James A. Walsh Real Estate - Serving Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area
 
Jim Walsh is a practicing real estate broker in the San Francisco Bay Area with over 300 successful transactions and 24 years experience to his credit. His credentials include the Chartered Financial Analyst designation - a 3 year graduate level course of study in finance, economics, statistical analysis, equity and debt markets and portfolio management theory; California Certified Public Accountant - Inactive; Senior Real Estate Specialist; Masters degree in Taxation, with an emphasis in estates and trusts.  He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from the University of California, Berkeley.

Since his professional practice is that of brokering real estate, he is happy to refer clients to any of a short list of trusted advisors, trade and service professionals.

Your feedback on these writings is welcome.  Please call or write with your thoughts.
 
  
Jim's Blog. . .

October 21, 2015
 
It’s On!
 
Really Big Garage Sale, Saturday Oct. 24., 8:30-2:00pm
Marin County’s Biggest (Really Big) Garage Sale ever!
Over 50 Families and  LOTS of great stuff!
Collectibles, antiques, furniture, housewares, music & instruments; Even a Pool Table!
 

For a Map of Participants, a List of Addresses and the Seller Items List, Click Here:

 

Or visit the Santa Venetia Market on Saturday for a hard copy (and a great cup of coffee) :
71 San Pablo Ave. (Just off 101 at No. San Pedro Rd.)
San Rafael, 94903
 

June 1, 2015

Sometimes being a financial whiz-kid has it’s drawbacks. . .
Now, this isn’t big dollars, but paying more than 40% interest is just something I find unpalatable.
 
I just bought a new cell phone. . . I had two options:
 1. Buy the unit outright for $700, or
 2. Pay $299 up front and take on a two-year service contract with the cellphone company.
 
Here’s what I only learned two months ago: if you were on a two year contract and you have concluded the two-year term, you are entitled to a $25/month reduction in your rate. The big guys all do this. I can’t speak to the T-Mobiles of the world. But this was certainly the case with Verizon, I’ve heard ATT and I have to believe Sprint.
 
Having a spare moment to think about the numbers I realized Option 2, above, is simply financing the phone at $299 down and $25 per month for two years.
 
Then the naughty part: I calculated the implicit interest rate under the terms of the two year contract. Turns out I would have been paying more than 40% interest on the balance of the phone’s cost. There used to be laws against that… but we still have a choice. It probably makes sense to pay up front the entire cost of your phone and avoid the 2 year contract.
 


May 11, 2015

I confess: Some of the happiest days of my life were spent in the arms of another man’s wife . . . . . . Mom.
  
  By the power vested in me as a man who had a mom, and a darn good one at that, I hereby declare this Mother’s Week. Accordingly, I wish all Moms and those who had one a Happy Mother’s Week.
 
  Best story I’ve heard about Mother’s Day this year: A dear friend was taken to dinner Saturday night by her son and daughter in law. Somehow, someone learned of the availability of a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie at another location.
 Now, Strawbery Rhubarb Pie is an aquired taste, typically of the well traveled, and not that easy to come by. At least, not in these parts.
 
  Plans were made for dinner, to be followed with a short trip for pie. Time being what it is, the purveyor of pie was closed upon completion of the fine meal out…
 Out of the blue, on Sunday the son, who shall remain nameless because he’s teaching school at this moment and I haven’t had the chance to get permission, arrived with, you guessed it, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
 You could hear Mom’s grin on the phone this morning. So much so, that I’m kind of toying with the idea of grabbing one on the way home tonight . . . and I’m not that big a fan of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I’m about to find out if my sainted wife is.
 . . . After all, my love, we skipped dessert last night!
 
 
And about that market
  Below: Market Statistics for Marin in April and the year ended April 30.
 
  Highlights:
-          Inventory in even shorter supply, relative to demand. Where we consider less than 6 months to be a seller’s market, today inventory is below 3 months. THAT is a seller’s market.
-          Average Sales Price up 9% for the year (but if you like headlines: up 15% over April last year!)
-          Driven by the middle and below market, Sale Price on average continues to exceed List Price. I’m seeing homes priced 10%, 20% and MORE below their actual sales price. A strategy, to be sure. And something to consider if you’re looking to purchase: it’s not the asking price, it’s what comparable homes are selling for.
                       
If you’d like a handle on the market value for you home, call Jim today!

























March 18, 2015

In Praise of the Solid State Hard Drive
 
Sometime back I wrote about the very cool Chromebook I picked up. In a nutshell, a Chromebook is designed to be an access point to the internet. They really aren't designed to store programs or data files - the idea being all of that gets parked on the web.
 
The selling feature of using the internet to hold your programs and files is that you can access them from any computer with an internet connection, anywhere in the world. The other big benefit is that the vendor of the programs you use - in a lot of my cases, Microsoft and our Multiple Listing Service - keep the programs up to date. And, presumably they have better antivirus protection so you data and programs stay clean.
 
Here's the part that floats my boat: since there are no programs to speak of on the Chromebook, guess how long it takes to boot up (i.e., turn on)?
. . . Seven seconds. Imagine THAT the next time you fire up your laptop. Seven seconds. . . Hardly enough time to write a personal note, which is what I often did while waiting for my laptop to fire up. And read the sports page. And ponder the meaning of life.
 
All was good as I reveled in the rocket fast, instant on, "Man, this is cool-ness" of the Chromebook.  I was not, however, yet using the Chromebook for my day to day computer needs - file storage and basic programs I had not yet migrated to the cloud-based Chromebook; when my laptop died.
 
When that happens, it's kind of like your car dies. You get it fixed or replace it, pronto. No time for ramping up on a new system when your entire livelihood depends on your ability to be up on your computer. 
 
So off I ran, on my birthday nonetheless, to get a new laptop. My tech, Sam at Totally Computer, lives and breathes computers. And I always know where to find him (in the Vineyard office complex, adjacent to 101, just south of Lucas Valley Road - (415) 479-9980).
 
