New and improved Stem salon does great work!

Stem salon – which used to be on Locust up until about a month ago – has moved to the new Lyric building across from MoMo’s. They’re newly located, renovated, and decorated and it really gives the business an upscale, modern vibe. Elizabeth Vawter (not present the day I took pictures) has done a fantastic job of building this business. I go here for my hair often and I think they do a great job!

They used to be in an old location by Peet’s. They weren’t happy with some of the tenant improvements or lack thereof, so they signed a lease with Lyric and are better than ever! I love the modern look with an amazing flowery wallpaper you can look at on the ceiling while getting your hair washed. I primarily go to Jessie for my hair color because I am there every three weeks or so. Her mother, Olivia, usually cuts my hair, but Mary Alice and Lauren are also fantastic. There is a large crew and varying price points depending on experience.

They will also offer you a glass of rosé, or a cup of coffee or tea while you get pampered. I think Elizabeth has hit her stride with a new home and continues to do it right. Stem Salon is my go-to hair salon!

Art Town: Uno Dos Tres

Here’s a fun “did you know!” You’ve seen that mural of three targets on the back of Target on the corner of Ygnacio Valley Blvd. and N. California Blvd., right? You can see it when you’re walking back towards downtown from the Walnut Creek BART station. Anyway, did you know…those aren’t actual targets?

That’s right, this mural, designed by Seattle-based Ann Gardner in 1991, was already created before she knew it was going on a Target. How ironic! She got the glass for the mosaic from Venice, and then supervised the construction of the project. She installed the artwork in Walnut Creek with mosaic fabricator Steve Miotto, who is known for his work in the New York subway system.

Gardner often uses circular motifs in her art, likes using mosaic because of the durability of glass. It’s her way of, as she says, “honoring an artistic tradition that dates back to the Byzantine era in Constantinople.” She also mentioned she likes to not overwhelm the available space, but to make it pop and give the viewer a good experience.

Now you know, next time you’re wandering around downtown in that general area, to take a closer look at the mosaic mural on the back of Target. It’s not an advertisement for the store – it’s just a funny coincidence and a really beautiful piece of art!

Why bank statements are so important!

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has shared another important blog recently: why bank statements are so important for borrowing and financing for a home. You’ll want to read on to see what Jay says, especially if you’re in the market for a new home. You’ll find a copy of the (slightly re-formatted) blog copied below:

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STRONG BORROWER DENIED FINANCING – WHY?

We once had a borrower who qualified for financing in every way (income, assets, credit, etc.) but she was denied financing. The reason?  She had five unexplainable overdraft charges on her bank statements that indicated she could not manage cash.

Every borrower has to provide bank statements for every account used for “cash to close” (down payment and closing costs). There are no exceptions because lenders have to ensure that down payment funds were not recently borrowed or obtained through illicit means.

“Borrowed” down payment funds are not considered “seasoned” and they create debt ratio issues b/c they need to be paid back. In any case, lenders are required to go through every bank statement with a fine-toothed comb to look for every irregularity. Irregularities include overdraft charges, unusually large deposits, and unexplained regular monthly deposits or withdrawals, among other things.

Unusually large deposits have to be paper-trailed and explained or they are assumed to be borrowed funds (and they can’t be used for a down payment/closing costs funds). And unexplained regular monthly deposits and withdrawals often indicate the existence of undisclosed side businesses, support payments or other liabilities.

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In any case, borrowers often get frustrated when we ask them to explain so many things that are buried in their bank statements. But, we have to ask because bank statements tell lenders so much more than meets the eye.

This is, in fact, often one of the most time-consuming aspects of the loan approval process.

**

On a related note, Jay discusses something at the footnote of this blog: rates have climbed recently after a stretch of stability. President Trump’s comments about the Fed raising rates too quickly were the primary cause, but, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Fed may now be more likely to raise rates than it was prior to the President’s comments. This is because it will want to prove its independence from political pressure. How ironic!

8 best food festivals in the Bay Area this summer

Is there anything better than a social gathering for the purpose of eating or drinking? A backyard barbecue with neighbors, a wine-tasting and walking event, food truck frenzies with friends…the list goes on, but the level of awesome remains the same.

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TimeOut.com has compiled a great list of eight unique Bay Area food festivals, and if you’re someone who enjoys these outings, you must give it a read. I’ve reformatted the list below. Let me know if you end up checking out any of these local foodie fests!

1. Lamb Jam (San Francisco)

Sip and snack on delish lamb-based dishes at this epic gastronomic event and competition that brings together 16 of SF’s most talented chefs to b-a-a-a-a-a-ttle for the title of Lamb Jam San Francisco Champion.

