What Labor Day Weekend means to me

Labor Day 3 Ah, the long-anticipated three-day weekend that everyone looks forward to at the end of summer: Labor Day is upon us! Whether you’re spending the last weekend of summer at a BBQ, up in Tahoe or just having a staycation at home, it’s a great chance to relax with family and friends and soak up some rays before the long trek into winter begins.

To me, Labor Day means time spent at the lake, good food and a short break from the crazy working world.  If you’re looking for something to do over the long weekend locally, check out what’s in store for Labor Day in Walnut Creek:

  • Broadway Plaza parties: L’Occitane and Tommy Bahama’s are among the stores that are celebrating their grand re-openings in the newly refurbished downtown shopping district. Great excuse to get out, check out the remodel and shop ’til you drop!
  • “Nuts About Rio: Faster, Higher Stronger” is this year’s theme for the annual Labor Day Aquanuts synchronized swimming show at Heather Farm Park. Beer and wine will be sold at the 47th annual event, which celebrates the recently-completed Olympic Games.
  • The Walnut Creek Concert Band will be putting on a Labor Day Park Concert show at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, September 5th. Labor Day 1

I hope everybody has a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.  I leave you with an interesting Labor Day thought …

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first Labor Day was observed on September 5, 1882. An estimated 10,000 workers gathered for a New York City parade organized by the Central Labor Union.

Unions were very important back then, but think now about our labor force of freelancers and entrepreneurs and how it’s changing! Millennials are much more apt to live the “Google life” now, where all their food, health and leisure amenities are literally in the offices with them. Or, they freelance! My freelance writer left a cushy job in P.R. to work on his own schedule with his own clients and he joked earlier that “every day is Labor Day for him if he wants it to be!” Funny how things have changed.

10 ways to improve your credit score

10 credit 2Last Tuesday, we wrote about how important it is to have high credit scores to purchase a home. Today, we’ll outline a summary of the main points from this list of 10 ways to improve your credit score from Inman.com.

If your score is lower than you’d like, these are good suggestions for how to help hike it back up, especially if you’re thinking about buying a new home:

1. Always pay on time

No lender likes to lend money to an individual who has a repeated record of missing his or her payments. Not to mention it will end up with a lower FICO score.

2. Keep your credit owed within limits

A good ratio is not having your unsecured credit outstanding above 50 percent of your annual salary. If you have $10,000 as your limit, then it is wise to restrict your statement amount to $5,000.

3. Always pay your bills on time, in full

This is one of the most important tips to improve credit score: On-time payments improve your credit score tremendously.

10 credit 34. Use two credit cards if you are a definite credit card spender

This is good and bad advice at the same time. FICO does not consider spending money on two credit cards as one. But if you have two credit cards, you can keep your usage percentage in control.

5. Maintain a good mix of good and bad loans — AKA, a healthy credit mix

Home loans and business loans are considered good loans. Personal loans and credit are considered bad loans.

6. Pay high-interest loans and small loans first

It is a prudent decision to pay your home loans over longer periods. Pay off your personal loans, credit cards and private loans first, as they tend to have a higher interest. Home loans, on the other hand, are just 9 percent to 11 percent, but they build an asset.

7. Close your unwanted savings accounts

Many people tend to abandon their savings accounts without closing them. If you have less than your Minimum Average Balance (MAB), it will start to affect your credit score. Also, when you finish a loan, it’s imperative to get the loan closure certificate.

10 credit 18. Check your credit reports regularly

Credit reports can be availed for a minimal cost. You can obtain them from the official FICO site. Just pay online and check your credit score at least once in a year, so that you can seek clarification on any mistake and have it sorted.

9. Monitor your co-signed joint accounts properly

In instances of co-signing a loan or maintaining a joint credit account, be careful when dealing with someone outside your close family.

10. Negotiate if you cannot pay on time

People often know that they would not be able to pay their bills in advance. If you know you will not be able to pay on time, negotiate with your bank. Banks will be willing to extend your loan period and reduce the EMI if they see a genuine customer.

Art Town: Dueling Eggs

Right across the street from my office on Riviera Ave., there is a unique sculpture (that doubles as a PokeStop, for those of you still hunting…) that I’ve dubbed “Dueling Eggs.” As you can see, it looks like two hollow, silver eggs that rotate and spin in the wind.

I couldn’t find any information on an official title or backstory, but it’s pretty fascinating to watch on gusty days. If you’re impatient, you can also spin it yourself. Add it to the list of interesting artwork dotting Walnut Creek these days!

Oh, for what it’s worth – the name of the PokeStop on Pokemon Go is “Two Egg Omelet,” but I like our name better…

 

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The story behind Civic Park’s “Hand of Peace”

FullSizeRender (4)We continue our tour of Walnut Creek’s public art scene with one of the more recognizable sculptures in the city: “Hand of Peace,” located just outside the library in Civic Park. The aptly-named sculpture is a monument to peace by Italian-born artist Beniamino Bufano, who passed away in 1970.

Legend has it that Bufano cut off his trigger finger and sent it to President Woodrow Wilson to protest World War I. He was a peace activist who taught at the San Francisco Institute of Art, UC Berkeley and Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts, according to a 2012 San Jose Mercury News story. Bufano has other prominent pieces in the Bay Area, including a sculpture in Chinatown, one at Mondavi Vineyards in Napa, and one at Lake Merced.

According to the San Jose Mercury News article, Bufano originally created the “Hand of Peace” for the San Francisco Arts Commission, but when the piece was put up for sale, developer Bill Swigert paid $50,000 to place the sculpture in Walnut Creek, outbidding Fox Plaza and Ghirardelli Square.

