Road Trips: Sutro Baths

Our road trip blogs have ranged far and wide over the months, but one easy, must-do road trip from the East Bay is a simple jaunt across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco! You can’t beat the beauty of San Francisco, which is truly one of the most spectacular places in the world, and right in our backyard.

Of all the cool things to do in the city, one of my favorite experiences is hiking around Sutro Baths at the furthest West point. If you drive in over the Bay Bridge (or, if you want to save some gas, take BART and then a city bus), follow directions to Ocean Beach and take in the sights and smells of the ocean (warning: it’s always windy!).

From there, you can walk up the hill past the famous Cliff House restaurant (their bar is actually affordable if you need a quick drink!). On the other side of that are the Sutro Baths. Back in the day, this area was a public bath house right on the ocean that look more like Roman ruins now than anything else.

Extend your day after exploring the Baths, by following one of the mild hiking trails next to the upper parking lot, which will take you through tall trees to the Golden Gate Bridge side of the peninsula. You’ll get a clear view (most days) of the bridge, the ocean and the Marin headlands.

And to think, all these picturesque views are contained in a tiny corner of San Francisco! If you’ve never taken the kiddos to see this part of San Francisco, I’d highly recommend it!

Va de Vi alley is a hidden gem in Walnut Creek

We talk a lot about the beautification of downtown Walnut Creek here. After all, it’s where we live, and where we love to live! Va de Vi, the excellent restaurant in the heart of downtown (across from Vineyard Vines and Rooftop), has a secret hidden treasure next to it.

Credit: EclipseDesign.com

If you’ve never noticed it walking by, or never taken a look after a meal at Va de Vi, you’re missing out. In the alley next to the restaurant, there is a beautiful sitting area and a huge tree, as well as some awesome art. This is my favorite part of the alley.

Olivia Kuser’s piece, “Shadowmaker,” is an enamel-on-metal piece that was inspired by the large oak tree just down the alley from it. Kuser likes to do her work in place to really get a deep feel for the image, and then takes it back to the studio to finish the art.

The slightly blurred image gives the impression of commonly-moving leaves. Kuser is a San Francisco-based artist who once created work about the marshes that used to encircle all of the San Francisco Bay.  As evidenced by “Shadowmaker,” Kuser favors simple landscapes that only have a few elements to them.

Her piece, combined with the beautiful alley itself and the towering oak tree and pond, makes eating at Va de Vi all the more special. It’s a hidden gem within the bustling downtown of Walnut Creek, and the perfect spot to stop and get away from it all for a few moments.

11 reasons your home isn’t selling

RIS Media shared a story from Charles Muotoh giving 11 reasons your home may not be selling. I found the piece very interesting and have summarized the points below, and added some commentary. Let me know what you think!

You overvalued your property: Overpriced homes will not sell. Simple as that. If you have an experienced real estate agent, they can give you an accurate value of your home.

Your listing is poor: You can’t poorly write the description of your home without any images. It will be skipped. Work with your realtor to make the listing attractive and interesting.

You’re always present at showings: Do not get in your agent’s way at showings. Let them do what they are experts at. Buyers don’t want you hovering over them the whole time anyway.

You’re too attached: If you are too stubborn to refuse to negotiate your price down, then there’s a good chance that you’ve become too attached to your home. That will make selling difficult.

You haven’t had your home professionally cleaned: What kind of buyer in their right mind will want a dirty house? Ask your realtor to recommend a professional cleaner for the carpets and windows before showing your home.

You haven’t staged your home: Never show an empty house, because it’ll make it hard for buyers to picture living in it. Always have it staged. Your realtor should have a stager on speed dial!

You kept up all of your personal décor: If you keep your home personal (with pictures, etc.), buyers will feel uncomfortable in your house. Take those down before showing the home!

Your home improvements are too personalized: If you tailored your kids’ rooms to their specific obsessions, that’s great…until you need to sell the home. Those little touches could scare off buyers.

Your home is too cluttered: Clutter can still be an issue in a clean home. Don’t keep too much furniture in the rooms – it will make your house feel smaller than it is!

