Tips for surviving the next drought

Last winter, the rains were plentiful. This spring and summer, the rivers have been gushing, lakes have been full and waterfalls have been crashing.

It’s a scene we haven’t had in the Bay Area in quite some time. But since the drought ended, all the regular water usage has returned – flushing normally, watering our gardens more than once a month, leaving the water going occasionally and not worrying about it…

That said, we’re still in California and we’re still in an accelerated state of global warming (according to most climatologists, anyway). So, there will be another drought. Here are some Bay Area-specific tips from the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) for surviving the next one:

Know your water provider’s Drought Program and its requirements

Every water provider should have a Drought Program. Contact them to make sure you know what their requirements are, ahead of the next drought. If you have CCWD, you can sign up for their newsletter to get updates.

Know how much water you are using

You can read your water meter to better understand how much water you’re using. However, that can be tricky. Here are some tips on CCWD’s website: www.ccwater.com.

Check for leaks

You can also utilize your meter to check for leaks. One of the most common leaks and wastes of water comes from the toilet. Check regularly!

Use efficient fixtures and appliances

You should always get EnergyStar appliances if possible, and you should have a toilet with 1.28gpf or less. Check if yours does at www.map-testing.com. Also, make sure your laundry loads are always full and don’t leave faucets running!

Convert lawns to gardens

Some water providers offer rebates for converting a lawn to a garden. For example, CCWD offers $1 per square foot of lawn converted ($1,000 maximum residential, $20,000 maximum Commercial/HOA). And California will give you a state rebate for front and back lawn conversions as well. Plus, it just looks prettier!

If you irrigate, do it efficiently

If you irrigate or have sprinklers, make sure the system is in good shape (no blocked or broken heads) so there’s no water waste. Try to water after the sun goes down or before it goes up to avoid evaporation. And turn the system off when rain is coming.

There are a million different simple ways to avoid water loss when the next drought occurs. Water is a still a precious commodity!

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!

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?

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.

New review from a happy customer!

One of the greatest joys of working in real estate is sharing in the excitement (and relief!) of buying or selling a home with a client.

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Oftentimes, I become close with my clients just by virtue of developing a personal connection while I vet houses for them. Throughout the process, we usually text, call, email and meet in person dozens of times. So, when we succeed together and find the perfect buyer or the perfect property, it’s extra special for me to get a great review!

For example, I recently helped my client and friend Mckenzie with a transaction, and here’s what she wrote for me:

Kristin is amazing-she went above and beyond as my real estate agent; as a first-time homebuyer, I am SO lucky that I found her!! I found Kristin on Zillow, I was interested in a specific property and sent an email. She followed up and was immediately so helpful over the phone. As I said, I am a first time home buyer, and she gave me lots of advice. She met with me in person to go through the home buying process (like a crash course) which was VERY helpful, and something she didn’t have to do, as I wasn’t even looking at properties yet. She went out of her way, she knows her stuff, she is quick, gives good advice that isn’t biased, and made sure through the whole process I was finding what I wanted. She has a great reputation with other agents in the area and has lots of people she works with that she recommends in terms of home repairs etc. Even after escrow closed, she is still talking with me making sure I have what I need, helping me find handymen and other things I hadn’t even thought of. On top of how capable she is-she is also so fun and has personality plus! It was actually an enjoyable process for me (who would have thought!?!?) I have already been recommending Kristin to friends looking to buy in the area, and if I ever buy/sell again, will definitely be contacting Kristin to be my agent!

What a sweet note from Mckenzie! I loved working with her. If you want to be like Mckenzie, and be my next satisfied client, please give me a call or shoot me an email!