feel free to connect with us and we will be happy to assist you further!

How Will Prop 22 Affect the California Real Estate Market?

When most people analyze the real estate market in a given area, they only look at the obvious factors. They consider home values, local schools and amenities, property taxes and so on. The reality is, however, that even minor societal or economic changes can be like stones falling in the pond of a community, sending their ripples through the real estate market and beyond.

One of those stones is Proposition 22 or Prop 22 for short. While the legislation itself has been widely discussed throughout California and the US, its impact on California real estate has not.

What Is Prop 22?

Proposition 22 is a California proposition that was passed by the state voters in 2020. It is the latest in a tug of war among the state’s leadership to decide how to handle the growing gig economy, especially as it pertains to freelance drivers for gig-based apps like Uber and Lyft.

In 2019, California passed Assembly Bill 5, or AB5. AB5 stated that all freelancers or independent contractors who performed more than a minimal amount of work for a company must be classified as employees.

This was meant to address the concern that companies take advantage of workers. Businesses label workers as contractors rather than employees, to avoid giving them benefits like health insurance, paid leave, and unemployment insurance.

However, the true effect this had in many cases was an inability for freelance workers to do their work and earn an income. Prop 22 is a compromise of sorts.

Prop 22 exempts app-based drivers, like rideshare and delivery drivers, from the AB5 employee classification. In exchange, it gives them other protections like minimum pay guarantees, health insurance in some circumstances, and compensation for on-the-job injuries.

How Will Prop 22 Impact the California Real Estate Market?

Proposition 22 has had a positive reception overall, as it offers some benefits for both contract drivers and their client companies. There are several ways it’s likely to impact the real estate market in the process.

Increased State Income Taxes

With the Prop 22 exemption, there are increased opportunities for contract drivers now that companies can “hire” more of them. This will lead to an overall increase in income because more people are making money this way. Because those drivers will pay state income taxes on the new income, the overall amount of income tax in California is expected to increase.

Analysts also expect that rideshare and delivery companies who hire these drivers will see stock price increases. When their investors sell those stocks, they will pay income taxes on the profits. This further adds to the increase in state income taxes.

This could affect real estate depending on how the state decides to spend that money. For instance, if the state invests the added tax revenue in new developments, real estate prices in that area will increase. Or real estate prices could decrease if the state unveils a new (and sorely needed) affordable housing program.

More Demand for Real Estate

While AB5 was meant to help gig workers, it sent a wave of fear through many in the freelance community. Many felt that they were overlooked or miscategorized in a way that would prevent them from continuing to operate as their own business. As a result, some either considered leaving or did leave California.

Because 36% of the US workforce does some amount of freelancing, we’re talking about significant numbers here. For many app-based drivers, Prop 22 puts them in a better position in California than they would be elsewhere. Not only can they keep operating independently, but they also get benefits they wouldn’t receive in other states.

The result is a higher population of earning adults, and that means a higher demand for real estate.

Shifts in the Landscape of Mortgages

Independent contractors aren’t only different from employees in the benefits they receive. Their income predictability is very different as well, and this affects their ability to receive mortgages.

Historically, contractors have had a more difficult time securing mortgages. Because their income is more varied, they need to provide long-term proof of income to qualify.

Now that we expect to see an increase in freelancing in California, this could go one of two ways. We could see a higher demand for rental properties because fewer people may be able to qualify for mortgages.

On the other hand, the number of contractors and freelancers in the US is expected to continue increasing overall. It is possible that we’ll see changes within the mortgage industry that accommodate this growing population of solopreneurs. 

More Overall Income

It’s important to note that the gig economy is not entirely made up of people who traded their 9-to-5 salaried job for independent contracting. In fact, many app-based drivers use driving to supplement their existing income.

Now that app-based gig work is a more available and an increasingly appealing option, we expect to see even more people taking advantage of it. This could lead to a higher average income in California.

For the real estate market, this would create a shift toward higher-priced properties. More people would have the income to afford these pricier homes, so the demand would increase.

Fewer Foreclosures and Short Sales

We’ve talked about people who use app-based driving as their primary income source and people who use it to supplement their income. There’s another common situation, though.

