We’re rapidly approaching November, which means it’s almost time for the Presidential election (and all the other ballot races, too!). I encourage everyone to educate themselves on the candidates, check that you are properly registered to vote, and then either request mail-in ballots or make a plan to vote in person safely on November 3rd. In California, if all goes as planned, every registered regular voter in the state can expect to get a ballot in the mail before the election. There will still be in-person voting options for those ballots who have been torn, pet-chewed, or food-splattered, and for those who just go to their voting stations out of habit. In Walnut Creek, you can also turn in your ballot at City Hall and avoid any potential issues with the Post Office.
Here is all the information you need about your own voter registration. You can check if you are registered, or re-register if necessary, at this link: https://registertovote.ca.gov/
And, finally, for those who want to get seriously educated on the candidates and policies, I suggest reading the book Thank You For Voting by Erin Geiger Smith. I read it recently, and it was really helpful to get some context on the voting system in America and give me some insight into the process of democracy. I also learned some interesting tidbits (for example, do you know why 18-year-olds were given the right to vote?).
No matter who you support or which way you lean, politically, I think it’s important for us to exercise our rights to vote and make our voices heard in every election and to be involved in our local elections. Make sure you get your vote in on or before November 3rd!
I know this pandemic has been difficult for a lot of us. Trust me, I love going out to try new restaurants, to go on adventures far and wide…and don’t even get me started on the ramifications and impact it has had on all of our work situations! But, I want to offer a glimmer of optimism – there are plenty of ways to get outside and still have fun, despite the virus!
For example, I make regular trips to Lake Tahoe and the Reno area. I love it up there, and my son lives in Reno, so I try to go up there as often as possible to visit, ski, or both. Additionally, we live in a great region where we have Shell Ridge and Mt. Diablo right in our backyards! When the weather cools and the smoke clears, you can try a new trail!
If you’re a foodie like me, you may be struggling to find good places to eat and new places to try that offer correct social-distancing practices. At wineries, however, they are seating outdoors at their beautiful gardens, thus you can distance yourself from other people quite easily. My friend Veronica and I recently did this at Rombauer Vineyards and Bennett Lane in the Napa region.
We went up Friday before Labor Day Weekend and it was the perfect time -not crowded, though they said they were booked solid for the holiday weekend. We had a great one on one experience at Bennett Lane and enjoyed most of their wines which was determined by what we toted to our car. We then headed to lunch at (Farmstead), and enjoyed the nice weather and lunch on the patio, although the hostess was a bit snooty as we showed up 15 minutes late. We had the trout and brick cooked chicken, along with shishito peppers from their garden. You can see the menu here.
Rombauer Vineyards has a beautiful view as noted in the picture with the roses in the foreground and their Zinfindel and Chardonnay are among my favorite wines. An interesting tidbit that I did not know, Co-Founder Koerner Rombauer’s great aunt Irma authored the cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and his ancestors originated from a famous wine-growing region in Germany.
Opendoor published and article back in 2019, I was able to “edit” to be more current about mistakes to avoid when selling your home. Here is my version:
Half the battle of selling a home is anticipating problems before they come up. Selling a home is a major life milestone, and it can be complex when you consider all of the steps involved: preparing and listing; making repairs; finding a buyer; navigating the closing process; and finally moving into your next place.
Here are some of the most common mistakes that occur when selling a home; be informed so you avoid making them.
1. Underestimating the costs of selling
The total cost to sell a home can amount to much more than the 5-6% in agent commissions most people expect to pay. When you account for closing costs, repairs, and other concessions to the buyer, the costs of preparing your home for selling, can be closer to 10% of the sale price. For example, you’ll have to do some staging, cleaning, and painting.
If you move into your new home before selling your old one, you may have to rent a temporary place or pay for both mortgages as well as other carrying costs, such as utilities, HOA dues, taxes, and storage. Learn more about trading-in your home to avoid these costs.
A real estate agent can guide you through this and make recommendations for service providers. Many brokerages now offer concierge programs that pay for these costs upfront and get paid at closing.
2. Setting an unrealistic price
The price you want and what the market will pay can be two very different things. You might hear the terms Fair Market Value, or transparent pricing, which refer to how a home is valued.
Your agent will provide you comparisons and data based on homes with similar sizes and features that have sold near you. These comparable sales, also referred to as “comps”, are what many real estate agents use to suggest a listing price and what appraisers use to appraise a home. Please note, buyers ultimately decide what they are willing to pay for a home and what it will sell for and if they will remove the appraisal contingency or not.
3. Only considering the highest offer
The highest offer, while exciting, isn’t always the best offer given your needs. It’s common in many traditional sales to have contingencies. These are conditions that must be satisfied for the sale to close. You may have contingencies that protect the buyer’s interests like a financing contingency or an inspection contingency.
Depending on the market, buyers lately have been removing all their contingencies in very competitive markets because they can impact the timeline and sometimes the certainty of the sale.
You’d have to consider how the added timing and uncertainty compares to a slightly lower offer without that contingency. In another scenario, you may have a buyer who is willing to be more flexible on repairs versus another who is offering a higher price but may ask for repair credits.
4. Ignoring major repairs and making costly renovations
A long list of maintenance issues can turn buyers off and potentially decrease the value of your home. More importantly, buyers expect the condition of your home to match the description. Consider prioritizing the most glaring issues, particularly those that are likely to turn up during a home inspection.
Many sellers also consider making renovations or improvements to increase their home’s value. Be sure to carefully consider any renovations as your goal is to get the most bang for your dollars spent, ultimately selling for more than if you had not done the improvements.
