Welcome 2019 and goodbye to 2018. I have the privilege of being the broker/owner of Ricci Realty in Orange and North Hills Realty in Tustin. Both companies, the local, hometown realtors for over 40 years. 

I am thankful to my family of agents, and clients who rely on us to be their trusted source of real estate information. We have had a record-breaking year in sales and are going into 2019 strong. Thank you for your trust and support. 

2018 was an opportunity to finish a great project in Tustin as the landlord to Chaak restaurant, a unique cuisine inspired by Gabbi Patrick, the owner and chef at Gabbi's in the Orange Plaza. I was also elected president of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, promoting the city of Orange and having the opportunity to meet and interact with the city staff, city council and members of the 16,000 businesses in the city. From its historic beginnings to its vibrant, diverse economy, Orange is a small town city with big town services.

The local perspective
The real estate market was headed toward a seven or eight percent increase in home prices until the end of May, when it began to shift. We will still end the year with approximately a three percent increase, with housing available inventory about double what it was in the beginning of the year. Rents are strong and inventory is in balance. We have seen more homebuyers moving out of our area than in, especially the older and younger generations going to more affordable areas, or to those states that benefit them from a tax savings perspective. 

Old Towne Orange and Old Town Tustin have had record sales and increasing inventory. The Mills Act property tax program has helped bolster the sales of the historic homes. Soon the 300-plus Eichlers will be eligible for that program, which has already resulted in increased sales and price increases. 

Chapman University has responded to neighborhood concerns about student rentals and is providing housing to freshmen and sophomores.  Chapman purchased two former hotels and has over 400 dorm rooms under construction. While that may satisfy the neighbors, it will be interesting to see the impact on property owners who have student rentals. My prediction is that those properties within walking distance of the school will remain in demand; the biking distance properties will be occupied by someone other than students.

Thank you for reading my column, and I always welcome your calls on any real estate topic. Wishing you and you family a safe and prosperous new year!

The end of a great year!

January 2019