Writing a love letter may help you win a bidding war

No, I don’t mean a bidding war over a guy or girl you love – I mean to buy a house! A love letter, traditionally, may be used for wooing a potential soulmate, but it has its place in the real estate world, too. Especially in the Bay Area, where house prices are absurdly high and most people sell their homes for a significant over-asking price, a letter to the homeowner with a personal touch can make all the difference.

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Take this article, for example, which details the story of a local business owner who “won” the rights to buying an adorable cottage against 10 other bidders, despite her offer not being the highest. Of the 11 offers the homeowner received, 8 sent personal letters, and she believed the subject of this article wrote the most touching one. She connected with the homeowner by writing about her dog, who she’d always promised a big yard too and who was nearing the end of its life when she bought.

The seller is quoted as saying that she felt like she knew the buyer before even meeting her, so it put her over the top, even for a slight discount on the final price. I think this is a really awesome, effective tool that can make all the difference in the world! I highly encourage any of my clients to do something similar and write a personal letter to a seller, in the hopes that connecting with them on a personal level will help get the offer accepted.

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It may be a bit of a corny strategy, but when you’re pursuing the house of your dreams, why wouldn’t you go all out to get it? It should be pretty easy to dig up a little information on the seller (favorite sports team, pets, etc.) and you can utilize that to your advantage. I know if I were selling my house and a buyer told me they also love skiing and had fostered Weimaraners, I’d probably put that person right at the top of my list!

Next must-see pop-up? 29Rooms!

You heard about the Color Factory and the Museum of Ice Cream, which both popped up in San Francisco to massive fanfare. The next must-see pop-up exhibit in the city is going to be 29Rooms, an interactive exhibit presented by Refinery 29. It will be at the Palace of Fine Arts this June and I already got tickets – girls day out on Friday June 23rd, when a friend who moved back to the east coast will be visiting! Were you able to grab some tickets?

The exhibit is said to be composed of 29 different rooms bringing together “the worlds of style, culture and technology in visually stunning installations curated by a mix of artists, brands and even celebrities.” That sounds pretty awesome to me. Just check out some of these pictures and of course they are instagram moments:

29Rooms, Refinery 29's interactive fun house, is coming to San Francisco for four days only!
Getty Images/Refinery 29/TimeOut.com
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Timeout.com
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Vance Garrett Productions

29Rooms’ theme is “Turn It Into Art” and each room will tell a unique story. They still haven’t released this year’s artists or brands, though. According to the website, 29Rooms will be open to the public for only four days (June 21-24) for three sessions of three hours each day (11 am – 2 pm, 3-6 pm, 7-10 pm) and tickets are $39. They might be sold out, but somebody may be scalping them or they may be on Stub Hub!

Art Town: Figure (Get Set)

This utility box is on the corner of N. Main St. and Lincoln Ave. in downtown, and has been on display for a couple years now. It’s situated in front of Modern China, across from Opa, in a very heavily-trafficked part of downtown Walnut Creek. It first drew my eyes from its startlingly large human figure.

It depicts a woman in a red dress who seems to be admiring herself in the mirror. It kind of gives me “50’s movie starlet” vibes for some reason. The artist, Carla Gelbaum says she paints from her imagination using universal and whimsical themes. She says she likes to use the “infinite possibilities of life and the universe” to paint her pieces, and that she often uses vibrant, bold color themes.

 Those styles are readily apparent on this utility box, which also lists “Get Set” in tile at the bottom. This differentiates it from other “Get Set” pieces Gelbaum has done. All her work in that series is acrylic painting of females in red bathing suits who “look upon their world in a calm and reflective manner.” You can see more “Get Set” pieces here at Gelbaum’s website.

Gelbaum was raised in the Bay Area and has other pieces around the East Bay, including at John Muir in Walnut Creek. I really enjoy this utility box painting, as it gives me a calming, optimistic feeling for some reason. Have you seen it when you’re walking around downtown? If not, keep your eyes peeled!

How to survive a remodel in your relationship

I found this graphic from HomeAdvisor and the California Association of Realtors pretty funny. It says:

“More than half of couples who complete a remodeling project with a spouse or domestic partner admit to arguing during the process, and 3% even considered separation or divorce!”

