Mike’s Bikes

I recently went looking for an open bike shop and found Mike’s Bikes. I drive by their store almost daily to work, and just being around town as they are in the Mercer building on the corner of California and Civic. The shop was founded in 1964 in Marin County (one of the first Schwinn shops!), and it was rumored that their location in San Rafael was home to some of the first mountain bikes in the country.

The Mike’s Bikes family has 12 Bay Area locations and prides itself on selling only bikes and bike accessories, unlike other outdoor stores. Co-owners Ken Martin and Matt Adams teamed up to buy the franchise after owner Dave Kaplan decided to retire. You can read more about them here.

I took a bike in that was gifted to me with a flat tire and in need of a tune-up. The person working there took my bike, filled up the tire to see if it was leaking, adjusted the seat because it was extended beyond the point of safety, and they didn’t even charge me! I loved the customer service at Mike’s Bikes and will be buying a new bike from them in the near future; thinking an electric mountain bike.

For those who don’t already know about the shop in downtown Walnut Creek, go check it out sometime! It really is a Mecca for bikers – both hardcore and casual. I know they’ll take good care of whoever comes through those doors or for now when you stand at the front door (dogs included – see the last picture!).

Qualifying for a loan after returning to work

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has shared another great blog, which I will share below. I did not include the last section, which is not applicable to my clientele, but you can read the entire thing in the link above. Look for my input at the bottom. As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic!

Many people are wondering how soon laid off and furloughed borrowers will qualify for mortgage financing once they return to work.

Loan Agreement Signature - Free image on Pixabay

Employment Gap Under Six Months

If the layoff or furlough lasts less than six months, lenders will be able to fund most loans as soon as borrowers return to work (for conforming, FHA, and VA loans). Some jumbo lenders, however, may require 30 days of job-seasoning before they will fund.

Employment Gap Over Six Months – Returning to Same Job/Industry

If a layoff lasts more than six months, things get more complicated. If borrowers return to the same job or a similar job in the same industry, they will be able to qualify for conforming (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac) financing 30 days after they return to work, in most cases, with 30 days’ worth of paystubs. FHA and jumbo borrowers may require six months of job-seasoning, however.

New Job/New Industry

If laid off borrowers find new jobs in new industries, they will have to “season” their new jobs for six months in most cases (and up to two years in some cases) before they will qualify for any type of loan. The exception to this rule is for borrowers who recently graduated from college or any type of professional, training, or graduate program that relates to the borrower’s field in some way. Recent grads can usually qualify for financing as soon as 30 days after starting a new job.

Kristin’s Two Cents: Another topic that has come up is forbearance -a creditor’s temporary forgiveness of debt (i.e. to postpone your payment). Many think, “Hey, why not take advantage of not having to pay my mortgage for a few months?” even if they can, because there is no harm. Well, it will impair your credit (most will report it, you will be required to pay it back once the period is over – and with rates dropping, you won’t be able to refinance for one year after you have fully paid back the forbearance. Do you want to miss that opportunity? Click for more information about forbearance.

Searching for the best local Chinese food…

I recently ordered takeout from Peony Garden, which is right next to Las Lomas, across from Kaiser. It is always a search for the best Chinese food, because from different regions the flavor and dishes change. I have had takeout from Peony before and, for me, it was good, not great. I am not a fan when restaurants make sauces too sweet when they shouldn’t, such as on Kung Pao Chicken.

I ordered a lot of food thinking I would eat it over a couple of days because Chinese is wonderful as a leftover dish, but I found a hair in my asparagus beef and ended up tossing it. That said, I struggle to note that because restaurants are struggling and have had no issues in the past. Surprisingly, they have dim sum and some great appetizers, so I would love to hear your feedback.

It is super close to my neighborhood so very convenient, however, I’m still searching for that local Chinese restaurant that I completely fall in love with. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

We are lucky to live here!

So, things will be a little weird for at least another month in California. If you’re like me, all this social distancing has started to wear on you both personally and professionally. Luckily, we live in a beautiful place with great weather!

