How Much Down Payment Does a First-Time Home Buyer Need These Days?

JVM Lending LogoThe idea of saving enough money for a 20 percent down payment to buy a home in the Bay Area can be a daunting thought, especially because our average prices are so much higher than the rest of the nation. How can 20 or 30-something’s save that much money and still afford rent and basic living needs?

I  posed this question to my favorite lender Jay Voorhees, Co-Owner at JVM Lending.

“Buyers often need less money than they think to buy a home, as long as their loan amount is lower than the conventional and FHA maximum of $625,500. Buyers can either take advantage of FHA financing and buy with as little as 3.5 percent of the purchase price for a down payment, or with conventional financing, purchase with as little as 5 percent down. Both options above, however, require mortgage insurance, or an additional fee that borrowers have to pay every month when their loan-to-value ratio is over 80 percent.”

What does that mean from a real estate perspective? With interest rates and inventory low, it means you will probably be competing for a property. The good news is most buyers will have similar financing; however if one has 20 percent down or all cash, that may be the deciding factor on whom the seller selects.

What can buyers do to avoid mortgage insurance? According to Jay, put down 20 percent, or 10 percent down and get a second mortgage on top of their first mortgage (“80/10/10” financing). This option requires excellent credit and very low “debt ratios.” Jay says that many borrowers are forced to use FHA financing no matter what because FHA is much more flexible with respect to credit and debt ratios.

Jay had a couple final thoughts on the topic:

JVM Lending Co pic
The JVM Lending team in Walnut Creek (photo courtesy JVMLending.com).

“Buyers can also get gifts from relatives to use for down payment funds or closing costs. Buyers cannot use borrowed funds for a down payment. Whoever provides “gift funds” will have to provide a signed “gift letter” attesting to the fact that the funds are in fact a gift.”

And:

“The total closing costs for a purchase can range from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the type of loan, the loan amount, and the place of purchase (some cities have high “transfer taxes”). If gift funds are not available and buyers are tight on cash, they can, however, ask their lender to increase their interest rate in exchange for a credit to cover some or all of their closing costs.”

If you have specific questions or would like to discuss your options and want to speak with JVM Lending, call them at (925) 855-4491 and ask for Jay, Heejin (both owners), or one of their talented associates. They are in downtown Walnut Creek at 1850 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 530. Give them a call and and tell them you saw this blog on WalnutCreekLifestyle.

Top (Fur) Baby Names in the U.S.

Top-Dog-Names-in-U.S.-1

Around this time every year, we always find out what the top baby names in the country are. That’s always interesting, but what about our other babies’ names?

As a dog lover, this blog caught my attention a few months back. It included this infographic that broke down the most common names of dogs, and then went further and broke it down by most popular name by breed, too.

Apparently the top dog names in the U.S. right now are Bella, Max, Daisy, Bailey, and Buddy. My dog is named Bodie, so I was pretty close!

Our team here at Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group is full of dog lovers, and we wanted to share some photos of our fur children here with you to start the New Year. I think we did a little better on creativity with our naming!

Let’s start with my boy Bodie, an 8-year-old Weimaraner rescue:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We got Bodie when he was 18 months old. We rescued him through NorCal Weim Rescue where they found him running around Fresno.  He quickly warmed up to us and became a loved member of the family. Bodie is a big, 90-lb Weimaraner (the type that basically takes you for walks rather than the other way around!), but he loves to cuddle and play. In fact, he usually feels left out if he doesn’t get to sleep on the bed!

Let’s move along to Liz, and her two dogs, Poppy and Willow. Poppy is a 3-year-old miniature poodle, and Willow is a one-year-old Cavapoo. Liz bred Willow herself, and Poppy is the mother! For those wondering, a Cavapoo is a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Here are a couple pictures:

FullSizeRender IMG_4452

Liz started breeding Cavapoos two years, ago, and kept Willow from the most recent litter. Cavapoos are wonderful dogs, combining the look of the Cavalier, the non-shedding coat of the Poodle, and the sweet temperaments of both breeds. Also, Cavaliers are great dogs, but have been so inbred throughout the years that the majority of them develop a deadly malady called Mitral Valve disease. Since poodles are not largely affected by the disease, the cross-breeding drastically lowers the Cavapoo puppies’ chances of inheriting that disease.

For more information on Cavapoos, you can check out Liz’s company California Cavapoos, which bring healthy, beautiful, friendly pets to the best families. Take a look at her Facebook page!

Lastly, our freelance writer Jeremy has had dogs in his family forever. From a golden retriever when he was a baby, to a black lab throughout childhood, to the current ARF rescue mix his family loves…meet Sydney, the 8-year-old Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler/Hound mix:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sydney (or “Syddie” for short – she responds to that especially well if you use a high-pitched voice) has an endless amount of energy and absolutely adores humans. If Sydney isn’t on her back with all four paws in the air, begging for a belly scratch within 30 seconds of meeting you, there’s something wrong. As you can see from the photos above, Sydney also loves to go to the Open Space in Walnut Creek!