For a nominal charge I take the old computer and the new computer to him. When he's done, 1. all the unnecessary junk that the new computer has preloaded that I don't need - and there's a lot of it (they get paid by software companies to put this stuff on the machine and a lot of times it’s spyware) - is removed and 2. everything on my old machine that I want and need, is on my new. Which means I turn on the new machine and hit the ground running.  Thank you, Sam!
 
Now whenever your real estate professional, or tech, says to you, "I recommend this. . . Just do it, you will be thanking me later," it's a good idea to do it.
 
This time around the "just do it" was to have Sam pull out the brand new hard drive in the brand new laptop and install a solid state hard drive in its place. The solid state means there are no moving parts. (Most hard drives actually have little disks that spin really fast and store and regurgitate whatever we put on our computers. As quick as they are, they aren’t as fast as solid state drives.)
 
So now, guess how long it takes to turn on my laptop?  Yep, seven seconds. 
 
And even though I'm still storing programs and data files on the machine, they are accessed lickety-quick. So much so in fact, that the only time it bogs down now is on my gmail. And sometimes on my browser (i.e., online). That's a new occurrence and I'd love any suggestions as to how to get around THAT!
 
Meanwhile, I'm told that the hard drive we all have on our computers gets used a lot "caching" data - saving and accessing background stuff while we use Word or Excel or whatever program you're running. And that is where a lot of the clunky slow downs and gum-ups happen - because the traditional moving drive hard drive just takes time to process it. Well, get a solid state drive and those issues are behind you.
 
The solid state hard drive has changed my life.  Now I'm wondering what to do with the Chromebook.


March 12, 2015

As a service to our friends and clients, I like to share relevant figures for the Marin Real Estate market.































Things to watch: after a rather steady decline since last June, mortgage rates have begun to trend upward in the last three weeks. Not coincidentally, the Federal Reserve has begun its practice of sending up “trial balloons”, initiating the conversation about rate increases to gauge the reaction by the markets and the economy. The expectation is that by this summer mortgage interest rates will have been allowed to climb significantly. The result: buyers’ purchasing power can be expected to decline.
 

One more reason to talk to your Real Estate Professional today!



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why this storm might not be as bad as we think.
 
I speak with a lot of people every day. Today, 3 out of 4 have the storm on their mind. And some are downright fearful. 
 
A week ago we had a storm that brought flooding. Today’s storm is expected to be stronger. Here’s why Marin can endure a bigger storm with little if any flooding:
 
The last storm coincided with tides over 6.5 feet. That’s really high. And pretty rare. When that happens, storm drains which drain to the bay or its tributaries back up. There’s nowhere for surface water to go. In fact, very often water comes back up from these drains. Thus, the floods we saw last week.
 
Here’s the good news: over the next 4 days tides will not exceed 5 feet.  A big part of the problem last time won’t be happening this time.
 
For all our concerns about government, the Public Works people are experienced, hard working, smart folks. I’m confident they will do the best they can. I’m also confident that, once again, the reality will not match the fear.
 
The storm that rewrote flood planning occurred in 1982. No one is equating this one to that one.
 
So, check for things in the yard that could blow about. Bring the catbox in, and just in case a tree takes out a power line, have some candles and blankets nearby.  This is not a Katrina event. In the worst case scenario we still have it lots better than the folks who got here first.
 
  
The time to take pie . . .
 
As long as we’re inside the next few days, tis the season for our thoughts to naturally drift toward . . . pie.
 
In Texas they have a saying: the time to take pie is when they’re passing pie.
 
Here’s the pie: Mortgage rates are below 4% for the second time in our life time. Unless you are actively in the market you may not appreciate what interest rate movements mean to real estate.
 
I can tell you that in the Spring of 2013, when rates moved up a full percentage point  (from 3.25 to 4.25%) over the course of a few days – an unheard of chapter in interest rate volatility - the impact on the market was clear, if not reported. At the time were seeing 8 and 9 offers on houses. A week later, 2 and 3 offers. Still multiple offers, and I believe that’s why the press missed it. But rest assured, rates moved the market. I know of more than one appraisal shop that shuttered its doors in the wake of higher rates.
 
As one who purchased his first home with a 10.5% mortgage, I’ve yet to see a troubling day in mortgage rates since I started practicing real estate in 1990. The market, however, looks at things differently. And here’s why:
 
Thinking of buying? A 1% increase in rates would reduce the average buyer in Marin’s purchasing power $100,000. . . and that stops folks in their tracks.
 
December and January will be among the busiest we’ve seen in years, limited only by inventory and the ever-present potential for rates to spike up.
 
Ladies and gentlemen: It’s time for pie. It just makes sense to act now. And since it’s great news for buyers, it’s really great news for sellers.
 
For more information and an assessment of your options, call me today. If I don’t answer, I’m just finishing some pie!
 
 
Jim Walsh
415-492-0100


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The following is a reprise of, I am proud to say, the single most responded to message I ever shared with my friends and clients. If it rings familiar, I hope you’ll at the least scoot down to the third paragraph and make a call.
 
 
Good morning,
 
   Last night I had the honor of joining a group of Rotarians to assist the Novato Junior ROTC in serving a dinner honoring our Veterans. The speaker was General Jimmy Doolittle’s granddaughter, Jonna Doolittle Hoppes. She told a great story of a great man. An Alameda native, rocky childhood, found his way to U.C. Berkeley and ultimately to MIT to earn the first PhD in Aeronautical Engineering ever awarded by MIT. Though known for his bravery in air battle, his technical brilliance was a chief reason that eating rice is an option and not a mandate today.
 
  At the end of the prepared remarks Veterans were asked to stand to receive a copy of the speaker’s book. One by one, JROTC Cadets ceremoniously delivered the books to each of the Vets. The book was offered, they shook hands and then each Cadet saluted the Veteran.
  It’s difficult to describe that moment. Men and women, moms and dads, our peers, some older, some younger. For a moment, each left their roll. Each stood erect. Each gave a razor sharp salute. For a moment, each was a soldier again. The contrast with the life we live today, because they served, stood literally before our eyes.
  Like a shot, I was reminded that these Veterans saw things and did things so that we didn’t have to. It was quiet in that room at that moment. The gratitude, the respect and the awe was palpable.
 
