Event Round-Up: July 14

Welcome back to our Event Round-Up for the next few weeks! Events do not necessarily have to take place in Walnut Creek to qualify, though I’ll try to keep it to the nearby Bay Area cities so you don’t have to travel too far. With the exception of one must-see event tomorrow in San Francisco, these should all be fun, cheap events to do over the next month or so. Hope I found you some good, off-the-beaten-path activities!

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1. 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals – Outdoor Screening (San Francisco): Sun., July 15th @ 8 a.m.

Hosted by the SF Recreation and Park Department, there will be a free public viewing of the FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday, July 15th. It will take place in front of the Civic Center Plaza, and folks can arrive at 8 a.m., though the game will start a little bit later. You’d be surprised at how big – and how soccer-lovin’ – this crowd will be!

2. Taste of the World Market (Orinda): Thurs., July 19th @ 5 p.m.

Every Thursday from 5-9 p.m., you can get “a taste of the world” at a weekly food truck event in front of the Orinda Community Center. Each week features different trucks and entertainment. We have a lot of events like this around the Bay Area, but it’s always fun to explore one in a new town to see how it stacks up!

3. Outdoor Waterfront Flicks – Star Wars (Oakland): Thurs., July 19th @ 8 p.m.

If food trucks aren’t your deal, but you want to treat the kids to a fun-filled, outdoor movie night, look no further than Jack London Square in Oakland, where they’ll be showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 8 p.m. It’s completely free, and all you need is a blanket to sit on, a blanket to cuddle with, and a cup of joe to keep you warm by the water!

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4. Blues & Brews Festival (Pleasanton): Fri., July 20th – Sat., July 21st @ 6 p.m.

You will need tickets to this, but how cool is a FREE blues music and beer festival just down the highway from Walnut Creek? If you show up to Pleasant Hill Park at 6 p.m. on Fri., July 20th, you can take part in the pre-party. But the real fun begins the next day at 3 p.m., where you can wander in to catch free live music, and buy tasting tickets for the beer. More ticket info can be found here.

5. Benicia Waterfront Festival (Benicia): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 11 a.m.

Waterfront. Live music. Craft beer and wine. Tasty food. Unique vendors. Kids zone. Cheap tickets. What more can you ask for? Take a trek out to Benicia for this cool music festival that only costs $10 for adults ($15 for a weekend pass), and is free for kids under 12! What a great way to spend a summer weekend!

6. Berkeley Kite Festival (Berkeley): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 10 a.m.

Not feeling Benicia? Head on over to Berkeley for the 30th Annual Berkeley Kite Festival! It’s a free, family-friendly event for two days with competitions, kite-making, kite battles (seriously!), dining options, and more. Everyone loves watching a good kite – here, you can watch hundreds!

7. Circus Bella (San Francisco, etc.): Sun., July 29th @ 2 p.m.

Though this cool event takes place in multiple locations on each Sunday in July, I’m choosing this one specifically for our timeframe. Get on over to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco to check out this free, dazzling, 60-minute outdoor circus performance!

Make sure to let us know how these events go if you decide to visit! Looking forward to hearing the reviews!

10 items every home should have

Thanks to John Solaegui, who sourced this article from Architectural Digest, about 10 items every home should have. It basically is a list of must-have home items that you never knew you needed; the little things you forget about when moving into a new home. I think this is a spot-on look at what every home should have, with a little bit of added input from yours truly! Let me know if there’s anything we missed.

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1. Art that you love

Bare walls are boring. I’m not saying you need to go all JoAnna Gaines on your interior decorating, but finding some art that you love, that has meaning to you, is a huge plus in a new home. Personal photographs, postcards, custom-framed prints, etc. make for great decoration and tell the story of you!

2. Guest linens

This one might make you laugh, but it’s easy to overlook! If you’re planning on having guests over, you shouldn’t have to pull out a sleeping bag or ratty blankets. These people aren’t at summer camp! Stash a few extra sets of sheets and extra towels in a linen closet so you’re ready to host.

