Lauren Schenke

Your Partner in Real Estate



Why Buying New Construction in December Makes ‘Cents’

New home construction tends to sell in the same seasonal pattern that resale homes sell….quick and fast in the spring/summer, and slow in the winter. Buyer demand tends to be low in December. People have tucked in for their winter hibernation of coffee and cookies, family time, and gift shopping. Children’s year end recitals and work holiday parties fill our schedules. Taking time to view homes, packing up the holiday decor before the season is over, and moving out of one home into another during the rainy season are often the last things on people’s minds to fit into the year end madness.

Because of this slowdown in holiday buyer activity, demand for homes drops considerably. My phone and email typically slow down in November and picks back up in February. Who would stop to think that it’s actually a good time to buy a home?! I’d argue that if the right home in the right location is available for you, it’s a GREAT time to buy.

New construction is very cyclical depending on the local market and economy, but construction usually continues year round. It’s the buyer DEMAND that slows down at year end. In December, the new home construction that started back in the summer with foundations is finishing up final details and waiting for that right buyer to swoop in and make an offer. And if builders hate anything at all, it’s standing/completed inventory without a buyer.

Just yesterday, I went with a young family who has been considering new construction nearby. We discussed two different floorplans and a couple different lots in the community. They had done a TON of homework already, but I contributed different questions for them to think about that they hadn’t considered…”are you going to be okay not having windows on this side of the home where the main part of the backyard is located?”…..”have you thought about the additional costs/maintenance to landscape a sloped lot?”…..”you’ll probably have more furry and slithery friends coming in the backyard due to backing open space…”…..”wonder if you’ll get any golf balls from that golf course on the other side of the open space?”….”Let’s ask what the distance is from the house to the bottom of that sloped hillside to see if that’s enough space for you…”

This is really what I see is one of my main purposes on new construction….helping the buyer client consider as many aspects as possible on a home that isn’t built yet. It’s difficult to imagine what a home will look and feel like when the home consists only of a perimeter foundation on a dirt lot.  I want to be there to ask the questions that the developer’s agent isn’t going to push you to consider. After we talked a lot about the lots they were considering, I took these clients through an open house of standing inventory that had a similar sloped lot in the backyard to see what they thought about having a backyard with a slope. We looked at the view out the windows to get a feel for what that other home/lot would feel like. We talked about the future price of a lot they were considering waiting for which was slated to be a few releases (months) away.

In the end, this family chose to offer on an almost finished property…one they hadn’t initially considered. If this were the spring or summer, this price of this home probably would have been firm with no wiggle room. There may have been wait lists of interested buyers chomping at the bit, hoping the first position buyer would pass so they have a shot to proceed with this home/lot. But it’s December. And that’s not what happened. My buyers made a verbal offer quite a bit under list price. The seller/builder countered back approximately 15K under the initial list price. My buyers chose to counter the seller back again. In the end, they are in contract approximately 30K under the price tag of the home….which more or less equates to getting the lot/location premium of backing the open space for free. Win win.

December is a great time to be able to negotiate the price of new homes. It’s going to be a different story in three months. Today, the sales agents at developments my clients have visited over the last year are keeping my emails busy, marketing discounts and promotions. Six months ago when I visited some new homes this summer, there were wait lists and high demand.

I’d love the opportunity to help you maneuver through the possibility of buying brand new construction. Most builders allow realtors to help buyers negotiate the transaction, they just ask us to attend and register you during your first visit to the community. I want to make sure you’ve considered every aspect of a home/lot/location that we can think of….and make sure you’re well represented. Let me know if I can discuss new home construction with you!


The sky is falling! Oh wait…it’s really not…

Forbes published a great article HERE today on the current state and forecast of nationwide real estate….which is very similar to Ca & local trends in my opinion. While some articles you may have seen lately focus on the “sky is falling” view as they note the softening market….I’d argue that we’re finally done digging out of the ‘post-market crash’ prices, returning to what I would argue is a “healthy” market of +/- 3% growth in home prices per year. This 3% rate is a sustainable growth rate that we can continue to grow slowly at…not the +7% to +30% growth we saw in the Sacramento area since 2008. Those years should not be looked at as the “norm”…because they weren’t!