  More than any election, politician or legislation, the fact that at the drop of a hat these men and women stood for the principles in which we as a nation believe is the singular source of our economic, social and political freedom.
 Everyone enjoys being acknowledged.  And no one is more worthy of it than those who served in our armed forces.
 Please call a Veteran today, this morning, and say “thank you.” 
 “But what would I say?”
 It’s simple. “Hi Pat, this Jim. I know you’re a Veteran. I called to say thank you for your service.”
 That’s it.
  And if you have a spare minute, I’d love to hear you did it.
 

  “"We are a people who drink freely and deeply from wells of liberty that we did not dig."
Thank you, Veterans.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Many of my friends are years past this stage of sibling rivalry. So treat this as a trip down memory lane. . .

Our fine 14 year old son, in a bit of a snit over consequences for not doing homework, spent the dinner hour at the library. Yes, it could be worse. We are blessed.

Meanwhile, his younger sister, loving Mom and Dad's attention, offered up, "You know, I could be an only child really well."

They do get funnier as they get older. . . 





Tuesday, October 28, 2014
A house divided . . .
 
It’s October of an even year. So of course the Giants are in the World Series. Alas, cries of joy ring out across the land, right? 
 
Let us not forget that there are those who hail from Kansas City. And there are households of mixed-marriages. KC fans and Giants fans under the same roof. . . I wonder what THAT’s like!
 
Well, I can tell you. Carefully.  Because Monica reads this. It’s . . . different . . . not only did she grow up in K.C., she worked for the Royals organization (our first clue that way down deep, they’re good people).
 
In truth, she loves the Giants as much as anyone could who grew up in a town with an opposing franchise. And I love the K.C. franchises. The Chiefs first (they took Alex Smith and let him flourish) and then the Royals because they play like a team. No Prima’s, just team players. And they play the game the right way.
  
(Memo to self:  Lip service to wife’s team. Check.)
 
So tonight I tread carefully. Actually, I root for my team with some small reservation. I love my wife and I love the people of K.C. But I love my Giants too.
 
If you happen to see me out and about tonight I’m likely looking for a safe house where I can share those cries of joy.

Let’s go Giants!



Monday, May 25, 2014
Not quite able to get over the Apple hurdle I recently picked up a Chromebook. It's a beautiful thing. Boots up in 7 seconds. Battery lasts for 7+ hours. Light as a feather. Real keyboard and touchscreen. . . all this for $300.  

Having used Dropbox for over a year with nothing less than stellar results I've found a Chromebook App that will sink all my office folders that already sync with Dropbox to Google Drive, a cloud storage/access service, 100 gig of which comes with the Chromebook free for 2 years.

Cloud HQ looks to be the missing link that will give me full office folder functionality on my feather light, real quick, Chromebook. . . 

Still not sure what I'm going to do with 32G of storage on the solid state drive on the Chromebook. But having my work documents fully synced and accessible in the cloud, not sure I care!




Saturday, May 5, 2012

Good morning friends,
 
We have all had the experience of, for lack of better words, miserable customer service. So much so that we have come to expect it from the phone company, our bank, insurance company, etc.
 
Since we get what we expect, have you ever thought about changing your expectation to get a better outcome?
 
You probably know I work in real estate, have spent years in the finance field, worked for a bank and counseled high net worth individuals on their finances. This month I received a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: we’ve forgotten how to communicate.
 
A good friend has a very ugly mortgage with a notoriously ogre-like bank (If I told you the name and you asked your lender they’d say, “Oh, yeah. Ogres.”)
 
My friend’s loan payment went from $3300 to $5200. He couldn’t pay the increase. He played the “call in and ask for a modification” game. Along with the “send in the documents because we never got them” game and the “Oh, gee! Your documents are now out of date. Send us new ones” game (all games soon to be released in the Parker Brothers’ Classic: “Monopoly: Mortgage Meltdown Edition.”)
 
After months of the games he tracked down the names and addresses of seven senior executives and sent them a letter.  A real letter. On paper. In an envelope. With a stamp, carried by US Mail. No one GETS these anymore!!! Imagine how it stood out on their desks!
 
(Now, are you sitting down for this?)  He got a call back. He got attention. In remarkably short order he got his loan modified to a payment that is lower than he had been making. We don’t have to short sell the house he’s lived in for over 40 years and raised his kids in.
 
Call it a miracle. I call it changing your expectations.  And taking action.
 
If you or someone you know would like to know more about the letter, give me a call.
And if you aren’t getting served by a seemingly huge, uncaring institution, google their annual report, get their senior exec’s name, then google their name with “mailing address” and write ‘em a letter.
 



Friday, December 18, 2011

Year End Review

Since the mortgage meltdown of 2008 and the collateral damage to residential real estate, one truth has remained: more than anything else, condition is driving the price of homes today. Bank properties sell for less, not because buyer’s “know they can get a good deal” but because the properties just show poorly. The average homebuyer does not warm to the condition of most bank-owned properties. Similarly, private party sales of homes that lack updates to current selling standards are trading for far less than the contemporary remodels of today. This statement, more than anything else explains the broad range of prices realized this year in Marin.
 
Marin-wide, prices declined 5.8% on an average basis, and 10.8% on a median basis. Year over year sales units increased 5.6% with the most amazing result being the
27% increase in units sold in November 2011 over 2010 – suggesting a lot of life in Marin real estate.
 
In spring of 2010 the Federal Home Buyer Tax Credit expired. It had caused a tremendous number of 2010 buyers to move their purchases up into the first part of the year. The resulting sales numbers in the second half 2010 were quite a bit lower than might have been expected (due to would-be second-half purchases concluded earlier in the year).
 
While this would certainly account for some of the differential in sales in late 2011 over late 2010, it is clear that lower interest rates and the plain fact that with a very small down payment (as low as 3.5% and less) it is less expensive to buy a home than rent it.
 
Much has been made in the popular media of the question of whether home ownership has become passé. Clearly that is not an issue in Marin, or anywhere else people are thinking clearly.
 
What’s Ahead?
 
Should interest rates rise or the economy further deteriorate it is reasonable to expect prices to further soften. Given the demand from investors, even in moderate scenarios of economic weakening, unit sales are likely to continue to climb.
 
