Best tours in San Francisco

Just because we live in the Bay Area and are “locals” of San Francisco doesn’t mean we can’t still play tourist when we hit The City! In fact, it’s one of the more fun things you can do when you cross the Bay Bridge. I love just wandering around and finding new nooks and crannies of the city I had never noticed before.

As with any major city, San Francisco has its fair share of awesome tours, and these are five I have researched that I think you should take a chance on next time you visit! From art, to history, to food, you’ll get the real, full, behind-the-scenes experience of San Francisco with any of these. If you go, let me know how it went!

Image result for clarion alley

1. Precita Eyes Mural Tour

On the third Saturday of every month, founder and director or the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, Susan Cervantes, leads guided mural walks through the Mission. It’s $20, but it takes you through an array from over 200 alley murals in the hippest neighborhood in San Francisco. You can get more info here.

2. San Francisco Urban Hike

Now, I hate to do this, but I think you can self-lead a tour rather than spend $49 on having it guided. This “urban hike,” which has gained in popularity given San Francisco’s plethora of lush areas, is something you can certainly research and do yourself. If you’d rather go with a guide, check out this link!

3. San Francisco Love Tour

If nothing else, San Francisco is known for its role in the Summer of Love. Former hippies and music lovers should be excited to pony up $48 for this radical tour, which takes participants through iconic neighborhoods from the 60’s, and hit main attractions like Golden Gate Park. You’ll see the homes of Hendrix and Joplin, and do it all from an old-school VW van!

Image result for chinatown sf

4. Teas, Temples and Beatniks Tour

Okay, you can’t beat a tour that combines two of the coolest neighborhoods in a city full of cool neighborhoods: Chinatown and North Beach. You get to try local food, get your fortune read, taste the famous fortune cookies, and venture into North Beach to see the old hangouts of legends like Jack Kerouac. Check it out here.

5. City Guides

You’ve probably at least heard of this tour. City Guides is a full-blown non-profit with more than 200 volunteers leading 50 walking tours all around San Francisco. Local history buffs share their knowledge and whisk you around the beautiful city. And the best part for those who want to pinch pennies – City Guides is all donation-based, and technically admission is free!

What happens in a slowing market?

Consultant Kitty Cole has some interesting thoughts on the slowing market that got me thinking: what exactly happens in a slowing market? I’ve re-purposed parts of her blog below and added my own thoughts on the market at this pace, as well as interest rates in terms of what somebody can buy.

Image result for housing market

So, is this market change normal or is the slowing a correction? Here are a few thoughts from Kitty’s blog to help you figure it out:

The market has begun to change, albeit slowly. A small segment of the market has slowed down in several Bay Area counties, including San Francisco. The indicators of a slowing market are that the number of active listings rise, the “Days on Market” increases and price reductions occur. You may also see more contingent offers (but fewer with no contingencies at all).  My two cents: In Contra Costa County, we are in line with these indicators. The outer-lying areas such as Concord is where I am really seeing the price reductions and increased time on market. However, if the property is remodeled and priced right, there are still multiple offers, just not as many.

The buyer pool for your property has decreased in the last year because the interest rates have risen more than a full point. For every full percentage point they rise, the buyer’s purchasing power goes down by almost 10%. Buyers who could afford a home worth $1 million last year, can now afford $905,000. That alone will significantly impact the buyer pool.

As far as projections go, CAR and NAR both feel that there will be a slower 2019. They forecast a slow-down in the 2nd half of next year, but Kitty’s theory is that it will happen a bit sooner since some market segments are showing signs of correction. The economy is healthy and the unemployment rate is hovering consistently. The Fed has stated that there will likely be 2 interest rate hikes this year, which will price out some buyers. Given how long we’ve been in recovery mode in the real estate industry, it’s normal to expect a correction.
The economy: The economy is healthy (the GDP was 2.0% for the first 3 months and 4.2% for the 2nd quarter) and the unemployment rate is hovering around 4.2%. There have been 9 + years of recovery in the economy. There have been 5 and half years of recovery in the real estate market.
More of my two cents: Many analysts are predicting 2020 for a correction. Most are saying there will be a correction, the question is just “when?” We still have low inventory and our local economy is robust, so for me, the question is “will it pick back up in September and October after all the summer vacations are over and the kids are back in school?” Or, are these current changes going to continue? Nobody has a crystal ball, so we will see. Sellers who are on the fence will be considering “is this is about as high as the market is going to go for the near future?” If you believe that, then it is time to sell.

Event Round-Up: Aug. 18

Summer is winding down and the kids are headed back to school! But, that doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun. Make sure you end your summer in the right fashion by taking advantage of some of these fun, cheap, and local events coming up in the next few weeks!