Your home is in need of too many repairs: If a buyer knows he or she has to do a bunch of repairs, they are less likely to want to make a move. That’s a lot of extra effort and cost on their parts, even if the repairs are minor.

You choose the wrong real estate agent: You may have noticed a theme throughout many of these previous points. Choosing the right real estate agent is absolutely essential to the selling process. We can make all the difference in selling your home for the right price, in a reasonable amount of time!

Inspiration Saturday: Beginning

From Seth Godin’s blog:

Beginning is underrated.

Merely beginning.

With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.

With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.

American Kitchen in Lafayette is cute, cozy and comforting

A friend recently treated me to dinner at American Kitchen in Lafayette for my birthday. This was my first visit and I enjoyed the atmosphere, service and food. What I am most excited about is a having a new place for breakfast! Tucked in between Chow and some non-descript office buildings in downtown Lafayette, American Kitchen is a hidden gem among the other well-known restaurants and bars.

It is actually an 80-year-old converted farmhouse that is run by locals Victor Ivry and Sariah May. They emphasize American comfort food and use the freshest, healthiest, most local ingredients. The coolest part about the space itself isn’t necessarily the adorable indoor dining area. It’s their “front yard,” which has a fire pit, a patio and multiple seating areas. It gives off the vibe that you’re enjoying your meal at a homey picnic more than a restaurant, which I loved.

I had the Gingered Squash & Pear Soup and a small Autumn Chopped salad with chicken, along with a glass of champagne. I was so enjoying my dinner and conversation that I forgot to take pictures of the food, but there are enough of the venue to entice you to try American Kitchen. They also have “themed nights,” like burgers on Monday, “Breakfast for Dinner” on Tuesday, and grilled cheese on Sunday.

It is truly a family spot, with drawings from the kids posted at the front door and only beer and wine being served. Stop by American Kitchen and give it a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner – I would love to hear your review.

Overall, I give American Kitchen 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

How to get your offer accepted in a crowded market

Our friends at JVM Lending shared a Redfin link recently that had a ton of great information on how to get an offer accepted. I currently have two homes on the market and the amount of offers on each are on opposite ends of the spectrum; I have one with 21 offers, and the other with 6. It’s funny to see that disparity between the two, and strategies to get an offer accepted and/or a house sold, can vary greatly because of it.

Here are some pro tips from the Redfin piece:

Nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%) homes that sold in 2017 went for over asking price, up from 21.8% in 2016. This means that buying a home has become more difficult and expensive in a hot, crowded market. You can’t simply offer the highest price and expect to be selected by the seller. Instead, try other strategies like offering all cash, waiving the inspection, or writing a personal cover letter to the homeowner. Above all, make sure you talk to your agent to create the right combination of strategies for the home you’re bidding on, or for the seller you’re trying to woo.

Here is some information from the Redfin article that breaks down data on thousands of offers written over the last two years, to see how effective these other strategies can be in improving a buyer’s chance at winning a bidding war:

Rank Strategy Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success by… Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success in the Luxury Market (Top 10% by List Price) by…
#1 All-Cash Offer 97% 438%
#2 Waived Financing Contingency 58% 76%
#3 Personal Cover Letter 52% No Significant Gain
#5 Pre-Inspection No Significant Gain No Significant Gain
#6 Waived Inspection Contingency No Significant Gain No Significant Gain

Cash is king, as you can see above. That’s because it allows for smooth, fast transactions without the hassle of loans or appraisals. If you don’t have the means to make an all-cash offer, you can always waive your financial contingency, which means you won’t have to wait for a loan approval. That will still increase your odds by 58%, according to Redfin! However, I find that the cash offers – especially if they are investors – will not be the highest price. On the home that had 21 offers, the key to the winning bid was who removed a portion of their appraisal contingency as the offer was so high we all knew it wouldn’t appraise, but that means the buyer has to have extra cash. That can be tough when it is an entry-level condo.

All this said, sometimes it just takes a personal touch to win over a seller. Writing a letter to the seller can be effective and increase your odds in a bidding war. Fortunately for most buyers, cash is not the only way into a seller’s heart.  Often these letters can forge a powerful connection between the buyer and seller, highlighting shared hobbies or interests, earning a seller’s compassion or trust, or ensuring that the home will be loved and cared for in the years to come.

