Did someone say free WiFi?

I’m keeping it light over here on Walnut Creek Lifestyle for the holidays. Lots of “Happy this” and “Merry that,” and peace and good tidings to all. But, I couldn’t let this one thing I learned slide – consider it a late Christmas gift, or a wonderful way to kick off 2019!

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Downtown Walnut Creek has officially installed WiFi services in the heart of the city. It’s called “ConnectWC” and it covers the section of downtown bordered by Civic Drive and Mt. Diablo Blvd., to N. Main and Locust St. This will fill in all the gaps of downtown that don’t currently have WiFi service.

If you’re trying to connect to WiFi downtown, select “#WalnutCreek” on your phone or other device, and surf away! Your eyes will light up when you see those bars connect!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, and Peace on Earth to all! Here’s to a wonderful holiday season, and rooting for a healthy climate (that brings us some more snow in Tahoe!).

New mural at the Lesher Center

Did you know that any 25,000-plus square foot buildings in Walnut Creek are now required to spend at least 1% of their funding on a public art project on their property? There is a new initiative in Walnut Creek to make more publicly visible walls and surfaces into works of art. And the new mural at the Lesher Center certainly express this well!

Artist Kristin Farr did a wonderful job hand-painting this beautiful mural with no guidelines whatsoever! She is inspired by the meshing of colors and folk art, and that is definitely reflected in her work. This specific mural is entitled “West Coast Prism Sign,” and is done with acrylic paint on Dibond panels. I love that this contemporary geometric painting now occupies a formerly bland piece of concrete in a highly-trafficked area of downtown Walnut Creek.

If this mural looks somewhat familiar to you, it may be because Kristin has painted a couple utility boxes in Walnut Creek, too! As the public art projects move from minor to major canvasses, keep an eye out for other familiar paintings going up. I’ve featured her utility boxes on this blog before, in fact.  They  are located across the street from this mural, and are two of the more colorful utility boxes we’ve seen painted downtown!

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Kristin Farr has painted her awesome works all across the country (and even the world – she has a piece in the Philippines!), and has been hired by Pinterest and Facebook headquarters to paint on their walls (no pun intended). You’ll see her work all around the Bay Area, or if you head to Bonnaroo or Outside Lands music festivals.

I applaud Walnut Creek City Council and their quest to make Walnut Creek and more interesting town by supporting and displaying art throughout the city!  I will end this blog with a few quotes about art!

Art, Freedom & Creativity will change society faster than politics ~ Victor Pinchuk

Art is the highest form of hope  ~ unknown

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”  ~ Pablo Picasso

Homeowners: Cash in on all-time high equity

I came across a CNBC story recently about homeowners and the $14.4 trillion in equity they’re about to be able to dig into. New research, according to the article, suggests that home equity is about $1 trillion higher than its peak in 2005 before the Great Recession.

With interest rates rising on consumer debt, the article states, home equity loans or lines of credit could be an appealing option for consumers looking to borrow money at a lower cost. Homeowners no longer need to refinance just to take out equity. This is the aspect of the story I really want to focus on. First, a graph from the story:

Why consumers tap their home equity

Use
Description
Percent using*
Major expense Take cash out, often for a large expense like home remodeling 91 percent
Debt consolidation Consolidate balances from other accounts 41 percent
Refinance Refinance to get a better rate or term 23 percent
Piggyback Concurrent with a mortgage origination, often used for down payment 4 percent
Undrawn Not used immediately (i.e., a rainy day fund) 2 percent
[Source: TransUnion, CNBC story]
(*Based on 2.4 million home equity loans originated between July 2016 and June 2017)
During the meltdown, people were using their homes like they were ATMs; as interest rates dropped they kept refinancing and taking out money to buy a boat, a big trip, etc., but when equity dropped, or they lost their job, they were in trouble. Use a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) wisely. If it helps you get into a home or remodel a home to add value, it will be a smart decision. And always remember as rates go up, so does the interest on a line of credit.

Event Round-Up: Dec. 15th

I’m going to keep it super local for the December events this holiday season. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are for? Spending time at home with family and reveling in each other’s company? Well, that and lots and lots of food and cocktails. I’ve got you covered on all fronts here!

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Pic: Golf Advisor

Holiday Gala & Fundraiser: Boundary Oak Golf Course – Dec. 20th (Walnut Creek)

Take in a great night for an even greater cause at a premiere venue in Walnut Creek! For $50, entry gets each person a surf and tur dinner, a wine and beer sampling, access to live music, and entry into a live auction and gift boutique. If you bring a new book for ages 0-11, you receive a free raffle ticket! Proceeds go to the Bay Area Crisis Nursery. Register here!