Image result for outdoor movie

1. Best in Show Sunset Screening (Duboce Park, 8/23 @ 6 pm)

Food trucks, BYO dog, movies at sunset, in San Francisco? Is this a dream? What a great way to finish out summer with the family before sending the kiddos back to school. Maybe you’ll even run into me and my Weim Bodie out there! More info here.

2. Candytopia Pop-Up (767 Market St., 9/6 – tickets needed)

The latest “selfie-friendly pop-up,” as it’s so perfectly described here, is Candytopia! It sold out shows in Southern California and will start making its NorCal debut in early September. Make sure you get tickets as soon as possible – I went to the last one (29 Rooms) and it was unforgettable!

Image result for candytopia
TripAdvisor.com

3. Family Art Day (Shadelands Art Center, 9/8 @ 10 am)

The Shadelands Art Center is hosting a 4-hour set of art-making, dancing, music, and more for FREE. It’s open to the public and they encourage entire families to come. The theme is “Art is Magic!” so you know it will be interesting. They will have drinks available for purchase on-site.

4. Off The Grid Twilight Campfire Party (Main Post Lawn, 9/20 @ 5 pm) 

Look, if you haven’t been to an Off The Grid event yet, you’re missing out. San Francisco is the King of Off the Grid get-together’s, and this one will be no different. Join masses of people, food trucks, drink vendors, and live music for a little campfire party in the Presidio at twilight!

Image result for alcatraz

5. National Public Lands Day! (National Parks, 9/22)

Do you always want to go to the local National Parks, but don’t want to pay exorbitant entrance fees? Then Sept. 22nd is the day for you. Explore hikes, lakes, and more at any of the nearby National Parks for FREE! National Public Lands Day is one of the few days of the year in which it’s free to visit any of the parks. Here are the ones in California.

Bay Area rent prices are out of control

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the top three most expensive places for renters in the entire nation are in the Bay Area. We knew it was bad, but this is a whole new level of shocking. In that article, the author writes that with San Jose’s $13.50/hour minimum wage, a person would have to have more than 3 1/2 minimum wage jobs just to afford average rent. Crazy!

Image result for san francisco real estate

To nobody’s surprise, the San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland areas were top three in the nation, but the East Bay isn’t much better off. You’d have to earn $93,000 per year to afford average rent in the East Bay. Given the costs of pretty much everything around here rising, it’s no surprise.

In the real estate market – whether buying, selling, or renting – you have to expect to pay a premium in the Bay Area these days. That’s where people like me come in handy! We can give you expert advice and help steer you in the right direction. Remember, the most expensive direction isn’t always the correct one.

Here are a few more interesting tidbits from the article:

  • 2-bedroom apartments in the South Bay will require you to make about a $50/hour
  • In San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, it’s closer to $60/hour
  • This is a national issue: there is no state, metro area, or county in the U.S. where workers earning minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom rental home by working 40 hours per week
  • Five years ago, about 3,000 people came to the Community Services Agency for food – it’s now over 7,000.

New and improved Stem salon does great work!

Stem salon – which used to be on Locust up until about a month ago – has moved to the new Lyric building across from MoMo’s. They’re newly located, renovated, and decorated and it really gives the business an upscale, modern vibe. Elizabeth Vawter (not present the day I took pictures) has done a fantastic job of building this business. I go here for my hair often and I think they do a great job!

They used to be in an old location by Peet’s. They weren’t happy with some of the tenant improvements or lack thereof, so they signed a lease with Lyric and are better than ever! I love the modern look with an amazing flowery wallpaper you can look at on the ceiling while getting your hair washed. I primarily go to Jessie for my hair color because I am there every three weeks or so. Her mother, Olivia, usually cuts my hair, but Mary Alice and Lauren are also fantastic. There is a large crew and varying price points depending on experience.

They will also offer you a glass of rosé, or a cup of coffee or tea while you get pampered. I think Elizabeth has hit her stride with a new home and continues to do it right. Stem Salon is my go-to hair salon!

Art Town: Uno Dos Tres

Here’s a fun “did you know!” You’ve seen that mural of three targets on the back of Target on the corner of Ygnacio Valley Blvd. and N. California Blvd., right? You can see it when you’re walking back towards downtown from the Walnut Creek BART station. Anyway, did you know…those aren’t actual targets?

That’s right, this mural, designed by Seattle-based Ann Gardner in 1991, was already created before she knew it was going on a Target. How ironic! She got the glass for the mosaic from Venice, and then supervised the construction of the project. She installed the artwork in Walnut Creek with mosaic fabricator Steve Miotto, who is known for his work in the New York subway system.