Share some photos of your dogs – do you have any with creative names?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering 2015, Looking Ahead to 2016

New yearsAccording to History.com, the tradition of celebrating the new year dates back nearly 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. Though they weren’t on our modern Gregorian calendar at the time (so, New Year’s was actually in March back then!), they still rang in the new year with feasts and celebrations, much like we do today.

Back then, Babylonians would make promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot (can’t confirm whether they broke their promises in the first month like we do today…), thus beginning the practice of making resolutions.

Obviously the norm today is to eat, drink and celebrate wildly at midnight, and then watch fireworks over the night sky. The explosions signify the closing of the past year and the ushering in of the next. So, as we remember the Sydney fireworkscraziness of 2015 and look forward to a fresh start in 2016, which questions do you ask yourself? What resolutions will you make? What does this time represent for you?

For me 2016 will be continued self improvement and finding balance between work and home and what truly feeds me and makes me happy.  This past year I found Yoga – it has helped  loosen those tight hip flexers and release the stress in my shoulders.  I even went on a one week Yoga Retreat to Costa Rica.  The comments I received at how well rested and relaxed I look made me think more than just in passing about balance.  I also hedged my bet on El Nino and bought a ski pass to Squaw/Alpine, totally the right decision and am looking forward to some awesome days on the slopes in 2016.

Other notables was Jackson off to UNR … empty nester, not so bad.  A nice trip to NY to celebrate Ryan’s birthday and hanging out with my friends and dog Bodie … all good stuff.

2015 flew by me, as I am sure will happen to 2016, just another reason to savor the moments.  On that note, I wish you a happy,  prosperous and balanced New Year!

~k

Happy Holidays, Coat Drive and Market Update

Hi everyone! If you didn’t receive a hard copy of my most recent newsletter at your door, here is the PDF to tide you over. There is still time to donate to the coat drive, as I’ll be dropping off any more donations I get at the Trinity Center as they come in. Thanks to everyone who has already contributed!

(Don’t forget to scroll at the bottom of the PDF to see page 2!)

[pdf-embedder url=”http://walnutcreeklifestyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Coat-Drive-newsletter-2.pdf”]

Thank You! … for supporting the coat drive

IMG_8135 Walnut Creek is now home to a temporary winter homeless shelter at The Armory sponsored by Trinity Center. It houses up to 30 homeless families while providing transition assistance in an effort to place them back in homes after their stays at the shelter.

As many of you know, I did a One Warm Coat drive that was featured in my latest newsletter. Trinity Center was the beneficiary of those coats, blankets and sweaters, along with a few of the Trader Joe’s gift cards I was giving out to the first 10 respondents. I want to thank all who donated. We ended up with about five large-sized trash bags full of warm goodies.

If you have never stopped by to drop off food or clothing, I highly recommend it. It is an eye-opening and rewarding experience. We were greeted by a group of men sitting in the living room staying warm and eating chips and dip. They kindly offered to carry in our bags of clothes. The staff is kind and grateful.IMG_8136

The Trinity Center is a non-profit based in town here on Trinity. It provides basic human services such as food, showers, laundry, clothing, mail and telephone access.

The City Council of Walnut Creek passed the proposal earlier in the year, to use The Armory on Carmel temporarily through the winter and now it’s officially in operation.

I first heard of the program when it was called Fresh Start and a neighborhood boy asked his mom how he could help the homeless. As a result, Creek Kids Care was born with local kids of all ages having art parties and creating note cards to sell. The money raised was donated to what is now the Trinity Center. What a great story that shows what one small child can set into motion.

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do Around Walnut Creek for Christmas!

ice skating WCLIt’s that time of year again when the tree lots spring up, lights blink on every corner and familiar movies play on every TV: it’s Christmas time!  If you are like me, it caught up to me quickly, as I barely got my tree up, with Christmas Cards still needing to be created – maybe they will be New Year cards (now if I can only my Costco certificate for the print shop I bought 2 months ago).  Thus with only a few days left until Christmas, there is still  a lot of things to do….

Even though Walnut Creek is nestled in the cozy Bay Area where snow is a day trip away, the town gets into a wintery spirit for the holidays. With students coming home for winter break and relatives flying into town for Christmas and New Year’s, families are reuniting all over the Bay Area.  After catch up is played, meals are devoured and egg nog is drunk, here are a few fun, local holiday events around Walnut Creek for the whole family to enjoy:

Walnut Creek on Ice

For just $15, you can enjoy some quality ice skating time right in downtown Walnut Creek. The ice rink, which has been a fixture in Civic Park for many winters now, throws fun events and never gets overly crowded. For more information about Walnut Creek on Ice, visit their website.