The sculpture sat in an office park in Walnut Creek from 1967 to 2009, when it was taken down for restoration. Now, it’s up for display for many years to come in Civic Park. The sculpture weighs nearly 5 tons, stands 30 feet tall, and is made of copper, mosaic and stained glass.

Oh, and it’s a PokeStop, by the way…

Why your credit score is important to your home purchase

Did you know your credit score can affect your home purchase? In Keith Loria’s BHG story recently, he discussed this idea.

credit score 2As he points out, “having a good credit score can be the difference between obtaining the mortgage you need to buy your dream home—or settling for less because you didn’t qualify for the money you need.”

This is important as many buyers don’t consider their credit score until they’re already involved in the process. At that point, it’s usually too late to fix anything that might be wrong with your score. So think ahead and monitor your credit score!

Don’t like your credit score?   Paying off debts is the fastest way to up your score, but if you are in the process of applying for a loan, check with the lender first. Missing deadlines on your credit payments are huge hits to your credit score!

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Image by www.CafeCredit.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafecredit/27321078025/

I also spoke with my local lender, Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending, about this, and he gave me a few benefits to having a high credit score :

  1. Borrowers with higher credit scores usually get lower interest rates (especially when loan-to-value ratios are higher)
  2. Borrowers are allowed to make smaller down payments, if necessary
  3. Underwriting requirements become less onerous because there are fewer conditions and requirements
  4. Second mortgage financing is easier to obtain, if necessary

If you have any questions about credit scores, purchasing a home, or the market in general, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help or guide you to the right person!

Open House this weekend: 131 Appalachian Dr. in Martinez


Appalachian 3 You can’t beat the beauty of this home! 
Come check out this 4-bedroom, 2-bath, single-story home nestled in the Martinez hills.
The backyard has a deck with a hot tub, a fire pit, and an awesome fort for backyard adventures. Not to mention that breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside!
The home is 1,609 square feet of pure comfort. The kitchen has all updated, stainless-steel appliances and flows nicely into the living room, complete with a cozy fireplace.

A spacious master bedroom with plantation shutters and hardwood floorsAppalachian 1 put the finishing touch on this gorgeous house. We’ll be holding two Open Houses this weekend for your viewing pleasure.
Come by, say hi and check it out this weekend. I’ll be there and am happy to talk about the market and what it takes to get a home sold for top dollar in this market.
Visit our Open House this weekend from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday (8/20) and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday (8/21)!

You can see the virtual tour of 131 Appalachian Dr. here.

ØL keepin’ Walnut Creek hip and hydrated

IMG_9143Have you ever been to ØL Beercafe and Bottleshop in downtown Walnut Creek?

Since opening in 2013, ØL has become a mainstay on the East Bay beer scene.

With its dark, cozy interior and constantly-changing FullSizeRender (3)kegs of unusual, often strangely-named beers, it’s a great place to grab a drink.

The bar rotates small kegs of beer as they run out, so unless you’re a regular, chances are you’ll never taste the same beer here twice!

If you haven’t already, check ØL out next time you go downtown. It has plenty of tables in a small, private space, as well as a full bottleshop, separate bar area and a couple of refrigerators with unique beers available for purchase (both to drink at the bar and for take-home). If you’re hungry, you can order in a pizza from Skipolini’s next door or get some charcuterie.

And, of course, the crown jewel of ØL is its beer, which is just fantastic. When my team and I met there last week, we tried a few different beers, with the best of the bunch being a Mike Hess Ficus Fig Saison and a Mahrs Bräu Hell.

In past experiences, I’ve tried everything from barleywine to heavy ambers to sours. ØL is a local watering hole in Walnut Creek that resembles a European beer cafe, in that there are no TV’s and it’s not too loud to have a conversation.

The focus is on the delicious drinks and socializing with good company. ØL is a perfect place to start or end your night!

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Art Town: Bike Watchers

Walnut Creek isn’t just becoming a hot spot for dining options and to live – it’s also quickly filling up with quirky, mesmerizing art! That’s probably because city ordinance says 1% of any new construction project budget must be dedicated to erecting public art or donated to a public art fund.

Check out this new piece next to the Teleferic/Rooftop/Vineyard Vines building:

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Take a stroll around town, you will be amazed at all the art there is to see … one just needs to be observant.  Enjoy!

“Flux” on display at Bedford

IMG_9128 Sometimes you just have to get out of the office. Our Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group decided to take a little outing to the Bedford Gallery for its new exhibit (free to the public each first Tuesday of every month!), which preceded our meeting over beers at ØL around the corner.IMG_9125

The exhibit on display through the end of August is called “Flux” by artist Crystal Wagner.

The colorful art installation was built from chicken wire and disposable tablecloths and takes up almost all of the gallery space.

One of the most interesting things about the artist is that she does not pre-plan her installations; she looks at the space available and creates a twisting shape to fit it.

Wagner, according to the accompanying information at the exhibit, intentionally builds installations where the viewer is overshadowed by an enormous sculpture. She wants the viewer to be surrounded by bright colors and feel as if they are dwarfed by all the surrounding textures.

IMG_9127Her work is anchored in herIMG_9126 anxiety about the compromised state of the natural world but is designed to bring joy to her audience. The piece was really quite remarkable.

Check out the timelapse from the Bedford website below, as well as all the pictures my team took.

Also, keep an eye out for that ØL blog next Tuesday!