Celebrating Recognition

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2015 was a great year for many reasons. Celebrating with some Better Homes and Gardens colleagues at our awards ceremony – I was Emerald Elite in the company and #3 in our office. From left to right: celebrating with Laura Wucher, Vyana Chain, me, and Rose Brudigan. Cheers! (I love the phone and purse on the table and the wine in Rose’s hand).

Hotel Boom in Walnut Creek?

As prices for housing, hotels and, well, pretty much everything continue to skyrocket in San Francisco, travelers are starting to realize they can stay in the East Bay and BART to and from the city in order to save a lot of money. This will have a direct effect on Walnut Creek, which is right on the BART line and becoming a hotspot anyway.

New hotels are being reviewed for Walnut Creek, including a 160-room business traveler-targeted Marriott Residence Inn near BART (where the Jaguar/Range Rover dealership and Bank of the West are currently situated) that would open this time next year. The city has also reportedly discussed a boutique hotel being built in the downtown corridor.

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On one hand, this means more visitors discovering our beautiful little city and, therefore, more of a boost to the local economy. On the other hand, it means even more crowds and traffic. Higher prices for food, movie tickets and shopping. More loud, rowdy party-goers hopping from Crogan’s to Tiki Tom’s to Stadium Pub. You take the good with the bad.

Either way, if this hotel boom in the East Bay continues, it will accelerate Walnut Creek’s transition from small suburb to a must-visit Bay Area destination. I have already heard a few opinions of how people feel about Walnut Creek’s growth…please share your comments too! It’s always a hot topic.

Why It’s Important to Hire a Landscape Architect

Yard 1Last year, my sewer kept backing up and I found that I needed a new sewer lateral. My front lawn had a bunch of crabgrass, and the lawn never seemed to get green enough. Then, with the drought, I just let it go.

My whole front yard was torn up, so I decided to do some landscaping – new grass, plants and an automatic sprinkler and drip system.

The project turned out to cost much more than I expected. The sewer lateral was $6,000, and then I ended up paying an additional $8,000 for the landscaping and sprinklers.

I thought I was getting a deal, as the person I hired was a personal friend – though he admittedly knew nothing about plants – who could plant the yard and put the new system in.

Turns out, it was much more difficult than either of us expected. This is on me for thinking it would be an acceptable, cheap way to get the yard done. I still wonder if I hired a landscape architect, would I have saved money and would I be happier with the end result?

Of course, no home improvement project is as simple as it seems. My sprinkler heads had faulty gaskets and some of the plants were not getting water and I lost plants. Luckily, Admirals Choice, who installed the sprinklers, is Yard 2replacing them at no cost to me.

A year and a half later, we are still working on the grass, there’s still a line in the grass where the sewer lateral was dug out, and I need to get rid of the weeds.

We put weed killer on it, but I had to wait until the weather cooled, then it didn’t kill my stubborn crabgrass, and the rain began. So…I waited some more.

The gaskets should be replaced next week, then hopefully it will be time to seed before it gets too hot, and then I can fill in the plants that died.

So, with the hope that you don’t end up like me, with a two-year-old front yard project that cost me a fortune, I am sharing a great Houzz article on Landscaping Trends:

A Taste of Spain in Walnut Creek

IMG_8455The downtown Walnut Creek landscape is ever-changing. If you’ve strolled through the construction zones of Broadway Plaza lately, you’re well aware. What was once a beautiful, high-end shopping center is now an even more beautiful, more high-end shopping center.

While many of the Walnut Creek favorites have survived the remodeling boom, there is also an exciting array of new restaurants being squeezed into every available lot in town. Sunol Ridge and the Library on Main are just a few new options popping up downtown.

One of the new restaurants is also the most recognizable: Teleferic, taking over what used to be a drab parking lot kitty corner from Neiman Marcus, is a very cool, unique building. It dominates the skyline at the North Main/Mt. Diablo light, where a rebirth of the Four Corners is taking place in downtown Walnut Creek.

