Oktoberfest comes to Walnut Creek!

There’s one event – a holiday, even, if you stretch that definition – that takes place each Fall that all adult should take part in. It’s not Thanksgiving. Not Halloween. It’s the German beer event known as Oktoberfest! The festival has become so popular, that pretty much every town has their own version.

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Even here in Walnut Creek, we have an Oktoberfest event, and it’s taking place this coming weekend! This year, it will be held at Civic Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can head there to drink copious amounts of beer, eat great food, and meet fun people! This is the 4th annual Walnut Creek Oktoberfest and will span all 16-plus acres of the park.

At the Walnut Creek event, there will be a Biergarten, Microbrews, gourmet food, live music, Autobahn and vendors. All ages are welcome to the Kids Zone but the beer areas will be the main draws. Best of all, tickets are FREE.

Oktoberfest, of course, originated in Germany and is celebrated widely in cities like Munich and Berlin, where people dress up and stand on tables and drink beer all day. I actually had the pleasure of attending Octoberfest in Munich back in my 20’s – lots of drinking, a carnival and I really don’t remember much else.   Walnut Creek’s isn’t quite as celebrated, but it’s still a good time! Hope to see you there – lederhosen and dirndls not required, but encouraged!

Event Round-Up: Oct. 13, 2018

It’s finally that time of year, when the summer heat melts away and the brisk Fall air rides in on the San Francisco fog. Everything turns orange with Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, and schools are in full force again. There are still heaps of fun activities to do this season, and I’ve chosen a few of the best:

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East Bay Walk to End Alzheimer’s: Walnut Creek (Sat. 10/20)

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event for fundraising for the disease, and supports the care and research of it. The East Bay chapter will do their run from 8-11 a.m. next Saturday, Oct. 20th at Heather Farm’s Park. Check out their Facebook event here.

Beach Blanket Babylon: San Francisco (Sat. 10/27 and more)

If you’ve never experienced the hilarity of Beach Blanket Babylon, now is the time. Tickets are still available for the Sat. 10/27 show, and you don’t want to miss the artful, gut-busting show that pokes fun at politicians, celebrities, athletes and more. A fun family outing, especially if you have older kids.

Boo at the Zoo: Oakland (Sat. 10/27 & Sun. 10/28)

From 10 am to 3 pm on these days, bring the kiddos out for a fun pre-Halloween stroll through the Oakland Zoo! Costumes are encouraged, and the kids can trick-or-treat, ride a train, join a dance party, get their face painted, and more. Not to mention, you’re at the zoo watching the animals play! More info here.

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Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter”: Walnut Creek (Tue. 11/6)

There is truly no better way to get fired up for the skiing and snowboarding season than watching the latest Warren Miller film. It’s an annual tradition for serious snow-goers, and this year’s version is bound to be just as awesome! Check it out at The Lesher Center downtown.

Her Room/Her World: Walnut Creek (thru 12/30)

Her Room/Her World is an exhibit at the Bedford Gallery that showcases prints, video, paintings, and installations by New York artist Portia Munson, who does feminist art. The key attraction is an installation called Pink Room that specifically appeals to women and girls. Check it out!

Goats at the canal!

Well, here’s a fun little bit of news! On my way to a property recently, I was driving near the canal on the Pacheco/Pleasant Hill border and saw a huge herd of goats nibbling the brush! I’m talking a massive herd, as you can see in the pictures below. They are no longer there, and the grass is all nibbled down, but it was so interesting to see, I jumped out of my car to take a closer look. There was a mom and her two kids looking too; she said they come by often as the kids want to see them.

This was a hot summer day, so they were not doing much eating and many were huddled together for the limited shade. I  think this is a great way to mow down your weeds in an environmentally-friendly way.

Bob Schwab: Is the real estate market finally going back to normal?