Gardner often uses circular motifs in her art, likes using mosaic because of the durability of glass. It’s her way of, as she says, “honoring an artistic tradition that dates back to the Byzantine era in Constantinople.” She also mentioned she likes to not overwhelm the available space, but to make it pop and give the viewer a good experience.

Now you know, next time you’re wandering around downtown in that general area, to take a closer look at the mosaic mural on the back of Target. It’s not an advertisement for the store – it’s just a funny coincidence and a really beautiful piece of art!

Why bank statements are so important!

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has shared another important blog recently: why bank statements are so important for borrowing and financing for a home. You’ll want to read on to see what Jay says, especially if you’re in the market for a new home. You’ll find a copy of the (slightly re-formatted) blog copied below:

Related image

STRONG BORROWER DENIED FINANCING – WHY?

We once had a borrower who qualified for financing in every way (income, assets, credit, etc.) but she was denied financing. The reason?  She had five unexplainable overdraft charges on her bank statements that indicated she could not manage cash.

Every borrower has to provide bank statements for every account used for “cash to close” (down payment and closing costs). There are no exceptions because lenders have to ensure that down payment funds were not recently borrowed or obtained through illicit means.

“Borrowed” down payment funds are not considered “seasoned” and they create debt ratio issues b/c they need to be paid back. In any case, lenders are required to go through every bank statement with a fine-toothed comb to look for every irregularity. Irregularities include overdraft charges, unusually large deposits, and unexplained regular monthly deposits or withdrawals, among other things.

Unusually large deposits have to be paper-trailed and explained or they are assumed to be borrowed funds (and they can’t be used for a down payment/closing costs funds). And unexplained regular monthly deposits and withdrawals often indicate the existence of undisclosed side businesses, support payments or other liabilities.

Image result for home loan

In any case, borrowers often get frustrated when we ask them to explain so many things that are buried in their bank statements. But, we have to ask because bank statements tell lenders so much more than meets the eye.

This is, in fact, often one of the most time-consuming aspects of the loan approval process.

**

On a related note, Jay discusses something at the footnote of this blog: rates have climbed recently after a stretch of stability. President Trump’s comments about the Fed raising rates too quickly were the primary cause, but, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Fed may now be more likely to raise rates than it was prior to the President’s comments. This is because it will want to prove its independence from political pressure. How ironic!

8 best food festivals in the Bay Area this summer

Is there anything better than a social gathering for the purpose of eating or drinking? A backyard barbecue with neighbors, a wine-tasting and walking event, food truck frenzies with friends…the list goes on, but the level of awesome remains the same.

Image result for food trucks

TimeOut.com has compiled a great list of eight unique Bay Area food festivals, and if you’re someone who enjoys these outings, you must give it a read. I’ve reformatted the list below. Let me know if you end up checking out any of these local foodie fests!

1. Lamb Jam (San Francisco)

Sip and snack on delish lamb-based dishes at this epic gastronomic event and competition that brings together 16 of SF’s most talented chefs to b-a-a-a-a-a-ttle for the title of Lamb Jam San Francisco Champion.

 July 22 3–6pm at Golden Gate Club; $56–$125

2. Garlic Festival (Gilroy)

Garlic lovers from around the world flock to this small town for food, drinks, crafts, live music and cooking competitions. Be sure to try the garlic ice cream (and don’t forget to bring your toothbrush).

July 27–29 10am–7pm at Christmas Hill Park; free–$20.

3. Zucchini Festival (Hayward)

At this healthy food party, discover the versatile uses of the hearty vegetable, from cakes and cookies to snacks and main dishes. Don’t miss the massive zucchinis competing in the growing contest!

Aug 18, 19 10am–8pm at Kennedy Park; $5–$10.

4. Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival (San Francisco)

Ghirardelli pairs its world-famous cacao beans with wine, ice cream and tons of other tasty desserts at this sugary soiree. Indulge guilt-free, knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to local nonprofit Project Open Hand.

Sept 8, 9 noon–5pm at Ghirardelli Square; $26–$55.

5. Cheese Fest (San Francisco)

Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Farmstead, Cypress Grove and other local makers will provide fromage nibbles at this dairy fest. Of course, cheese gets by with a little help from its friends wine and charcuterie, so expect vendors hawking those tasty delights, as well. Pop a Lactaid and get to work.

Sept 15 at Social Hall SF; $TBA.

