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
Take cash out, often for a large expense like home remodeling
Consolidate balances from other accounts
Refinance to get a better rate or term
Concurrent with a mortgage origination, often used for down payment
(*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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
I spotted this utility box art earlier in the year, and loved the little elephant artwork! It sits in front of KOJA on Locust and Olympic. The name of the artwork on it is “That Moment” and it was done by Netsanet Tesfay. I love the colors and the child-like drawing style.
If you look closely enough, you can see that the actual body of the elephant (as well as the other little designs along the bottom, like the butterfly) are made with intricate patterns that give off the single-color impression when you look at it as a whole. Another very cool piece in downtown Walnut Creek!
The beauty of San Francisco is well-known around the world. We are extremely lucky to live close to one of the world’s best cities, but one thing most people don’t know is that there is excellent hiking within San Francisco! I found a great blog about the best hikes and views in the city, and want to share with you.
You all know about views from The Golden Gate Bridge, The Cliff House, and Coit Tower. But there are some hidden gems on lesser known hills and from some major hotels in the city. Depending on your level of energy, you might be interested in the hikes up the hills below, or just to take the elevator up to the tops of those hotels for a drink and a view.
Here, I’ve compiled three of the best views; one from a hill, one from a hotel, and one from a museum. For the full list, see the link above!
Billy Goat Hill
This one is really popular for its epic views and the fun swing that takes you over the edge of the world! The hike is about half a mile long, so people of all abilities can climb up there. There are magnificent views overlooking Noe Valley, the downtown skyline, and the glimmering bay!
Hamon Observatory Tower
Have you ever wanted a free way to visit the de Young Museum? This is your ticket! The Hamon Observatory Tower at the top of the de Young is always free, and takes you to the 9th floor with stunning views in literally every direction of the Bay Area.
The View Lounge
On the 39th floor of the Marriott Marquis downtown, you can climb, or take the elevator, up to The View Lounge. Get there early to secure a table by the massive window and take in a San Francisco sunset. Bonus: this one has delicious, strong (and overpriced) cocktails!
Recently, I held my annual pumpkin pie party supporting the Trinity Center and it was another success! This is my third year combining the coat drive with a pie give away which brings full circle gratitude and appreciation for my clients, referrals, neighbors and friends. This year we had 34 pie orders, in addition, I had many people who just dropped off items for Trinity. As you can see, I had an SUV full of coats, gloves, hats, etc. and $300 in checks!
This was by far my most successful and giving pie party to date! You can see pictures of the pies and donations above, as well as some fun shots from the party itself below. This year Indy, aka Daryl Choy donated his time for chair massages and for our drawing and JVM donated a couple of Hydro Flasks, the winners were picked at the end of the night with a few stragglers, picking the winning prize winners!
This is my favorite charity event of the year, as it combines food, drink, friends, and mingling! I can’t thank everyone who joined, donated, ordered pie, etc. enough. It really shows that this community is in the giving spirit this holiday season, and it means a lot to me to know that Trinity can be supported and celebrated by the people around me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I’ve touched on South Lake Tahoe (and Tahoe/Reno in general) a few times in this feature, but I had a whole new experience last time I visited Tahoe and I wanted to share with you all! I went for a summer hike in South Lake that was about 3.5 miles one way and had some of the most beautiful views ever! I was with another friend and heading back home and they were staying, so we had two cars. We parked one at DL Bliss and one at Emerald Bay. Then we proceeded to walk down to Vikingsholm and follow the trail back to DL Bliss.
Vikingsholm was closed for the season, so unfortunately I have still never been inside. It was one of the first summer homes at Lake Tahoe. Ben Holiday, stagecoach magnate and early-day transportation king, constructed a home there in the late 1860s. His land was eventually sold to Paul Kirby in 1880. The Kirbys built a number of cabins, intended for resort use. The William Henry Armstrong family acquired the property in 1892 and they used the cabins as their summer residence for over 32 years. In 1928, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight bought the Armstrong’s land with the desire to build a summer home that would complement the magnificent natural surroundings.
Emerald Bay reminded her of fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the home. Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929. In 1945, the estate was sold to Lawrence Holland, a rancher from Nevada. He subsequently sold it to Harvey West, a lumberman from Placerville, California. In the early 1950s, Mr. West, a noted philanthropist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land and the Vikingsholm outright, if the State would pay him the other half of the land value. These terms were agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the state. This landmark home is now a park and can be enjoyed by all and not developed.
