Donations to Paradise

As mentioned in my blog on Tuesday, the proceeds and donations from my Love You A Latte event went straight to the fire victims in Paradise, CA. In addition, I posted that we were taking up donations on NextDoor, and many people went out of their way to donate items there. Last Sunday, we drove everything up to Paradise and the weather cooperated with blue skies. We knew the fire was devastating, but we were still shocked to see what kind of shape the town is still in and the needs of the people who lived there.

I want to say thank you one more time to everyone who contributed. We had three trucks full of donations; from tents, to pillows, boots, sleeping bags, food, and water. It was really an impressive showing of community support and appreciated by the folks of Paradise! Kathy, who was the inspiration for helping Paradise, also had two tables to donate and coordinated on the Facebook page “Paradise Fire Adopt a Family” with a family who indicated they would take them, prior to our drive up. They met us at the last ongoing facility that is still providing items to Paradise.

The Magalia Community Church has provided their parking lot to set up two tents: one for needed supplies, food, and clothing, and the other to serve food. In addition, they allow the use of their kitchen to serve meals in the other tent. We also volunteered our time helping unload bags and organizing some of the items. The biggest project was the shoes – they had been sorted through and in different locations, many were single shoes, so we dumped all the boxes and sorted them into pairs by men, women, and children. We ended up throwing a bag of single shoes out along with some very worn out pairs.

I also would like to give a big shout out to Noah’s Bagels for their donation of bagels – whatever was left over on Saturday before they closed, were donated and served for breakfast on Monday. The other giving business was 54 Mint on Locust who made fresh loaves of bread early Sunday morning. Those loaves were gone from the community store before we left. A reminder, that there is still a great need that won’t go away soon. If you really want to help, check out the Facebook site and it could be as simple as sending a birthday card to someone!

I Love You A Latte II

Last year, I held my inaugural “I Love You A Latte” event at the Capital One Cafe in downtown Walnut Creek. This year, we had a great turnout of about 25 people and collected a ton of donations for the Paradise fire victims (see this Thursday’s blog for more information on the donation and drop-off!).

This event is about community, connecting people, and taking a moment out of our day to interact and meet old and new friends. I am very grateful to everyone who donated items, as I saw firsthand how the Paradise area is anything but paradise these days – the effects of the devastating fire continue to show.

Below are a few pictures of the event along with the Valentine goody bags and giveaway prizes. Thank you to Robert Ring at Cross Country Mortgage for co-sponsoring, and to Fidelity National Title for a few of the prize giveaways, along with my awesome team – Lilly Lares and Denise Flor!

Capital One is a great place to host this event as it has a large space that isn’t very crowded and serves Peet’s Coffee. I really appreciate each and every one of you who came out and for all the donations brought! For those who missed it, I hope to see you at one of my future events.

Event Round-Up: Feb. 16th

Isn’t it great to live in a place that is so packed full of events that you can’t even go to all of them if you wanted to? Sometimes we all stay firmly planted in Walnut Creek instead of exploring what’s outside our doors. Here is a collection of fun, late-winter events to take part in within Walnut Creek city limits, and in a few of our neighboring Bay Area cities!

1. 2019 Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival – Chabot Space &  Science Center (Oakland): Feb. 16-17

Sorry for the late notice on this one, everybody. The Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival is an opportunity to get your kids out for the day, taking classes on movie-making, and watching films made just for them! If you’re a Chabot member, it’s free! More details.

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2. 2019 Lunar New Year Celebration – History Park (San Jose): Feb. 17

You can probably find a lot of different Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) celebrations happening around the very diverse Bay Area, but this is the one I’m choosing to highlight. It’s free, family-friendly, has a dragon-led parade, and will have arts and crafts available! Happy Year of the Pig! (Did you know the pig represents luck, wealth, and honesty and symbolizes a hard-working, peace-loving, generous person. Other traits include truthful, patient, reliable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable, and a good sense of humor. If you were born in 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, or 2007, you are a Pig zodiac!)

3. Makers Market Craft Fair – Broadway Plaza (Walnut Creek): Feb. 23

Come check out an awesome craft fair right in the heart of downtown Walnut Creek! According to the event website, there will be more than 20 local artists selling jewelry, candles, organic body and home goods, clothes, and more! And, naturally, live music and food vendors will be present!