When people lose their jobs due to downsizing or other reasons, gig work can fill in the gaps. It’s fairly easy for most people to get work from app-based driving services, because the need is so high. They may not earn the same amount they did previously, but at least they have some income while they hunt for a new, more permanent job.

Now that this on-demand earning potential is so accessible, fewer people may find themselves without the income to pay their mortgages. The result, barring other factors, is fewer foreclosures and short sales on the real estate market.

Looking Ahead Thanks to Prop 22

The real estate market is always complicated, with countless factors coming into play. Prop 22 is only one of many. Fortunately, you don’t need to figure it all out on your own.

Contact our real estate team to discuss your options for buying or selling your home and the market circumstances you need to know.

Getting Comfortable in Your New Community After a Move

It’s finally done, you’ve made the big move, you’re done getting settled into your new home! Every box is unpacked, everything’s in its place (took long enough, right?) — it’s all smooth sailing from here. Congrats! Now you might even have time now to branch out, take a walk, and explore the neighborhood (further than the take-out you bought while you still couldn’t find your forks). So go for it, get some fresh air! And while you’re at it, get acquainted with your new surroundings.

Whether you bought a home in the same place you grew up, or you moved to a totally new and unfamiliar location, there’s a lot to get to know: Your neighbors, your neighborhood, local shops and restaurants, schools, parks, even that secret route for your fastest commute. It will all come in time, but some parts require extra effort for best results.

We’re here to help you with simple tips to help you get to know and get involved with your new community, to speed up the process and keep you comfy. Starting with…

Throw a Housewarming Party

A housewarming party serves two important purposes: you get to celebrate your new home with your friends and family, AND you can invite your new neighbors to break the ice! After all the work you put in to finding and buying your new home, moving, and settling in, you definitely deserve some fun.

Throwing a housewarming party gives you a low-pressure opportunity to mingle with your new neighbors. If you have kids at home, it’s also a chance for them to meet other kids in the neighborhood. It’s always nice to have a friend on the block!

Given the public health restrictions on in-person gatherings these days, you may need to plan ahead to ensure that your event is held safely (and legally). If it’s currently allowed to host a shindig in your area, it may still be best to keep party-goers outside for a BBQ or play-day in the yard. If you don’t have the exterior space, or if you just plain can’t hold a party, the next best thing is a virtual Zoom party. Not the best, we know… but you can do a virtual tour of your newly decorated home, and plan some fun games to keep the virtual party rolling.

Find Ways to Volunteer

Getting involved by giving back is a great way to meet locals, and you’ll feel so much more invested in the community. To get started, check for opportunities to volunteer on your municipal website, community Facebook pages and other social media. If your neighborhood is old-school, which is pretty cool, you might even find a physical bulletin board somewhere like the town square. Take a look for community gatherings and volunteering events and drives.

Volunteering might be a particularly nice way to meet folks in your community, for those who aren’t so fond of walking up to strangers and starting a conversation. When you volunteer, you’ll naturally meet others who are giving their time. You already have one thing in common, and you have something to do rather than stare blankly at one another from across the sidewalk.

You may be collecting food for the homeless, planting a community garden, or selling homemade treats at the local bake sale. Whatever form your efforts take, there’s no better way to get involved and invested in your new community. Many volunteering opportunities are great for kids too, and will instill an appreciation for giving back at an early age.

Of course, before you run out to volunteer, be sure to check the latest COVID guidelines in your area. You may be required to bring certain items like extra masks or gloves. If you’re at risk, you might want to leave volunteering to others for the time being.

Connect With an App

There’s an app for everything these days, including quite a few for getting in touch with your neighborhood! The most popular community app is NextDoor, which you can visit on a phone app or anything with a web browser. We also mentioned Facebook community pages earlier, which can be an even better source for community info and connections.

There are apps that connect you with other parents or pet owners or enthusiasts in your area, apps to find a restaurant, to find a date, to find Pokemon on the sidewalk, to find hidden treasure… well, maybe not treasure, but would you be surprised?