Our in-house lender Bob Schwab recently sent an article about the housing market and its ups-and-downs over the last decade-plus. He thinks it’s about time that the real estate market goes back to normal.  Here is what is says, with my take at the end!
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The housing market has been anything but normal for the last eleven years. In a normal real estate market, home prices appreciate 3.7% annually. Below, however, are the price swings since 2007 according to the latest Home Price Expectation Survey:
After the bubble burst in June 2007, values depreciated 6.1% annually until February 2012. From March 2012 to today, the market has been recovering with values appreciating 6.2% annually. These wild swings in values were caused by abnormal ratios between the available supply of inventory and buyer demand in the market. In a normal market, there would be a 6-month supply of housing inventory.
When the market hit its peak in 2007, homeowners and builders were trying to take advantage of a market that was fueled by an“irrational exuberance.” Inventory levels grew to 7+ months. In this simplified view, with that many homes available for sale, there weren’t enough buyers to satisfy the number of homeowners/builders trying to sell, so prices began to fall.
Then, foreclosures came to market. We eventually hit 11 months inventory which caused prices to crash until early 2012. By that time, inventory levels had fallen to 6.2 months and the market began its recovery. Over the last five years, inventory levels have remained well below the 6-month supply needed for prices to continue to level off. As a result, home prices have increased over that time at percentages well above the appreciation levels seen in a more normal market.
That was the past. What about the future?
We currently have about 4.5-months inventory. This means prices should continue to appreciate at above-normal levels which most experts believe will happen for the next year. However, two things have just occurred that are pointing to the fact that we may be returning to a more normal market.
Listing Supply is Increasing
Both existing and new construction inventory is on the rise. The latest Existing Home Sales Report from theNational Association of Realtors revealed that inventory has increased over the last two months after thirty-seven consecutive months of declining inventory. At the same time, building permits are also increasing which means more new construction is about to come to market.
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Buyer Demand is Softening
Ivy Zelman, who is widely respected as an industry expert, reported in her latest ‘Z’ Report“While we continue to expect a resumption of growth in resale transactions on the back of easing inventory in 2019 and 2020, our real-time view into the market through ourReal Estate Broker Survey does suggest that buyers have grown more discerning of late and a level of “pause” has taken hold in many large housing markets. Indicative of this, our broker contacts rated buyer demand at 69 on a 0- 100 scale, still above average but down from 74 last year and representing the largest year-over-year decline in the two-year history of our survey.”
With supply increasing and demand waning, we may soon be back to a more normal real estate market. We will no longer be in a buyers’ market (like 2007-February 2012) or a sellers’ market (like March 2012- Today). Prices won’t appreciate at the levels we’ve seen recently, nor will they depreciate. It will be a balanced market where prices remain steady, where buyers will be better able to afford a home, and where sellers will more easily be able to move-up or move-down to a home that better suits their current lifestyles.
Bottom Line
Returning to a normal market is a good thing. However, after the zaniness of the last eleven years, it might feel strange. If you are going 85 miles per hour on a road with a 60 MPH speed limit and you see a police car ahead, you’re going to slow down quickly. But, after going 85 MPH, 60 MPH will feel like you’re crawling. It is the normal speed limit, yet, it will feel strange. That’s what is about to happen in real estate. The housing market is not falling apart. We are just returning to a more normal market which, in the long run, will be much healthier for you whether you are a buyer or a seller.
Note:  This is a nationwide overview, but there are always micro areas that buck the trend.

Art Town: AVE Apartments

New luxury condos and apartments are springing up all over our little town! One of the recent ones is the AVE Apartment complex across from Target. It is a really nice little apartment community that allows you to utilize their rooftop pool area, decks, rent bikes, and is even pet-friendly.

AVE Apartments definitely cost a lot to rent, as they are some of the newer, nicer apartments in Walnut Creek. However, you get what you pay for. They worked hard down to the last detail to make the complex livable and beautiful. One of my favorite aspects is, of course, the art!

On the doors surrounding the front and the pool deck, they’ve etched a bunch of trees that look kind of like shadows and give it a real natural feel. For being a huge complex cramped into a small space in a rapidly-growing town like Walnut Creek, I love what the tree art brings. Check out these pictures. I especially like the one with the sun coming through:

An interesting exhibit at the de Young

I love visiting the San Francisco museums when I get a chance. Recently, I took a trip out to the de Young museum to see the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit. According to the de Young website, the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit is the first major museum exhibition to explore “the complex, diverse nature of Muslim dress code worldwide.”

It certainly was complex, diverse, and intriguing! The exhibition examined how Muslim women (whether covered or not) have become “arbiters of style within and beyond their communities,” and have drawn media attention by doing so. It further goes on to explain that this exhibition “considers how Muslims define themselves-and are defined-by their dress.”

You can see in my pictures in this blog how parts of the exhibit looked. It was so cool to visit and learn more about a major culture in the world, especially through this lens of fashion. It is an especially powerful exhibit, given how Muslim fashion has entered the news in politically-charged ways in recent years – Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to consider outlawing (or to outright ban) the burka, for instance, and there have been contentious debates over “burkinis” on French beaches.

Overall, it was a very powerful day at the de Young and I’d highly encourage anyone with an open mind to go visit the museum and see this particular exhibit. It was something I learned a lot from and found very aesthetically-pleasing, to boot.

Borrowers beware of Google: JVM Lending

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote another great blog about Google, and how it can be both a friend and enemy. I have my own story about Google, but I’ll get to that at the end. First, read Jay’s take on why borrowers should beware of Google:

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One of the reasons loan officers and borrowers were able to get away with so much fraud prior to the mortgage meltdown was the lack of public records and information in general. That is no longer the case, and borrowers need to be extra careful nowadays because underwriters Google everything – borrowers, employers, self-employed businesses, and even renters.

We recently had a transaction questioned because the borrowers rented out their $500,000 departing residence to a person who already owned a $1.5 million home. The underwriter Googled the name on the rental contract and rightfully wanted to know why the renter would want to downsize into a rental that was much smaller and in a vastly inferior neighborhood.

We had another situation where the borrower was subject to numerous criminal allegations that will likely prevent him from garnering business for his consulting firm (killing the deal), and this too came up with a Google check because it was all over the news.

Underwriters also Google employers to make sure they exist, no longer exist (if the application says a business with losses is closed down), or that public records match what is stated on the loan application. We have had borrowers, for example, claim to not have ownership interest in a business to avoid providing corporate tax returns, but the internet made it clear that they were owners.