IMG_8456The Barcelona and Basque-inspired tapas and wine bar has a beautiful outdoor terrace that looks West at the setting sun over the hills.

It hovers over Vineyard Vines, a new clothing store that rules the ground floor. And despite being situated in the middle of a busy downtown, in a California suburb, you still get that old world charm when you enter.

Speaking of the Basque country, that is what influenced the owners of Teleferic to create a restaurant in Barcelona. They grew from their humble beginnings in Sant Cugat in the early 90’s into a dual-location behemoth that spans two countries.

For anyone who loves good tapas, this is the place to be. Named after the word “cable car” in Catalan, Teleferic will also sit below a new Asian fusion restaurant called Rooftop, run by Iron Chef alum and former Chef de Cuisine at Slanted Door, Justine Kelly, which will add an extra level of spice to this awesome new downtown IMG_8457spot.

Give them a try and let us know what you think while you enjoy the great dishes they serve tapas style, in addition to their paella and sangria.

Though more pricey than your standard tapas in Spain, and slightly different than the homemade bar tapas you’ll find abroad, the food at Teleferic and the atmosphere of the location is one of the most interesting combinations in Walnut Creek.

We’d expect nothing less with Spaniards at the helm! Speaking as a Basque descendant from Reno!

Check out Teleferic when you get a chance – it’s food and charm is well worth it.

Best of Walnut Creek: Coffeeshops

Image: http://va388.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Pacific-Bay-Coffee-outside-710x363.jpgLike most things in town, there is no shortage of coffee to drink in Walnut Creek. There’s Starbucks for the on-the-go coffee drinker. Peet’s Coffee has been opening its doors to loyal customers for decades. The Coffee Shop is new and attracting a young, hip crowd. And La Scala has a European feel, but is also popular as a corner spot perfect for a laptop and latte.

Then, there’s a local favorite right across from Kaiser: Pacific Bay Coffee Co. They opened up around the corner from Las Lomas and across the street from the hospital in 2004. It was founded as an independent coffee shop, offering on-site roasting. In 2010, they upgraded their brewing methods to siphon coffee, 24-hour cold-brew, aeropress and Japanese drip style pour-over. Additionally, they’ve expanded into loose-leaf tea from all over the world.

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In January, when we saw the windows papered and the shop closed, many assumed the worst. Via NextDoor.com comment boards, the potential closure led to concerns about, and a spirited discussion of, the support of small businesses in Walnut Creek. Since I live only three blocks away and needed some tea, this prompted me to stop by and ask a few questions.

I spoke with the owner Richard Fong, checked out the remodel (it feels brighter, more upbeat, and has more seating) and asked about the reason for the remodel. He told me that it was time for an update. Originally, the remodel was set to start in March, but the contractor was available in January and moved it up. As a side note, competition is moving closer with Starbucks opening below the not yet completed Agora Apartments just across the way.

IMG_4225What sets Pacific Bay apart is the on-site roasting of beans. They have perfected the medium-to-light roasting technique of single-origin beans. They work in small batches, in order to maintain the highest quality and freshness. Pac Bay recently won a Bronze Medal at the Roasting Awards in Oregon, and have purchased the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine – one of only two of its kind in the area (the other is at Sextant Coffee in San Francisco). IMG_4220

They also have a new slow bar, which takes anywhere from two to seven minutes to fill, and is a process deemed “the third wave of coffee.” Lastly, they added custom drip teapots to strengthen their already delicious tea selection! If you want fresh coffee, this is the place to go, as they roast a couple times a week. You can find them up at 4 in the morning on Saturday’s brewing and roasting fresh batches.

Pacific Bay is keeping up with the trends and continues to set the standard for coffee and tea in Walnut Creek. The freshness and quality of their drinks, on top of a great location and updated decor, makes it well worth a visit, along with supporting a local small business that helps keep Walnut Creek unique.