Importantly, with any type of social media, we always recommend to be careful when sharing any kind of personal information.

Strike Up a Conversation

Not everyone is super outgoing, and that’s okay, but if you find the right chance to greet your neighbors, we highly recommend it! Just say hi, introduce yourself and let them know you’re the new homeowners. You’ll find that most people are quite friendly and happy to chat. If that doesn’t describe your new neighbors, that’s a good thing to know anyways. We highly suggest breaking that ice — you never know when you might need a cup of sugar!

If you do decide to strike up a chat with your neighbors, keep in mind the current COVID guidelines. Don’t get inches away, and definitely don’t just run up and hug them. That’s probably not allowed, and your neighbors might think you’re a little weird.

Have An Adventure

Neighbors aren’t the only new part of your new community, there’s also the great wide yonder of new streets, parks, and places to go! If you don’t mind the hustle, try packing some food and water and going for a hike. It can be an urban hike through streets and shops, or your standard nature hike through the local flora. If things are spread out, or you’d rather not hoof it, then driving to new places can be very rewarding too.

For your adventure, there’s a couple ways to do it. You can let the roads and paths just whisk you away, discovering new places as you travel. Or you can do a little research beforehand, browsing the web to find hotspots and great views recommended by locals who have been around the block a while. In most cases, we recommend the latter option, just so you don’t get too tired or waste too much gas while aimlessly wandering. But if your surroundings are nice (and safe), you’re not likely to go wrong by just following your nose. Just don’t forget your GPS.

Adventuring and day-trips help you really get to know your new area. They’ll help you learn the best travel routes, the closest shops and tasty restaurants, and maybe even some local history too. GPS or not, it’s nice to know where you are and where you’re going. Have an adventure to make it so!

Getting Settled in a New Home 101

When getting settled in a new home, there are tons of ways that you can get involved and find out about your new surroundings, while at the same time making sure you and your family are safe and comfortable.

It can be strange to live in a totally new place, so we hope the tips we shared above will help you to leap over that initial phase and quickly feel at home. Definitely consider some volunteering opportunities in your area, and don’t miss out on your housewarming party if you’re able to have one! They don’t come around too often.

If you are still looking for your forever home yet, or just your next step and next adventure, we’re here to help you. Contact the Stavros Group and let us know your goals!

Packing It Up: Tips and Tricks for a Stress-Free Move

Moving is a double-edged sword. While you probably can’t wait to get settled in your dream place and start a new chapter in your life, you also likely have a lot of stress and anxiety heading into the process.

With some tips for a stress-free move, you don’t have to worry about losing your head. The tips in this article will show you how you can guarantee a stress-free move.

1. Hire Some Professional Help

Hiring a professional can help get rid of the stress of a move. By leaving it to some pros, it is a lot easier to relax, since you won’t have to worry about putting together all of the pieces yourself.

Since this is what they do for a living, you also get more of a guarantee that the job will be done properly. This means not having to worry about items breaking or being mishandled during the move.

While it will cost you a bit of money, you can’t put a price tag on the peace and stress-relief that you get by hiring movers.

2. Get Your Move Started Early

Procrastination kills the dream!

Of course, it’s difficult to get excited about your move if you stress yourself out by waiting too long to get started. You will bring back the stresses of school all-nighters — and unnecessarily so.

You have plenty of time to plan out every part of your move. So start early and make it fun instead of anxiety-inducing.

3. Find the Right Supplies for the Move

If you’re going to plan a move, you also need to be sure you have the right supplies.

Start by finding boxes and other containers that will store all of the items you are moving. Choose boxes that are sturdy and not likely to crumble or allow your belongings to break. You can purchase quality moving boxes from your local hardware store.

You can also look into specialty containers, such as hard plastic containers. Buy boxes and containers that fit together like a puzzle, so it’s easy to arrange them in your truck.

4. Pack With Rhyme and Reason

Handling your move becomes easy and stress-free when you learn how to pack.

If you have a uniform way of packing things, it’s easier for you to get them on and off the truck. You will remember where things are, and this will make it easier for you to get set up at your new place.