Sometimes borrowers try to fool us, and sometimes they are just not careful enough when filling out their loan applications. Either way, they need to be ultra-careful these days because there really is no getting away with anything. In addition, once an underwriter thinks the borrower might be trying to mislead, she will not want to approve the loan under any circumstances because of the risk.

Kristin’s take: This is a great blog. My own Google story is about sellers who Googled the buyer, and some criminal allegations showed up. We only had one buyer, so we accepted the offer, but we figured out from the internet that he wasn’t the most stand-up individual. Sure enough, we had problems closing. They were contingent on the sale of their condo, and that also did not go smoothly, between the two, we were delayed a month.   In this situation I had no control over the other parties or the process.  In the middle of all this, our buyer went out and bought a vehicle, which changed his debt-to-income ration and had to be paid off with some of the proceeds in addition to a tax lien. It dragged out the process and naturally, the sellers were very frustrated. That was just one of many issues that were not shared with me.   If my clients had another offer I believe after their Google search they would  have never accepted the buyer but they were prepared for a rocky road;  none of us knew how painful it was going to be.

Moral of the story? Always Google, and be prepared to be Googled.

Road Trips: A hike up Mt. Rose

Ah, Reno. One of my favorite places to visit in every season! My son was attending school UNR so I had many more opportunities (and reasons!) to visit, but you can find me up at Tahoe for skiing in the winter, or on a hike like the one I recently took. No complaints either way from me!

On one of my recent trips to Reno I took a drive back home via Mt. Rose and Lake Tahoe.  At the top of Mt. Rose summit, is a trail head for various hikes. The path taken this day was a 2.5-mile trail in and out of a beautiful waterfall. It’s amazing to see what these majestic Tahoe mountains have to offer us when they aren’t covered in snow or recently dusted after a storm – check out the difference!

After the hike, my friend drove back to Reno and I continued on home via a stop at Char Burger. Since it was Labor Day weekend, and the last of summer vacations, it was crowded and a line was way out the door, but the wait was worth it.

Even though this might be a long way to go for a day trip, it is something you might consider on to a longer vacation to the area and a nice tidbit of information.  I personally always feel rejuvenated after time spent in Tahoe and the surrounding mountains by taking advantage of this little slice of heaven.  On another blog, I will highlight more details about Reno where I grew up and am one day looking forward to where I will retire, me and everybody else from California!

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Are homebuyers going to hit the pause button?

Mortgage Consultant Bob Schwab posed an interesting question on his blog recently: is purchase demand softening? He writes that over the last several years, buyer demand has far exceeded the housing supply. This has led to home prices appreciating by an average of 6.2 percent each year since 2012.

The Foot Traffic Report, Realtors Confidence Index (both National Association of Realtors), The Showing Index (ShowingTime), and The Real Estate Broker Survey (The Z Report by Zelman and Associates) are the four major reports used to measure buyer activity. Three of the four have revealed that the purchase demand may, in fact, be softening:

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The Foot Traffic Report

Latest reports say buyer demand remains strong, due to supply and new construction remaining unable to keep up with buyer demand – despite a healthy economy and labor market.

The Showing Index

In July 2018, the Showing Index recorded buyer interest deceleration compared to the previous year for the third month in a row. They think buyer demand is softening.

Realtors Confidence Index

This measure reported slower homebuying activity in July 2018, down from the same month one year ago. It is the fifth straight month they’ve seen a decline, so they agree buyer demand is softening.

The Real Estate Broker Survey

The Z Report also finds buyer demand to be softening, stating that “a level of “pause” has taken hold in many large housing markets.” Their buyer demand rating of 69 (1-100 scale) is above average, but down from 74 last year.

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When most of the major measures of buyer activity report that demand is softening…it may just be true. According to Bob, the strong buyers’ market directly after the housing crash was followed by a six-year stretch of a strong sellers’ market. If demand continues to soften and supply begins to grow, as expected, there will be a return to a more neutral market. Though that wouldn’t favor buyers or sellers immediately, it is a better long-term look for real estate.

A direct quote from Bob: The era of cheap money might be coming to an end. Interest rates on mortgages are up three-quarters of one percent in the last year. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise short-term rates one-quarter of one percent at their September meeting and another one-quarter of a percent in December. Come October, bonds will have to stand on their own feet again as the Fed will officially end its “quantitative easing.” There are also some early signs of wage inflation as the unemployment rate continues to improve and businesses struggle to find employees. As I always remind my clients, mortgage rates are still fantastic from a historical perspective. They are still sitting in the mid to high fours. If you are considering buying a home or refinancing a mortgage this would be a great time to make a move.”

And my take: As rates and prices have increased, we are starting to see homes sit on the market longer and sell for less than they did six months ago. It really depends on the home and location. In Parkmead, buyers seem to want single story homes with current updates and a flat yard, as with the sale of 1691 Lilac. We still have an inventory shortage, but buyers are now taking their time, and a shift isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We will see if the lull is seasonal, but it most likely we will see the rate of appreciation slow down and sellers may have to adjust what they believe the value of their home is and buyers may not get as good of a deal as they expected.