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Is the San Carlos Real Estate Market Slowing Down?

Slow Road

Despite What it May Seem…

Without a doubt, 2014 will be a year that goes down in the record books for San Carlos real estate.   It seemed like every other day there was a home sale that set some sort of pricing milestone, or there was a story about the incomprehensible number of offers a listing fetched… or both.   The market kicked into a gear that has never been seen in this town.

But after four of months of breakneck price appreciation and ridiculously low inventory, the vibe of the market took a noticeable change in the month of May and has carried over into June.   If you asked agents, buyers and sellers what there opinion of the market is right now, you’d probably hear that it seems that maybe homes are taking a little longer to sell?   And perhaps with fewer offers?   And there are more homes to choose from now than there has been at any time in the entire year?    If these perceptions were true, it would seem to point to a downward trend in the San Carlos real estate market.

So is the real estate market slowing down in San Carlos?   The answer is no.  At least not yet.

Blame it on the Inventory.

Your gut may tell you that the market is slowing down, but the numbers tell an entirely different story.   So, what’s the culprit?  The answer lies in the inventory — especially in the month of May.   Take a look at the graph below: >>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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A Guide to Navigating the Permitting Process in San Carlos.

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In response to last week’s Open Forum post where readers were encouraged to share their recent experiences (positive or negative) with getting remodeling projects approved through the Planning and Building Divisions, the City of San Carlos has been kind enough to provide the following guide to help homeowners better understand the permitting process, what timelines to expect for responses and approvals, and also to provide key contact information in case you have questions or problems getting your project through the system.

The outline below is provided by the City of San Carlos:

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Tips on How to Navigate the San Carlos Residential Permitting Process:

The Planning and Building Divisions at the City of San Carlos would like to help those who are reading this blog. We value your time and know that a remodel project can be challenging – even without the permit process added in. Our goal is to try to make the planning and building permit process quick and efficient. We want to help you achieve your desired project – and we have made many recent improvements to provide you with quality customer service.

Our new Development Services Center was designed with our customers in mind. The center includes staff from both our Planning and Building Divisions to better coordinate your permits. We are available to assist anyone Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and noon. If these hours are not convenient, we can set an appointment for you. Please contact us at (650) 802-4263 or stop by during our Development Services Open House scheduled for Wednesday, June 11 from 8:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. to meet us in person and learn more about the services we offer. We look forward to meeting you!

Below are some permit processing tips from our Planning and Building Divisions and who to contact if you have questions.

Residential Planning Permit Review:

· Our staff is available to assist early in your planning stages – even before you submit plans.

· If you are planning a single-family residential addition or a new home, it is likely that a Planning Permit will be required. You will need to get the Planning Permit before you get a Building Permit.

· All residential Planning Permit work is managed here at City Hall and City staff is available to meet with you, your contractor, or architect any time during the process.

· You will be assigned a City planner who will be your point-person throughout the Planning Permit process. The planner will work with you or your representative to understand your project goals and can then identify the level of review that will be required for your project, inform you of relevant zoning requirements and outline a path and timeline for Planning Permit approval.

· Depending on your project’s complexity and the applicable Planning Permit process, average processing times can range from 45 to 90 days to obtain a Planning Permit.

· After your Planning Permit is approved, staff will let you know what follow up items need to be completed before receiving a Building Permit.

If you have any questions about the Planning Permit review process, please call Lisa Porras, Principle Planner at (650) 802-4264, or send her an e-mail, at lporras@cityofsancarlos.org.

Residential Building Permit Review:

· Single-family home projects that received a Planning Permit are typically reviewed by our plan check consultants outside City Hall – we manage their work and communicate with them if there are any issues.

· Average turn-around time for initial Building Permit plan review comments is 10 working days (for projects that already received a Planning Permit).

· Average review time for Building Permit plan review re-check comments is 5 working days.

· Interior remodels, kitchen and bath remodels, and other projects that do not require a Planning Permit are typically reviewed in-house by one of three plan checkers. Here are some benchmark internal Building Permit plan check timelines:

Single-Story Addition: 2 to 4 Weeks
Kitchen & Bath Remodel: 1 to 2 Days
Deck: 1 to 2 Weeks
Interior Remodel: 1 to 3 Weeks
Solar Installation: 1 to 3 Days
Retaining Wall: 2 to 4 Weeks

If you have any questions about the Building Permit plan review or inspection process, please call Chris Valley, Building Official at (650) 802-4262, or by sending an e-mail, at cvalley@cityofsancarlos.org.

Please feel free to contact me, at (650) 802-4209, or via e-mail, at asavay@cityofsancarlos.org if you have any questions about this information. We look forward to helping you with your project.