That’s one saving grace – we are still allowed to go on hikes in the Open Space! Recently, I went on one of my favorite Shell Ridge hikes. It goes about 3 miles up a hill and rewards you with great views of the Walnut Creek/680 corridor. You may recognize the spot because it’s where a huge water tower used to be.

To get there, you come in at Marshall, turn left, and then go up and around the side (you used to go straight up the hill, but it’s been blocked off). To get to the highest peak, you backtrack at the top of the ridge. Check out these beautiful views!

I like to sit on the bench up there and take in the incredible landscape below. We really are so lucky to call the Bay Area home, even during a global pandemic. Take advantage of the outdoor opportunities, like this hike, if you can. But make sure your eyes are peeled – it’s rattlesnake season up there!

Art Town: Re-visiting the “Folded G”

A while back, I shared an Art Town blog about the deconstructed “letter G” statue near the BART station. I had a little bit of information (included in that link) about the creator of the sculpture, but I received a comment on the blog shortly after posting regarding the artist and the piece!

It came from a reader named Rob, who wrote: “This sculpture is painted aluminum. A few years ago, it was painted a steel grey. It’s a deconstructed letter G, from the alphabet.” He also included the artist information (Fletcher Benton), date of creation (1984), and more.

So, I reached out to Rob via email and asked how he knew so much about the piece that I couldn’t find a lot of information on! He wrote back with an interesting story and connection: not only was he an artist himself, but Benton, the artist of the piece in question, was his sculpture teacher in college!

Small world, huh? It turns out that Rob works at SFMOMA and had some information on another piece in the area I was curious about. We’ll save that piece for another Art Town post, but thought you’d enjoy revisiting this one and hearing that story!

The updated Greenery at Diablo Hills is impressive!

Whether you are an avid golfer or not, you’ve probably spent a warm afternoon at some point in your adult life playing a 9-hole round at Diablo Hills in Walnut Creek. The course runs parallel (in some spots) to Ygnacio Valley Rd. and the clubhouse and Greenery (restaurant and bar) overlook Heather Farms.

It’s always been a really fun to play a quick round, but made even better by the social life at the Greenery. I visited recently and was very impressed by how much they’ve improved the clubhouse. I used to eat breakfast there when my kids had City Meet at Heather Farms Pool. The breakfast was always good, in a dated bar of the clubhouse.

Now there are TV’s throughout, which invite you into the spacious bar area, and they seem to have re-done parts of the menu, too. The entryway has definitely been upgraded and it looks like a place you could host legitimate events or meetings now! They even have an extra event room for weddings. I recently went for Comedy Night. What has changed is the weekend live music, which has attracted an over-40 crowd for dancing and nightlife. There is no cover, but I suspect they make their money on the drinks and food people buy.

It was a smart move by Diablo Hills to update this – as the taste of locals continue to get newer and nicer, businesses have to change with the times. And the Greenery at the golf course certainly has. Go check it out next time you want to hit the links or dance the night away!

Another successful Love You A Latte event!

Last month (before the lockdown, seems like a year ago!), I held my annual Love You A Latte event at the Capital One Cafe in downtown Walnut Creek. I appreciate everyone who came out to support the cause and made donations to Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)!

It was great to see so many friends and clients come through and share a coffee or a quick chat. We ended up collecting and donating $265 plus some items to ARF!

I love connecting with everyone and have a moment to catch up over coffee along with providing for a great cause. If you didn’t make it this year due to other plans or vacations (lots of people were on vacation), I truly hope to see you next year. We may all be wanting more interactive personal connections by then. Thanks again to all those who participated either in person or by way of a donation.

Bored yet? Here are some fun coping ideas!

Well, this isn’t ideal! With COVID-19 spreading quickly around the country, Governor Gavin Newsom made a bold move to be the first state to shelter-in-place. I am respecting that order, as should everyone else; it is getting real out there. That said, many of us are not used to being home all the time and not interacting with others!

So, I’ve come up with some great ideas of ways you can still cope and have fun while social distancing! Please share any other ideas you have:

Get outside!

Find local trails with AllTrails, a fantastic app/company that tracks local hiking spots in most major areas. With typically good weather and so many miles and miles of trail in the Bay Area, this is a good time to get some fresh air and not go stir-crazy in your home all the time. Yes, going outside is allowed, just don’t congregate, as the state had to close our Parks due to the number of people that headed to the beach with our great weather this past weekend.