This trail is part of the famed Tahoe Rim Trail, which is exactly as epic as it sounds. We came across a small waterfall still flowing in October and the views were truly spectacular. It is an easy hike, even if you do it round trip, as long as you have good weather, it could be a fun date idea or family adventure. When we were parking one car at DL Bliss, two guys were running down the hill at a good pace. As we started on the trail at Emerald Bay, here came the same two runners, making great time, but they still had a big hill to climb up.
This hike is mesmerizing! It is called the Rubicon Trail, primarily running along the water’s edge and afforded breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, the pictures say more than a thousand words. On my way home I stopped at Camp Davidson for some food. They are known for their rum runners and summer parties on the beach with live bands – but that will have to be another blog. Next time you head up to Tahoe, definitely give this hike a try; in summer months the parking is tough. October is the perfect month: not too crowded and before the snow hits and 89 closes.
As anyone who has lived in Walnut Creek for more than 30 seconds knows apartments are popping up all over town to keep up with the demand of our popular little town. The newest ones being finished right now are primarily on Riviera, walking distance to the Walnut Creek Bart station. The main picture is a very large complex on Ygnacio and Trinity called Vaya. These are all meant to be walking distance to Walnut Creek BART (and they definitely are!), they feel a little more spread out and each their unique style than their counterparts in Pleasant Hill. Below is low-income apartments that back up to the freeway.
The Pleasant Hill station jammed a lot of units on their parking lot without much regard to design and aesthetics. I think Walnut Creek is trying to do it differently, there is still a lot of construction, so we will have to wait and see on the final product. Live Riv, pictured below, is on Riviera, which are condos for sale ranging from $495k for a junior 1 bedroom to $695k for a 2 bedroom. Riv’s refined, contemporary exterior welcomes you into design-savvy living spaces that feature keyless entry, nine-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and oversized windows. European-style open kitchens showcase sleek cabinetry, under-cabinet lighting, quartz counters, tiled backsplashes, and stainless steel appliances.
Below is another on Riviera that is also affordable housing with a 4,000 person waitlist that requires you to meet a certain income threshold and then the tenants will be picked lottery style. That is what happens when you have a studio apartment for $900 rent in Walnut Creek!
The overall idea is to provide living opportunities close to Bart so people don’t have to drive to commute to the city. Walnut Creeks is also building another multi-level garage, but more people are moving to our once quaint town and trying to find solutions to traffic will be an ongoing challenge over the next 20 years.
It’s that magical time of the year when the temperature in California dips down into the frigid 50’s, an occasional rainstorm passes through, and…an ice rink forms in Civic Park? That’s right, downtown Walnut Creek hosts an ultra-cool ice rink through Walnut Creek On Ice.
The rink, which opened on Nov. 9, and will remain in place until late January, has become a local favorite during the winter, to give us Californians a little taste of a white winter, but saving us the 3-hour trip to Tahoe! You can take a date to the rink for a couple skate, or maybe teach the kids how to skate at the open rink.
There are even an ice skating academy and private lessons for those who are getting serious about being a future San Jose Shark or the next great Winter Olympian. This is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones this winter. How nice does a short stroll to La Scala after a couple hours on the ice sound?
If you’d rather skate in a colder locale, foggy San Francisco and icy Lake Tahoe both offer some awesome rinks, too! At the Embarcadero, you can skate with beautiful Bay and Bay Bridge views and then saunter over to the Ferry Building for hot chocolate. In Union Square, you can circle the rink between the buildings and even take in a “Drag Queens on Ice” show. And in Tahoe, of course, Northstar’s village ice skating rink is not to be missed. It’s 9,000 square feet of joy, surrounded by bars, cabanas, and fire pits – and if you’re up at Northstar anyway…it’s free!
Walnut Creek is the hub of the East Bay for a reason, and hosting cool events like an ice skating rink is one of them. The rink itself is in its 14th year of operation downtown, meaning Walnut Creek On Ice has brought snowy joy to our citizens since 2004 – this is bound to be the best year yet. Let me know if you check it out, and how you liked it!