Assuming a fairly stable economy and interest rates, expect home sales to continue to improve as the longer we go without calamity the more confident we get.
 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Newly Announced Mortgage Refinance Guidelines
 
Good news for those who want refinance but do not have sufficient equity to qualify for today’s lower rates.
 
The federal government recently expanded the guidelines for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to include homes with mortgages in excess of their appraised values.
 
With mortgage rates in the low 4’s today, this could be a huge money-saver for borrowers who have kept current on their mortgage but have been unable to take advantage of today’s dramatically lower interest rates.  For example:
 
     Today, a $300,000 mortgage at 6.5% with 25 years remaining has a monthly
     payment of about $2,025.
 
     Refinanced under the new HARP guidelines, that same mortgage may
     qualify for a rate of 4.25%.
 
     This means that the refinanced 25 year mortgage would have a monthly
     payment of $1,625.  

     A monthly savings of $400!  Over 25 years that translates to $120,000! 
 
If interested, please see the following link for guidelines...
http://fhfa.gov/webfiles/22721/HARP_release_102411_Final.pdf
And, as always, if I can be of assistance, please give me a call at 415-492-0100.
Thanks,
Jim

Friday, November 11, 2011

Good morning,
 
  Last night I had the honor of joining a group of Rotarians to assist the Novato Junior ROTC in serving a dinner honoring our Veterans. The speaker was General Jimmy Doolittle’s granddaughter, Joanna Doolittle Hoppes. She told a great story of a great man. An Alameda native, rocky childhood, found his way to U.C. Berkeley and ultimately to MIT to earn the first PhD in Aeronautical Engineering ever awarded by MIT. Though known for his bravery in air battle, his technical brilliance was a chief reason that eating rice is an option and not a mandate today.
 
  At the end of the prepared remarks Veterans were asked to stand to receive a copy of the speaker’s book. One by one, JROTC Cadets ceremoniously delivered the books to each of the Vets. The book was offered, they shook hands and then each Cadet saluted the Veteran.  It’s difficult to describe that moment.
 
  Men and women, moms and dads, our peers, some older, some younger. For a moment, each left their roll. Each stood erect. Each gave a razor sharp salute. For a moment, each was a soldier again. The contrast with the life we live today, because they served, stood literally before our eyes.
 
  Like a shot, I was reminded that these Veterans saw things and did things so that we didn’t have to. It was quiet in that room at that moment. The gratitude, the respect and the awe was palpable.
  More than any election, any politician any legislation, the fact that at the drop of a hat these men and women stood for the principles in which we as a nation believe is the singular source of our economic, social and political freedom.
 
 Everyone enjoys being acknowledged.  And no one is more worthy of it than those who served in our armed forces.
 Please call a Veteran today, this morning, and say “thank you.” 
 “But what would I say?”
 It’s simple. “Hi Pat, this Jim. I know you’re a Veteran. I called to say thank you for your service.”
 
That’s it.
  And if you have a spare minute, I’d love to hear you did it.
 
Thank you,
 
Jim Walsh
415-492-0100



Monday, September 26, 2011
 
Attached is valuable advisory you may wish to share with anyone you know who could fall prey to a foreclosure-avoidance scam.
 
As always, please call me at 415-492-0100 with any questions you may have.

                                                                                                                                                                                               
 
Homeowners Beware:  Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Brought to you by your Realtor® James A. Walsh
and the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
 
                                                                                                                                                                                               
 
With the recent rise in foreclosures, foreclosure-related scams have exploded onto the real estate scene. These so-called “foreclosure rescue companies” claim they will help save your home, but in reality are out to make a profit -- at your expense.
 
Red Flags for Foreclosure Rescue Scams
If you are at risk of or in foreclosure, you should be on the lookout for foreclosure scams. Here are some of the red flags to
watch out for:
• Asks for money upfront before providing any service
• Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer, housing
          counselor, family, friends, or others
• Asks for mortgage payments to be made directly to his or her
          company or a bank account set up by that person, rather than
          your lender.
• Requires payment only in the form of cash, cashier’s check,
          or wire transfer
• Promises to stop the foreclosure process, no matter the
          circumstances
• Advises you to transfer your property deed or title to his or
          her company
• Offers to fill out paperwork for you
• Asks for something to be done immediately and without delay.
This includes pressuring you into signing paperwork that you
have not had the chance to read thoroughly or do not fully
understand
• Encourages you to lease your house and buy it back
          over time
• Offers to buy your house for a fixed price that is not set by the
          housing market at the time of sale
• Asks for you to give a power of attorney
• Asks for signatures on a grant deed or deed of trust
• Asks for signatures on a document that has lines left blank
• Fails to provide copies of signed documents
• Refuses or fails to put an oral promise in writing

Report Fraud
If you have been a victim of a foreclosure-related scam or approached by a scam artist, you may report the incident to the following organizations and government enforcement agencies:
• California Attorney General
          http://ag.ca.gov
• California Department of Real Estate
          www.dre.ca.gov
• Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
          www.hud.gov
• Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
          www.ftc.gov
• Your local Better Business Bureau
          www.bbb.org
 
Legitimate Resources
If you are at risk of foreclosure or have already received a foreclosure notice, you should contact your lender immediately.
 
Homeowners also may seek the advice of a reputable housing, financial or credit counselor, attorney, or other qualified professional.
 
Homeowners may visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Web site at http://www.hud.gov/ to view its Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure and its list of California HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. In addition, the non-profit Homeownership Preservation Foundation has a 24/7 toll-free Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at (888) 995-HOPE.

Copyright© 2009 CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.). Permission is granted to C.A.R. members only to reproduce this material for non-commercial purposes. Other reproduction or use is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the C.A.R. Legal Department. All rights reserved.
 
The information contained herein is believed to be accurate as of April 9, 2009. It is intended to provide general answers to general questions and is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice. Advice in specific situations may differ depending upon a wide variety of factors.  Therefore, readers with specific legal questions should seek the advice of an attorney.
 



Friday, September 23, 2011
 
Robert Eyler is the Chief Economist of the Marin Economic Forum.
 