“Visit” 5 National Parks

If you can’t get outside for real, try going to Travel + Leisure and take virtual tours of National Parks in Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, New Mexico, and Florida! Maybe, when this is all over, you’ll remember that virtual tour and plan a trip to the real place. Unrelated to Travel + Leisure, you can also tour museums from home!

Join Club Quarantine

DJ D-Nice is holding virtual dance parties for people all over the globe from “Club Quarantine.” So far, special guest appearances have included Michelle Obama, Oprah, Ellen, and more. Good exercise and good times! Check it out here.

Visit virtual Aspen

There are a lot of beautiful places in this world that are inaccessible to visitors for the time being. Aspen, CO is one of the best, and luckily, the Aspen Chamber of Commerce has brought the town’s experience into our homes with digital resources.

Take a free online course from Yale on Happiness

When Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University, started her “Psychology and the Good Life” course in 2018, she set out to give her students practical, science-backed information about how to be happy. To her surprise, nearly one in every four students signed up for the class, making it the most popular course in Yale’s history. Another option is to listen to some Ted Talks; there are many on happiness, this one from Malcolm Gladwell is a good listen.

Try some new recipes

I have a personal favorite – Willie’s Chile! The recipe is below! And, I just made my first sourdough loaf – thank you, Chris Morrison, for the starter – my neighbor dropped it on my doorstep. I suspect many are baking as the flour and sugar shelves have been bare at multiple stores. Today, my neighbor Dorothy just dropped off some homemade cookies – knock and run, baking is one way she relieves stress! There are so many great recipes to learn and master while cooped up for weeks that we should all emerge as five-star chefs, honestly. Please share your favorite recipe!

Willie’s Chile:
1. Brown 2 lbs lean hamburger meat
2. Add crazy salt to taste, a packet of Mexican spice or taco seasoning, 2 tsp chili powder, fresh minced veggies (bell peppers and hot peppers, 1 onion, grated zucchini)
3. Once mixed and brown, drain, and add A1 until the meat changes color
4. Add hot sauce to taste and 1 small can of tomato paste
5. Put into a crockpot, add 2 cans of tomato sauce, 3 cans of drained beans (your choice!), and chili powder and hot sauce to taste!

Read or listen to some new books

Remember that novel you’ve been wanting to finish for the past six months? Now’s your chance! You can also take a look at this Bestseller list from The New York Times for some fresh ideas, or Reese’s Book Club on Audible. One of my personal favorites for new ideas on books to read is Novel Visits. Speaking of Audible, they are allowing kids everywhere to stream stories in six different languages on any device as long as school is closed.

Take yoga classes…from home!

Just Be Yoga in Walnut Creek is offering their in-studio classes online. You can even stream them at a later day or time, so you don’t have to be available at the exact time they do the class. This is a huge boost for people who made yoga part of their normal workout routines before COVID-19. You do have to be a member, but they do have a trial for one month which costs $55.

Roam from Home

I got this great message from Xanterra: “We invite you to join us every day starting Monday, March 22nd as we “Roam from Home” and serve up a spectacular image from each of our brands on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to share a moment of peace and splendor during this stressful time.” You can also go to xanterra.com, scroll down to the bottom and the have some wonderful travel articles or join their newsletter! I had a Northern Italy bike trip planned in September through VBT, part of Xanterra, which we just canceled; hoping to do it in 2021 – a quality travel company.

Subscribe to Lily Lines from The Washington Post

This is a great way to stay informed AND entertained. The Lily Lines offers helpful, but also humorous, anecdotes about COVID-19 and how to stay on top of your social distancing game. Here is the link to a recent one. You can subscribe at The Washington Post.