While reaching that conclusion may be a little extreme (and maybe indicative of larger problems…), remodeling really is difficult on yourself and your relationship. Even just picking an agreeable paint color for the walls can be tricky.

As the graphic states, communicate more with whoever you’re doing the remodeling project with, and you’re bound to be better off. I know firsthand how difficult the buying, selling, remodeling, etc. processes can be, and the only way to survive them (even the easy ones!) is to be open and honest about everything you want to do.

Take my word for it, so you don’t end up looking like the characters in this little graphic! You can always call on a friendly realtor like myself for advice on how to best survive this daunting task.

Tender Greens does away with cash

Technology is advancing everyday things in our daily lives. As you’ve probably experienced plenty of times by now, you can simply swipe your card straight on a register’s iPad and have the receipt emailed to you. Tender Greens in Walnut Creek is taking things even further.

They have a sign when you walk in declaring that they are “cashless” now. They accept all major credit and debit cards, and have an app that makes everything super easy and streamlined. To me, that is a dangerous move since they are eliminating an entire form of payment. I don’t always use cash (rarely, in fact), but it’s nice to have that choice. And this move has totally backfired for other restaurants recently.

As the link above mentions, the wait can be even longer, and it becomes very inconvenient for anyone with cash on them and being surprised by the new policy. Additionally, there’s the aspect of losing the human element. Also, doesn’t that kind of ruin tipping for their staff? Sure, you can tip on a receipt, but just having a tip jar out at the counter probably invites people to throw a couple extra bucks in there after ordering. Besides the move to cashless, Tender Greens also updated their logo and menu.

I went there recently and tried the salmon with a side salad and roasted cauliflower. Like usual, the food was great! I enjoy the freshness of the food they provide and the menu is right up my alley. However, I’d still like to be able to pay with any petty cash I may have on me at the time. Hopefully this strategy works out for them, and they don’t have to issue a mea culpa like Shake Shack.

Road Trips: Livermore Outlets

Raise your hand if you love shopping! If you’re like me, and love to find the best deals, then you might like the outlets.  I was not too keen on outlet shopping until my friend Maria (shopping queen) said you got to go to Livermore – so, we took a road trip and she introduced me to some higher end stores that I really liked.  You could always go out to San Francisco to find some deals or pay top dollar, but why do that when Livermore is just down the highway from us?

Livermore is an easy, 25-minute drive from downtown Walnut Creek and has all the big retailers: Cole Haan, J. Crew, Michael Kors, Bloomigdales, Nike, Banana Republic and more. However I just focused on a unique few; All Saints, Zadig & Voltaire, Kate Spade and Tory Burch.

Obviously, Walnut Creek has its own awesome shopping, but not the ones I mentioned above. Livermore is a pretty cool East Bay city that will give you a new perspective and a new slate of stores to check out. And unlike some of my last few road trip posts, you can actually drive to this one!

Just head down 680 South to 580 east until you get to Livermore, the mall is on the right – big new buildings you can’t miss. You can literally spend the next full day shopping for clothes, home goods, food, drink, and more.  Bring your walking shoes!

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Silicon Valley: Moving East?

I came across a very interesting article in The New York Times recently about Silicon Valley attempting to find fertile ground in the Midwest. It’s a fascinating look at how the real estate market in the United States is rapidly changing.

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For example, Amazon is looking for a city to place its second headquarters. That is going to lead to a massive shift in where large tech companies start looking at places to re-locate. It’s well known that California is in a real estate a bubble. Silicon Valley, especially, is one of the richest areas in the entire country – if not the world – and one move could shake up a local economy in a huge way.

I think trying to replicate another Silicon Valley would be difficult; it is like the perfect storm – top-notch universities, a port, three international airports, the gateway to the far west and great weather. However, companies will look for more affordable areas to do business and states that provide tax incentives (think Tesla in Nevada). It doesn’t mean they will ditch the Bay Area completely.

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You know things are crazy here when even the tech elites in San Francisco are tired of San Francisco. They say it’s “congested” and “expensive” in the Bay Area, and are apparently mesmerized by the affordable homes and real estate in the Midwest. If you live in the Midwest I wonder how many hip spots would there be, not to mention the possibility of snow…what are your thoughts?