So, whether you are offering all cash, waiving contingencies, writing a personal letter, or trying any number of other strategies to win the bidding war on the house of your dreams – especially in a saturated market like the Bay Area – always remember to consult your realtor first. He or she will have great insight into the market and what extra touches it might take to get the home, but at the end of the day the buyer has to be comfortble with the offer they are making!

Art Town: The beautification of Main St.

As Walnut Creek continues to rapidly evolve, with it goes the art scene. We try to feature cool public art pieces around Walnut Creek in this Saturday showcase. This week, we want to pay homage to the general beautification of Main St., especially all the colorful new planters!

As you can see, these really pop and make the sidewalks much more attractive. All the minor landscaping details and added colors have begun to give Walnut Creek’s remade downtown corners a lot more character. Instead of a sea of concrete and expensive shops, locals and visitors will be distracted by all the good-looking art!

That’s a good thing. I really appreciate that the city is making an effort to incorporate art into its downtown landscape. It seems very necessary! As long as there are beautiful flowers in beautiful planters along the sidewalk, it will feel pretty homey around here.

Pinky’s Pizza – still a Walnut Creek classic!

If you’ve lived in Walnut Creek long enough, you’ll remember Pinky’s Pizza and its old location across from the current Trader Joe’s. That was the place to go for pizza after swim meets, soccer games and school functions. When it shut its doors many years ago, it seemed like the next in a long line of Walnut Creek classics to be chased away by inflated costs.

via Groupon.com

Luckily, Pinky’s was spared. It re-opened a new location across from the Post Office in downtown Walnut Creek a few years ago. The pizza tastes exactly the same (some like it, some hate it…I am personally not a fan of the cheese, their own special blend), but they’ve come back with more TV’s, fewer arcade games and a revamped menu and bar.

For whatever you think of the pizza itself, you can’t beat the friendly staff and environment that has made Pinky’s a favorite among locals for decades. Nowadays, Pinky’s is actually a really cool place to watch sports, as they have enough seating inside and a little outdoor seating area as well. They make sandwiches, salads and wings now, too.

via Yelp.com

Pinky’s is definitely more grown-up now with the bar scenario and their awesome Happy Hour (Monday-Friday from 3-6 pm), but still caters to kids. Any kid 12 and younger can get a free ice cream, and there are still plenty of classic arcade games in the corner for them to play with.

Whether it’s the nostalgia, the service, the fact that Pinky’s has survived the Walnut Creek rent crisis, or the food itself, Pinky’s is still a downtown fixture. Hopefully, it’ll remain a place for after-Little League pizza and Warriors-watching for years to come (and provide a closer option than Rocco’s).

Client Appreciation Party

After sending out invites, speaking with past clients and those who have referred me, coordinating with the venue, and designing the event, I am happy to share some pictures of a fun day with my wonderful clients and friends. I also want to give a big shout-out to Prima Ristorante, where we enjoyed appetizers, wine tasting of old and new-world wines, great company and friendship all in the cozy space of their room with a fireplace.

Frank, our sommelier, did a wonderful job of introducing us to the nuances of French vs. California wines, and we finished with a blind tasting of a white and red. We had to guess if it was a French or California wine based on the taste. We also had a seasoned waiter who served us some amazing appetizers of  calamari, shrimp, antipasto platters, rice balls and deep friend olives – yum!

We also gave away some door prizes: two $50 gift cards to Whole Foods donated by Lukasz Wilk of Wolf Construction, a certificate for house cleaning donated by my stager Heather Farry, and two bottles of wine from Prima as part of the day’s event.

Many may think the job of a realtor only involves buying and selling homes with my clients. But being a guide, friend and advocate for my clients is actually the biggest part of the job and celebrating them is my favorite part! I look forward to seeing new and old faces at future events!

Open House Saturday 1-4 pm, Kirker Pass Rd. in Concord

Offers Due Monday 2/5 at noon!