Road Trip: San Francisco Museums

For these “Road Trips” segments, I often pick a place out of the Bay Area for a good road trip. But sometimes, the best road trips are within the same region and even go right into the busiest city!

Starting this Saturday, June 24th, The Legion of Honor in San Francisco will hold a Degas exhibition that examines the French artist’s place in Impressionist history.

I’ve been to a few exhibitions here, and it’s a really interesting museum that will captivate you for a few hours. Plus, it’s a great way to escape this heat wave and find a fun, educational indoor activity for the day.

Here’s a bonus: you can make a whole day out of it! Pick your favorite two or three museums in San Francisco and do a little mini-tour of them. For example, a ticket to The Legion of Honor earns you a free same-day admission to the de Young. That is right across the street from the California Academy of Sciences. And you can always hit the Exploratorium on your way in or out of town, especially if you have a few kids with you!

The Legion of Honor just closed a Monet exhibit a few weeks ago, where I’d met a recent client! You can take BART and a bus (or just drive – parking is fairly easy around there) to the Legion of Honor and members get in free to the exhibit. For non-members, it’s $28, but well worth the price of admission.

Road trips aren’t always about stuffing the trunk full of junk, rolling down the windows and driving for hours to get somewhere. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a 45-minute jaunt over the Bay Bridge to beautiful San Francisco for some museum-hopping on a sweltering hot day.

If you go to the Degas exhibit, or any other museum for that matter, comment here and let me know how you liked it!

Congratulations to Mckenzie!

I recently closed a home for my client, Mckenzie. She currently lives in the city and will be moving to Clayton. Thus, we met at the Legion of Honor to see the Monet exhibit, celebrate her closing and give her the house key, as seen below.

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IMG_1020The tenant doesn’t leave for another six weeks so this was a great way to celebrate and she was very happy to have closed! The process became a bit stressful as the family wanted to use their local bank in the valley, and the parents were co-signing. However, this bank was primarily an AG bank and did not close on very many condos.

Buyers rarely understand at the onset what a difference a great lender can make and the lasting experience everyone involved will have. If it is a great experience, the impression is minimal, but when it is not so great, it can become one of your worst nightmares. This ultimately ended well because of the family’s relationship with the local bank, yet, we still needed an eight-day loan contingency extension (but only closed four days late).

If you want to be the next client who buys or sells a property with me, I will help you navigate the process to a successful close! Just reach out at www.kristinlanham.com or call me direct at (925) 899-7123.

Road Trips: Raymond & Buena Vista Winery

I’m a wine member with the Boisset Collection which includes Raymond Vineyards,  Buena Vista Winery, Deloach, Frenchie, JCB, Lockwood, Wyeth, Amberhill, and Wattle Creek which makes heading to Napa or Sonoma  a really fun weekend road trip!

Jean Charles Boisset has his roots in France where his parents had wineries; he has bought a few in the U.S. (see above) and in 2009 married Gina Gallo. Some of the rooms have a wild slant (think of the French Court in the 1700). There are costumes, wigs to play dress-up in some of the private tasting rooms, and some crazy art.

Back to the road trip – I went up for the day to Raymond & Buena Vista with a couple of girlfriends. Raymond was fun and whimsical – French is next door and we did the tasting all at Raymond. Buena Vista is rich in history and has a wonderful bubble lounge. It was the only working winery during prohibition.

Raymond Vineyards (founded 1970), has been a family business for five generations now. They originally came in 1933.

Now, they and Buena Vista are inspired by famous proprietor Boisset. Also, they are certified organic and Biodynamic and the winery is entirely powered by renewable solar energy. Very Bay Area of them!

At Buena Vista, “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa, immigrated from Hungary in 1840 after growing up among his local vineyards. He was the first to plant hops in Wisconsin and became an important pioneer in the American beer industry.

His love for wine continued as he moved around California (San Diego, then San Francisco, then Sonoma) looking for the perfect atmosphere in which to grow great grapes. Finally, he settled in Sonoma in 1860 and hit it big.

Since then, Buena Vista has gone through multiple owners (including the Catholic Church), and currently is part of the Boisset Family Estates a measly 150 years after the Count first made it over.

Weather you belong to a wine club or just want to go up for a day of tasting with a picnic, the wine country is so close with great restaurants and beautiful scenery, it is well worth a trip at least twice a year if not more often!