New rooftop bars – behold!

According to this story, there are two new rooftop bars in the Bay Area! You can add this to the list of cool Walnut Creek spots, like Rooftop and Teleferic. We’ve touched on Teleferic before, but Rooftop is just one floor higher and also an awesome spot to eat and get a drink!

Credit: Diablo Mag

First, the bars in the story I linked above. Rooftop25 at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco is sure to be the latest addition to the San Francisco rooftop bar scene to make some noise. It’s from acclaimed chef Matthew Dolan. In Napa, Sky & Vine at the Archer Hotel, which is apparently the only rooftop bar in downtown. There are supposed to be amazing views and plenty of seating to complement amazing food and cocktails.

Now, back to your regularly-scheduled Walnut Creek bar scene. If you’ve been to Teleferic, you may have also seen Rooftop. As the name implies, Rooftop is on the top of the three-story building and it takes full advantage of that location.

With a snazzy retractable roof over the dining room, a large bar and a deck that wraps nearly all the way around the building, you can’t find a better atmosphere in Walnut Creek from which to take in a sunset on Mt. Diablo while enjoying cocktails.

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Credit: RooftopWC.com

Rooftop has the best view and patio, stealing customers from other classy, late-night spots in Walnut Creek who want to enjoy the views. So far, I have been there a few time.  Once for dinner and a couple of times to enjoy a drink and appetizers in the bar.  I sampled many of the “bar bites” which were all fantastic along with the designer cocktails.

The Buster Brown cocktail (bourbon-infused) was my favorite and Tuna Tartar with puffy rice crackers is divine. If the food tastes familiar, that might be due to Justine Kelly, former Chef de Cuisine at The Slanted Door, leading the way. According to the Rooftop website, Chef Kelly has competed on Iron Chef and cooked for President Bill Clinton.

Rooftop is a great, albeit slightly pricey, night out with friends and one of the must-be spots in downtown Walnut Creek. And if you’d like to go slightly outside your hometown, give these new spots in San Francisco and Napa a shot!

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Pre-Qual vs Pre-Approval

People don’t understand how knowing the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can make a huge difference in an offer being accepted, and how the right choice can make them a stronger buyer. It’s extremely important! Luckily, my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending broke it down for us:

Image: meyerpottsproperties.com

Panicked Borrower on Verge of Losing Deposit

We had a borrower in contract come to us a few weeks ago in panic mode. The reason? He was on the verge of losing his earnest money deposit b/c his loan had just blown up at America’s largest mortgage lender.

The loan officer had only done a “pre-qualification” and had missed a major issue with the borrower’s commision income. We were able to salvage the deal and still close on time, but the risk to the borrower was enormous.

Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

Most lenders only “pre-qualify” borrowers. Pre-qualifications consist only of a perfunctory glance at a credit report and a few income documents. Most lenders do not do full pre-approvals b/c they require so much more work.

Why Pre-Approvals?

We do full pre-approvals b/c they are absolutely necessary. Full pre-approvals (1) allow our borrowers to make non-contingent offers; (2) ensure there are no major issues missed; and (3) allow us to close in 14 days b/c we do all the work on the front end.

In other words, full pre-approvals make our clients’ offers far more competitive, and they eliminate stress for everyone – buyers, sellers, Realtors, escrow and us :).

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Image: Masonknowsmortgages.com

Full pre-approvals can take several hours, requiring us to review income, asset, employment and credit documents with a fine-toothed comb. But experience has shown that they are well worth the effort. 

Issues that can be missed with only a “pre-qualification” include the following:

  • missed 2106 expenses; 
  • unexplained and unusable deposits; 
  • side businesses with losses; 
  • K1 and partnership losses;
  • spousal and child support obligations;
  • lack of employment seasoning;
  • lack of bonus seasoning; 
  • lack of commission seasoning; 
  • debts not on credit reports

A major source of our business includes transactions that blow up at other lenders b/c the loan officers only did pre-qualifications. Realtors come to us b/c they know we can make the deals work and also b/c we can usually still close within the remaining contract time.