It’s not too late to jump on the Walnut Creek summer bike challenge!

Are you an avid biker? Is that your summertime physical activity of choice? Even if that’s not the case, you might want to give this cool bike challenge in Walnut Creek a try!

It’s a great way to force yourself outside to enjoy the beautiful Bay Area summer weather, get a little exercise, and be environmentally-friendly all at once. Basically, there is a Walnut Creek Summer Bike Challenge that asks you to download a challenge card and complete it before the summer is over.

Destinations include Cream in downtown Walnut Creek (what better motivation for going on a ride is there than having ice cream at the finish line?), Heather Farm and Civic Park.

If the exercise, enjoyment and gas savings aren’t enough incentive, there are also prizes! Some squares on the challenge card offer instant prizes or free stuff upon completion, and the program’s grand prize is an iPad.

Other Bay Area cities hosting a challenge like this are Brentwood, Martinez, Oakley and Pleasant Hill. Give it a shot and explore our wonderful little town in a whole new way. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a SoulCycle subscription!

The smallest decisions can make your house more valuable

When selling a home, oftentimes the goal is to maximize financial return on the deal. Everybody wants to make as much as they can off their home sale, and even the slightest changes can increase what a home sells for.

Take this article on Inman.com for example. It’s about how homes with blue bathrooms sell for $5,400 more on average than others, according to a Zillow study. Crazy, right? Literally just changing the color you’ve painted a wal or two can add thousands of dollars to your wallet!

The article goes on to list a couple other color choices that can add or subtract from the sale price; for example, grey (and other neutral) exteriors sel die about $3,500 more than homes with other colors.

It really goes to show that small aesthetic decisions can play a huge role in netting you some extra zeroes on your home sale. It’s always wise to cater to the current trends when painting, decorating and remodeling your home to go on market – even if it means just a couple grand more in your pocket.

I try to stay tuned in to what’s popular so I can help you make those decisions. I am committed to maximizing your value as a seller, and on the flip side, getting you the best deal possible as a buyer. Give me a call if you’re interested in a real estate transaction!

Road Trips: Surprise Valley

If you’ve been to Burning Man, you know a little something about today’s Road Trips post. I recently visited Surprise Vally with a friend, which literally sits on the California/Nevada border by Cedarville – an hour and a half drive from the Black Rock Desert.

Our mission was to pick up a piece of artwork from an artist who lives out there (and to stay at a friend of a friend’s who owns Bare Ranch, where we had a BBQ with a group of friends who were also in the area).

The area is simply stunning. A mix of high desert, mountains and ranch land. If you get the chance to road trip up there, whether for the Festival or not, I’d highly recommend it. The drive is east of Reno on I-80; you turn off at Nixon, which is an Indian Reservation, after passing the turn-off for the new Tesla Battery Factory.

You first have to go through Gerlach, and those who know Burning Man will recognize this as the turn-off, as well as a place to get gas and something to eat. Bruno is a bit of legend who passed this year at the ripe age of 94. He had the oldest ongoing gambling license in the state. There was no gambling at the time I was there because it was in the process of being transferred, but Bruno’s is also known for their ravioli, which we did order!
After Gerlach, there is Pottery X, where a group of people live, make pottery, paint and sell those items to the public. It’s worth a stop – I picked up a birthday gift for a friend. Finally, there are natural hot springs, so if you are looking for a real getaway, you can book a hotel and indulge in the hot springs after a long day’s hike.

Let’s talk about Millennials and Real Estate

My sons are Millennials. My Walnut Creek Lifestyle freelance writer is a Millennial. More and more of my clients and colleagues are Millennials, as that generation continues to age into home-buyers.

So, realtors like myself are starting to notice more trends with the market geared toward that age group. It’s a different real estate market for Millennials than it was for their parents – nowadays, they are graduating with huge student loan debts, having trouble finding lucrative work out of college, and then struggling to pay sky-high rents and mortgages once they do get jobs.

That said, Millennials are driving the real estate market right now, which has made the following observations more obvious.