5. Not preparing your home for sale
One of the challenges of listing your home on the market is showing your home to prospective buyers. Generally speaking, the cleaner, less cluttered, and more well-decorated your home is, the more appeal it can have. Moving.com suggests that clutter can make your home appear smaller and make it more difficult for buyers to picture themselves living in your home. In fact, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than those that aren’t staged, according to Realtor.com.
Don’t forget about curb appeal. As Moving.com puts it, “Your home’s exterior is like the cover of a book, setting the stage for what’s inside.”
6. Choosing the wrong agent or the wrong way to sell
Make sure you select an agent who has your best interests at heart. According to Realtor.com, some agents charge a flat fee, while others charge a percentage of the sales price, usually 5-6 percent. Sellers can negotiate the commission.
To help ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, take the time to interview potential real estate agents. Check their licensing and credentials, read their reviews and understand their experience.
7. Showings, especially in a COVID environment
Once you’ve put your home on the market, prospective buyers will want to see it. In COVID times, appointments have to be set. There are no Open Houses and the buyers who are looking are serious about buying. Thus, a virtual tour is the first step in showing off your home.
8. Not considering your broader financial situation
Many sellers don’t have a clear picture of their financial situation before selling. This can lead to painful surprises. Before you make the decision to sell, it may be helpful to assess your income, debt, and any upcoming expenses during your move. An agent can also provide an estimated net sheet.
If you’re selling your current home in order to buy a new one, you’ll want to calculate how much you can afford. Getting in touch with a mortgage broger and getting underwritten will eliminate any surpluses and give you a clear picture on what you will be able to afford.
How cool is this idea? There’s a Public Art Scavenger Hunt in downtown Walnut Creek now, where you can start at Civic Park and finish at Lesher Center for the Arts. It’s an easy, fun course that is only about a mile in total, and allows you to see a lot of the great local art that I like to feature on this blog (check out my Art Town blogs for more)!
You can find all the art by reading clues, and all of it is outside. What a perfect activity to do to get outside, social distance, get some exercise, and learn a little bit about our town’s art scene. Starting this month, and going until February, you can also enter to win a monthly drawing when you finish the scavenger hunt – an iPad will be given to a winner in February!
If you do the scavenger hunt, make sure to call the numbers on the plaques to hear more about the artwork you’re looking at. Also, if you take pictures along the way, make sure to use hashtags on social media of #walnutcreekpublicart, #walnutcreektogether, and #walnutcreekcreatestogether.
I did this last weekend with my friend Rebecca, it was during our recent heat wave, but we stayed masked stopped at Starbucks for a cool drink and had a nice day catching up. I’ve seen and blogged about most of the local, public artwork at this point (see some of my favorites in the slideshow above), but it’s one of the great joys of living in Walnut Creek – getting to see art all over the place, and watching as certain areas transform because of those works!
We ended our scavenger hunt with pictures at the new “Walnut Creek Together” mural by artist Ally McKay is on Cypress Street which is a symbol of Walnut Creek emerging from the aftermath of the pandemic into a new and changed world. It makes for a fun photo opportunity and post to social media.
Let me know if you do the scavenger hunt or find the Walnut Creek Together mural. Get out there and enjoy all that beautiful Walnut Creek has to offer us!
I was recently in Danville for an appointment but first had to stop by the post office. And there, at the entrance into the parking lot, was a cute polka- dot heart by artist Lisa Hoffman #16. I saw two, without having to look, the second one #14 is by Suzanne Gale and you can tell where it is located. As you know, I regularly comment on the thriving arts program in downtown Walnut Creek and was interested to find Danville was hopping on the bandwagon.
This summer, the Town of Danville is inviting its residents and visitors to discover 17 uniquely adorned heart sculptures placed all around downtown (I just gave you the link to the map, but maybe you do a scavenger hunt trying to find all 17). The public art exhibition will be installed mid-June and run through October 16.
Each heart sculpture is unique, with each design created by a different Bay Area artist. Some of the hearts boast a Danville theme, with imagery ranging from oak trees to Mount Diablo. Others incorporate playful designs and motifs. With an array of styles and subject matters represented, from traditional to contemporary, this outdoor exhibition is not to be missed.
The exhibition will come to a close with an online auction. All proceeds from the online auction will go to a public art fund so that the Town can coordinate another public art project for all to experience in the future.
I recently took a day trip to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz with my son, Jackson, who was visiting from Reno. It was a beautiful day and we explored some excellent tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz – it was nice to get out and get some fresh air for a day after being cooped up for so many months.
I had never been there before so I was excited to explore a new area. I loved the natural bridge and tide pools. And in November, this is where the monarch butterflies come and nest. We packed a picnic with my homemade sourdough bread, and, of course, Jackson (who just turned 25) was enjoying his beer…I drove!
There was a side cove on the other side of the bridge that we had to walk through the tide to get to. High tide was coming in quickly so the beach was getting smaller and smaller, but it had some cool rock formations (pictured below). I would have preferred to hang out there, but Jackson was fine on the crowded beach.
At the end of the day, we chose to take a leisurely drive up Highway 1 back through San Francisco. We stopped and got some vegan soup and strawberry shortcake, at Swanton Berry Stand – there was even an honor till system. I just loved the drive as the fog started to roll in off the ocean. There were so many cars parked along the side of the road to explore the various beaches and a large number of kite surfers at Waddle Beach – a sight to be seen. As road trips are becoming the norm for vacations in this year, you might consider exploring our own backyard.