Earlier this month he presented to the Marin Association of Realtors. Following is a link to his remarks on YouTube:
 
 
 
 
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
 
 
Some friends and I have been discussing economic and financial issues in the US and worldwide and I have decided to share my thoughts.
 
In a prior life I earned a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential. The CFA entails a bit of rocket science and a disciplined course of study in all areas that bear upon today’s financial environment.  If you would like to know more about what I know, please visit:
 www.CFAInstitute.org
 
Feel free to share this link with those you care about.
And, I welcome your feedback at: Jim@jamesAwalsh.com
 
My overall conclusions – somewhat watered down at the advice of legal council:
 1.) You would be well advised to limit your exposure to the stock market.
 2.) As high as it is trading, gold has always been a place for investors to turn as a long-term safe haven/economic insurance policy.
 
 
Things to consider:
 
1. Political climate in Washington is so polarized very little is apt to be done in terms of legislative economic policy (tax cuts, stimulus packages, budget cuts) in the foreseeable future.  This has left the Federal Reserve which operates more or less autonomously, though not immune to political pressure, to take action. It’s tools are limited, and quite extended at this point in time.
 
2. The $2.4 Trillion of budget cuts just agreed to over the next 10 years is to a significant degree illusory. Averaging $240 Billion per year it constitutes perhaps 10% of the current annual deficit. Meanwhile the annual deficit has grown 200% in 2 years.  That’s not much of a budget cut.  This does not play well to the very large sovereign investors who hold trillions of dollars of US debt, especially in light of austerity measures that similarly advanced economies have adopted.
 
3. The Federal debt (how much the government spent in excess of what it brought in) is growing exponentially.  See:
 
4. The Federal deficit is currently contained by record low interest rates – once rates rise, the interest on that debt will balloon driving the deficit ever higher.
 
5. Ballooning Federal debt (the sum of deficits over time) leaves little room for economic stimulus, either entitlements like unemployment insurance and social security, or tax cuts.
 
6. A precedent for non-action at the Federal level and it’s consequences is presented by Japan. It has been living through 20 years of the government taking a very hands off approach to any kind of economic intervention with the result of a stagnating and contracting economy – they are actually experiencing deflation.  http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/inflation-cpi
 
 
7. Because the markets have recognized all the above, the interest rates on long term Treasury Bonds (the benchmark for long term lenders, including mortgage lenders) dropped precipitously last month, indicating the market believes deflation is becoming more possible in the U.S.
 
8. In essence, the only economic tool left in the Federal tool shed is “Quantitative Easing” a deliberately opaque term for “print more money” and put it into the economy. This is accomplished by the Federal Reserve purchasing long term Treasury Bonds. The desired result is lower interest rates on those bonds and, if effective, on other borrowing throughout the economy. With interest rates at historic lows, it is difficult to argue how driving rates lower will have much of a stimulative effect on the economy.  http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=%5ETNX+Interactive#symbol=^tnx;range=my;compare=;indicator=volume;charttype=area;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off;source=;
 
 
9. The long term effect of Quantitative Easing (that which has been employed and that which will be proposed) is inflationary.
 
10. In 2008 we did experience a run on the banks, just like in 1929. The difference was the depositors who lined up to withdraw were large investment banks, not individuals. It caused the collapse of Citicorp, Chase Manhattan and Bank of America. Only because the Federal government offered unlimited money to certain banks and gave effectively unlimited guarantees did our national banking system not seize up.
                       
11. Little has been done to correct what got us into the ’08 run on the banks.
 
12. The biggest reason the dollar has not . . . fallen, is that the other option for major holders of U.S. Dollars (China and OPEC) is the euro. If you haven’t been following it, the euro is on the brink. Italy, the European Union’s third largest economy, was recently recognized to be close to the edge along with Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. The reforms necessary to strengthen those economies and thus the euro have not, to put it mildly, been taken well by their constituents.  http://www.economist.com/node/18958397
  A collapse of the euro would not bode well for the international banking system, especially the one here at home.
 
13. It’s not the first dip that gets you: Between the bottom of the Crash of 1929 and 1933, the stock market declined another 80% - losing over ¾ of it’s after-the-crash value.
 
 
 
 And while no one likes to take a loss, it is better to leap from a moving train than be carried from one that crashed. In the latter case you have a lot of company, but you really aren’t better off.
 
  As an analyst at heart, with no crystal ball, all I can do is read the writing on the wall. I read it in 2008 and left the market swiftly.
  The writing is again on the wall. If you step back and think about it, it’s amazing that these events unfold over a period of time and not so much in an immediate and unexpected way.
 
 
CONCLUSIONS:
1. We are following Japan’s economic path, with the portent of a very, very long recession/depression.
2. Deflation is an increasingly possible scenario. Whether or not a deflationary dip is experienced, economic recovery will bring with it rampant inflation and soaring interest rates.
3. The Federal government is politically hamstrung and will have little ability to implement policy to address these issues.  
4. The astounding growth in the Federal debt combined with rising interest rates – when they occur - will make it difficult to maintain even basic entitlement programs.
 
 
 
  Things you can do:
1. If you have adjustable rate debt on your primary residence, you can pay it off as soon as possible. It looks cheap now, but when rates change. . .
2. One response to uncertain economic times has always been to buy gold. While trading at record highs these days, as a hard asset, it does provide some economic insurance.  But be clear: this isn't about making a dollar on a commodty play. Gold could well decline in price. This is about having a hedge in the event of a global financial crisis - this is insurance. It's something to hold for a very long time, without regard to interim price declines.
 
3.   Parenthetically, the Chinese, one of the two largest holders of U.S. Dollars (mostly through Treasury Bonds and Notes), are on a buying spree acquiring resources (oil in Africa, coal in Australia) and asset-rich companies because they know the value is in hard assets like oil, coal and . . . gold.   
4.  Take very good care of yourself. Stay in good health. Spend time in gratitude. As much as things are in turmoil, there is no better place to be. We are blessed.
5. Be prepared to hear the worst in the news – bad news sells.
6. Keep a close eye on your business affairs and take what steps you can to secure your financial future.
 