 July 22 3–6pm at Golden Gate Club; $56–$125

2. Garlic Festival (Gilroy)

Garlic lovers from around the world flock to this small town for food, drinks, crafts, live music and cooking competitions. Be sure to try the garlic ice cream (and don’t forget to bring your toothbrush).

July 27–29 10am–7pm at Christmas Hill Park; free–$20.

3. Zucchini Festival (Hayward)

At this healthy food party, discover the versatile uses of the hearty vegetable, from cakes and cookies to snacks and main dishes. Don’t miss the massive zucchinis competing in the growing contest!

Aug 18, 19 10am–8pm at Kennedy Park; $5–$10.

4. Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival (San Francisco)

Ghirardelli pairs its world-famous cacao beans with wine, ice cream and tons of other tasty desserts at this sugary soiree. Indulge guilt-free, knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to local nonprofit Project Open Hand.

Sept 8, 9 noon–5pm at Ghirardelli Square; $26–$55.

5. Cheese Fest (San Francisco)

Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Farmstead, Cypress Grove and other local makers will provide fromage nibbles at this dairy fest. Of course, cheese gets by with a little help from its friends wine and charcuterie, so expect vendors hawking those tasty delights, as well. Pop a Lactaid and get to work.

Sept 15 at Social Hall SF; $TBA.

6. Bloody Mary Festival (San Francisco)

SF’s most beloved brunch cocktail gets its own fest this season: Attendees will sample local bars’ tricked-out versions of the tomato-juice-and-vodka cocktail, then vote for the People’s Choice Award winner. Also, a panel of industry judges will pick its favorite version.

Sept 29 10:30am–6pm at SOMArts Cultural Center; $45–$55.

7. Eat Drink SF (San Francisco)

This four-day gourmet fest delights taste buds with bites from more than 30 Bay Area restaurants, plus cocktail classes, taco parties, and meet and greets with local celebrity chefs.

Aug 24 7:15–10pm; Aug 25 12:45–3:30pm, 7-:45–10:30pm; Aug 26 12:45–3:30pm at Fort Mason Center. $109–$229.

8. Eat Real Fest (Oakland)

Eat Real combines a state fair, a street-food festival, and a block party to create a celebration of good food in Oakland. Celebrate ten years of local food vendors, food entrepreneurs, artisan products, and demonstrations from the Bay Area’s top chefs and culinary experts.

Sept 14 3–10pm, Sept 15 11am–10pm, Sept 16 11am–7pm at Jack London Square; free. 

7 repair requests to re-consider

Missy Yost of Inman News wrote an interesting article a while back about buyers being educated regarding which home repairs are actually necessary before finalizing a deal. I’ve re-formatted the original article below, with some of my insight added:

Most buyers and sellers understand that buying and selling a home requires negotiation. You give a little here, and they concede a bit there. But what do you do when you have a buyer who demands unnecessary repairs after a home inspection?

Educating buyers so that they better understand which repairs are necessary and which may annoy the seller enough for the deal to shatter is part of the job of a real estate agent. Here is a list of seven repair requests that buyers should think twice about before making.

1. Easily repaired items under $10

Whole-house inspectors often come back with a list of items that cost under $10 to repair or replace. Save yourself the hassle, and omit these things from the list of requested repairs. If repairs are not related to a safety issue or the breakdown of an expensive system, it’s better to refrain from listing them, if you are asking for a credit, than take them into account by rounding up.

2. Replacement of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Sometimes buyers are adamant they want missing smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors replaced. Although these are safety items, unless local codes say differently, it is better if the buyer installs the smoke and carbon monoxide indicators after closing. That way, they can make an informed decision on the type of alarms they feel most comfortable using in their new home. Fortunately, in our area, they are required by law to be installed and should be done prior to an appraiser coming out as they have to take pictures of them. If they are not there, the lender will not fund the loan until they have been installed and the appraiser has a picture to confirm.

3. Cosmetic issues in a resale home

Unless the home is brand-new construction, advising your clients against noting uneven paint or stained baseboards on a repair request is a good idea. Normal wear and tear should be expected in any resale home and should be a factor in the original price negotiations.  Homes are usually priced for condition and similar homes that have recently sold. Most buyers want a home that is move-in ready, thus why remodeled homes tend to sell at a premium.

4. Repairs related to minor plumbing and electrical issues

Often, a whole-home inspector will list in the report issues with simple electrical and plumbing items such as an upside down outlet, or corrosion on a fitting. Unless the problems cited are a safety concern, a buyer should not list them as a requested repair. Simple issues such as an upside down outlet or a corroded water line to a sink are simple DIY repairs or matters easily handled by a handyman.  Outlets that are not GFI’s tend to be common issue in our area. An outlet by water should be GFI – that is a health and safety issue, but for the rest of the outlets – especially if the house is 40 years or older – will not have GFIs, and the cost is about $350.

