January 2011 Archives

January 24, 2011

For California Home Buyers and Sellers: New Editions of Nolo Books

What's so special about California real estate? Well, lets see: This state requires sellers to disclose more to buyers about the condition of the property than most other states do; its real estate market requires careful local study, with foreclosures the norm in some areas and bidding wars still taking place in others; and because California law doesn't require lawyers to be involved in the transaction, it gives buyers and sellers good reason to find a great agent and educate themselves about the process.

And that's just the beginning. (Notice I didn't even mention researching whether your house -- or prospective house -- is on an earthquake fault line?) All of these are among the many topics covered in the latest editions of Nolo's popular books, How to Buy a House in California and For Sale By Owner in California -- recently updated with the latest on legal requirements, market trends, mortgage options, and more.
January 17, 2011

Condo Shopping: What's With the Salesperson's Countertop Obsession?

With snow blanketing the East Coast, it's no surprise our out-of-town visitors thought checking out retirement condos in California would be a nice way to spend an afternoon. Better yet, prices are down, as many condo units sit unsold.

So, we waltzed into the sales office of a high-rise luxury condo unit in Oakland. The salesperson looked happy to have a reason to get out of her office -- it appears she's been sitting there since 2008, slowly selling off the inventory.

In fact, she's probably getting a little bored. Which may explain the countertop obsession. While we were looking at the model unit, and asking sensible questions like, "What are the monthly homeowner dues?" (at over $400 per month, I hope she was planning to mention that topic soon), she was pointing out the color of the granite countertops.

Indeed, those countertops do come in an amazing array of colors, from black to green to tan, with evocative names like "Uba Tuba" and "Baltic Brown." They're shiny. They're fun to touch. In fact, the more I looked at them, the more I wanted to be the one choosing countertops for my unit -- which I guess means I would've had to buy a unit. Hmm, if I were a cynic, I might believe that that was her plan all along, to get us thinking about decorating before having made the decision to buy, so that buying becomes almost a foregone conclusion.

Good thing I'm not a cynic.   
January 3, 2011

First-Time Homebuyers' Book in Its 3rd Edition!

Just in time for a new year of house-hunting, it's the fully updated third edition of Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.

It's fun, it's practical, and it's a regular Nolo bestseller. In fact, I got a real-world demonstration of how popular this book has become when I discovered that one of the bidders on my first home, which I sold last year, was using the book for guidance.

The housing market is still slow, with not many open houses to visit yet. But interest rates are still down, and home prices aren't likely to shoot up any time soon, so now may be the perfect time to curl up with this book and get ready for some springtime house shopping!