MoMo’s happy hour has potential

As you know, I like to try all the new restaurants in Walnut Creek. Most recently, I went to MoMo’s in the old McCovey’s location.

The original MoMo’s is across from AT&T Park in San Francisco and is a hugely popular place to go, especially for Giants fans before and after ball games. This is the first time they’ve expanded since opening in 1998.

The happy hour is nice, and the food itself is reasonably priced (I haven’t done a full meal yet – just happy hour), but I’ve heard from two separate parties that they thought the food was bland. Others have raved, so I’ll have to go back and try a full meal.

They have a really cool entrance and an awesome fan under a blue ceiling. They offer homemade fries, pizzas, and oysters during happy hour. The pizzas are tasty and are a great size for the price, so I’d definitely recommend that. One thing that annoyed me was that there was no sound on during the games on TV because of the loud music!

Margaritas, mules and other cocktails are $7 during happy hour, and you can get local beer and wine at the bar as well. The oysters are $1, pizza and wings are $5, and you can get calamari, lamb sliders, and a half-pound burger all for less than $10. In the grand scheme of things in Walnut Creek, that’s a pretty good deal.

According to Diablo Magazine, the lettuce leaves appetizer and lamb burger are both really good. They also loved the smoked salmon flatbread with pesto and the more upscale petrale sole dish.

Either way, this is a cool new attraction in Walnut Creek that definitely deserves another trip back for a full meal. It’s an improvement over McCovey’s and adds to the list of trendy hangout spots in downtown.

Have you checked it out yet? What did you think?

April events to mark on your calendar!

Believe it or not, it’s already almost April! As the calendar turns from winter to spring, Diablo Magazine has provided a few awesome ideas for local events in the Bay Area next month.

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Here are four of the best ones that I’m personally interested in going to:

The Naked Magicians: April 3rd at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater

An Australian duo who put on “the world’s naughtiest magic show,” complete with illusions and comedy. Adults only!

Bay Area Craft Beer Festival: April 22nd at Martinez waterfront

More than 50 local breweries, live music and food trucks from all over the East Bay? Yes, please!

Diablo Trails Challenge: April 15th at Mt. Diablo

You can choose from a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and a 50K. Partial proceeds go to Save Mount Diablo!

Monet: The Early Years: Through May 29th at Legion of Honor (San Francisco)

You can get a cool perspective on Claude Monet’s early period of work, covering his evolution to Impressionism at the SF Legion of Honor.

Leave a comment if you know any other fun things to do next month!

All of America’s hottest real estate markets are on West Coast

We found a Realtor.com article recently that ranked the hottest real estate markets for February 2017. Nobody will be surprised to see that three of the top five (Vallejo, San Francisco and San Jose) are in the Bay Area.

According to the article, a large part of Vallejo’s rise to number one on the hottest real estate markets list is due to their drop in median days on market. It wasn’t too long ago that Vallejo went bankrupt and Mare Island redevelopment was in the crapper – that still might be an area for investment.

I also found out that Seattle is the fastest-growing market, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Seattle seems to be on the fast track to San Francisco status, with a similar culture and a bunch of new tech companies migrating their headquarters North. I currently have a client selling in Pleasant Hill and moving to Seattle and he is finding it is more expensive to purchase there.

Either way, the West Coast is HOT! If you are looking to buy or sell in the East Bay, please feel free to reach out and ask for my help!

Don’t get delayed flying in and out of the Bay Area

According to Travel + Leisure, only 71.82% of flights in and out of SFO are on-time. That’s the worst rate in the entire country. Yikes!

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I try to travel to and from Oakland as much as possible, which is more convenient from the East Bay anyway, but they also experience fewer delays. The BART ride from Walnut Creek to Oakland isn’t bad, especially now that they have the little connection from the Coliseum station straight to the airport. And it’s definitely quicker than going to SFO on BART! I also have a great driver that is more reasonable than Uber who is on time and a pleasure to drive with. E-mail or call me if you want his name and number.

Another great trick was getting my Known Travelers ID, which gives me TSA Pre-Check so I don’t have to take off my shoes in security and I can cut to a shorter line for my screening. It’s well worth the effort and $85 to get if you can!

Obviously, the big holiday season is over, and you might not be traveling as much now, but this is still good to know. As nice an airport as SFO might be, flying in and out of it can cause all sorts of headaches.