5. Repair of hairline cracks in the basement or driveway

Concrete expands and contracts naturally, and over time, cracks will occur. As long as the cracks are minor, don’t list them in a request for repairs. However, if the breaks are over a quarter inch, it’s an excellent idea to have a structural inspection. Structural cracks are a whole new ballgame.

6. Outdoor landscaping, porch and fence repairs

These items were visible at the initial showing and will be a factor in the initial offer and negotiations. It’s not a good idea to ask for things that were obvious at the beginning such as sod replacement, fence restoration, loose railings or loose hinges. The exception is if the repair is necessary as part of the loan process such as in an FHA, VA or USDA loan.

7. Replacement of failed seals in windows

Unless the window is under warranty, most sellers will refuse to fix a failed seal. Window seals fail over time with use, and depending on the age of the window seal, failure can be expected. It’s another simple fix, and sometimes you need to choose your battles.

For all items on this list that your buyer would like to have fixed and are not safety or related to the failure of an expensive system can be included in a request for credit at closing. Sellers are more likely to agree to a $300 credit for the buyer to replace 30 $10 items than they will to repair or replace the 30 issues themselves.

Appreciation Event: A’s vs. Giants ~ Battle of the Bay!

If you’ve been a friend, client, or colleague of mine over the years, you know how much I enjoy my clients and people who have referred me.  I try to do a couple appreciation events during the year, ranging from happy hours to full-on parties. Most recently, I threw a little appreciation event by hosting an A’s vs. Giants game!

There were about 20 people at the game, including past clients and sponsors Nancy Glad (Impeccable Interior) and Jason Bringingham (Admiral’s Choice Irrigation). As usual, I gave out some raffle prizes throughout the game, including house cleanings by Impeccable Interior, a goodie bag of peanuts, licorice, popcorn, and other baseball game treats, a bottle of wine and even a Giants panda hat! Funny enough, that prize was won by Sara, an A’s fan.

Jason also contributed $10 each for food and drink. It was an awesome time at the ballpark, we had a mix of A’s and Giants fans, with the Giants winning 5-1. It’s always nice to go out and mingle in a non-business setting with my clients and get to know them even better. As one person noted, it is creating an environment where people can connect with others!

Connecting with people and helping them through the process of buying and selling their homes is one of the reasons I love what I do. Getting to know them in a fun and personal setting builds a friendship. A few of us stayed to experience sitting on the field watching fireworks to 80’s-themed music – well worth the wait in line.  The only thing I’d change is maybe doing a Saturday game next time so we can go ahead of time and tailgate!

 

Road Trips: Pt. Reyes & Hog Island

There are a lot of fun, interesting things to do in the Bay Area. That’s part of the allure of living here – visiting San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley never gets old, and you have art, music, culture, food, drink, and outdoor adventure literally surrounding you at all times. But, there are still hidden gems out there that stand above the rest in their uniqueness. Recently, I took a day trip to do one of those things!

If you’ve never been to Point Reyes, you’re missing out. This is an underrated activity in the Bay Area. I spent a day enjoying oysters and drinking beer at Hog Island Oyster Company with friends, then we visited Drake’s Beach via Pt. Reyes Station, and Cowgirl Creamery. The area itself is a bit of a drive up, we took the route via Skywalker Ranch/Nicasio – a stunningly beautiful, but winding way to go to do something fun and out of the ordinary.

We went to Hog Island first, where there is only outside picnic bench seating or standing room (on a wine barrel) if you don’t have reservations. It also happened to be one of the nicest and warmest days the coast had to offer, so it was packed. You have the option of having your oyster shucked and ordering off the menu, or booking the area with grills and bringing your own food after you buy the oysters from Hog Island.

It was a wonderful experience and the food was outstanding. I think the ambiance and friends made it taste even better. We also stopped at Drake’s Beach, which has a bluff protecting the beach from the ocean’s breeze, so we had a warm summer day on an empty beach (which I’m sure is different than a place like Stinson Beach!) From there, we visited Pt. Reyes Station, meandered around the town, and took a peek around Cowgirl Creamery, where we tried their cheese at lunch. Take a look at the photo slideshow below to get an idea of how much fun it was!

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Is there a recession coming in 2020?