4. First Caturday – Lake Merritt (Oakland): Mar. 2

I couldn’t help myself on this one! How funny is this? On Sat., Mar. 2, you can bring your cat to Lake Merritt in Oakland and take part in “First Caturday.” It looks like it’s literally just a meet-up for cat lovers to bring their cats out on leashes, like dogs. Better not show up to the lake with a dog that day!

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5. Sunrise Tour of Muir Woods – Muir Woods (Mill Valley): Mar. 3

Okay, there is no bad time to visit Muir Woods. It’s one of the most beautiful semi-hidden gems of the Bay Area. But you can get up early and do a sunrise tour of this breathtaking park for FREE! Reservations are still required, and you might have to pay for parking, but seeing the sun shining through those old redwoods on a brisk morning will be well worth it.

Art Town: Wowhaus

This week, we’re going to The Orchards for our art! Husband and wife team Scott Constable and Ene Osteraas-Constable created three “Story Vanes” for The Orchards in 2016. They really catch the eye, and are interactive!

They used a process known as radial moiré, which means a fixed image appears when you rotate a disk, pierced with slits over a pattern. You can rotate the veins to make the disk move and the pattern change. It’s quite remarkable!

Of the three Vains, there is California Buttercup, Great Horned Owl (this one has a sound element to it!), and Ammonite. This Orchards area is actually a hotbed for unique Walnut Creek art. There will be more to come!

Cinemark Movie Club prices are now the same as Costco’s, but better!

As with anything in Walnut Creek, prices to see a movie have skyrocketed in recent years. Going to Cinemark to catch a flick used to be a relaxing treat. Now, after tickets, popcorn, a drink, and parking downtown (if the lot is full), you’re looking at a solid $50 outing. Unless you went to Costco and got the movie passes which used to be about $7.50 a ticket, and has steadily increased in price over the years. The new price is $17.99 for two which gets me to point of this blog.

With the remodel of the new Lux seating in the theaters, you now have to plan way ahead and reserve your seat if you want to sit next to the person you are going to the movies with. The Costco tickets do not allow you to reserve online; you either have to go ahead of time to buy the tickets or be hopeful there are a couple of seats together. With the Movie Pass on the verge of non-existence (they are trying to rebound with unlimited movies every month), the best deal going is the Cinemark Movie Pass.

It automatically bills you every month for one ticket at $8.99, but you can buy more tickets for the same price and then you get 20 percent off your concessions and can earn points for more discounts. Plus, you can then reserve your seat online, which waives any fees. This is now a slightly better offer than what you can get at Costco. Oscars are just around the corner and it always my favorite time of year to catch up on the movies nominated. Just don’t make the mistake I made when booking the Favourite. I accidentally got the movies for Thursday night when I was going on Friday. Note my surprise when I no longer had tickets. I still had the email receipt and the manager was kind enough to print 2 ticket for Friday!

If you don’t mind going on a Tuesday, it is $6 all day in Walnut Creek and $5.75 in Pleasant Hill. What a great deal, but for those of us who work and have families, fitting that day and time in can be a challenge.

Remember back in the day, how Festival Cinema 5 was the downtown theater to go to? Those of us who have lived in Walnut Creek for a while will remember! It was opened in 1969 and expanded to five screens (wow! LOL) in 1971. It was closed and demolished in 2001, and now Momo’s stands on its corner. Check out this old picture:

Movie-going in Walnut Creek (and in general) sure has changed over the years, but it’s hard to complain about the quality of theater and film we get nowadays! Just curious to know, how many of my readers enjoy going to the movies by themselves? I have done this a few times and actually don’t mind it!

Road Trip: Fifty Fifty Brewery in Truckee

As you well know by now, I love to go up to Truckee and Tahoe to ski in the winters. Especially when we have snow like we have this winter! But there are a lot of other places to check out that are off the mountain.

For example, there’s Fifty-Fifty Brewery in Truckee. It’s bound to be packed these days since everyone should be going up to take advantage of all the snow we’ve been getting. I recently was recommended to try it out on a stay at Northstar with my son and a family friend, who are in these photos with me.