3. Entry table

It never hurts to have an aesthetically-pleasing piece of furniture right inside your front door. But it’s also multi-functional: mail, keys, sunglasses, and other necessities you are always misplacing would go neatly into a bowl, tray or box on an entry table.

4. Table linens

There’s nothing like freshly-pressed linens, but you don’t have to overdo it. A bare, white table set with white linen placemats can create a fresh, airy vibe. If you want an eco-friendly bonus, you can get linen sets that are better than paper, too.

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5. Plants

Bring a touch of nature indoors! Houseplants add color and texture to a home. If you are a chef (or pretending to be one), you can also plant some basil, thyme, or other spices inside to create a decorate herb garden. Another pro tip: apparently having a mint plant inside keeps insects on the right side of the walls (outside!).

6. Multiple lighting sources

We do a lot of things in our homes throughout the day. It’s only fitting that we have different lighting options available for sleeping, entertaining, and just relaxing. A single overhead system doesn’t really cut it anymore. Add at least one table, floor, or desk lamp to every room in your home to elevate the mood!

7. A coat rack

You don’t live in the dorms anymore, so tossing your coat on the nearest surface when you walk in is no longer acceptable. If you have a full mudroom, you’re set. If not, a back-of-door coat rack, or even just a section of the nearest closet, can function as a de-cluttering coat rack.

8. A bookshelf

If you can get a vintage cabinet, or utilize built-in shelves for this, you are a true professional. But every home should have some sort of chic shelving set-up to store your favorite books, framed photos, and other meaningful trinkets. You can organize the things on the shelves however you want, and change it often!

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9. A sumptuous throw

Toss a nice-looking throw over the end of a bed or across the back of a sofa. Not only will it make the room prettier, but it will imply that your room is cozy and welcoming. You can go as colorful as you want, or match the throw to the mood of the room.

10. Matching wine glasses

Don’t be that person. The one who scrambles through three different cabinets just to come up with a bunch of different wine glasses to serve the bottle your guests brought over. Invest in a quality, matching set of wine glasses, and upgrade your happy hour game. Brownie points for having a dedicated wine rack piece in your home.

29 Rooms: The art of the selfie

Last month, I visited Refinery 29’s new exhibit at The Palace of Fine Arts, called 29 Rooms. It was so interesting, and creative, and imaginative. I absolutely loved it! What I hadn’t realized before I got there is that the exhibit was essentially about the art of the selfie, and the advent of phones and cameras.

As you can see from the pictures, this was a big, interactive art exhibit. I was so blown away by how everything was put together, and definitely feel lucky to have snagged tickets to one of the three sessions they held. Each of the – you guessed it – 29 rooms, is a collaboration between Refinery 29 and an individual or entity (Planned Parenthood, Women’s March, Anna Kendrick, Janelle Monae, and Demi Lovato to name a few).

They covered everything from “healing” art, to LGBTQIA art, to erotic art, the aforementioned Women’s March and Demi Lovato tattoos. They all gave off some kind of powerful message, and allowed us to interact with the exhibits ourselves. My favorite room was for an upcoming movie called A Simple Favor, which centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. We all have secrets and dark sides, so in this exhibit, people could write a secret on a piece of paper and roll it into a metal screen. You then could go through and randomly pull out somebody’s secret…my favorite one was the one pictured above, but they were all very interesting.

These next two pictures were very interesting – as you stood in front of the mirror, words quickly flicked onto the screen. The only way you could figure out what the statement said was by taking a picture of the image and capturing the words. We had many phrases, but this one stood out! The bottom photo was a hanging image that changed as it turned. It became twins on both sides; also very cool!

If 29 Rooms comes around again, especially in the Bay Area, I’d highly recommend giving it a look. For all the cool, unique things to do in San Francisco, this may have topped the list!

Art Town: Bolero

A recently-landscaped area on the corner of Ygnacio Valley Blvd. and N. Main St. in downtown Walnut Creek is the next subject of our Art Town monthly feature. Though the sculptures themselves may have stood out more before the remodel, the entire area looks a lot better now!