Is there a recession coming in 2020 or sooner? And if so, what does that mean for the real estate industry? Additionally, how do Chinese buyers affect California real estate? Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending (with a little help from The National Real Estate Post) has you covered:

The National Real Estate Post had a great video today with information I thought was well worth sharing. Marketing commentator Barry Habib discusses margin compression, the coming 2020 recession, why he is bullish on real estate even if a recession hits, and why Chinese buyers influence California real estate so much.

RECESSION IN 2020 – WHY?

Mr. Habib agrees with other prognosticators I have cited in previous blogs and illuminates two reasons why a recession is likely in 2020:

  1. Short-term rates are almost the same as long-term rates. I won’t explain the economics, but I will say we are at this stage in the interest rate cycle now; and
  2. Unemployment has likely bottomed out and will only increase at this point.

BULLISH ON REAL ESTATE EVEN IN RECESSION

Mr. Habib remains very bullish on real estate – even if a recession hits. He thinks a 10% correction is very unlikely for several reasons:

    1. It is different this time for reasons we have explained in previous blogs – tighter lending guidelines, more structural housing demand, etc.
    2. Rates come down during recessions and that props up real estate prices; and
    3. According to Mr. Habib, if you look at data from the last six recessions (other than the 2008 meltdown) you will see that real estate prices usually do not decrease significantly.

CA PRICES HURT BY CHINESE BUYERS PULLING OUT

15% of the money spent on real estate transactions in California is from China. But b/c China’s currency is now so much weaker than it was relative to the U.S. dollar, Chinese buyers are now sitting on the sidelines. This drop off in demand is already affecting prices, particularly on the high end. But, according to Mr. Habib, this too will end and Chinese demand will return.

I hope this helped you learn a little something about the impending recession, how it affects real estate, and why Chinese buyers may affect the market long-term!

Now, with a little input from us:

Comments from Bob Schwab – Inverted Yield Curve

Our in-house lender has remarked that one of the indicators a recession may be on the horizon is an inverted yield curve. I asked what that means, and here was his response (note any errors are mine via translation):

“The U.S. runs a deficit, and in order to pay on the deficit, they sell treasury notes and pay interest to the purchaser. Normally, the longer the you take the note, the higher the rate or return; [in the] shorter term, the lower the rate the government will pay you. When the short-term notes have a higher rate than the long-term is when we have an inverted yield curve. That margin has been steadily decreasing, and we have been about 30 points away from an inverted yield curve, and thus why the buzz of a correction is coursing through the media. I am seeing a different effect; in June we had a wave of listings come on the market, when it usually quiets a bit due to summer vacations. I believe sellers are thinking prices might have reached a peak and now is the time to get their home on the market, which means we now have more inventory and more for buyers to choose from. The outcome is price reductions, things sitting longer, etc., because buyers now are thinking they will have a wait-and-see strategy!”

The Dead Fish in Crockett: Tastier than it sounds

Even though all the fish you eat, whether in raw or cooked form, is technically dead, the term “dead fish” conjures up images of scaly carcasses washed up on a beach. Needless to say, that’s not very appetizing. However, The Dead Fish in Crockett gives reason to love its namesake with their food and stunning atmosphere.

The Dead Fish is located about 25 minutes North of Walnut Creek. It is just up the coast from Martinez, and across the Bay from Vallejo. It’s worth discovering, if only for its endless view of the Carquinez Straits. That’s the first thing that catches your eye when you arrive at the restaurant: round-the-dining-room views of the water, the lit-up bridge, and the hills that accentuate both.

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The owners of The Dead Fish also own such Bay Area seafood hotspots as Franciscan Crab Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, The Stinking Rose in North Beach, and Salito’s in Sausalito. For what it’s worth, The Dead Fish gets its name from the chef’s Nonna, who cooked for a large family, and couldn’t keep track of all the different recipes she prepared. So, when the chef (her grandson) asked what kind of fish she cooked, she told him, “It’s a dead fish!” Hilarious!

Anyway, the food itself at The Dead Fish is what you’ll come for as they are known for their Dungeness crab, which is only bought if it weighs more than two pounds (to ensure peak meatiness), and is only caught in the Pacific Ocean. They do have options for prime rib, filet mignon, and other non-seafood meals. Menus are subject to change daily, so make sure you check online before you go!

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I went for lunch. when the atmosphere is a little more light-hearted and not as crowded and you can fully make out the little decorations hanging from the ceiling. From all the photos I’ve seen, it is more of a dimly-lit, low-key vibe in there for dinner. Anyway, the food was good but not as incredible as the reviews said it would be. I still enjoyed my meal though! I had the asparagus with blue cheese and the single crab enchilada. Overall, I’d give The Dead Fish 3.5 Mt. Diablo’s out of 5.