Recently, we’ve talked a lot about the rising interest rates. Everyone seems to be in panic mode over it, and my friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending is here to explain – in a historical context – why the reaction is overblown. He says the only people who should really be worried are businesses and companies that focus only on refinancing.
We’ve already touched on why higher interest rates are good, but an interest rate under 6 percent is amazing when put in a historical context, and should be treated as such. Here is a graph from Freddie Mac that shows an in-depth breakdown of interest rates over the past 30 years, but we’ve also shared JVM’s table on interest rates:
DATE RATE COST
March of 2017 4.2% 0.5 Points
April of 2014 4.34% 0.6 Points
2008 (entire year) 6.03% 0.6 Points
2000 8.05% 1.0 Point
1995 7.93% 1.8 Points
1990 10.13% 2.1 Points
1985 12.43% 2.5 Points
This shows that not only are rates much lower than they have been at the highest points of the market, but that loans are also much lower than usual – yes, I know our prices are higher than most of the country, but higher interest rates, always hurt you in the pocket book more than higher prices. Anytime you can lock in a rate below 6 percent, you are doing quite well. So maybe now is the time to get into the market!
Downtown Walnut Creek is always getting new restaurants. Every genre and culture of food seems to be represented. However, one that I hadn’t seem much of was poke. That is no longer the case – enter, Pokeatery on Newell Ave., in the set of shops by Whole Foods.
Pokeatery has locations throughout California, as well as one in foodie-haven Austin, TX. For those who are unfamiliar, poke is pronounced “poh-kay” and is typically a raw, Hawaiian salad. Usually, it’s made with ahi tuna, but Pokeatery offers different fish options, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free styles.
I went in to try out their menu- it is a bit different than poke I have had in the past and it is a LOT of food. You start with the base and then add the fish, the salad, the spices and the veggies. You make it your own!
The origin of Pokeatery is pretty cool, too. The owners and their family love Hawaiian food, especially poke. They wanted to bring those flavors back to the mainland, where it is less plentiful. In their family, they have more than 20 years of experience in sushi restaurants. Those skills go into crafting every meal at Pokeatery.
You can see from these pictures that the ingredients are fresh, the dishes are colorful (and plentiful!), and they really take great care to provide you with a good meal. The owner is pictured here at the bottom. There are a couple of other poke restaurant that have opened up downtown called Oke Poke (which just opened) and T4 and Poke that also has bubble tea. I have to try both eventually. Overall, I give Pokeatery 4 Mt. Diablo’s! I keep comparing all the poke I eat to the Da Poke Shack on the big island of Hawaii – hang out at the beach all day, walk over to Da Poke Shack and have a cold beer – magic!
Just outside of Anthropologie in downtown Walnut Creek, there’s this really cool mural of a couple and their car. There’s a huge American flag waving in the background. I don’t know exactly where it came from, what it signifies, or why it’s placed there. But for some reason I really like it!
Maybe it’s just because it’s “classic” American. It reminds me of a scene from The Great Gatsby, where the lavish, wealthy crowd would gather for parties with fine cocktails. I don’t know if that’s what Anthropologie is going for here, but the sheer size of the mural itself makes it interesting to me!
A couple weeks ago, I held an event for my sphere of friends, clients and neighbors at the Capital One Cafe in downtown Walnut Creek! It was about connecting people, community and just a Saturday morning coffee get-together. Overall, about 20 people showed up and most stayed to enjoy the conversation and Peets coffee. We had a large, round table that enhanced the flow of conversation. It was the perfect spot to host the gathering. At the end, there was also a drawing for a few gifts donated by JVM Lending.
I love these get-togethers and I believe everybody enjoyed themselves. Here is one comment I received: “What a delightful morning spent meeting new people while sipping a yummy latte. Such good vibes for building a strong community. I think I heard at least four people say if they have anything real estate-related you are their go-to person. I agree. Very cool. What a nice group of friendly people. You did a great job keeping it all flowing. I was impressed with your knack for remembering names.”
Check out the pictures below. I would love to see you at my next event!
It is that time of year when the housing market starts to heat up. If you’re one of the homeowners who plan on selling this summer, there’s a lengthy list of must-dos to complete before you actually list. Take a look at the following ideas from Inman, with input from yours truly, on how to make your home more attractive.
1. Spruce up the exterior
This is the first thing your prospective buyers are going to see. They want something with literal curb appeal, and if you have overgrown bushes, peeling paint, dirty windows, or poor lighting, the first impression won’t be very good.
2. Service the heating/cooling system
Home inspectors have to check this anyway, so you might as well beat them to it. Waiting until a buyer makes an offer to service this system may cause issues, so get ahead on it!
3. Check your lightbulbs
Check every single one of them on both the interior and exterior. Make sure they are clean and bright. It is essential to have the home as bright as possible. In my experience, this is a tiny thing that is very noticeable if not addressed.
4. Check all smoke detectors
We’ve all pulled batteries out of our smoke detectors when cooking, but don’t forget to put them back in. Make sure all your detectors are working. A home inspector will ding you if you don’t.