 
 
 
 
Northbridge News
 
Saturday, April 16: Easter Egg Hunt – For Toddlers to 10 yrs.
(Rain Date: 4/23)
10:00 a.m., Castro Field, Santa Venetia
 
  Please use the entrance between 62 & 64 Vendola Dr .  Watch the SVNA Bulletin Board (at the Santa Venetia Market) for updates.
 
  Castro Field – the gem of the neighbor-hood and its best kept secret, hosts America’s First Bunny. Proudly sponsored by your neighbor, James A. Walsh Real Estate (we have connection in high hutches).  Last year’s was an eggstravaganza – cholesterol free! - and sunshine.  Bring the kids & grandkids, or just come and watch. Coffee and refreshments. Remember what fun egg hunts were when you were young?
  Volunteers welcome!
  Please call 415-492-0100.
 
 
Saturday, April 16: Northbridge Dumpster Day
8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Northbridge HOA exclusive (Join at the event!) at the community pool.  First come, first served.  Please remove recyclables (including cardboard boxes) from your cast-offs. 
 
 
Saturday, April 16, May 13: Median Workday
N. San Pedro Rd. at Schmidt Lane , lunch provided!
 
   Grab your gloves and your favorite garden tool (don’t worry, they will have extras).  Can’t make it? Can you bake cookies? Just drop them by after 9:00 a.m. They WILL be appreciated! And then you can look at the blooming bulbs and say: “my cookies did that.”
 
 
Saturday, April 30: Opening Day, Northbridge Pool
Memberships available to all, whether Northbridge resident or not. Call Barbara Perkins: (415) 479-2544
  Be watching for Splash Day – Summer’s #1 Fun Day!
 
 
Sunday May 1, June 5: St. Isabella Dad’s Club Pancake Breakfast
7:30 – 10:30 a.m. St. Isabella Church.  Start the day strong!
415-479-3727. 
 
 
Saturday, May 7, 6-11 p.m.: Tropical Night Dinner and Dance, Venetia Valley K-8 School Fundraiser
  In reality, this is how we can keep our schools competitive, and have some fun in the process. An evening of fun, food, music and dancing at theMarin Masonic Lodge. Great deals at the silent auction too! Tickets: 415-492-3150.
   Can’t get there?  Just LOVE to point and click?  Check out the Online Auction at:www.biddingforgood.com/venetiavalley 
 
 
Tuesday, May 10:  RED Day Donations due.
 Renew, Energize, Donate
 A unique opportunity to directly affect the life of a Foster Child.  Please see discussion at the end of this Calendar.
 
 
 
Saturday, May 21: Garage Sale for Venetia Valley School Clear out that garage for a worthy cause!  Get a generous tax deduction, save the eBay hassle, & preserve the land fill! Contributions accepted Week of 5/16. Call: 415-686-8469 Marin County Fair June 30: Three Dog NightJuly 1:  Toots and the MaytalsJuly 2:  OzomotliJuly 3:  The Pointer SistersJuly 4: Preservation Jazz Hall BandMore info at the Fair website: www.marinfair.org Six Days a WeekE-Waste drop offM-F, 9-5; Sat, 10-3Renew Computers, 446 Dubois @ Anderson, 415-457-8801Authorized Electronics Waste Collector. Bring your old computers, printers, screens, TV’s, microwaves, etc. for free disposal. Dinner 7 Days: Gaspare’s Invests in EducationGaspare’s Restaurant at 200 Merrydale Road (across from McDonald’s, 415-472-7101): mention Venetia Valley School and 10% of your tab will be donated. About RED DayRenew, Energize, Donate –I am proud to report that my company, Keller Williams Realty – has designated May 12 RED day. We have selected Redwood Empire Foster Parent Association as beneficiary of the program. Our goal is to fill 100 Blue Bags, in my case for 2-8 year old Foster Kids. These are children who arrive at their Foster Home with just the shirt on their backs, if they have one. If you can imagine for a moment the trauma to a child of such a move you will open your heart to participate. The list below details what we plan to place in each Blue Bag. We also accept contributions of checks, cash and gift cards. This is a unique opportunity to directly affect the life of young and vulnerable child, and just maybe save a life.  Please call me to participate; I am happy to drop by to pick up any contribution you wish to make. Contributions must be to me by May 12. EACH BLUE BAG WILL CONTAIN:_ 1 Quilt           _ 1 Blanket_ Socks 4-5     _ Shoes/ Slippers_ 1 Sweat Suit _ Hat_ 3-5 Outfits     _ A Coat and/ or Sweater_ 3 Pajamas    _ Stuffed Animal_ 4-5 Underwear _ A few age appropriate toys, DVD’s, CD’s_ Brush or Comb _ Toothbrush
 
 
 
 
 
 
May 21 2010
 
In the aftermath of the Federal Homebuyers' Tax Credit and the short-lived California Tax
Credit we are seeing a decided affect on sales. Recently reported April closed sales were up as will be May's and perhaps June's as well - due to purchases negotiated prior to the April 30 deadline for the Federal credit.
Look for a decline in the number of sales in July and months following as many of the purchases that would have closed then were accelerated in pursuit of the credit.
 
 
The thing I like about real estate is that it is always a great market for someone. Today it's the
best market in 30 years to buy a home. 
 
Did you know that with a 3% down payment, a couple earning $80,000 per year can purchase a 1600 square foot home, with great schools and make a monthly payment (mortgage, taxes, insurance, everything!) that is often LESS than the cost of renting?
 
This terrific program - FHA - has been around for years but only recently made available in amounts up to $729,000.
 
Because it is such a great time to buy, it is a great time to sell. If you or someone you know
has thought about buying or selling but just isn't sure if they can, call me for a no obligation consultation. In an easy, relaxed and clear manner we will figure out what your true opportunity
is. And then you decide.
 
 
April 16, 2010
 
  We are drawing to a close of the Federal Home Buyer's Tax Credit program - available to those who qualify and enter into contract to purchase by April 30, 2010.  Much has been said about the California Tax Credit to become effective on May 1. What hasn't been noticed is that there is a very small cap on the number of home purchases that will qualify - the allocated funds are expected to run out before the end of May!
  As the real estate market does not turn on a dime, look for there to be some carryover demand from the two credits through the Spring. After that, housing demand, sales and prices will be a lot about interest rates and economic recovery.
 