What does that mean to you as a homeowner or potential homeowner? Here’s my thoughts:

1. It’s no longer a seller’s market…there’s more negotiation in our future. Buyers won’t have to settle for as-is sales anymore because sellers won’t have 23 backup offers. Repairs will need to be considered. Price change conversations will need to occur. Seller credits for buyer closing costs will slowly re-enter our lives and be accepted more often.

2. Sellers need to price their home accurately, right from the start. Overpricing homes because someone thinks it’s still a seller’s market won’t work anymore.

3. Higher priced homes will probably move slower than they have been…as a combination of market shifts plus the impact from different tax changes this year.

4. Entry level homes will still be attractive, as they will continue to compete with rents in many areas around Sacramento.

5. Some homes will “cap out” and plateau at certain prices….ie, many 1,000sf homes in Folsom have seen a considerable shift in days on market as buyers no longer perceive value and consider looking elsewhere at that price.

6. The number of FHA and VA loans will begin increasing at big rates. When the market crashed, a majority of loans were cash or conventional loans with large down payments. Now that the market is balancing again, we’ll see more first time buyers and lower down payment loans (ie, 3%, 5%).

7. Homes will need to be in good to great condition to sell. Buyers won’t want to settle for just anything anymore, and the shift to more FHA/VA loans will require better condition homes. Sellers may find themselves doing more repairs or up front work as a result.

So…in the end, I think this is a good thing that we’re back to a healthy place. Yes, the “deals”
may be gone, less homes may sell and lenders may not fund as many loans…all things that may shift the type of jobs that some people have, but in the end, we’re back to a sustainable place that we need to be in the long run. No need to be worried when you read that the market is cooling. It was expected!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Affordable Housing & CA Rent Control?

Affordable housing is quite the topic these days in local news and real estate circles. With both home prices and rental rates on the rise, finding affordable housing in CA is becoming more and more difficult. Even here in Sacramento, a more “affordable” location than many areas throughout the state, housing costs are becoming out of reach for many.

Living here in the capital city allows us to follow state politics a little more closely if desired. This week saw activists rallying at the capital building to promote rent control in CA. It is extremely likely that we will see a rent control measure on November’s ballot, so it’s good to know a little about what’s going on so you can investigate further before voting this fall….because you all vote, right? (Voting = a good thing.)

First, some brief history….

Back in 1995, a state law called the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act was passed which places limits on local rent control ordinances.

First, it makes some properties exempt from rent control, such as single family homes, condos, and buildings built after 1995. Makes sense for investors who have a single family dwelling instead of a hundred unit apartment complex, right? They can rent it out at whatever price they want and have less restrictions than an apartment complex would have. Makes sense.

Second, Costa Hawkins ended “vacancy control”. Say what? I’ll explain. In some areas of CA where there were rent control measures, a landlord or apartment complex used to be limited in raising rent when a current tenant moved out….voluntarily or involuntarily (ie, eviction) and a new tenant moved in. The idea behind vacancy control was likely to stop rents from rising dramatically at the time of the changeover to the new tenant, attempting to keep rents affordable. However, landlords/property owners didn’t feel that this was fair to them…as they felt they should be able to ask for more rent if sufficient time had passed….current market rates. So, Costa Hawkins prohibited vacancy control, therefore allowing landlords to ask whatever price they wanted….likely the current market price. You might see where this is going. Some think that this law basically allows landlords to wrongly evict those tenants who have been paying below average rental rates, allowing them to replace the tenants with a new, higher paying, tenant. I read today where one tenant was evicted because they complained about mold in their unit. So is this complaint accurate? I’m not sure. Seems like this would be a legal no-no in my mind if someones evicted without just cause. (Mold is taken incredibly seriously by the way…to points that realtors call it “The M Word”. A landlord could likely be sued if they kept a tenant in a home where mold was a concern.) But I’m not deep enough in the property management world to know if that happens often in CA without just cause in order for the landlord to collect higher rents.

Fast forward to today….

Rents have gone up since 1995, to prices in some areas that are even more than many mortgages! I keep hearing that apartment complexes are charging crazy amounts these days. A quick look at a complex in Citrus Heights near Sunrise Mall my clients (now homeowners) used to live at is offering a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom 1,130sf apartment for $1,895-$2,785. Not kidding. That’s nuts.

