Rent in Walnut Creek causing massive restaurant and bar churn

It’s no secret that rents are extremely high in California. Rents are high in the Bay Area, especially, and Walnut Creek is no exception. For how crazy home rents can be, commercial rent prices are even worse! That’s why we’re seeing so much turnover in bars and restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek.

Napa Food and Vine

It seems like we see 10 new restaurants per month popping up downtown which keeps my blog interesting. And when those come in, something must go. Some are so short-lived, we hardly even have time to try them before they disappear!

One especially pricey area is the corner of Locust and Cypress. Sauced has taken over for Pyramid Alehouse, Sunol Ridge came and went incredibly quickly, Lark Creek Cafe is closed, and new places like Urban Alley and Gotts are popping up every time we turn around. Not to mention, the place where Chili’s was a long time ago, which most recently was Caffe Stella, is clearly too expensive for anyone to come in and stay. Not to mention Crogan’s shut down, too, which may be a blessing.

That entire intersection is constantly changing, and it’s happening all over the place in downtown Walnut Creek. I know people who have moved out of Walnut Creek, and every time they come back (even if it’s only been a few months), they say certain parts of downtown are unrecognizable. Even Walnut Creek mainstay Vic Stewart’s is going to be replaced by retail!

Roam Free

This has both good and bad effects for Walnut Creek residents. As more fancy, expensive stores go in downtown, they will raise their prices to afford their own rents. More out-of-town shoppers will clog up downtown, too. But, those of us who do live here will benefit from having more amazing new restaurants and bars to try!

What to know about the new tax bill limits in 2018

The GOP finally pushed through its tax package, and the reaction has been interesting to say the least. While some seem to love it (The Wall Street Journal said the bill is the best thing to ever happen to our economy), many others hate it. Regardless of how you feel about the bill, it is signed in now and it’s time to see how it affects you, as a homeowner, seller or buyer.
My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together a blog detailing some main points about the GOP tax bill and how it may affect real estate. Here are the main thoughts:
1. Current homeowners will be grandfathered in and still allowed to deduct interest against $1 million of mortgage debt. In 2018, buyers will be limited to $750,000 and interest against home equity lines will not be deductible.
2. State and local tax deductions will be capped at $10,000. This will be difficult for people in California.
3. Standard deductions are doubling to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for married filers, so many homeowners won’t have to deduct their interest and property taxes anymore.
4. We have no idea what exactly the bill will do for the market when all is said and done, but for now, we can expect the low-inventory, high-demand market to suffer in high-end areas down the road, while remaining neutral in the short term.
5. To fully understand the bill’s impact on you, see a CPA. Defer your commissions. And if you’re planning an out-of-state move, consider relocating to a low-tax state like Florida, Texas or Nevada.
I’d like to expand on #5 quickly – as Jay mentioned, there will be a new $10,000 cap on tax deductions starting in 2018. If you paid off your property taxes before January, you should be able to save thousands of dollars on that by avoiding the new rule for a year. And if you are planning a move out of the Bay Area to another part of California or another state, you should be consulting a realtor or a CPA to see what kind of savings you can get!

How the tax bill potentially will affect homeowners

This past weekend, the GOP passed its tax plan along party lines, despite heavy opposition against it in CA. I was wondering how the new plan might affect homeowners, and my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending had the perfect answer. See his summary below!

The bill has a provision to cap the mortgage interest deduction to loan amounts of $500,000 or less. To be clear, borrowers will not be ineligible for the mortgage interest deduction if they owe more than $500,000; borrowers will only be able to deduct interest that accrues against $500,000 of their mortgage, no matter how large it is. Here are some observations:

1. Only 5% of all mortgages are over $500,000. And the vast majority of them are in California. Hence, it is unlikely that we Californians will get a lot of sympathy from middle America. But this also explains why there is so much concern in California.

2. How much will it actually hurt borrowers? For a $1 million home (not a lot in coastal California) with 20% down, a borrower will have an $800,000 mortgage. This means that $300,000 of that debt will be ineligible for the mortgage interest tax deduction. If the interest rate is 4%, the borrower will not be able to deduct $12,000 of interest from his or her income for tax purposes. If that same borrower is in a 40.5% combined tax bracket (33% Federal, and 7.5% State), he or she will lose $4,860 in direct tax savings. That is real money for anyone.

3. Current borrowers will be grandfathered, meaning they will be able to continue to deduct interest against a $1 million mortgage (or $1.1 million if they have an equity line). This provision will likely hurt inventory, as this will create another disincentive to sell. 