 
 
March 11, 2010
 
What a difference a tax credit makes. . . it may come as a surprise that an $8000 tax credit would inspire many to make a $500,000 purchase. . . but there is little doubt that the 2009 First Time Homebuyers' Tax Credit did exactly that. January closings - reflecting sales negotiated immediately after the credit expired - fell significantly from the prior month.
 
We are back on board with February closings as the renewed credit (not just for First Timers, this time!) andvery attractive mortgage rates have again inspired home buyers to make hay while the sun shines. Without question, this is the BEST time in 30 years to buy and therefore a great time to sell. If you're wondering if it makes sense to buy or sell a home today, please call me for a consultation.
 
 
 
September 15, 2009
 
This time last year, the shortening of days was accompanied by a screeching halt in the economy, the effects of which are still being felt. Rest assured, we are coming out of this one. The real estate market makes that abundantly clear. Since bad news and negative spin sell, however, be looking for more reports of declining real estate sales through the end of the year.
  This happens every year in a “normal” market. That is, a market where buyers are required to qualify for financing, rather than merely fog a mirror. Real estate sales have always been seasonal. Further, great strength in the entry level will cause the “average” sales price in the closing months of the year to decline. Does that mean you are losing value in your house? Not for a minute. The worst has come and passed. This will be very clear next spring as activity once again picks up.
 
 
August 26, 2009
 
While interest rates continue to bounce around, mortgage money at very attractive rates and terms is available in abundance. Call me for your refinance and purchase money needs, anywhere in California. And, of course, I am now taking listings!
 
 
July 10, 2009
 
More signs that Marin market lows may have been reached:
 - Marin sales volume for June was ahead of May, 2009 and June, 2008.
 - Marin distressed sales were less than 25% of sales in June compared with nearly 33% last month.
 - Entry level properties are hot, fueled by first time home buyers capturing interest rates below 5%
 
 Expect a peak in sales volume leading to a seasonal decline as year-end approaches - exactly like the market was before the stated-income, no-need-to-qualify loans appeared. In short, it's looking more and more like a normal market.
 
 
June 19, 2009
As confusing as the media and some folks make it, two axioms will tell you everything you need to know about today’s Marin real estate market.
1.     The market is segmented
2.     Condition is EVERYTHING
 
There are two markets in Marin:
  Private party sales, and
  Bank owned property(“REO”) sales
 
Note that short sales are excluded from this discussion because:
  One in five such listings ever sell and close
  Those that do take a long time to close – today on average nearly 8 months.  The list price is a wild hope on the part of all involved that the lender, the true decision maker, will agree to it.  Lenders will not look at price or even consider a short sale until an offer, and all required documentation of the seller, is submitted.
 
  Last month, bank owned properties that reached the Multiple Listing System accounted for 17% of sales. Nearly 75% of closed sales were of non-distressed, private party sales.  Common belief is that:
1.     You can get a “deal” on an REO, and,
2.      REO’s are dragging down the rest of the market.
 
  Here’s the truth: Now more than ever, condition is driving price, not REOs. A case in point: two properties recently sold in the Northbridge subdivision of San Rafael.
  175 Whittier Avenue, a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 1673’ house, remodeled, swimming pool, took 84 days to sell and closed in April for $651,000. 
  85 Edward Avenue, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1452’ house, remodeled, no pool, sold in a heartbeat and closed in June for $727,000 (with backup offers).
  Edward Avenue was a bedroom and 220’ less house than Whittier and sold for $76,000 more, at appreciably the same time. . . guess which one showed better? It’s an understatement to say that the Edward house showed well. It was completely done. There was nothing that could be done to improve the appearance/condition of the property. Too, it was very well staged. I’m still trying to figure out where they put the kids.
  The Whittier house, bank owned, had been cleaned out. But know that when a bank has a house cleaned, well, you’ll want to clean it again before you move in.  Further, the house was vacant. There is a saying in the business, people and houses look better with their clothes on.  Buyers walking into this property felt no emotional attachment to it.
   Difference in condition made all the difference in this sale. A buyer makes their mind up about a property the first 60-90 seconds in the door – it’s an emotional decision. (This is why developers don’t bother to landscape back yards of model homes.)
  And lest you think this was an aberration, I’ve seen it time and time again. In any market that doesn’t have buyers lining up 12 deep, condition will heavily influence price and time to sell. And today, it is absolutely critical.
 
 
 
April 24, 2009
Feeling a little . . . concerned?
 
Our local paper ran an AP Story recently about the President stepping up the positive talk about the economy.  “Despite the new enthusiasm . . . there was little to suggest an end was in sight to the massive recession (emphasis added) . . . And there were fresh signs of financial stress. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. trade deficit plunged in January to the lowest level in six years …”
 
Here’s the irony: a declining trade deficit is a really good thing. Really. It’s the silver lining of this economic cloud.
 
One of the challenges that got us in this mess was the fact that we were buying more foreign produced goods – from China and OPEC mostly - than we were selling overseas. When more U.S. dollars leave the country than come in (i.e. our imports are greater than our exports) it creates a trade deficit. Within limits it not too big a deal.  When it hits a sum of a trillion or two, it IS a big deal, in a bad way. It undermines the value of the dollar and the security of our economic system. Shrinking the deficit is a good thing. That the AP chooses to see this as a “fresh sign of financial stress” tells me:
1.)    The authors and editors do not understand even fundamental tenants of economics (but that won’t stop them from implying they do), and,
2.)    At least some of the mainstream media is locked in to spinning the worst sounding picture they can, even if the signs are good.
 
Small wonder confidence is declining and people are concerned.
 
What can you do about it? Gather your own information. Listen to both sides and decide for yourself.
 
I recommend Charlie Rose’s interview program on PBS, archives of which are available at CharlieRose.com.  Listen to what Warren Buffet has to say. Timothy Geithner. Really listen to what Henry Paulson had to say – do NOT let a journalist who understands less about economics filter your news for you. It’s a beautiful thing about a free country: We have many resources.
 