We would love to hear your favorite coffee place along with any comments you would like to share!

Upcoming Spring Holiday Events in Walnut Creek

St_Patricks_Day_Parade_MontrealThis is a wonderful time of year. Everything starts blooming, the sun comes out – springs forward for an extra hour and we start daydreaming about where to vacation over the summer. To signal the start of Spring, we have two holidays filled with family fun: St. Patrick’s Day (yesterday, but most celebrations carry through the weekend) and Easter!

Walnut Creek becomes especially beautiful in the Spring, and it’s a perfect time to get out and about and take part in some of the local events coming up around these two holidays. Here are a few ideas for this weekend for both kids and kids at heart:

Egg-Stravaganza at Heather Farm (Sat., Mar. 26 – 9 a.m.)  (my kids used to love this)

The Walnut Creek Interact Youth Council and Walnut Creek Recreation bring you a fun-filled egg hunt for the kids at Heather Farm next weekend. The kids can take photos with the Easter Bunny, paint their faces and do crafts, along with the egg hunts. It’s a perfect way to get your family out in the sunshine to celebrate Easter!

St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl in San Francisco (Sat., Mar. 26 – 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.)

Okay, this one is not technically in Walnut Creek and is definitely adult-only, but if you’ve ever been in the city on St. Paddy’s Day and not taken part, you’re missing out on a great time! Leave the kids with a sitter for the day, dress in your most leprechaun-like outfit and go slug a few green beers at SF’s favorite Irish bars.bunny

Easter Event at Alamo Plaza (Sat., Mar. 26 – 12 p.m.)

If you want to take the kids out for a beatuiful day to celebrate Easter, but don’t want to battle the Walnut Creek crowds at Heather Farm, check out Alamo Plaza as an alternative. Train rides, an Easter Bunny, live street entertainment and more will make for an awesome family day in the sun!

Check back next week for additional events as we move into April. Happy Easter!

 

 

Best Hikes near Walnut Creek

We know the next storm’s a comin’ to the Bay Area soon – 3 feet expected up at Trucke, but you can’t deny you’ve enjoyed this crazy beautiful warm weather for the past couple weeks. I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken full advantage of it and gone hiking as much as possible with my dog, Bodie.                                                              IMG_4109

 

 

Funny enough, I found this story about the best hikes in the East Bay recently, and I’m dying to try a few that I’ve never been on before. Once this next storm clears, I’m going to hit the trails! Here is a list of the top five East Bay hikes, combined from the story linked above and my own experiences.shell ridge 1

  • Camp Force Overlook, Mt. Diablo (0.7 miles – easy) – according to the article, this starts just past Rock City and takes you through an area of crumbling stoves where famous Boy Scout leader Raymond Force and his troop used to camp. You can also watch some epic rock climbing from a distance
    (bring binoculars!) on the face of Gibraltar Rock.
  • Shell Ridge, Walnut Creek Open Space (3 miles – easy) – technically, the trail we’re talking about here is the Indian Creek – Twin Ponds loop that takes you up to the Rockspring entrance in Walnut Creek, past Bullfrong pond, and up and down many moderate slopes. The best part is the breathtaking view of downtown Walnut Creek and beyond you get on clear days.  This is the hike I tend to do the most and Bodie absolutely loves to be off leash and running abound.  IMG_3549
  • Bruce Lee Spring Trail, Mt. Diablo (3.1 miles – moderate) – this trail winds through the hills behind Clayton and affords you a nice view of the borges ranchMt. Diablo summit. There will be a little bit of a creek crossing and plenty of uphill hiking, but it’s well worth it in the end. According to the story above, your best bet is to go from the Bruce Lee Spring Trail to the Hetherington Trail to complete the loop.
  • Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek Open Space (9 miles – difficult) – the longest hike on this list isn’t a terribly steep climb (unless you opt to climb up into the Castle Rock area, which is clearly visible for most of your hike), but will bring you on a long, ambling loop that starts and finishes at the historic, unique Borges Ranch. It feels like you’re in the Wild West for a moment when you walk by the old homestead!
  • The Amphitheater, Mt. Diablo (4.3 miles – difficult) – this hike starts just off Morgan Territory Rd., and gives you expansive views of the Delta and Mt. Diablo. To get to the “amphitheater,” follow the Morgan Creek Rd. trailhead to Jeremiah Creek Trail, take a right and then a left on Old Finley Rd. The history and beauty of the spot will amaze you.