So….back to the proposed ballot measure we’ll likely see this fall. Proponents of rent control….aka the REPEAL of Costa Hawkins say that “cities and counties would be able to strengthen existing rent control policies, or pass new laws that go further than what’s currently allowed…..” Source: Sac Bee article 4/23/18 They feel that this will slow down rental rates and create more affordable housing options.

On the other hand, opponents of the repeal of Costa Hawkins think it would cause new housing starts to come to a screeching halt, exacerbating the housing crisis even further from a lower supply and increased demand. If investors/owners of multi family housing or construction can’t collect the rent/return they want, this group tends to think investment will stop, or slow.

So….what do you think? Would the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Act help the affordable housing crisis? Or do you agree that large investment companies and property management companies would no longer choose to invest in building new rentals if they are limited on their return? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

One geeky thought to leave you with. When the housing market bottomed out in 2005-2008, and building new homes wasn’t as profitable as it was in the years prior, did new home builders build LESS homes? Yes, they sure did…

(Sorry, a little hangover from my prior job getting things all nerdy up in here.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Great links:
Sac Bee 4/23/18 Article – Rent Control Measure On Its Way To California Ballot
San Diego Tribune 4/24/18 Article – What’s The Deal With Rent Control in California

How I Stage My Listings…and Why It Works

I wanted to share with you why I believe in home staging….and what service I offer my clients. Home staging is when an individual hires a design company to bring in furniture, artwork, dishes, etc, and make a home for sale look lived in and updated. It gives buyers a feel for the size of the room and the layout of the house. It makes a cold, empty, sad home look warm and inviting. I believe that visiting a home should be treated as an experience. That sounds ridiculous now that I wrote that down, but really, a home visit should comfortable capture all of your senses….sight, sound, and smell in particular. You have one shot to impress. It’s like an interview. And it’s best to prepare.

A while back, I was working quite a bit with investor clients who were purchasing homes to flip and sell. There’s a BIG difference between a vacant home and a staged home. That’s where I come in. I gathered pieces bit by bit and created a collection of staging décor that I constantly update over time. I just recently added to my collection with new pieces to match the home I’m staging and what’s currently in style. I sat on my living room floor building dressers and end tables and had way too much fun doing so.

While a staged home may cost a seller or agent over $2,500 or so for a four to six week span, it’s a service I include my sellers at no additional cost other than the commission they agree to hire me at to sell their home. I use my own set of staging furniture & decor to prepare the home for sale. I can also consult with my sellers and use the clients’ own furniture, or a combination of both, to prepare their home for sale, if they are planning on staying in the home during the listing period.

Here’s an example of my staged listing that just went live yesterday…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


How can you stage your own house? Walking through brand new model homes is a great way to get a feel for what a clean/staged home ‘should’ look like. Or have your most critical friend come over and tell you what to pack up. Or….keep reading….

My top few beliefs on home staging….welcome mat

  1. Always have a new welcome mat. There’s nothing more off putting than a dingy, dirty welcome mat to kick off your home visit
    . What you see when you first enter a home will put you in a mood, and you want it to be a good one. They’re $20 bucks friends. Splurge.
  2. Air fresheners….on LOW. My preference is the Glade brand of plugins because they are refillable – the clean linen scent.Glade Plugins (Careful with the icky sweet cookie ones…sounds like a good idea because  you’ve always been told to bake cookies….danger Will Robinson.) The key is not to kill the buyers with air freshener. The lowest setting possible is sufficient. Go easy there, essential oil lover…no need to make us want to leave the home the moment we enter. I put two downstairs on opposite sides of the home and we’re good to go. Smells good but not overpowering.
  3. Keep your artwork at eye level. Growing up, my mom was always telling us to hang artwork lower…now lower….still lower… It’s Pictures-in-bedroomoften lower than what comes natural to most people, and it stuck with me til this day. You shouldn’t have to lift your chin to look at the focal point of artwork. Your head and neck’s natural resting position (for an adult) should be staring into the middle of the frame or canvas without raising your head.
  4. Keep it PG and neutral. For the sake of this argument, let’s just say I’ve seen some pretty risqué décor over my last few years. Really? Yes. You think someone’s going to love your naked lady motorcycle poster? Well, they’re not. This client probably is not going to be the prime candidate for staging, but nevertheless, neutralize your home of politics, religion, and anything not PG or G rated. If you lose just one buyer over the bumper sticker you have on your fridge, or the artwork in your bedroom, then you’re probably losing others as well. A good agent will help you swap it out with something neutral at no cost that you can live with for 30 days.
  5. No cropped curtains. It’s like flooded pant legs that are too short. For some reason they just drive me nuts. Long and tall friends, long and tall. Just about the ground…or even sitting on the ground a bit if you like that….but please don’t stop them short. I know curtains are expensive – way too expensive IMHO, but remove them if they are short and fill the holes. Tall curtains look the room look larger, which is important for a small house/room.
  6. Remove the clutter and de-personalize. Even I stop tofridge magnes look at personal photos when they are in someone’s home to see if I know them or to simply be nosy. Best to remove the 800 magnets on your fridge and pair down the non-essentials. fridge magnetsRemove most if not all of your personal photos. Start boxing things up – you’re moving anyways, so why not get a head start. Closets overstuffed? Box it up. Book cases full? Box it up. Putting things in boxes and storing them in your garage during your listing is fine – buyers expect it. The more horizontal surfaces you can see (think countertops, table tops, etc) the larger your room will feel.
  7. Clean. This should be an obvious one, but trust me when I tell you it’s not. Clean your house really well or hire someone to do it who knows what they’re doing. A professional cleaning goes a LONG way. Dirty houses lose buyers.