 
 
March 14, 2008
 Wise planners prepare for more than one scenario. My remarks of February 21 discussed the likelihood of significant inflation down the road. How to position for that environment was also discussed.
 
 As the economy contracts the scenario of a protracted recession and actual price declines, or deflation is also well within the real of possibility, if but for an interim period. The following are suggestions for a posture to protect against deflation.
 
 In a word: cash. As you would expect, if debt is good in inflationary times, no debt is good in deflationary times. 
 
 Which way to go? If you’re 100% certain of one path or the other, invest accordingly. Many advisers who are open to all the possibilities are striking a balance. A significant cash holding during this period of stock market volatility is good for peace of mind. It also gives deflation-scenario protection. Balance that with significant holdings of hard assets like real estate or, if you’re really defensive, a position in gold or other precious metals and you are covered for the inflation scenario as well.
 
 If there is one thing we have learned in the last 6 months it is that stocks and bonds carry risk of loss. If your investment horizon – the period of time before you are apt to need the funds – is short, risk is not where you want to be. Balance is. Balance reduces risk.
 
 America remains the benchmark for free markets and innovation. Our prospects today are as good or better than any other country. As Eric Schmidt, Google CEO said, America is the best place to be in this worldwide recession as we will be the first ones out of it.
 
 What he didn’t say, and what no one really knows, is what the landscape will like between now and then. Happily, we have access to free markets and can position ourselves for alternative outcomes. Unless you can afford to lose it all, I recommend you do so.
 
 
 
February 27, 2009
  O.K., the cat's out of the bag. We are in a recession, whatever that means. As we are being bombarded by the greatest barrage of negative spin I can remember, I want to take a minute to put things in perspective.
 1. If unemployment hits 8%, this will leave 92% of Americans with jobs. 92% is a good number.
 2. The media sells more when they get your attention, thus the IJ's headline last week, "Marin Home Prices Drop 38%." No, nope, unh-unh. Briefly, the MEDIAN price of homes sold in January declined 38% vs. a year ago. The MEDIAN price is the price at which one-half of sales occurred below and one-half above. Clearly, lower priced homes (especially condos) sold in greater numbers this year than last. In this very segmented market many areas are holding their value.
 3. Regardless of the goings on in the economy, mortgage markets and real estate markets at large, residential real estate will always enjoy a level of core business. Job transfers, family needs, outgrowing homes, homes outgrowing families, all contribute to this core of those who must sell and buy. While lending requirements have returned, there is plenty of mortgage money to be had and real estate sales to occur.
 
February 21, 2009
 
Real estate prices will double!
So will a loaf of bread.
 
 The smartest people on the planet have only one solution to the economic downturn: spend more money. People we can respect, academicians and Nobel Prize winners, investors with proven track records, economists, most important: those without a political ax to grind, agree that spending is the only thing we can do at this point.
  The other shoe to drop, though less discussed today, is the certainty that this epic and historic spending will bring with it inflation. Prices of hard assets like real estate and precious metals will certainly rise in terms of U.S. dollars. Those who own real estate will gain some comfort from that.
 
 As day follows night, higher interest rates follow inflation. This decade may see the last of single digit mortgage rates. Almost certainly 30 year fixed rate mortgages are on the way out. Interestingly, you can’t get a 30 year fixed rate mortgage in Europe, or anywhere else I know. It’s American phenomenon, and one the days of which are numbered.
  What can you do?  If you don’t have a 30 year fixed rate on your mortgage, get one soon. If you lock it up too early and rates drop significantly, refinance. But don’t get caught with an adjustable rate loan when the certainty of higher rates comes home to roost.
  At the end of the February 11 blog is a short list of recommended reading and viewing   . . . time and money better spent than on the popular media.
 
 
 
February 11. 2009
Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented the framework for the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus program. 3 things of note:
 
 
 
  1. A comprehensive housing program will be introduced “in the next few weeks.”
  2. A website is being created: www.financialstability.gov that will post the contracts involved with investments and guarantees of financial institutions, and track payments received on the “bailout” investments.                                                                                                                  a. Bailout is in quotes because, much of the capital transferred to institutions to date, and  going forward, is of the nature of investment, most often preferred stock, that is expected to generate dividends and ultimately be redeemed. There are no guarantees, however Geithner has reported that payments are already coming in.
       b. Won’t it be interesting to be able to see exactly what the deals cut are, as opposed to
       relying on pundits editorializing about what’s wrong with the program. Now THAT is “we 
       report, you decide”.
       c.The administration’s plan outline is posted on the website
  3.  Geithner is already allowing that the magnitude of the program will surpass $3 trillion dollars.
       Regrettably, it appears that number will grow as the government gently, progressively
       presents larger and larger numbers. We can only hope that the “investment” we as a nation
       are making, is in assets of substance and money sent down the drain for our grandchildren
       to pay.
 
On a personal note, I am enheartened by:
       The boldness of the government’s plans
            The transparency of bank support programs
            The intelligence of those involved.
 
It is too easy to turn on an MSNBC, CNN or Fox News and ride the complain train. Remember, those networks make money when YOU get upset. You watch more, they charge more for their advertising time. Their goal is NOT to inform, but to sell advertising. Be clear on that.
 
The magnitude of the challenge is  . . . potentially beyond description. If you are feeling in the dark, it’s time to do some reading and intelligent viewing.
 
 www.CharlieRose.com offers a catalogue of interviews with the likes of Warren Buffet, Mohamed El Erian, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, Paul Volcker and others. Fairly straight from-the-horse’s mouth kind of stuff.
 The Economist magazine – a weekly, published in England, gives a less America-centric and more thought-through analysis of the goings on in the world, with significant weight on the economy and business. . . they called the credit crisis and accompanying economic fallout at least 3 years ago.
 
  “When MarketsCollide”, by Mohamed El-Erian.  There is value in the perspective of one not made myopic by a lifetime in one country.  Financial Times of London named it the Business Book of the Year.
 
  “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”.  Just out. He selected the author/biographer. I haven’t read it, but if he endorsed it, we will all learn something from it.
 
 
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