You may recognize the statue since it’s been there since 1988, but the whole corner is much more aesthetically-pleasing now. The flowers and the restructuring of the area make it something you want to stop and look at on the busy corner, rather than pass by. Scroll down for a few more pictures and a little background on the art itself!

The sculptor, Robert Holmes, was originally an engineer who designed and built homes before diving into art full-time in 1981. He works only with bronze, and has a studio in Sea Ranch with a foundry in Sebastopol. In this specific piece, Holmes wanted to distill the human form to essential elements, hence the faceless, dancing features.

What does a real estate agent do all day?

Being a real estate agent is a tough job. We work constantly, even on weekends, holidays and evenings, and have to balance about one million different tasks for a given sale. On top of that, we’re monitoring leads, following up with clients, and having to market ourselves regularly. But most of that is below the surface, so it leaves some wondering what the heck we actually do all day!

Luckily, Cara Ameer, a realtor in Florida, explained it in detail for Inman.com. I’ve given you the main takeaways from that article below, to shed a little light on what exactly I’m doing for you and my other clients all day:

The realtor is an incubator, initiator, action-taker, coordinator, scheduler, personal concierge, resource, problem-solver, mediator, miracle worker, red-tape cutter, transaction manager, and chief make-it-happen officer for any client that wants to make a real estate move. Some of these roles get delegated elsewhere, but the realtor oversees everything and gives valuable input on the process every step of the way.  I could work every day, and often feel guilty if I am going to be out of town or take a day off (even on my scheduled days off). I usually will check email a couple of times and answer my phone which is also the beauty of it all – I can be on a beach in Hawaii and still answer questions and get things done.

A typical day in the life:

  • Responding: there are always inquiries, emails, texts, etc. to respond to. We are always “open,” if you will, and waiting until the next day can result in a missed sale or lost client. And it’s not just clients asking about properties – it’s other agents, stagers, brokers, and more.
  • Reviewing MLS activity: we review MLS activity for relevant listings and updates on properties of interest and notify our clients right away if anything needs to be shared.
  • Keeping a Database: we must always be updating our contact databases with new customer info, updates, birthdays, home-buying anniversaries, etc.
  • Scheduling Showings: agents put together property itineraries for clients who are planning to house-hunt and see multiple showings. The schedule is constantly changing, and getting it right is a priority for everyone.
  • Making Contact: we are your liaison for establishing a dialogue with sellers or buyers, and conduct all the research for market comparables.
  • Setting/Attending Appointments: meetings never end in real estate. We meet buyers and sellers for initial discussions and tours, we meet inspectors, appraisers and other specialists, and oftentimes you’ll get other calls about other meetings while you’re already in the first one!
  • Negotiating Offers/Managing Sales: this process can take a very long time. Once an offer is accepted, though, and a property goes under contract, the agent has to be on everyone involved to finish their part of the job. That means lenders, title companies, attorneys, other agents, and all clients, to name a few.
  • Problem-Solving: educating clients about the market, the offers, etc., gathering info about a community or property, troubleshooting unseen issues. There are a million little issues that go into a real estate transaction, and the agent will be expected to be the one solving them.
  • Marketing: don’t forget how much we have to market ourselves at all times to gain new clients and keep existing ones. Everything from a website, to a blog, to a newsletter, to a postcard, to a flyer will have to be created, approved, proofread and spread digitally and physically.
Courtesy: Inman.com

Long story short, real estate is a 24/7 profession that involves severe multi-tasking, prioritizing, evaluating, advising, hand-holding and problem-solving. The lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it seems on TV, but it’s a rewarding job that I love to do! Now you know exactly what kind of work I’m putting in for you!