Thanks for reading this far….hope this helps some….if not, hire me and I’ll help you out! 🙂 Have a great day, and an even better evening…


Kitec Plumbing

The Kitec brand of PEX plumbing is a big disclosure and real estate buzzword these days. It’s a type of flexible plastic plumbing supply line that was used in some homes built in 1995-2007 instead of traditional copper which is more expensive but also less flexible. PEX flexible plumbing is traditionally made up of red and blue lines for hot and cold water supply.

The problem started several years after these new homes were built using Kitec plumbing. The main issue is where the plastic line meets up with the fittings, causing corrosion over time. This corrosion then lead to failures in the lines, and the failures lead to leaks around the home….in the wails, ceiling, etc. From what I’ve been told, it’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN these fittings will fail.

kitec1             kitec2

Now, before you flip out because you have red & blue plumbing lines….NOT ALL red and blue supply lines are the failed brands/companies like Kitec…so check to see what company/brand is stamped on your lines and do some research…it will look like this…


The real solution is unfortunately not a cheap solution. The answer is for the entire home to be re-piped with copper plumbing…not an affordable fix. You’ll have drywall repairs, water turned off until the home is re-plumbed, etc…major repairs.

One area local to us here where homeowners have been experiencing issues with their Kitec plumbing is the community of Del Webb’s Sun City in Lincoln. Many, but not all, of the homes were built during this timeframe and some of the builders used Kitec plumbing. There has been a class action lawsuit filed in the past, and is still open for claims through 2020 from the looks of it, but from what I’ve heard and read, it isn’t doing much to help with the cost to homeowners experiencing issues. And homeowners insurance often does not cover all of this re-plumbing work….they may just cover the damage the leak caused from water intrusion/damage.

If you want more info on Kitec – there’s a couple great resources I found in looking around:

This is a great time to mention to all sellers, or future sellers….DISCLOSE DISCLOSE DISCLOSE. Disclose everything, even if it’s repaired, even if it’s no longer an issue, etc. If you’re aware that Kitec is in your home, it’s vital that you disclose this to all buyers and let them be the ones to decide if it’s a material factor to them….because it is most definitely a material factor. Would it be important to you to consider in YOUR purchase? Probably…

And it’s a great time to remind buyers of the importance of a home inspection! A good home inspector will look for this kind of thing, especially if they know a neighborhood or city contains products like Kitec.





Sac Hottest Housing Market in 2017??

Sacramento continues to be pegged as one of the hottest housing markets for 2017. The Bee had an article in November citing claiming Sac as a hot market to watch this year, and a week ago Zillow claimed the same. What exactly does that mean for you this year?

First of all, are you a buyer or a seller?