Al Savay, AICP
Community Development Director
City of San Carlos, California
PH: (650) 802-4209
asavay@cityofsancarlos.org
600 Elm Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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The San Carlos Real Estate Week in Review: 6-7-14.

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For the second straight week in San Carlos, there were more new listings to hit the market than there were homes going into contract.  That net positive helped push the inventory of homes for sale up to 27 briefly, before settling in at 26 at the time of this post.  That’s quite possibly the highest number of homes for sale that we’ve seen the entire year.  And San Carlos isn’t alone in this respect — Belmont’s inventory has bloated up to 27 seemingly overnight.

Whether that’s just the normal seasonal push, or a sign that the market is slowing down is still tough to call. Most homes that are going into contract are still seeing significant interest and multiple offers, just perhaps not as many offers as might have been the case a few months when the inventory levels were less than half this amount.   Regardless of the reason, the numbers are finally swinging back toward the buyer’s direction, and those buyers that stay on task during the summer months may finally land that elusive home on the Peninsula.

Here are the details from last week:

By The Numbers.

Below is a high-level snapshot of the market performance for single-family residences in San Carlos. This data is for the week ending 6-7-2014:

San Carlos Housing Data 6-7-14 Prior Week
Closed Sales for the Week: 6 2
Average Sold Price: $1,518,000 $1,177,500
Average $/Sq Foot (Sold) $727 $1,011
Average Percentage Over List Price: 109% 98%
Average DOM of Closed Sales 7 9
No. of Homes Pending Sale: 27 28
No. of Active Listings: 26 22
Average Price of Active Listings: $1,484,035 $1,496,814
Average DOM of Active Listings: 21 16
Average $/Sq Foot (List) $701 $702
Active-Pending Ratio: 0.96 : 1 0.79 : 1

>>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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Open Forum: Remodeling Headaches in San Carlos?

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Remodeling Boom.

One of the byproducts of a booming stock market and a strong local economy is that San Carlos homeowners now have the confidence and the financial resources to start investing in their properties again.   And they are doing it in droves.   Whether it’s a new kitchen project that was delayed by the recession, or a completely new dream home being crafted from the ground up, we are in the midst of a remodeling boom that we have not seen in nearly a decade.  You almost can’t find a street in San Carlos where there isn’t some evidence of a remodeling project that’s underway — and just as many, or more,  are in the pipeline.

This is obviously great news for architects and contractors, who usually take it on the chin quite hard during down economic cycles, since home improvement projects are the first things that get shelved when money gets tight.   And it’s good for the overall real estate market that the housing stock is being updated and improved in San Carlos.  Many of the homes that you see in San Carlos were originally built in the 1940’s and 50’s, and many are sorely in need of updating.

In those respects, the remodeling boom is all good.

Permit Overload?

Tackling any significant home improvement project is a time-consuming venture — especially when you play by the rules and get the required permits and approvals.  I’ve been through the process already on a major remodel, so I know firsthand how much review needs to be done by the planning and building departments in the city before you get the stamp of approval to proceed.   And the building code and review process has likely gotten even more stringent in the past 14 years since we finished our project.   Like it or not, it’s a necessary step in the process that helps ensure that everything is done properly.

When it’s already a complicated and time consuming process to begin with, and then the workload suddenly increases almost exponentially,  it’s not a stretch to see a logjam coming in the approval process — especially with a City staff that has been decimated over the past decade by endless rounds of reorganizations and budget cuts.    To accommodate the crushing workload, the City has been forced to outsource much of the permit review and approval that it used to handle internally.

Taking into account that it’s not expected to be an easy or quick process, I’ve still heard an inordinate amount of complaints from exasperated homeowners over the past few weeks about getting their projects through City Hall.   Whether it’s simply turnaround time to get everything approved, or the seemingly unreasonable corrections and demands that are being placed on their projects (or both),  there seems to be a certain level of discontent right now in the City of Good Living.

Is this perception founded, or unfounded?

Open Forum:  Share Your Experience.

This post is not intended to throw any one person or department under the proverbial bus.   It’s simply a forum to share your experience on your remodel project — both positive and negative — so that others who are in the pipeline behind you can benefit from your experience and advice.

So, short of having an open microphone to voice your opinion, use the comment section below to share your experience with others.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to comment!
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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Green Grass and High Prices in San Carlos.

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The “Other” X-Factor.

The fact that homes are selling for stratospheric amounts in San Carlos should no longer be a shock to anyone who watches the local real estate market.  We are in the midst of one of the most dramatic run-ups in home prices in recent history, so after nearly 6 months of constantly shattering price records, we’ve almost become desensitized to the lofty premiums that homes have been fetching this year.   One week’s insane becomes the next week’s mundane.