My son got an Eclipse which is a whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout that was over 11% and cost a whopping $22 for a big bottle (he purchased one after the glass I bought), ohhh but it was really smooth and tasty! They also have burgers and other food there, and it’s a really great place to stop on your way home from skiing or to enjoy while staying at Squaw or Northstar.

It has a cozy atmosphere with twinkle lights tucked off the main road in Old Town Truckee at 1197 Brockway Rd. It gives another option for an quick meal and a good beer other than Bar America or some of the more touristy places on the main street of Old Town Truckee! Enjoy!

Congrats on the closing!

I met Lisa and Grant in the middle of November and by the middle of January, we closed on their new home. They lived in Daly City, work in San Francisco and just had a baby and decided it was time to buy a house – the East Bay is more affordable than the city or the Oakland area.

They were initially not in a hurry, but were very active right out of the gate; then I found out that it made sense for them to purchase before Lisa’s maternity leave was over in February, thus a couple of weeks later we were in contract! There was one other offer, we got a Seller Multiple Counter and in the end their offer was accepted.

After all the inspections were completed, they received a credit and a slight price reduction because of a couple of unfinished portions of a recent remodel job. I have to give a big shout-out to Tobi, the Escrow Officer at Fidelity, on this transaction. She went above and beyond to work through a title issue. Overall, the process was smooth, JVM (the lender) was on point, and they got the house before Lisa goes back to work.

They now are in the process of doing some repairs prior to moving in and putting their personal touches on the home. They were so excited! I wish them many wonderful memories and happiness.

Why I only refer clients to lenders I trust!

I won’t be pasting the entirety of Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending’s blog about this here. I’ll just hit the major points. But this is a perfect example of why I only refer clients to lenders I trust. Read on:

Last week, a borrower came to us to discuss her refinancing because she had lost trust with the lender she was working with (America’s largest non-bank lender). She was trying to refinance the house she lived in but it was owned by her Dad and she was not on the title, so a refinancing was impossible.

In any case, she was trying to refinance the house she lived in but it was owned by her Dad and she was not on title.  So a refi was impossible – something the other loan officer failed to comprehend – and it had to be structured as a purchase.

Further complicating things was a “gift of equity” down payment, the need for “cash out” for improvements, and the need to avoid capital gains taxes for the seller – all issues that the other loan officer had zero understanding of.

In any case, one of our Mortgage Analysts quickly figured out how to structure the loan and then re-locked the same borrower with the same lender via our correspondent relationship but at a 1/2 percent lower rate. 

I share this story not to make JVM the hero but to once again warn buyers away from the big call center mortgage companies. The call centers stuff bodies into cubicles to do nothing but sell.

Those “bodies” often do not have the skill to close transactions when there is even a small amount of complexity, and…their rates are way higher to boot.  

That’s Jay’s horror story about call centers. It does a great job of explaining why I prefer to refer specific lenders I know who will always get the job done. It creates a smoother process for everyone that way. Most banks or Quickens of the world don’t fully underwrite upfront; it requires a lot of paperwork initially, but it creates a very smooth process to closing. This way the buyers are aware of any potential issues before you ever write an offer. They also don’t tell you that once you are in contract, you are handed off to loan processor who you have never spoken with and many loan agents are on to the next approval and are no longer in the immediate loop. Communication often falls apart at this point. Your loan officer may be local, but the processor could be in a different state.

I currently have a new home buyer who is shopping three different lenders looking for the best rate. With two of them, I expect possible delays and a questionable overall experience for my buyers. One is fantastic, but a first-time home-buyer doesn’t understand those nuances far outweigh an eighth of a point difference in an interest rate. Hopefully whoever they choose will do right by them and it will be smooth sailing.

I just closed on a house (blog to come on Thursday). When we first met, they were talking to one of the largest non-bank lenders. I recommended they speak to JVM and just compare the experience and decide who they would like to work with. They closed with JVM and when I handed them the keys, they remarked at how smooth the overall process was for them and when compared to their friends who recently purchased and had a loan with one of the big banks, they said their lending experience was horrible.