From San Francisco realtor John Solaegui:

  • There is a low inventory of single-family homes in San Francisco
  • Millennial buyers don’t care about parking spaces (though this might be more prevalent in San Francisco – it’s contradicted by the graphic above!) with the rise of ridesharing apps – they’d prefer having decks or gardens for outdoor entertaining
  • Areas like Noe Valley, Glen Park, Bernal Heights and The Sunset in San Francisco are extremely popular with Millennial buyers right now

From the California Association of Realtors’ REALTOR Magazine:

  • Millennials are cashing in on equity at a historic rate, thanks to rising home prices
  • One-third of Millennials say they are considering applying for a HELOC (home equity line of credit) in the next 18 months – much more than Gen-X or Baby Boomers
  • HELOC’s are popular with Millennials because they can consolidate debt and afford home remodels with them

I think this is an interesting trend in our market. Home prices are high, but so are the debts and loans owed by Millennials, so we’re seeing more and more interest in new ways around that issue. And even more interestingly, Millennials are changing the way we market homes – who cares about parking when you don’t have a car, right?

Moving? Save a tree!

Are you planning to move soon? Already initiating that process? Then you know you’ll need an endless supply of cardboard boxes to get the job done!

According to RecycleSmart.org, the average home move requires 60 cardboard boxes, or more than half of a one-ton pine tree. So, make sure when you’re done with your move that you recycle those boxes in the proper can. Don’t leave them in the regular garbage can, and only compost them if they were food boxes with grease that can’t be recycled.

Cardboard can be recycled over and over again, and you can even leave tape and labels on them to make the process easier. If you really want to save space in that recycling bin, break down each box so they’re flat.

Again according to RecycleSmart.org, the average person moves 11 times, which is about six trees’ worth of boxes. If you recycle those, you can still get the job done and save a few trees while you’re at it!

For more info on recycling cardboard and to order a bigger recycling bin at no charge, visit www.RecycleSmart.org.

Art Town: Liliales

This piece by Cliff Garten was created in 2016 and blends aluminum sheets and mesh with LED lights. It currently adorns one of the new S. Broadway entrances to the Broadway Plaza parking structure.

According to its listing on walkwc.oncell.com, the abstract floral motif of Liliales references two flowers essential to the lives of the area’s original inhabitants – the Volvons, and one of the early Bay Miwok tribes based around Mt. Diablo.

Garten is an award-winning artist and often incorporates light and space into his large designs. His other work in town is the Walnut Creek Veteran’s Memorial.

The LED lights on Liliales change colors with each season, too! You can get more info on Liliales on one of the public art walking tours downtown.

How do appraisers value a property?

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has posted another great blog recently. This one is about what realtors can say to appraisers. Check it out below!

Lenders are not ever allowed to communicate directly with appraisers. They are only allowed to order appraisals through an Appraisal Management Company, which in turn contacts the appraiser.

Realtors, however, can communicate directly with appraisers and it is highly recommend that they do so.  I meet the appraiser at the home, provide them with the comps I used to come up with the list price and let them know how many offers I had and the offer price of them.  It is important to be nice, and not tell them ‘how’ to do their job.

Below is the criteria appraisers use for Comparable Sales Data guidelines.

1. Size: Comps need to be within 20% of the size of the subject property. For example, they usually cannot use a 1,300 square foot comp for a 1,000 square foot subject property. Likewise, they cannot use a 700 square foot comp for a 1,000 square foot property.

2. Distance: Comps need to be within one mile of the subject property, and not over any major barriers like a freeway or a river.

3. Same Town/City: Comps need to be in the same city as the subject property in most cases, even if the comp is less than a block from the subject property.

4. Closed: Comps need to have closed in the last 90 days. Pending sales and listings are not acceptable.

5. Lot Size: Lot sizes must be accounted for too. If the subject property is on a small lot of 6,000 square feet, for example, a comp and a 12,000 square foot lot will have to be downwardly adjusted significantly in most cases.

6. Adverse Influences: If the subject is on a busy street or abuts a school, a freeway or an industrial area, valid comps will need to have similar adverse influences or they will make adjustments to equalize the value.

7. Bracketing Comps: Valid comps need to “bracket” the appraised value. Hence, at least one comp needs to be priced higher than the appraised value, and one should be priced lower.

At the end of the day. Appraisals are still subjective based on the appraiser’s interpretation and experience. Most of the time they are trying to do their best, and as markets shift, they have to adjust. They do not always have some inside information about a neighboring sale or a credit and that is why it is important for the realtor to meet the appraiser.