4. Standard Deduction Doubling: This is the bigger issue for real estate in general, as most lenders and Realtors aggressively sell the tax benefits from buying a house. If the Standard Deduction for married couples doubles to $24,000, most taxpayers will not be eligible to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction (it would only make sense if their mortgage interest and other itemized items exceeded $24,000; a $500,000 loan at 4% would only accrue $20,000 of interest). 

5. The real estate lobby is extremely powerful. This is the biggest factor of all. The real estate lobby (that includes builders) is exceptionally powerful, and most of the lobby is opposed to the above-referenced provisions.

I always find Jay’s perspectives insightful with helpful information. Jay wrote this prior to the bill being passed by the Senate. Now that it has been passed, here are a few of my own observations:

  1.  There is a lot of jockeying of blame between the two parties (status quo).
  2.  If it was so negative, why did the Senate Bill get passed so quickly?
  3. The Senate and House will now go back and forth on all the details to get final approval before it goes to President Trump. Changes can still be made or it could possibly fall apart.
  4. Back to Jay’s last point – there is a very strong lobby that still can push change.
  5. I see this continues creating a disincentive for people to sell. It used to be that on average people moved every 7 years; that number has now increased to approximately every 20 years, thus the continued low inventory.


Road Trips: Carmel

For all the beautiful, picturesque landscapes in California, it seems like the Central coast can often be overlooked. Everyone knows about the National Parks, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, the SoCal beaches, etc. But one of the best gems of the entire state is just a couple hours South of the East Bay!

If you’ve never taken a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to reach the 17-mile drive through Carmel and Monterey, you don’t know what you’re missing! You’ll hit miles of stunning coastline, as well as some of the cutest inland towns you can imagine.

One of my favorite day trips is a jaunt down to Carmel. I love all the little shops, restaurants and the beautiful beach to enjoy the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Carmel is also very dog-friendly – it seems that everybody has a dog and they are free to run on the beach (where most gravitate to the right side). I have even gone to a Weimaraner gathering here. Anybody who has rescued a Weim from NorCal Weim Rescue gets an invite. It is a fun sight to see: a bunch of Weimaraners playing and frolicking in the waves.

Monterey and Carmel also have a great wine scene and amazing golf. It’s such an easy trip, and so close to home. I recently did the 17-mile drive; that was a first for me after all these years and definitely worth the money and scenic stops. Now might be the perfect time to go, too. It is Fall, so the leaves will be brilliant and the weather will be perfectly crisp…a perfect day for a stroll on the beach, as long as you are bundled up and there is no fog!




How to send help to the fire victims

Last week, a record-setting wildfire decimated the picturesque Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa areas. There are 40 people dead, at least 16 wineries destroyed, thousands homeless and hundreds still missing.


It is one of the most gruesome, saddening natural disasters in California history. If you’re like me, and want to help out the victims of these fires and do whatever you can to restore those areas to their former selves, there are plenty of ways to donate.

One way is to send a box of fresh fruit and vegetables from Farm Fresh to Redwood Empire Food Bank. So far, they’ve donated more than 200 boxes to evacuation centers throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.

For every box donated to Redwood Empire Food Bank, Farm Fresh to You – who we wrote about last week – will match that donation. Just click here if you’d like to help. I did and when I don’t want a box delivered to my house, I will click to donate.

There have also been numerous drives and charities springing up on social media in the wake of the destruction. One specifically mentioned on the TV briefings was Napa Valley Community Foundation. Or if your heart is with helping all the animals, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch is an Amazon Smiles recipient.






These give assurances that your donation is going where it will be most useful. If you don’t want to get involved with those, many who have friends and family that have lost everything are taking up carloads of specific donations.

My friend’s parents and sister both lost their houses and she specifically asked for certain sized clothes and non-perishables. I rummaged through my home for clothes and supplies, plus gave a gift card to Trader Joe’s.

In the news briefing, they specifically requested to temper our donations, meaning they will still be needed two months from now, so maybe one day in the near future when you are feeling grateful for all that you have, you might think, “I would like to click on one of these links and donate $25.”

Happy Buyers!

I recently helped Maria and Kehl find a new home as they were relocating to the Bay Area! It was an awesome process working with two California newbies, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

They left Houston just in the nick of time, but what has struck them most is how friendly people are here. Initially, they did not want to be in the downtown area of Martinez, but still wanted to be close to the Shell refinery. They ended up staying three months in an AirBNB in downtown Martinez and came to love the proximity to work, the easy and quick access to open space and all the fun things Martinez has to offer. It is a changing downtown area as the city is incorporating more events and family-friendly activities.  Even their lender came to their signing – thanks, Sean!

Check out this nice Zillow review they left me:

You could be next! Contact me at if you’d like to buy or sell a home in the East Bay!