East Bay New Year’s Eve events

This New Year’s Eve, there seems to be a ton of fun events at local establishments for you to ring in 2017 with.

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For me, New Year’s is a time to reflect on the year that has just passed and to focus forward with new resolutions – what can be improved, how to get into shape and what can I do better. I tend to struggle with the idea that one has to have a special celebration for this event, as I always find the hype does not live up to the expectation, and I am left with disappointment.

My best New Year’s celebrations have always been the unexpected. My favorite was a last-minute ski trip to Sugar Bowl where we scored a small room due to a cancellation. Our kids had the run of the lodge because the only way in was by gondola, and we could walk out the door to the lift.  To our surprise, they had night skiing, champagne and sparkling cider at the hut atop the hill. Then, at 11:30, those who wanted to participate did the torch run, and when all were safely down, the fireworks exploded! So as the clock hits midnight, we all turn the page and start looking forward to new adventures in 2017.

If you feel that you have to do something and have made no plans, but don’t want to venture all the way to San Francisco, take a look at a couple of local events taking place on New Year’s Eve:

  1. The Groove Doctors at San Ramon Marriott (8:30 p.m. for $77/ticket)
  2. Phantom of the Opera Masquerade at Nica Lounge in Concord (8:30 p.m. for $15-50/ticket)
  3. New Year’s Eve at Jack’s in Pleasant Hill (9:00 p.m. for $40/ticket)

Of course, you could always do something unexpected and maybe have the best New Year’s ever! No matter what you choose, I wish you a delightful evening and a prosperous 2017!

East Bay housing market is shifting

housing-marketLately, we’ve started to see a “shift” in the Walnut Creek-area housing market. Price appreciation growth has slowed and we are now seeing more price reductions. Home price appreciation has generally declined to single-digit annual appreciation with estimates in the next year of 3-5 percent.

In the 24/680 corridor, homes are sitting on the market longer than they did in the Spring (20-26 days, as compared to 15-20 days). I am receiving 1-3 offers  with a final sales price of 4 percent over the asking price on most of my listings.

The Federal Reserve Bank will not increase interest rates this month. Currently, the best mortgage interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate is approximately 3.5 percent. In the big picture, global growth concerns remain the driving force behind the long-term trend toward lower rates.

Kitty Cole, who coaches many Bay Area agents, has noticed two distinct Bay Area markets. Many of them are side by side. Check out her insights:

Some of the market (still a seller’s market) is hot, with low DOM’s, high Sales Price to List Price ratios, low inventory, no contingencies, multiple offers and buyers aplenty. This market is going on in Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding cities.

It looks similar to the last 4 1/2 years. The only thing that is quite different is the number of offers that was 10-25 a few months ago, and is now 2-6 (and occasionally higher). This market requires savvy pricing and negotiating to get your seller the highest price. san-francisco

The other part of the market (a buyer’s market) has slowed with these factors in place: price reductions (up to 10 percent, and sometimes two before it brings an offer), contingent offers (contingent upon the sale of another property), high DOM’s, few offers (sometimes only one!), expired listings, cranky sellers and demanding buyers (because they can be!).

In the city, one client whose specialty is high-rise condos, literally slowed overnight and now the DOM’s for her listings are more than 30 days. Another San Francisco agent has had three listings expire in the past three months. One agent in the East Bay (Pleasant Hill) is stymied by her listings that sold within seven days and are now sitting for weeks. Many newer agents are not prepared to have the “I need a price adjustment to sell your property” conversation.  In three months, it will be different … how, I don’t know, wished I had that elusive crystal ball.

Art Town: Geologica

If you’re strolling down North Main in Walnut Creek, you might wander right past a really cool piece of art. Surely, you recognize Geologica, the glittering half-rock fountain piece in front of Wells Fargo. But have you taken the time to actually look at it?

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The piece, created by husband and wife artist team Wowhaus, was created in 2012 using ceramic and glass tiles. They designed it to change with the light, weather and seasons so that every time you walk by it, the look is slightly altered. You’re never supposed to see the same thing twice!

The mosaic patterns flicker and change in the water. Wowhaus likes to play with narrative to help understand the communities we live in, and puts that into their work as well. Other pieces they’ve done reside in places like Emeryville, Oakland and San Francisco. They have another piece coming to Walnut Creek soon!

Give it an extra look next time you’re downtown and maybe you’ll notice that it’s different from every angle.