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What’s the Value of Your Home? It Depends on Who’s Doing the Estimating

It’s a common problem in real estate: Owners’ estimates of home values rarely match the estimates of professional appraisers. A just-released report from Quicken Loans found that home appraisals nationwide in August were an average of 1.56 percent lower than the values expected by homeowners seeking to refinance a mortgage. In several cities — Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore —  appraisals were more than 3 percent below homeowner estimates. Here in the Bay Area, however, the reverse is true. In the midst of rapid price appreciation, the average homeowner in San Francisco and San Jose tends to underestimate the value of his or her home compared with a professional appraisal — 2.48 percent and 2.33 percent, respectively, in August. If you’re looking to sell your home, the danger of underestimating its value is obvious: You risk losing money on the sale. But pricing your home too high can bring problems, too: It may sit on the market for several months — possibly delaying you from moving into your next home — and repeatedly lowering the price may turn off potential buyers. The surest way to get an accurate estimate of your home’s value is to hire a professional property appraiser, but there are other options, too. A trusted real estate professional who knows your neighborhood and its recent sales history is a valuable asset on your side. He or she has access to private real estate databases with reams of useful and up-to-date information. Real estate professionals can also prepare comparable-sales reports to help you determine an appropriate listing price. Comps includes data on homes in your community that are...

Smart Home Technology Gains Traction With Home Remodelers

Nearly half of all homeowners are adding smart technology upgrades when they undertake a remodeling project, and those who do so are substantially more satisfied with the results. That’s according to Houzz’s 2016 Smart Home Trends Survey, which polled homeowners who had completed a renovation job within the past year or are planning one soon. Forty-five percent of respondents say that they are incorporating smart systems — defined as devices that can be controlled by a mobile device or a computer — in their home renovation plans. Earlier this year, Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of U.S. adults own a smart phone. Home security tops the list for most common smart home feature… Alarms and cameras are the two most popular smart security devices… Roughly three-quarters of homeowners who install smart security devices spend less than $1,500. Entertainment systems are the next most likely to contain smart technology, with an 18 percent adoption rate among those polled. TVs, speakers, and video- and audio-streaming systems are all equally popular upgrades, and nearly one-third of TVs are Internet-enabled… About half of those who opt for smart entertainment systems spend in excess of $1,500. Climate-control and lighting systems were slightly less popular with renovators, with respective adoption rates of 14 and 12 percent. Among all homeowners surveyed, lighting is the most common upgrade… About 70 percent of homeowners with smart entertainment and lighting systems report being very satisfied with their upgrades, compared with about half of those who purchased nonsmart systems. If smart home technologies make for happier homeowners, why are the other half of them sticking to old-school systems? Turns...

Proud to Be a Californian: State Among the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Economies

Executive Summary: The Federal Open Market Committee did not raise interest rates yesterday but not for the lack of confidence in the economy. The FOMC wants further confirmation that everyone is benefiting from the employment growth. A separate report says that California leads the nation in economic output, with the San Jose metro area growing at the fastest pace in the nation in 2015, an impressive 8.9 percent. The Bay Area follows closely, with 5.8 percent annual growth. Tech-heavy metro areas are seeing the fastest economic growth in the nation. The Bay Area is one the most attractive places for businesses, due to talent, knowledge, and the spillover effects of the tech industry (not to mention the weather). Three of the five largest U.S. companies by market valuation are located in the Bay Area. California’s economy is poised for strong growth, though addressing the housing affordability conundrum is...