Go room by room and get organized about the way you pack things up. By having a strategy, the move will be as stress-free as possible.

5. Organize and Schedule Your Move

It’s best to have a schedule for every part of your move. Set the dates on your calendar and give yourself plenty of time leading up to the move to pack things up, turn your utilities on in your new place, talk to some movers, and other parts of the move.

Scope out your new home as well to see if there are any traffic patterns you should know about. Get to know the neighborhood so you can figure out the best place to park so you can unload.

6. Make Use of Storage if You Need It

Having some rental storage space is also an excellent way to make your move easier. When you have storage, it gives you some time so that you don’t feel rushed with the move.

You can rent a storage unit while you are packing up your current home so that you can move into your new home little by little. Find a storage rental company that has affordable monthly rates, along with the best storage space for your needs.

7. Manage the Costs of Your Move

You need to handle the financial part of your move as well. A price tag that you have trouble affording is one of the biggest areas of stress when you’re moving.

The easiest way to manage your costs is to first figure out what you can do on your own, and what you need professional help with. If you are hiring any kind of professional help, you should get some price estimates from three different movers.

You should also shop for the most affordable moving equipment and supplies so the price doesn’t become too inflated.

8. Take off the Time That You Need

Don’t make the mistake of trying to do too much. Working a full work week right before or after a move can also make the move more stressful than it has to be.

Take some time off from work so you can plan out your move, go room by room, and check and double-check every part of it. You will thank yourself that you took time off when you can get a good night’s sleep before the move and have clear thoughts and low anxiety.

9. Get Help From Friends and Family

Don’t hesitate to lean on the help that friends and family members can provide. It would surprise you to see how much work you can get done when you have people by your side.

If you have kids, getting family members to watch them at certain parts of the move can also decrease stress because you’re only focusing on the task at hand — not the temperament of your little ones.

10. Breathe and Relax

Breathe! It’s easier to relax when you have your mind made up that you aren’t going to let stress get the best of you.

Control what you can control, and give yourself permission to just live in the moment and let the move play out how it’s supposed to.

Put Together a Stress-Free Move

You can enjoy a stress-free move when you follow these tips. Since moves can be one of the more stressful things that you do, you will be glad that you had these tips at your disposal.

We are happy to hear from you. Take time to connect with us when you need some real estate help.

What Does Proposition 19 Mean for Homeowners and First-Time Homebuyers?

Closeup of tax wooden blocks on mallet at table in courtroom

Property tax laws are changing in California.

Throughout the past year, the real estate housing market began slowing down, especially in the older demographic. Older people were less likely to buy or sell a home than younger generations.

Over the course of two years, the California Association of Realtors put together a plan known as Proposition 19 (or commonly, Prop 19). The overall goal of this proposition is to motivate older homeowners to buy and sell their property.

Prop 19 offers tax incentives to older California residents who buy a new home, but with these benefits come a few drawbacks. To balance the tax breaks of Prop 19, it includes higher property taxes for others.

Could you benefit from Proposition 19? Here’s what you need to know about California’s new Proposition 19.

 

What is Proposition 19?

Proposition 19 is a proposed tax change that Californians voted to approve in 2020. Two parts take effect on February 16th and April 1st of 2021.

The proposition offers a mix of tax changes designed to assist elderly individuals, some people living with disabilities, and natural disaster victims. Proposition 19 will also raise property taxes for those inheriting a second house to use as an investment property.

 

How Older Californians Will Benefit

California’s Proposition 19 proposes that seniors — those aged 55 and over — can receive a tax incentive when they buy a new home.

When you buy a new home, you’ll have to pay property taxes based on the home’s current value. If you buy a more expensive home, your property taxes will increase accordingly.

Proposition 19, however, waives this property tax increase for homebuyers who are 55 and older. Rather than having to pay a higher property tax for a new home, they can pay a much lower property tax. Starting April 1st, older residents have the opportunity to buy a home of equal or lesser value and enjoy the same tax benefits as their old home.

The reason behind this is to address the surge in prices and value. The longer you own a home, the more tax benefits you can enjoy from lower property taxes on its older assessed value. Your home may rise in value, but your property taxes and tax bills remain the same.