Santa visits at Broadway Plaza

A winter classic is taking the kids (of all ages!) to visit Santa Claus, ask for a gift and take a photo. This year, you can head right down to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek to see him. Make sure to hurry on this one, though; he can only hang around through Christmas Eve, before taking off on his sleigh to deliver his gifts!

091220-N-XXXXX-001 FUJISAWA CITY, Japan (Dec. 20, 2009) Petty Officer 1st. Class James Durrance acts as Santa during a visit to distribute toys to children of the Misono Orphanage. The community service project was supported by the First Class Petty Officer Association of the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Holiday Train in Blackhawk

Take a little drive to Blackhawk and get a nice meal with the family, before rewarding your kids for their patience with a fun train ride at Blackhawk Plaza! All you need is to make a purchase at the plaza, and you’ll receive a ticket for the train too. Nothing says holidays like a wintery train ride for the little ones.

Volunteer in the East Bay

There are endless volunteer opportunities around the East Bay, especially around the holidays. From helping distribute food, clothing and toys to less fortunate families, to caroling at local senior centers, there are tons of ways to help give back with your family this Christmas. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Catch a Christmas movie

Everybody has their favorite Christmas movie, but many people don’t realize that they can watch some of the classics from the Century Theaters in Walnut Creek! For example, this Wednesday night the theater will be showing Miracle on 34th Street, and then It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. What better way to spend some warm, relaxing family time than getting a Christmas classic on the big screen?

Do you have any other fun ideas for this week and weekend around Walnut Creek? Happy holidays!

1077 Wesley Ct. #8 Open House

Wesley CtYou can’t miss this recently-updated top-floor end-unit in Walnut Creek. With fresh paint, new carpet, granite counters and new flooring, this 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom is ready for move-in. Not to mention it’s a short walk to BART, has easy freeway access, underground parking, extra storage and a pool! The list of perks never ends.

Open for a Broker’s Tour tomorrow (Tues. 12/15) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and then for an Open House this Saturday and Sunday from 1:00-4:00 p.m. both days. Come check it out!

You can see a virtual tour of 1077 Wesley Ct. #8 right here.

Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

FullSizeRender-2Having a bad hair day?

Apparently you’re not the only one…This wild turkey, spotted near Walnut & Marshall, just discovered that he’s bald!

Vanity withstanding, he is definitely not alone!  I was driving away in my Mini after an Open House at my listing in Clayton, when I came around the corner and — to my surprise — found a gang of turkeys (yes, “gang” is the technical term for a group of turkeys)!

I have seen a few gangs here and there around Walnut Creek, and many at the Lafayette Reservoir! This got me thinking: do we have a turkey problem?

Lo and behold, it’s been an issue in the East Bay since the early 2000’s. Apparently, the turkeys continue to move East, oftentimes destroying gardens, nicking paint on cars and leaving cement-like patties of you know what along the way.

FullSizeRender-1Here are a few facts about the wild turkey that were new to me:

  • There are almost 7 million wild turkeys nationwide
  • They have 5,500 feathers and males have 18 distinct tail feathers
  • Ranging from 5-20 pounds, they can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly at 55 mph

Watch yourself around gangs of turkeys, too! By nature, they have a proud demeanor and protective instincts, with vision three times better than humans – maybe the turkey above couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

So, think twice before trying to score a free Thanksgiving meal when you see these guys on the street.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

 

Best Sandwich in the Bay Area: Morucci’s

One of my favorite lunch time eateries in Walnut Creek is Morucci’s. They have great sandwiches, soups and salads. My personal favorite is the #1: Roasted Turkey.

IMG_2823

One of the best aspects of this deli is their creative menu, which lists their sandwiches from 1-17 (with some items being fractions, too!). It is always fresh and tasty and has my vote as the best deli in the area.

IMG_2824

Some of the most popular sandwiches are the 6 3/4, which is a delicious combination of caprese salad-style tomato and mozzarella, turkey, lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and balsamic dressing, all on a perfectly-toasted ciabatta; and the #5 (California club – fully loaded with turkey, swiss, bacon and veggies).

IMG_2821

For the vegetarians the Caprese is also tasty. I can truly say that every concoction they make at Morucci’s is awesome, and apparently everyone agrees – just check out the line at lunch time! Try to get there in off-hours, though. The secret got out a few years back and now East Bay residents from high schoolers to retirees form lines around the block on any given day at lunch to nab one of these famous sandwiches.


unnamed-9

Consistently voted one of Walnut Creek’s best, Morucci’s is a must-try if you are living in or visiting the area. From their sandwiches, to fresh Italian salads, Morucci’s definitely earns their rave Yelp reviews.

Which sandwich at Morucci’s is your favorite?  Please let me know.

East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

4.1-Tour_581x361

Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

images

Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!