Grab Soup & Cocktail Fixins from Walnut Creek Yacht Club

 WCYC Soup Kitchen&Bottle Cocktail Service for pick up! Famous for their soups and chowders, they have turned their collective skills and creativity towards putting together soups and chowders for you to enjoy at home. These are available frozen by the quart, and your soup order will include two Acme bread rolls. Also famous for their cocktails! Bar Manager, Kiki, has created five DIY cocktails for you, which are ready for pick-up. The pick-up days and times for their soups and cocktails are Monday through Friday from 1-5 pm. They will be doing prepayment by credit card, so that you will be able to come by, pick-up your order, and go. Give them a call at 925-944-FISH to order. Pick-up is in their parking lot, behind the restaurant. The entrance is on the Locust St. side of the building. Please click on this link for our soup and cocktails menu.

Join the Facebook Group “Social Distancing Together”

Social media is a regular feature of our lives, but especially so now! Join the “Social Distancing Together” Facebook group to get support and ideas on how to make it through this crisis. I’ve gotten some awesome ideas from my fellow shelter-in-placers!

Subscribe to my Outbound Engine emails

This isn’t because I want more people to read them – it’s because these are automatically-curated and sent newsletters that often include tips about real estate and home improvement. This is a great time to fix up the house and take care of projects you’ve been putting off!

Fed Rate Cuts Don’t Mean Mortgage Rate Cuts!

NOTE: We will be moving to one post a week (on Wednesday’s) until further notice since we are under lockdown here in Contra Costa County and I can’t go out and explore!

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has an interesting take on the latest interest rate cuts by the Fed. Even since he’s written this, the Fed has made yet another cut (because of the government’s response to coronavirus killing the stock market in addition to the Saudi’s dropping the barrel prices), so I’ll try my best to tie the two together at the bottom and make sense of all this:

We were asked a variance of this question over and over yesterday: “I heard that the Fed cut the rate by 1/2 percent; can I lower my mortgage rate by 1/2 percent?” We would respond by explaining that the “Fed Funds Rate” often does not correlate to mortgage rates for a variety of reasons. I touch on this often because the confusion surfaces every time the Fed cuts rates.

When the Fed makes a rate cut, it is to the short-term “Fed Funds Rate,” which does not always impact long-term mortgage rates in the way that most consumers might expect. I blogged about this as recently as August, but here is a brief summary of why mortgage rates not only don’t always correlate to Fed rate cuts, but often go up after the Fed cuts rates:

The “markets” anticipated the rate cut and already adjusted for it. Traders and investors analyze polls, data, and Fed comments to very effectively anticipate changes and the Fed Funds Rate and the markets often adjust long before the rate cuts take place. As a result, very little happens when the Fed Funds Rate is actually cut (or increased).

Short-term rates don’t always affect long-term rates. The Fed is only reducing the Fed Funds Rate, or the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans. This is a very short-term rate and short-term rates don’t always affect long-term (mortgage) rates.

Many factors influence long-term rates besides the Fed, and below are just a few. These factors include economic data; inflation signals; geopolitical crises; and the demand for mortgage bonds. SO WHAT DID RATES DO AFTER THE FED CUT RATES? Rates were about the same after the rate cut as they were the day before.


One day later – in a shocking and surprise weekend move, the Fed cut the Fed Funds Rate to 0% on Monday. See above as to why it might not move mortgage rates. But, the Fed also committed to $500 billion of treasury bond purchases and $200 billion of mortgage-backed security purchases.

This renewed “Quantitative Easing” did push rates down slightly but that didn’t last, as the market is all over the place yesterday and probably today and extremely volatile.

MORTGAGE RATES BARELY MOVE; CAPACITY ISSUES

Despite the massive Fed intervention, mortgage rates barely moved. The reason is capacity.

There are $11 trillion in outstanding mortgages – give or take. The industry is capable of funding about $2 to $3 trillion per year – at most.

When borrowers with $5 trillion worth of mortgages want to refinance over the course of a few months, the industry simply can’t handle the volume.

And – as a result, rates remain on the higher side and are still over 1/2 a percent higher than where they were 10 days ago. The Feds’ rate cut is actually getting a lot of criticism because it will do so little to stimulate economic activity (travel, major events, supply chain issues) offset by the coronavirus concerns. It also leaves the Fed nowhere to go if things get worse. We are in uncharted waters; welcome to the new normal. At the end of the day when this settles, rates will still be low and we may see a listing and buying spree due to the sheltering in place.

Stay safe and healthy my friends!