When you sell, you’ll likely earn a nice profit, but you’ll face higher property taxes and fees when you buy a new home at a higher assessed value. This is a major reason many older generations are hesitant to sell and move into a new home.

Proposition 19 will make buying and selling real estate an easier decision for older generations. Elderly homebuyers have an opportunity to buy a home and enjoy these tax benefits.

Another goal of Proposition 19 is to help alleviate the lack of housing for aging adults. Currently, there isn’t enough available senior housing to accommodate everyone. The ability to buy a new home at a lower tax value can help with this shortage.

 

What If Someone Buys a More Expensive House?

Do these property tax benefits extend to those buying a more expensive house? The answer is yes, but not it’s not as progressive as it would be if you bought a house of equal or lesser value than your current home.

Imagine you bought a house 30 years ago for $600,000 and today, you can sell it for $1 million. The new house you’re looking to buy costs $1.2 million.

When you buy this new home, your property tax will be based on the sum of your previous home’s old assessed property value, plus the difference between the sale price of your old home and the purchase price of the new home. The property tax value you’d pay would be $800,000 (ie. $600,000 + $1.2 million – $1 million).

This tax break has a limit of three uses. Buying and selling a fourth time will cause your property taxes to rise to today’s market value

 

Others Who’ll Benefit

Proposition 19 isn’t solely for assisting elderly people. Those living with severe disabilities, and those who lost their home in a natural disaster, can also benefit. Like seniors, those who survived natural disasters, such as earthquakes or wildfires, can enjoy many of the tax benefits offered by Proposition 19.

The additional tax revenue generated by Proposition 19 can help natural disaster victims, as well as generate funds to help fight wildfires.

Younger buyers, and the real estate industry as a whole, will also see benefits as more homes are put on the market that may previously have been held tight by seniors. Many real estate professionals throughout California and the country are supporting Proposition 19. But more than the benefits it offers to the health of the real estate market, many count on this new law to help Californians in need.

 

How Proposition 19 Balances the Tax Benefits

Unfortunately, Proposition 19 doesn’t conjure these tax advantages out of thin air. To balance the lower property tax on seniors who relocate, younger generations will have to pay higher property taxes on any home they inherit from their family. But only if they intend to keep the inherited home as a second house or a rental property.

Over the past ten years, children and grandchildren who inherited property from older family members benefited the most from California’s property tax laws. When they inherited a property, even as a second or third property, they could continue paying the same tax rates as their parents or grandparents, essentially locked in at a lower assessment.

This inspired many young beneficiaries to use the property as an investment. They could rent out the property at current market rates, while paying taxes based on an assessment that was anything but current.

Proposition 19 aims to eliminate this property tax break for those who plan to use the property as an investment. First time buyers who inherit a property and use it as their primary residence can continue paying the same tax rates as their parents.

Adjusting these tax breaks would generate enough tax money to offset the new tax breaks granted to the elderly, natural disaster survivors, and those with disabilities. This part of the Proposition took effect on February 16th, 2021.

 

Will Proposition 19 Affect You?

Proposition 19 aims to assist the elderly and others who need help in California, while also generating tax revenue for schools and natural disasters. If you are a senior looking to move, or a younger individual inheriting a home to live in, you can enjoy the benefits that Proposition 19 provides.

Have questions, or are you looking to buy or sell a home? Let us know! We’re happy to help you and anyone you send our way to make the most of your real estate goals.

What Is a Smart Home and Why Should You Want One?

When people think of the latest gadgets, they imagine new smartphones, smart watches, computers, laptops, and gaming consoles. But another new advancement in technology has been happening right here at home: smart home devices!

What is a smart home? A smart home is equipped with smart devices meant to make your daily life easier, from regulating your HVAC system to automatically adjusting your lighting and sound system. As more homes become “smart,” more folks are seeing the benefit to smart home devices, and demand continues to grow. It’s estimated that there are more than 45 million smart-equipped homes in the US, with the market expecting to climb to $141 billion by 2023.