In a market where there is an abundance of well-heeled buyers, there are certain homes that one would naturally expect to see the price driven up to uncharted territory.  The homes at 124 Normandy Court ($2.85M), 2235 Carmelita Drive ($2.272M),  437 Hillcrest Road ($2.5M), and 156 Normandy Court ($2.15M) — just to name a few — all had one or more of the “X-Factors” that you would expect buyers to break the bank over.  All of these homes were either brand new construction, recently remodeled, were in a top-10 location, or had one-in-a-million views (or some combination of these.)  In this market, it was kind of expected that buyers would go crazy over these homes.

But there have been many other homes that have sold in San Carlos this year that have fetched equally dramatic prices and premiums over the asking price where there was no immediately obvious X-Factor like the ones above.   You’ve undoubtedly seen a few of these this year where the sales price has left you scratching your head.

So I pulled the data on all homes that have sold in San Carlos so far in 2014, and then ranked them by the highest premium that was paid over the asking price (the absolute dollar amount, not the percentage).   What I found was quite surprising — the homes below occupied nearly 50% of the top 20 slots on this list (click on any of the addresses for the full description and pics.)

Address Sold Price Orig. List
Difference Lot Size (sq ft)
917 Rosewood Avenue $1,728,000 $1,179,000 +$540,000 6,000
209 Rockridge Road $1,825,000 $1,370,000 +$455,000
10,780
1415 Elm Street $1,610,000 $1,175,000 +$435,000
6,375
2089 Eaton Avenue $1,855,000 $1,449,000 +$406,000 12,495
1005 Rosewood Avenue $1,537,000 $1,199,000 +$338,000
6,000
41 Walton Street $1,631,000 $1,298,000 +$333,000
6,700
878 Knoll Drive $1,800,000 $1,549,000 +$251,000 9,720
1924 Belle Avenue $1,630,000 $1,399,000 +$231,000 9,035

If you are familiar with any of these homes, you’ll know that they were not brimming with the structural attributes that helped push the 4 homes at the top of the list to their lofty heights.   Most of the homes in this list were in very original condition;  some had very challenging layouts; one was only a 2BR home.

So how is it that these homes made the list of the highest sought after (and paid) homes in San Carlos?   Just look at the right column.    They have the one X-Factor that many buyers today in San Carlos have put at the top of their list, forsaking all other attributes – usable land.

The New San Carlos Buyer.

I get asked quite often what the profile of the typical buyer is in San Carlos is today.   At the risk of generalizing, the vast majority of buyers who are zeroing in on San Carlos today are young professionals that either have young children, have a child on the way, or they’re practicing for that eventuality.   This is no surprise — these young families yield tremendous buying power, and the schools, the downtown, the mid-peninsula location, and community feel of San Carlos make it a perfect match for what they are looking for.

What’s evident about this group of buyers is that they’ve placed the size, location, and usability of the lot far ahead of any of the attributes of home itself.  How else can you explain that fixer-uppers in White Oaks and Howard Park are fetching nearly $1,000/sq foot?  Or that these buyers are passing on stunningly remodeled homes that they can afford?  It’s the land.   Buyers want a flat, usable back yard where the kids can play, and that they can entertain friends.   The structure itself almost becomes an afterthought.

But this is a logical thought process.   You can always make more house, but you can’t make more land (unless, of course, you’re the CEO of Facebook and you can simply buy out your neighbors.)    That was actually my thought process when I bought my San Carlos home nearly 23 years ago.  I was WAY more focused on the lot characteristics than I was the actual house, and we ended up holding out for a  small house that was situated on an 8,800 square foot flat lot, knowing that we could change house down the road.   And now that the rules have been somewhat relaxed on lot coverage in San Carlos, you don’t need an abnormally large yard to build a nice 4BR home — and still have plenty of land left for the back yard.

Land is Gold.

The bottom line is that if you’ve got a large, flat piece of property in the flats of San Carlos, you’re probably sitting on more value than you think you are.   Many of today’s buyers in San Carlos are simply strong enough to pay a premium for the neighborhood that they want — regardless of the condition of the house — and still have enough left over to build their dream 15-year home.
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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The San Carlos Real Estate Week in Review: 5-31-14.

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Last week was another one of those weeks that should have given a shot of encouragement to prospective home buyers in San Carlos.  Even though 7 homes went into contract during what was a very busy period, there was actually a greater number of homes that listed during the same time, and that pushed the inventory of homes for sale in San Carlos back up to 22.   That’s still less than half of what one would expect in San Carlos for this point in the Spring selling season, but it’s a welcome relief from the single digit inventory we’ve been forced to endure for much of the year.