Do you have a favorite to share?

3305 Newport Ct. Open House

 

Newport bodyStep into this beautiful home, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Diablo. This home boasts an updated kitchen and baths, with dual pane windows and new Anderson sliders in the living room and master bedroom. Travertine tile at the entry sets the tone, with hardwood floors in the family room and kitchen. For extra light, solar tubes were installed in the hall and half bath.

So many details: enjoy paneled doors with new hardware, Grohe bath fixtures with quartz and swanstone counters, and a full Douglah Designs kitchen remodel with stainless steel appliances and a new Bosch dishwasher. A three-car garage completes the picture on this home, which is situated on a quiet cul-de-sac close to shops, trails, parks, Boundary Oaks Golf Course and top-rated schools. What more could you ask for?

Stop by and enjoy the Open House this weekend! We’ll have it open from 1-4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday (2/27 & 2/28).

You can see a virtual tour of 3305 Newport Ct. right here.

Living Near Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Improves Your Home Value

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Really? According to the Huffington Post, homes located within a mile of Trader Joe’s stores are seeing a significant increase in value, compared to homes that are not within that range. Same thing goes for Whole Foods!

Luckily for us living in the immediate East Bay, where healthy eating and living is quite common, there are at least 12 Trader Joe’s and no less than six Whole Foods (including one each in Walnut Creek!). Chances are, as HuffPo says, if you’re close enough to one of these stores, your home value will see an uptick. I am not so sure this shows the entire picture; maybe Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods just tend to pick more affluent neighborhoods. I have never heard a buyer say they would like to be in close proximity to either of those stores when thinking about purchasing a home.  On the other hand, I personally live within walking distance to both stores in Walnut Creek.  Do I like it, absolutely!  I just finished eating a salad from Whole Foods and often stop off at TJ’s on my way home.

On the other hand, I personally live within walking distance to both stores in Walnut Creek. Do I like it? Absolutely!  I just finished eating a salad from Whole Foods and often stop off at TJ’s on my way home.

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For me, the real estate market is never boring and always provides interesting insights – location and surrounding amenities play such a huge role in pricing. Walnut Creek and the Bay Area overall are much different than the rest of the country: great for those who already own, but not so much for those trying to find a home or move in from another state. I feel very blessed to own my own and live in such a beautiful place, whether I am located within a mile of Trader Joe’ or not.

First-Time Home-Buyers vs. Repeat Buyers

One Cool Thing chartAccording to the California Association of Realtors, first-time home buyers look for different things in a property than repeat buyers do. Californians list rental fatigue as the single most important reason for buying a home. From those who are trying to move up, it’s a size upgrade, followed by a location improvement.

First-time home buyers are who allow repeat home buyers to move up to the next home and continue the domino effect into the higher-priced homes. This chart to the left provides an interesting look at the different reasons different types of buyers want a new house.

On average, first-time home buyers will stay in their first home between 5-7 years. The reasons for eventually selling vary, but often it is because of the addition of new members to their family, or the search for more space, good schools and a neighborhood where home owners can see their kids riding bikes and being part of a safe community.

I recently listed a past client’s home who bought 3 years ago. When she called me, she said, “Kristin, you were right. We are ready to move.” When they bought their home, I told her they would be there maybe for 5 years and she adamantly said we will be here for a long time.  Do you have a similar story?  Are you outgrowing your first home?