If you are curious to find out more about smart homes and how they can benefit you and your home’s value, keep reading.

 

What Is a Smart Home?

There’s a lot that can make a home “smart,” but put simply, smart homes include devices and capabilities that connect with the internet, with your smart phone, or with other smart devices, to provide advanced functions. Most smart home devices can be used via voice commands, like “Hey Siri, turn down the lights,” or “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?”

Automated smart devices handle much of what you previously had to manually do yourself. The artificial intelligence that drives these devices allows homeowners to have a better living experience. 

 

Smart Devices Offer Convenience

The beauty of technology lies in convenience. Most Americans own at least one “smart” product in their home and are happy with the ease that comes with it. Every little interaction may not seem like much, but altogether they can save anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so in your day, as well as save you money by better regulating your power usage. 

With smart devices, you no longer have to get up to turn a device on or off. Smart devices allow you to relax — they do the work for you! This added ease of use allows you to multi-task and get more things done in less time. You can focus more on the things that matter. 

 

Smart Devices Save Money and Energy

In addition to saving time, smart homes help you be smarter with your money. For example, automated smart thermostats can detect how many people are in a room and make necessary adjustments in your heating or cooling to keep things the ideal temperature.

Because you can use your smart phone control a smart home device from anywhere, you can set up your smart thermostat to start cooling or heating when you’re ready to come home from work. A smart thermostat allows you to be comfortable when you are home, without wasting valuable energy when you’re away. 

Because of these smart features, a smart thermostat can save as much as 10 to 15 percent on your electricity bill. Heating and cooling cost the most money of any energy expenditure, and the addition of a smart thermostat can rack up as much as $1,000 in savings by the end of the year. 

You can also save more on your utilities with smart lights that help you decrease unnecessary usage. When you leave a room or leave your house, the smart AI will recognize this and turn lights down or off all by itself.

Smart devices can help you save water, too. Smart showers and smart washing machines can be set to use less water or run only at certain times of day, when energy is cheaper. You could cut as much as 40 to 50 percent off your bill.

 

Enhanced Safety and Security

Most home buyers place a premium on safety when looking for the right neighborhood in which to settle down. Smart homes can help with that too! Most security systems available today are enhanced by smart technology, providing by-the-minute updates on your home security and quick notifications of problems.

Smart safety devices can also detect fires, radon, moisture, and carbon monoxide levels in your home. There are even security doorbells that allow you to see who is on or near your property through motion detection. 

The best part is, you are able to check in and control these smart safety devices wherever you are, whether you’re relaxing at home, out at work, or off on a weeks-long vacation. With the addition of a smart lock for your front door, your security setup is complete! Whether you are home or away, smart home safety devices help to keep you protected around the clock. 

 

Smarter, Better Entertainment

Smart home devices such as smart TVs and Bluetooth offer easy access to entertainment. You can control entertainment devices by voice, connect devices together, and even control them all from an app on your phone. 

If you change rooms and need more volume to hear the movie or song you were listening to, you can raise the volume via voice command. If you want to stay connected to social media or speak with family and friends, you can make video calls too.  

One popular smart home device is the Amazon Echo. Like many smart devices, it’s a great purchase in large part because it is also highly compatible with all your other smart technology! 

 

Smart Homes Sell For More Money 

Convenience, entertainment, security, and saving money and energy are great… but do smart homes add value to the property? They sure do! Smart homes are popular among older and younger generations, and nearly everyone places a premium on smart-equipped homes. A home with smart tech will be valued higher than the same home without it.

A smart-equipped home can sell for up to five percent more money. Smart home devices are a smart investment that you can take advantage of to increase your enjoyment of your home while you live there, and increase your closing price when you sell.

 

Buying a Smart Home in Orange County

Getting a home involves an extensive process of planning and budgeting. Every home buyer wants a house that makes life easy when they live there, and makes a healthy return when they sell.

If you want to learn how you can find the perfect home (smart-equipped or not), don’t hesitate to reach out for a no-pressure conversation. Connect with us today! It’s our pleasure to help guide you through the process, start to finish, and help you make the right choices while minimizing your stress.