Road Trips: BottleRock

We touched on this event in my recent music festivals blog, but I had to expand it into its own feature. Because BottleRock is constantly the best day of the festival season each Spring! This was my third year going and what I like about it the best is that for the most part, it is a laid back concert scene. People either hang out on their blankets in the back, sit it the wine lounges or jostle to get up front. Even if you are up front it is still fairly chill

This year’s lineup included Bruno Mars, The Killers, Muse, Incubus, Snoop Dogg, Halsey, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Idol, and dozens more. I did one day at BottleRock (Friday) and took in Incubus (the lead singer Brandon Boyd has charm and sex appeal; I couldn’t stop looking at him! Did you know Incubus means “a male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women?” I also saw The Struts (a band I hadn’t heard of, but the singer reminded me of Freddy Mercury), FLOR (the long-haired redhead pictured below was a great new band), and The Chainsmokers. In hindsight, we maybe should not have gone with The Chainsmokers instead of headliner Muse – I didn’t realize The Chainsmokers were a DJ duo, but they rocked it and that was the one place where the people were very pushy. It was a younger crowd and lots of lights and smoke as shown above. We got a little bored with Earth Wind & Fire, but really liked the jam of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

One of the best things about BottleRock is that it’s a combination of music and culinary excellence for an entire weekend. Being in Napa makes it a requirement to have awesome food and wine to go with the music (but they really do come up with an awesome music lineup every year). So in addition to seeing some great shows, we saw Shaun White, a 3-time gold medalist in snowboarding on the Culinary Stage. It was awesome – they had a winter-themed cooking show that included cotton candy made into huge snowballs and they were tossed into the audience where the promptly broke apart spreading blue cotton candy around. At the end, they were tossing Hostess snowball packages out to the audience.

Words can barely do this experience justice. Check out the art and experiences created by various vendors in the following photos. You can’t beat sitting in the grass under the sun with a glass of red, watching a famous band play live music to thousands of people. If you haven’t been yet, plan ahead for next Memorial Day weekend  – it is always Friday/Saturday/Sunday and tickets sell out quickly. So, prepare to make that short drive up to Napa to experience BottleRock!

Downtown Walnut Creek updates

This little town of ours is always growing and changing. It seems like every other day, we have a new restaurant popping up in the place of a restaurant that was just formerly new, or an apartment complex taking over an empty lot. Here’s some more news:

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There are some rumors floating around about a couple of Hall Equities Group projects.  The first one is there is Prime Hotel Site noted on their website which looks to be the corner of Ygnacio and Civic that will have a large conference space.  There is nothing noted on the City of Walnut Creeks site, but on Hall Equities site they show a rendering of a hotel. Check it out!  Walnut Creek has not seen a new hotel in many, many years, but note: there is a new hotel, A Marriott’s Residence Inn currently being built on the corner Pringle and California (2050 California) where the Jaguar dealership and Bank of the West used to be.

The second rumor may be a high-end spa and hotel where the KFC used to be on California & Botelho. Hall & Associates has been trying to develop it for a few years, but were trying to push on the height restrictions and no resolution occurred, so we will see if this comes to fruition.

And while some of us had gotten used to going to the food truck village in McDonald’s old site by Xtreme Pizza (it was awesome!!), that will become a condo building with some rentable rooms. Those are popping up all around town, but I think it makes sense given the growth in Walnut Creek. And most builders have been pretty smart about making buildings that won’t be eyesores.

There are some condos by BART (Main and Civic), two new apartment buildings right by BART and Riviera (a little Walnut Creek BART transit village), and a big new complex called The Lofts. This is all going in right by BART, and will increase the traffic even more over there. Surely, we will see more buildings, more condos, and definitely more new restaurants and bars infiltrating Walnut Creek in the coming years. Keep an eye out for these new projects!

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Are you seeing green?

Have you noticed an unusually high amount of green on the Walnut Creek streets? No, it’s not St. Patrick’s Day – it’s the LimeBikes taking over downtown! This is Walnut Creek’s new bike share program, which can be accessed through an app, and is an interesting idea.

This will only be a one-year pilot program for the dockless bike share provider, so make sure you take a spin on one while the weather is nice this summer! LimeBike is a Bay Area-based startup that has advanced the bike share program to be dockless, so all you have to do is lock the bike in place where you finish riding, and let the next user unlock it with their phones.

