Happy Chinese New Year!

If you’ve visited Chinatown in San Francisco, you know what an amazing place it can be to experience Chinese culture, food, and more. They really do it up for Chinese New Year, complete with an amazing parade. The festivities begin on Feb. 1st this year, with the parade taking place on Feb. 19th.

It is the Year of the Tiger, which is known to be king of all beasts in China. People born in a year of the Tiger are predicted to be brave, strong, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. They are also expected to display great levels of willpower.

Previous years of the Tiger include 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010. If you or someone you know was born in one of those years, take a look at that list of attributes and see if it fits!

If you can’t attend the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown, you can always refer to this awesome list from 7×7 for other holiday-related inspiration, including some great eats and other adventures!

Let me know if you have ever gone to the parade and what your experience was. I was born in 1962, so I am a Tiger and a Capricorn – both have similar traits. I currently have a client who is Chinese and just got into contract, and she said she would make me some Chinese food for the New Year. I am very excited to taste her cooking; she has spoken about cooking on most of our house-hunting trips!

(The reason why Chinese cooking came up: most townhomes and condos don’t have a vent from the stovetop venting to the exterior. It is usually a microwave with a fan that blows out into the kitchen. If you pull the cabinet doors open above the microwave, more times than not there is no venting. Don’t worry, they did end up finding a townhome with a vent and it was new construction!)

Tips For Listing Photographs

Several years ago, a Better Homes and Gardens blog was written about taking good photos of your home. It re-surfaced with a PDF from real estate photographer Alex Chuzhoy (see below). I wanted to share some of the best tips from both sources below!

Inside the Home:

  1. De-clutter as much as possible
  2. Depersonalize the house to a certain degree
  3. Remove any seasonal or holiday decorations
  4. Dust and vaccuum
  5. Make all the beds and fluff the pillows
  6. Clean the kitchen sink and put away all the dishes
  7. Clear all kitchen counter tops of items
  8. Clear all bathroom counter tops
  9. Remove all shampoos, conditioners, etc. from the shower
  10. Put out the guest towels and hide all the others
  11. Hide all trash cans
  12. Remove all magnets and decorations from the fridge
  13. If there are pets, hide all food and water bowls, pet beds, and toys
  14. Put all toilet seats and lids down
  15. Replace all burned out light bulbs
  16. Consider decorating tables with your prettiest place settings
  17. Consider putting out a vase of fresh flowers

Outside the Home:

  1. Have the lawn trimmed, leaves raked, bushes and trees pruned
  2. Clean up after any animal
  3. Put away all garbage cans, hoses, garden tools, toys, bikes, etc.
  4. Hide any “cute” yard decorations
  5. In snowy climates, shovel snow from walkways, driveways, patios, and decks
  6. If there is a pool, hot tub, or spa, take any security gate down, uncover, and clean
  7. If there will be any twilight photos taken, replace any broken lighting on the home, around the landscape, and in the pool
  8. Open the umbrellas on any patio sets
  9. When in season, uncover grills
  10. Remove any seasonal or holiday decorations
  11. Consider adding splashes of bright colored flowers to the landscape and in pots

Right Before the Photographer Arrives:

  1. Turn of ALL interior lights (even in furniture cabinets)
  2. Turn off ALL ceiling fans
  3. Light fireplaces and candles
  4. Open all blinds, shades, and curtains
  5. Clear all cars and vehicles from the driveway and the street in front of your home
  6. Please secure any potentially aggressive animals in a safe location, away from all rooms being photographed

Finally, make sure to secure all valuables somewhere out of sight. There might be several people walking through the home! As for staging……. well that is another blog, but I highly recommend.

Los Panchos Opens In Danville

Los Panchos opened in Danville, with the same menu they use in Pacheco (but with more seating and cocktails). Los Panchos is a staple for my crispy taco addiction, so I wanted to check out this new location and compare and contrast for myself! Here’s a previous blog on the taco hotspot.

TripAdvisor

I tried the two-item dinner plate with a taco and enchilada, as well as a side of rice and beans. A pretty standard order, but happy to report that it was just as good as the food in Pacheco. The biggest difference from their location in Pacheco is Danville serves alcohol and has way more seating. Pacheco is really a to-go restaurant. However, the last time I was there, there was a sign saying they were moving over by DVC, but I don’t recall the new street or moving date and nothing has been updated on their website. Probably a smart move with all the DVC students. I wonder if that one will have more indoor seating and margaritas!

The convenient thing is that now that it’s in Danville, those of us living in Walnut Creek have two choices to go get some of the best Mexican food around. One last note: Maria Maria closed and El Charro, which closed in Lafayette last year, will be opening January 27th at the Maria Maria location of 1470 N Broadway. I have always loved that patio, we will have to see about the food.

Have you ever been to the Los Panchos in Danville? Any thoughts on how it compares to the original location? Share with me in the comments!