5. Blue tape it
If there are nicks, chips, scratches, etc. in the walls of your house, blue tape it! No buyer wants wear and tear on the interior walls or molding, so make sure the rough areas are marked for repair before you list. My stager blue tapes what needs to be removed, painted or fixed at the staging consult I provide as part of my services.
6. Deep clean and declutter
And we mean deep. If you can, hire a cleaning crew to get a small army of people cleaning every corner and crevice (think baseboards, light switches, etc.) of the house before it goes on the market. And don’t forget to gather all your extra junk and either store elsewhere or donate.
7. Don’t forget the garage
This is often an overlooked space, but prospective buyers will want to see a clean, organized garage. Consider painting the floor or putting an epoxy down. And don’t forget to repair cracks in the ceiling of the garage! Side note, in this area most people store all of the noted blue taped items, just make sure if you do a pest inspection, you do it before you store all your items in the garage.
BONUS! 8. Stage the property
This is my personal addition to the list. There are people who stage homes for a living. They are experts at making a house as attractive as possible to buyers. I can’t recommend having your property staged before listing highly enough! You only get one opportunity to make a first impression!
With this installation of Road Trips, we’re taking a bit more of a bohemian angle. Fittingly, we’ll be going just to the fringe of Berkeley, to the little town of Albany. It’s not for a park, or a theater, or anything like that. I’m actually recommending a visit to a landfill with a wild history and a ton of unique art.
In the late 1930’s, the creation of the Albany “Bulb” began. Land was leveled and moved around and pushed into the Albany peninsula for the creation of the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields. Over time, the land was protected by Save The Bay, and became somewhat of a lost project. For many years, the peninsula served as an occasional hiking and dog-walking spot, as well as being home to many local species of plants and animals.
Eventually, the Bulb became a homeless haven, with as many as 60 squatters living there before being evicted (some forcibly) by local authorities. While that population was on the Bulb, they created sculptures, and paintings, and even a makeshift library that has since been burned to the ground. But, today, it is still a sight to see: views of the Bay, art everywhere, unique traces of generations past.
For those who aren’t into the graffiti, wooden art or macabre feel (kinda feels like a scene from The Walking Dead), there is a beach nearby that dogs can be on without a leash. The Albany Bulb is a weird, exciting, confusing display of East Bay history.
You can easily spend half a day wandering its pathways and finding strange art from decades ago. Try going out there on a nice day, and you can always go back into Berkeley for a nice lunch or dinner on your way home!
For the 71st month in a row, the housing market experienced year-over-year gains. As of January, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $240,500, which was a 5.8 percent increase from January 2017 ($227,300). According to Bob Schwab from Finance of America, this may lead many to believe that home values are overinflated.
Schwab, and Zillow, disagree with that common opinion. Zillow says: “If the housing bubble and bust had not happened, and home values had instead appreciated at a steady pace, the median home value would be higher than its current value.”
I’ve pulled some information and graphs from Schwab’s article to help demonstrate why home prices are exactly where they should be. First, a graph showing actual median home sales prices from 2000 through 2017:
By itself, this graph shows home values rising early in the century, then tumbling down, and now climbing back up. This may give off the impression that a pattern is emerging, and another tumble is coming. But, if you look at this second chart, indicating where prices would naturally go with the market had there not been a boom and bust, you see something different:
The blue bars represent where prices would have been if they increased normally, at an annual appreciation rate of 3.6 percent. By adding that percentage to the actual 2000 price and repeating for each year, we can see that prices were overvalued during the boom, undervalued during the bust, and a little bit lower than where they should be right now!
All in all, thanks to Bob Schwab for pointing out that we should be comfortable with current home values, and understand that the market actually isn’t overinflated, based on historic appreciation levels.
In the plaza next to Genova Deli and CVS, the old Marie Callendar’s space has been overtaken and it couldn’t look any more different. Whereas Marie Callendar’s was your typical homey, but outdated diner, now the new space is full of color, music, art and mostly millennials sipping their craft coffee.
That’s right, the new coffee in town is Philz, a national chain that emphasizes creativity and friendliness at their locations. I went there recently and was amazed by how packed it was. In fact, it was difficult to even find parking in that massive lot because of it.
As with many coffee shops now, the walls in the sitting area were covered with art from a featured artist and the walls were as colorful as the baristas themselves. Between battling for tips (Destiny’s Child vs. TLC was the battle du jour on the tip jars when I was there), asking exactly what type of coffee I “felt like” so they could create the perfect concoction, and the sheer amount of joy they seemed to take in their work, I really had fun on my visit.
I ordered a Phil-tered Soul, and it was really delicious coffee. They take a little longer to make than most places because they only do pour-over coffee at Philz. Also, they have some small food items and pastries that looked delicious, I tried their zucchini bread – it had chocolate chips which I don’t particularly like with zucchini. I will go back but only on occasion! Of course, as with all specialty coffee, they come with a hefty price tag of $3.95-$5.00 or more.