Of course, the bike share program isn’t entirely free. The app on your smartphone will give you access for 30 minutes for $1, and 1 hour for $2. You can find a bike on the map and unlock it from there too. It’s completely built-in to our everyday lives, since everyone knows how to use their maps app (or Pokemon Go, for that matter!).

So, you’re probably wondering how safe the LimeBikes are? Each bike has an anti-theft alarm, double kickstand, and a headlight. It’s a law for anyone under age 18 to have a helmet on, but LimeBike does not require anyone over that age to wear one.

I think this is a pretty cool idea. A lot of different cities in the Bay Area use bike share programs, and I’ve even heard of some places doing dockless scooter shares! It still makes me laugh as I am driving around town seeing all these bikes in random places – once you see one, you keep seeing them. The Bay Area is a center for healthy-living, so another human-powered vehicle option can’t hurt. Have you tried LimeBikes yet? We would love to hear what you think!

Interest rates and purchasing power

According to Certified Mortgage Consultant Bob Schwab, interest rates you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power. Check out his comments here:
According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at 4.61%, which is still near record lows in comparison to recent history! The interest rate you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power. Purchasing power, simply put, is the amount of home you can afford to buy for the budget you have available to spend. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford to buy will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain monthly housing budget.
The chart below shows the impact that rising interest rates would have if you planned to purchase a home within the national median price range while keeping your principal and interest payments between $1,850-$1,900 a month. With each quarter of a percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5% (in this example, $10,000). Experts predict that mortgage rates will be closer to 5% by this time next year.
Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending has a take on higher rates and how they affect qualifying, too:
How Do Higher Rates Affect Qualifying? Potentially A Lot.
RATES ARE GOING UP, REST ASSURED
We’ve said that at least a hundred times over the years but this time it is a reality b/c the Fed is no longer buying bonds to push rates down, and b/c the Fed is very determined to push rates up in general. We saw a slight dip in rates recently largely b/c of economic turmoil in Italy, but rates are expected to climb another 1/2 percent this year alone.
HOW WILL RATE INCREASES AFFECT THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A PRE-APPROVED BORROWER?
Rule of thumb: A 1/2 percent increase in rate will increase a mortgage payment by about $30 for every $100,000 borrowed. Hence, if a buyer is looking at a $600,000 mortgage, her payment will increase by about $180 if rates go up 1/2 percent. In regard to qualifying, an increase in rate could easily shave off $25,000 to $50,000 from a buyer’s maximum.
For example, let’s say “Jeremy” the buyer is pre-approved for a maximum $750,000 purchase with 20% down at a rate of 4.75%. Let’s also assume Jeremy’s maximum payment (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) is $4,000 and his income is $8,900 per month, giving him a maximum debt ratio of just under 45% (all numbers are rounded). If rates increase 1/2 percent, Jeremy’s maximum qualification would drop to about $715,000 b/c that is the most Jeremy could buy in the higher rate environment without pushing his payment over his $4,000 limit.
In other words, if Jeremy’s rate increases from 4.75% to 5.25%, he will lose about $35,000 of purchasing power. What can poor Jeremy do?
A. Consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). Jeremy can knock as much as 1/2 percent off of his rate by considering a 7/1 ARM. Knowing that very few buyers ever keep their mortgages more than 7 years will help him rest easy with his ARM.
B. Buy now while the getting is good! If Jeremy is hellbent on a 30-year fixed rate loan, he should buy now to lock in today’s rates. BUT – we will still remind Jeremy that even if rates are in the mid-5’s, they are STILL a “gift” by historical standards.
C. Buy a $50 tent and a motorcycle, and skip the house thing. I did that in my early twenties, and it was really fun. Jeremy might want to do the same. But don’t worry, we won’t suggest it. Lastly – should Jeremy worry that higher rates might hurt home prices? According to this blog, no :).
Note:  for those living in a rabbit hole, last week the Feds raised interest rates and stated instead of one more rate hike, it will most likely be two more this year and then 3 more in 2019.