The Housing Inventory Crisis, Explained

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote a blog about the “Housing Inventory Crisis” recently, and I wanted to share a lightly edited version of it. Read on below:

Picture yourselves walking into your local Whole Foods and seeing 2/3 of the shelves entirely empty. That is exactly the state of the single-family residential real estate market today, according to Jason Hartman, a true expert when it comes to residential real estate.

aerial photography of rural

Mr. Hartman was recently on the Rebel Capitalist YouTube show making this point, while also discussing real estate in general and why he is still buying. There are currently only 380,000 homes for sale in the entire country, per Mr. Hartman, which is less than 1/3 of our normal inventory of 1.2 million homes.

This massive inventory shortage both drives up prices and makes it increasingly difficult to even find a home – as most of us in the real estate and mortgage industries know well. So, why is inventory so low?

Builders are not building. I have mentioned this many times in previous blogs, but builders are bringing some 500,000 fewer units to market each year than they were prior to the 2008 meltdown. Freddie Mac says that we are “underbuilt” by 3.8 million units right now – and there are many reasons for this.

Starter homes are not profitable. In Northern California, it costs a builder $170,000 on average to prep a single lot for buildings (for permits and regulatory compliance) which is considerably less than the $6,000 it takes in Tennessee. And, unfortunately, California is not alone. When you couple these costs along with all of the other environmental and safety regulations (low flow water; insulated windows; fire safety; etc.) and inflated material and labor costs, starter homes are nearly impossible to build at a profit.

Labor shortage. This is a more recent phenomenon that was fostered by COVID and government policy, but current labor shortages are significantly exacerbating supply problems.

Millennials getting old. The oldest millennial is now 41, amazingly. What this means is that the largest generation to surge through our economy ever is now hitting its highest earning potential and thus buying homes at the fastest pace ever (in contrast to 2008 when the homebuying demographic was at its lowest point). This is a major reason inventory is getting mopped up.

Investors galore. Mr. Hartman reminds us that “buy and hold” single-family real estate investing is a relatively recent phenomenon, as it largely did not exist prior to the 1950s. But now, both individual and institutional investors are buying and holding real estate at levels never before seen, as both groups chase inflation hedges as well as higher and safer investment yields.

man in black shirt sitting on chair near white wooden house during daytime

Buyers awash in cash. The video linked above also discusses the massive influx of cash into our economy, as there is currently $3.6 TRILLION sitting in checking accounts compared to only $1.2 TRILLION prior to the COVID crisis. When buyers have that much cash, they are more willing to bid aggressively and to just buy more homes in general.

This is what I found most encouraging when it comes to our mutual clients and their concerns about a bubble: Hartman, who knows more about residential real estate than any of us, is still buying like crazy; he has made 11 offers in the last two weeks alone.

Why? The millennial homebuying contingent will not peak until 2026, the inventory problem is not going away, and inflation! To repeat my inflation-hedge mantra: Housing is a hard asset and a natural inflation hedge; rents go up with inflation, making investment housing an even better hedge; and 3o-year mortgages are an “asset in an inflationary environment,” as I explain in this blog.

Kristin’s take: Coulda, woulda, shoulda. So many people sat back because, over a year ago, prices were too high. Now, they’re even higher. I also know many buyers that have been priced out of the Bay Area and have moved out of the area altogether. We also have an added issue: there is very little land to build on. It is usually tear-downs or flips, or you have to go farther out for new construction. As Jay notes above, a mortgage can be a fixed cost, something you know you’ll pay every month. When I bought my first house, I felt we were treading water to my upper lip. Within months, it all normalized. Sure. I could not go on the big vacation that year, but now, 21 years later, it was the best investment I have made. I can’t imagine where I would be if I had followed my divorce attorney’s advice not to buy out my ex-husband 12 years ago.

Time To Take A Moment

Time to take a moment and experience something new! Take a trip, go somewhere new, or just see the old in a new light. The Sierras got dumped with snow the week of December 13th and continues to get pounded with new storms.

That first huge drop of snow came just in time for a white Christmas. This is my New Year’s Wish: try something new, get outside (even in the snow), and spend it with people you love. Look to an even better 2022.

Initially, everything looked great with an early snow dump before it all melted. I watched the forecast and Mt. Rose webcams for weeks with a dread setting in for an El Nino year. Then, 100 inches (or more than 8 feet!) of snow settled into the Sierras two weeks before Christmas.

I chose to run to the mountains and get my first ski runs in for the season. Carpe diem. It was a beautiful day with an inversion in Reno. Mt. Rose was actually warmer than Reno, and I spent the day with good friends who share my love of skiing. I took a few moments to snap pictures that make me feel graced with contentment.

A snipped of Tahoe, a sweeping view of Reno from the highest peak, friends heading for a run down Northwest, icicles in downtown Truckee, and, finally, an old red truck upon my return to Walnut Creek decorated with the Christmas spirit. Be bold, be present, be authentic! Onto 2022 to an amazing, adventurous year.