As a SELLER, you’ll want to anticipate multiple showings of your home, keeping you busily cleaning your space, and you’ll possibly receive multiple offers on your home. In times like this when we have a combination of low inventory and quote on quote “HOT” markets, sellers tend to push the envelope on price, listing their home for prices above what may otherwise be considered the norm. And many times they even get what they ask for. Just in the past 18 hours alone I have 1) looked up a home in Folsom that sold recently, to find that it closed $25K over list price and received 12 offers! and 2) inquired on a home I showed which I felt was priced too high only to hear that they have received 6 offers already. Things….are….moving.

You’ll want to be cautious though in setting your listing price. You don’t want to list the home so high that buyers no longer see value in the property. That would make your home go stale with no showings and no offers…a seller’s nightmare. There’s a fine balance of pushing the envelope on price and tearing that envelope open with garden shears. 🙂 You also want to be very aware of your property and how attractive it really is to buyers. If you back a noisy freeway or live in an igloo shaped home…there may not be that upward pressure from buyers on price. Be sure to think critically about how attractive your home really is to buyers.

Also as seller, you’ll want to be prepared of where you’re going next…because you may receive a great offer sooner than you think! Do you have plans in place on where you’re going? Are you moving into a rental or buying another property? Be sure to factor this in.  The last thing I want you to be is a couch surfer!!

As a BUYER, this will probably mean a tougher, longer haul for you. When things heat up, and inventory is low, competitiveness begins. It all goes back to your Econ 101 class where your teacher discussed supply and demand. Yes, I’m an econ geek here!! Low supply + high demand = an increase in prices. There’s just not that many homes on the market right now…particularly in January. And from what I’ve seen recently, buyers are still looking!!

My best piece of advice for buyers is to have patience. It may take writing up several offers before you get one accepted and are able to move forward. In the meantime, work on improving your financial situation, whether it be your down payment, credit score, paying off debt, etc. The more we can talk about how fantastic your financial situation is, the better!!  Don’t settle for a home just because your offer will be accepted because nobody else wants it! When you find that right home, do all you can to show dedication and love for the property. That’s where I come in to help you do all we can.

With January almost over, it will be interesting to see if Sac lives up to the hype that the news has already created. I do think it’s still an affordable market compared to the bay area and many other locations. It’s a growing area with jobs and a perfect location between the ocean and the mountains. I’m energized and ready for a wonderful 2017!!






The U.S.’ priciest home for sale

Calling all buyers! The United State’s most expensive listing just hit the market for a cool $250M in Bel Air, in Southern California. For that price, you get 38,000 square feet, 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms (*wow*), three kitchens, a 40-seat movie theater, an infinity pool with a swim-up bar and 270-degree hilltop views from downtown to the ocean. It also comes with 7 people on staff, your own helicopter (that’s craned in because they don’t have a permit for landings and take offs!!), a $30M fleet of cars and motorcycles, a four lane bowling alley, a candy room and a whole lot more! Seriously…who knew we were all missing out by not having a room in our homes dedicated to CANDY!

This makes me think of a project I had back in grade school….how to spend a hundred million dollars. I remember it being hard at the time as a young kid and a great exercise in the value of money and the cost of things. It would probably be easier now than it was 25 (cough cough) years ago. How would you choose to spend $250M? Would it be a single purchase of a lavish home like this one? Or would you spend it on something else….or many something elses….

Read more about the home here…

Sacramento Affordability….

I came across this interesting article about affordability in Sacramento neighborhoods…if buyers put 20% down on a mortgage, how much would they need to make to live in some neighborhoods around Sacramento? Pretty amazing to see the amount you need these days…prices have definitely gone up over the past few years. Even North Oak Park has a median  home price of $304K from their analysis…needing over $60K in annual income to purchase in an area that used to be tough and is now a blossoming pocket of homes. Makes for an interesting read…and then click on the similar article about San Francisco to make you feel better about Sacramento!

Click here for the full article…

Things to do when your neighbor lists their home for sale….MSN article

Happy Friday! I read this article and thought it had some valid points to share with you on things to consider when your neighbor lists their home for sale. Hopefully you’ll get a great new neighbor, but, as the article mentions, it’s a great time to see your home from your neighbor’s perspective. Also, from my point of view, spruce up your home a bit and help with property values! Your neighbor’s sale will probably be a comparable for your home value if you’re considering refinancing or selling as well – don’t let your home drag down the neighborhood values!! Have a great weekend!

Read the full article here…

Blog at

Up ↑