What’s also interesting to note is the that the average number of offers that most listings are getting is seeming to drop as we get more inventory.  This is a statistic that is very hard to track, because it’s at the discretion of the listing agent to disclose (or not) this information, and it also strongly depends on the price point of the home.  But from my informal poll of recent San Carlos listings, we’re starting to see more and more homes that are only getting a handful of offers — sometimes only one offer.   I’ve heard quite a few accounts where homes only received two offers.  That’s quite a change from only a few months ago, but it’s a telltale indication that the market is starting to level off just a little bit.

Here are the details from last week:

By The Numbers.

Below is a high-level snapshot of the market performance for single-family residences in San Carlos. This data is for the week ending 5-31-2014:

San Carlos Housing Data 5-31-14 Prior Week
Closed Sales for the Week: 2 6
Average Sold Price: $1,177,500 $1,431,667
Average $/Sq Foot (Sold) $1,011 $761
Average Percentage Over List Price: 98% 109%
Average DOM of Closed Sales 9 11
No. of Homes Pending Sale: 28 23
No. of Active Listings: 22 19
Average Price of Active Listings: $1,496,814 $1,554,615
Average DOM of Active Listings: 16 18
Average $/Sq Foot (List) $702 $717
Active-Pending Ratio: 0.79 : 1 0.83 : 1

>>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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The San Carlos Real Estate Week in Review: 5-24-14.

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Memorial Day Weekend traditionally marks the “winding down” point of the spring real estate season.  In a normal market, one would expect the market to take a little bit of a break between Memorial Day and mid-August.    But when you consider that Memorial Day fell a little early this year, and the fact that the market that we’re in is anything but normal, it’s anybody’s guess if or when this red-hot real estate market will indeed take a break.

Homeowners who are ready to put their homes on the market in the coming weeks are faced with an interesting quandary;  whether to put their home on the market now, contrary to conventional “seasonal” wisdom, and bank on the fact that this market will continue to stay hot throughout the summer months — or, wait until mid-August when many of the home buyers get back from vacation and return to the hunt.

My belief is the former.  What will be happening a few months down the road is anybody’s guess.  Right now, the market conditions have not changed much — high demand for housing, low interest rates, and low inventory.   For once, the downside risk of putting your home on the market in June or July will be minimized or even eliminated by the current market conditions in San Carlos.

Here are the details from last week:

By The Numbers.

Below is a high-level snapshot of the market performance for single-family residences in San Carlos. This data is for the week ending 5-24-2014:

San Carlos Housing Data 5-24-14 Prior Week
Closed Sales for the Week: 6 5
Average Sold Price: $1,431,667 $1,591,400
Average $/Sq Foot (Sold) $761 $902
Average Percentage Over List Price: 109% 110%
Average DOM of Closed Sales 11 11
No. of Homes Pending Sale: 23 20
No. of Active Listings: 19 23
Average Price of Active Listings: $1,554,615 $1,562,117
Average DOM of Active Listings: 18 13
Average $/Sq Foot (List) $717 $714
Active-Pending Ratio: 0.83 : 1 1.15 : 1

>>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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The San Carlos Real Estate Week in Review: 5-17-14.

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The rush for sellers to get their homes on the market continued again last week in San Carlos, with 10 new listings making their market debut.  This has to be an encouraging sign to home buyers, as for the second consecutive week are sitting with inventory levels in excess of 20 homes, and good choices in all of the price ranges.

Based on informal poll that I took with fellow agents, it seems as if the increased inventory (not only in San Carlos but also in surrounding communities) has served to temper the degree and number of multiple offers that we have grown accustomed to seeing this year.   A number of homes that we figured would garner 5-6 offers only got 2.   This can be attributed to seasonal slowing in the market, buyer fatigue, or simply that there are finally more homes to choose from and the same buyers aren’t just battling over the same places.

Whatever the cause, the market condition for home buyers right now in San Carlos is simply the best that it as been this entire year — more inventory, and fewer offers.  If you’re still in the hunt for a home, stick with it for the next few weeks.  Your perseverance may finally pay off.

Here are the details from last week:

By The Numbers.

Below is a high-level snapshot of the market performance for single-family residences in San Carlos. This data is for the week ending 5-17-2014:

San Carlos Housing Data 5-17-14 Prior Week
Closed Sales for the Week: 5 14
Average Sold Price: $1,591,400 $1,378,271
Average $/Sq Foot (Sold) $902 $768
Average Percentage Over List Price: 110% 115%
Average DOM of Closed Sales 11 10
No. of Homes Pending Sale: 20 18
No. of Active Listings: 23 20
Average Price of Active Listings: $1,562,117 $1,644,844
Average DOM of Active Listings: 13 10
Average $/Sq Foot (List) $714 $756
Active-Pending Ratio: 1.15 : 1 1.1 : 1

>>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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