6. Bloody Mary Festival (San Francisco)

SF’s most beloved brunch cocktail gets its own fest this season: Attendees will sample local bars’ tricked-out versions of the tomato-juice-and-vodka cocktail, then vote for the People’s Choice Award winner. Also, a panel of industry judges will pick its favorite version.

Sept 29 10:30am–6pm at SOMArts Cultural Center; $45–$55.

7. Eat Drink SF (San Francisco)

This four-day gourmet fest delights taste buds with bites from more than 30 Bay Area restaurants, plus cocktail classes, taco parties, and meet and greets with local celebrity chefs.

Aug 24 7:15–10pm; Aug 25 12:45–3:30pm, 7-:45–10:30pm; Aug 26 12:45–3:30pm at Fort Mason Center. $109–$229.

8. Eat Real Fest (Oakland)

Eat Real combines a state fair, a street-food festival, and a block party to create a celebration of good food in Oakland. Celebrate ten years of local food vendors, food entrepreneurs, artisan products, and demonstrations from the Bay Area’s top chefs and culinary experts.

Sept 14 3–10pm, Sept 15 11am–10pm, Sept 16 11am–7pm at Jack London Square; free. 

7 repair requests to re-consider

Missy Yost of Inman News wrote an interesting article a while back about buyers being educated regarding which home repairs are actually necessary before finalizing a deal. I’ve re-formatted the original article below, with some of my insight added:

Most buyers and sellers understand that buying and selling a home requires negotiation. You give a little here, and they concede a bit there. But what do you do when you have a buyer who demands unnecessary repairs after a home inspection?

Educating buyers so that they better understand which repairs are necessary and which may annoy the seller enough for the deal to shatter is part of the job of a real estate agent. Here is a list of seven repair requests that buyers should think twice about before making.

1. Easily repaired items under $10

Whole-house inspectors often come back with a list of items that cost under $10 to repair or replace. Save yourself the hassle, and omit these things from the list of requested repairs. If repairs are not related to a safety issue or the breakdown of an expensive system, it’s better to refrain from listing them, if you are asking for a credit, than take them into account by rounding up.

2. Replacement of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Sometimes buyers are adamant they want missing smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors replaced. Although these are safety items, unless local codes say differently, it is better if the buyer installs the smoke and carbon monoxide indicators after closing. That way, they can make an informed decision on the type of alarms they feel most comfortable using in their new home. Fortunately, in our area, they are required by law to be installed and should be done prior to an appraiser coming out as they have to take pictures of them. If they are not there, the lender will not fund the loan until they have been installed and the appraiser has a picture to confirm.

3. Cosmetic issues in a resale home

Unless the home is brand-new construction, advising your clients against noting uneven paint or stained baseboards on a repair request is a good idea. Normal wear and tear should be expected in any resale home and should be a factor in the original price negotiations.  Homes are usually priced for condition and similar homes that have recently sold. Most buyers want a home that is move-in ready, thus why remodeled homes tend to sell at a premium.

4. Repairs related to minor plumbing and electrical issues

Often, a whole-home inspector will list in the report issues with simple electrical and plumbing items such as an upside down outlet, or corrosion on a fitting. Unless the problems cited are a safety concern, a buyer should not list them as a requested repair. Simple issues such as an upside down outlet or a corroded water line to a sink are simple DIY repairs or matters easily handled by a handyman.  Outlets that are not GFI’s tend to be common issue in our area. An outlet by water should be GFI – that is a health and safety issue, but for the rest of the outlets – especially if the house is 40 years or older – will not have GFIs, and the cost is about $350.

5. Repair of hairline cracks in the basement or driveway

Concrete expands and contracts naturally, and over time, cracks will occur. As long as the cracks are minor, don’t list them in a request for repairs. However, if the breaks are over a quarter inch, it’s an excellent idea to have a structural inspection. Structural cracks are a whole new ballgame.

6. Outdoor landscaping, porch and fence repairs

These items were visible at the initial showing and will be a factor in the initial offer and negotiations. It’s not a good idea to ask for things that were obvious at the beginning such as sod replacement, fence restoration, loose railings or loose hinges. The exception is if the repair is necessary as part of the loan process such as in an FHA, VA or USDA loan.

7. Replacement of failed seals in windows

Unless the window is under warranty, most sellers will refuse to fix a failed seal. Window seals fail over time with use, and depending on the age of the window seal, failure can be expected. It’s another simple fix, and sometimes you need to choose your battles.

For all items on this list that your buyer would like to have fixed and are not safety or related to the failure of an expensive system can be included in a request for credit at closing. Sellers are more likely to agree to a $300 credit for the buyer to replace 30 $10 items than they will to repair or replace the 30 issues themselves.