Open House: 4391 Pembroke Dr. (Concord)

The Kristin Lanham Team has another beautiful home going on the market – this one is in Concord, on Pembroke Dr. Take a look at some of the pictures below, and swing by for a peek at our Open House this weekend!
The home is a cozy, mid-century charmer with a serene, quiet backyard. There is room for an RV or a boat, which includes a spa and storage shed, all surrounded by professional landscaping and lots of plants and flowers.
An open concept makes it warm and welcoming. The updated kitchen with its expansive island is the centerpiece for family gatherings and additional storage. The open-beamed ceilings add to the interior charm. There are stylish updated bathrooms, dual-pane windows, lots of natural light and great flow from outdoor to indoor for entertaining.
This house has been meticulously loved – an updated, warm interior and a vibrant backyard planted specifically to attract hummingbirds, butterfiles, and bees.  A perfect place to call home!
Come take a look at the Open House this weekend from 1-4 p.m. on both Saturday (9/9) and Sunday (9/10)!
3 bedrooms | 2 baths | 1250 sq. ft. |.17 acre lot
Offered at $580,000
To take a virtual tour of 4391 Pembroke Dr., click HERE!

What is the most expensive zip code in CA?

If you had to guess which California city has the most expensive real estate, what would you say? San Francisco, maybe? Certain parts of Los Angeles – remember the show 90210?
Watkins-Cartan House, 98 Alejandra Ave., Atherton, CA
Nope, the honor goes to the 94027 zip code – Atherton, CA. For those not familiar, Atherton is right above Palo Alto and the average cost of a home there is…wait for it…$6.17 million. According to Zillow, home values in Atherton reached a low point in summer 2009, dipping below $3 million.
I asked my friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending what kind of average income would be necessary to afford a home in Atherton at 25 percent and 50 percent down.
Given that the average income in Atherton is about $250,000, I was wondering how exactly a median home price of $6.17 million was affordable there! Here’s his assessment:
Assuming no consumer debt, a 4.0% rate and a 42% debt ratio, with 25% down, PITI would be about $29,000 per month (rounded). This would require $69,000 of monthly income or $828,000 annually.
With 50% down, PITI would be about $22,000 per month (rounded). This would require about $52,500 of monthly income or $630,000 annually.
So how does the average income earner in that area afford Atherton? Most likely people have had these homes for years, thus the lower income. For new purchases, stock options from IPOs are not usually included in your annual income, thus allowing the the nouveau riche of Silicon Valley to buy with cash or put 50% or more down.

Tips for surviving the next drought

Last winter, the rains were plentiful. This spring and summer, the rivers have been gushing, lakes have been full and waterfalls have been crashing.

It’s a scene we haven’t had in the Bay Area in quite some time. But since the drought ended, all the regular water usage has returned – flushing normally, watering our gardens more than once a month, leaving the water going occasionally and not worrying about it…

That said, we’re still in California and we’re still in an accelerated state of global warming (according to most climatologists, anyway). So, there will be another drought. Here are some Bay Area-specific tips from the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) for surviving the next one:

Know your water provider’s Drought Program and its requirements

Every water provider should have a Drought Program. Contact them to make sure you know what their requirements are, ahead of the next drought. If you have CCWD, you can sign up for their newsletter to get updates.

Know how much water you are using

You can read your water meter to better understand how much water you’re using. However, that can be tricky. Here are some tips on CCWD’s website:

Check for leaks

You can also utilize your meter to check for leaks. One of the most common leaks and wastes of water comes from the toilet. Check regularly!

Use efficient fixtures and appliances

You should always get EnergyStar appliances if possible, and you should have a toilet with 1.28gpf or less. Check if yours does at Also, make sure your laundry loads are always full and don’t leave faucets running!

Convert lawns to gardens

Some water providers offer rebates for converting a lawn to a garden. For example, CCWD offers $1 per square foot of lawn converted ($1,000 maximum residential, $20,000 maximum Commercial/HOA). And California will give you a state rebate for front and back lawn conversions as well. Plus, it just looks prettier!

If you irrigate, do it efficiently

If you irrigate or have sprinklers, make sure the system is in good shape (no blocked or broken heads) so there’s no water waste. Try to water after the sun goes down or before it goes up to avoid evaporation. And turn the system off when rain is coming.

There are a million different simple ways to avoid water loss when the next drought occurs. Water is a still a precious commodity!

Art Town: Fantasy

This graceful, curving sculpture is located on the corner of Mt. Diablo and California. To me, it always looks like it’s in constant motion. And the shape even reflects the curved surface of the office building just north of it.


This piece, named “Fantasy,” was built in 1990 by Louis Pearson, and uses polished stainless steel to create the mesmerizing shape. Don’t forget about today’s Art Walk downtown!

Even though Fantasy won’t be included on this specific walking tour, you can always check it out on your own. Hope to see you there!