80’s Prom New Year’s Eve Bash: Retro Junkie – Dec. 31st (Walnut Creek)

Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! On New Year’s Eve, you can enjoy live 80’s music all night. There will be a themed photo booth, a midnight countdown and balloon drop, a complimentary champagne toast, and a huge game room with pinball, arcade games, pool, and more! Pizza by the slice and a full bar top things off – but, hurry! Tickets must be bought in advance!

Widmer-World Holiday Fun: Widmer-World – Dec. 1st-31st (Pleasanton)

Everybody loves a good Christmas lights show! If you want a more family-friendly night in the month of December, pop on down to Pleasanton and take in the Widmer-World holiday extravaganza. Their light show is timed to music and the entire place will be covered in holiday cheer! It’s completely free!

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Free Admission Day: Bedford Gallery – Jan. 1st (Walnut Creek)

What better way to knock off the New Year’s rust than taking in one of Walnut Creek’s greatest artistic gems for FREE? It’s in the Bedford Gallery on New Year’s Day, which always has really cool, unique installations. I’d highly recommend going if you haven’t already! Take it in from 12-5 p.m. on the 1st.

Altered States Opening Night: Bedford Gallery – Jan. 13th (Walnut Creek)

That’s right! Back-to-back Bedford Gallery exhibitions here. It’s always fun to go to the opening night of a new exhibit, and this one will only run non-members $5. The guest curation from Heather Marx features “artists across generations living and working along the California coast who harness natural elements or the environment to create their artwork.” This sounds pretty neat!

A mini-nature walk in downtown Walnut Creek!

We all know how beautiful our little town of Walnut Creek is. It’s surrounded by the Shell Ridge Open Space, has a gorgeous view of Mt. Diablo from pretty much anywhere, and is generally just a very clean, aesthetically-pleasing town to live in. But, did you know there’s a legitimate nature walk downtown?

Ok, it’s not a hike or anything, but the creek that gives us our namesake does wind through some lovely areas. One of which is right through Civic Park after you cross the Ygnacio Valley bridge on the Iron Horse Trail headed south. Every October there is a city wide sponsored volunteer event and clean up the creek is always part of it!

If you hook a right after that Ygnacio Valley bridge (and subsequent canal bridge), you are immersed in a makeshift “Creek Walk.” Follow the creek on the right and take in the signs that describe the wildlife of Walnut Creek. This is the path that rounds the large grassy area, so bring your kids or fur babies, too!

There are benches, places to stop and eat, and a continuation into Civic Park if you so wish. Of course, you can extend this trail a lot; for example, I parked at the Broadway Plaza garage and walked across the street to meet a friend at Pacific Bay Cafe and that is when I noticed these Creek Walk Signs, once I googled it, I found it extends down to Maria Maria! Next time you’re wandering downtown, take this quick detour and enjoy another small aspect of what makes Walnut Creek so great!

5 reasons why this winter is the best time to buy

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together an interesting blog post recently, and I want to share that with you below. Essentially, he finds five reasons why this current winter season is the best time to take advantage of the real estate market and buy a house! Enjoy:

Most of our agent-readers well know why winter can be a great time to buy from a real estate perspective. I am nonetheless repeating a few of the obvious reasons while also illuminating a few less-obvious mortgage-related reasons.

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1. Rates Hit Six Week Low! While rates have been climbing for most of the year, they hit a six week low last week in response to the oil glut and signs of a softer economy. Given that the Fed will likely continue to push rates up next year, this brief rate-reduction gives buyers a short-term opportunity to lock in a relatively low rate.

2. Lender Incentives. 
Many lenders are offering extra incentives to borrowers right now simply to maximize loan volume during a slower time of the year. This includes JVM of course, as we are offering a $500 closing cost credit to any buyer who gets into contract from now until January 31st. This does not apply to borrowers who are already in contract and locked.

3. Motivated Sellers. If someone is willing to go to the trouble to sell their home during the holidays/winter, they are usually more motivated to sell and willing to negotiate.

4. Fewer Buyers/Less Competition. There are fewer buyers and a lot less competition for homes. Many buyers pull out of the market in the winter b/c they don’t want to take the time to house-hunt during the holiday season or they don’t want to buy in the middle of the school year (if they have kids).

5. Seeing Properties at Their Worst. 
My neighbor has drop-dead gorgeous crape myrtle and Japanese maple trees all over his yard. In the spring and summer, his yard is an oasis of color. In the winter, however, his yard looks like a war zone. Buyers get to see homes at their worst in the winter, avoiding unpleasant surprises and knowing that their dream home will only look that much better, come spring.

The internet conveniently has numerous articles backing up my points above, in case any readers don’t want to take my word for it. Here are two: The Best Time of the Year to Buy Property from Financial Samurai; and Mortgage Rates Pull Back from Freddie Mac’s website.