Reasons to buy in the off-season!

Lizzie Weakley of RIS Media’s Housecall wrote a blog recently about why it’s okay to buy in the off-season. I want to piggy-back off of that here. First of all, yes, there is an “off-season” in real estate. For the most part, winter is the time of year that the industry slows down in markets around the country.

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However, there are a few good reasons why the off-season might actually be a great time to buy a home, especially in the Bay Area! As Weakley lists, there are fewer buyers crowding the markets. This decrease in competition is an excellent advantage for any prospective home-buyer. On that note, sellers seem to accept lower bids in the winter because of the low competition.  In our area, we also don’t have to worry about trudging through snow storms to see a listing (one of the major reason for a slow-down), in addition to the holidays when most people are entertaining or having family visit.

Everything can move a little bit faster in winter. Home inspections can get done quicker, and mortgage companies tend to finish paperwork faster, too, because – again – they don’t have as much traffic.  I should mention that in the Bay Area, with our warmer climate in Spring, the winter “off-season” tends to be much shorter than in other places, but still usually extends for a couple months at the end of the year and wraps around into January (we are nearing the end of the off-season now).  Often buyers are out in January, but the sellers have not yet readied their home for sale, so we often find a switch back to a seller’s market this time of year.  We will see what 2019 holds.

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One more perk to buying homes in the winter? Us real estate agents have more time to dedicate to you! Sure, we love to give as much personalized attention as possible to each and every client, but the truth of the matter is that we get busy in peak seasons too. When I can focus all of my energy on one listing, it’s almost always smooth-sailing and everything gets finished at the speed of light!

Next time you are thinking of buying a home, and read that you should wait until the weather warms up again, give it a second thought. There are some big-time perks to buying in the off-season!

5 reasons why this winter is the best time to buy

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together an interesting blog post recently, and I want to share that with you below. Essentially, he finds five reasons why this current winter season is the best time to take advantage of the real estate market and buy a house! Enjoy:

Most of our agent-readers well know why winter can be a great time to buy from a real estate perspective. I am nonetheless repeating a few of the obvious reasons while also illuminating a few less-obvious mortgage-related reasons.

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1. Rates Hit Six Week Low! While rates have been climbing for most of the year, they hit a six week low last week in response to the oil glut and signs of a softer economy. Given that the Fed will likely continue to push rates up next year, this brief rate-reduction gives buyers a short-term opportunity to lock in a relatively low rate.

2. Lender Incentives. 
Many lenders are offering extra incentives to borrowers right now simply to maximize loan volume during a slower time of the year. This includes JVM of course, as we are offering a $500 closing cost credit to any buyer who gets into contract from now until January 31st. This does not apply to borrowers who are already in contract and locked.

3. Motivated Sellers. If someone is willing to go to the trouble to sell their home during the holidays/winter, they are usually more motivated to sell and willing to negotiate.

4. Fewer Buyers/Less Competition. There are fewer buyers and a lot less competition for homes. Many buyers pull out of the market in the winter b/c they don’t want to take the time to house-hunt during the holiday season or they don’t want to buy in the middle of the school year (if they have kids).

5. Seeing Properties at Their Worst. 
My neighbor has drop-dead gorgeous crape myrtle and Japanese maple trees all over his yard. In the spring and summer, his yard is an oasis of color. In the winter, however, his yard looks like a war zone. Buyers get to see homes at their worst in the winter, avoiding unpleasant surprises and knowing that their dream home will only look that much better, come spring.

The internet conveniently has numerous articles backing up my points above, in case any readers don’t want to take my word for it. Here are two: The Best Time of the Year to Buy Property from Financial Samurai; and Mortgage Rates Pull Back from Freddie Mac’s website.   

Walnut Creek on ice is officially back!

It’s that magical time of the year when the temperature in California dips down into the frigid 50’s, an occasional rainstorm passes through, and…an ice rink forms in Civic Park? That’s right, downtown Walnut Creek hosts an ultra-cool ice rink through Walnut Creek On Ice.

The rink, which opened on Nov. 9, and will remain in place until late January, has become a local favorite during the winter, to give us Californians a little taste of a white winter, but saving us the 3-hour trip to Tahoe! You can take a date to the rink for a couple skate, or maybe teach the kids how to skate at the open rink.

There are even an ice skating academy and private lessons for those who are getting serious about being a future San Jose Shark or the next great Winter Olympian. This is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones this winter. How nice does a short stroll to La Scala after a couple hours on the ice sound?

If you’d rather skate in a colder locale, foggy San Francisco and icy Lake Tahoe both offer some awesome rinks, too! At the Embarcadero, you can skate with beautiful Bay and Bay Bridge views and then saunter over to the Ferry Building for hot chocolate. In Union Square, you can circle the rink between the buildings and even take in a “Drag Queens on Ice” show. And in Tahoe, of course, Northstar’s village ice skating rink is not to be missed. It’s 9,000 square feet of joy, surrounded by bars, cabanas, and fire pits – and if you’re up at Northstar anyway…it’s free!

Walnut Creek is the hub of the East Bay for a reason, and hosting cool events like an ice skating rink is one of them. The rink itself is in its 14th year of operation downtown, meaning Walnut Creek On Ice has brought snowy joy to our citizens since 2004 – this is bound to be the best year yet. Let me know if you check it out, and how you liked it!

Road Trips: Whistler

Okay, now I’m really stretching this whole Road Trips theme. You could, hypothetically, drive all the way to Canada from the Bay Area. It would take a solid 16 hours and would be a pretty nice drive through Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. But, I’d recommend flying.

I recently took a 2 1/2-day trip to Whistler. I left at 4 pm on Saturday afternoon and got to Whistler at 10 pm. I skied Sunday and Monday and flew back to the bay area at 6 am on Tuesday. I was back at work by noon! With the tail end of the skiing season approaching, Whistler – which always has great snow – recently got dumped on much like Tahoe. I met a couple of friends up there and had amazing snow to ski. It was a great trip.

I had a room at the Westin on the hill on the Blackcomb side. The Whistler-Blackcomb mountain resort is also massive, it has a glacier and the longest peak-to-peak tram in the world. There is also lost of expert skiing available. I wonder if the weather is a little different because the resort is so close to the ocean, but the clouds would come in and out. At one point I felt like I was skiing in soup, could not see in front of me and we just happened to be in the Whistler Bowl (a black diamond run) at the end of the day.

And if you aren’t feeling the snow vibe, but just want to explore the area, Whistler is a really cool place itself. The village has some great restaurants; we ate at 21 Steps, which serves great comfort food and a good selection of fish, pork and meat. I would also explore the rest of the area if you have the time. Just outside the Whistler area, you can trek back to Vancouver and explore one of the underrated cities of the Pacific Northwest.

Next year: Revelstoke and Heli-skiing!

Road Trips: Mt. Rose

Winter is here, and it’s time to hit the slopes! Hopefully, we get some more snow this week! I love going up to Tahoe to ski, especially when the sky is blue and the snow is powdery. But, unlike many who probably prefer Northstar, Squaw and Heavenly, I love Mt.Rose!  It is where I learned to ski growing up, it is a local’s resort and it has some great runs, especially if the chutes are open.

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Mt. Rose is the highest peak in Tahoe and usually gets the most snow every winter. But it’s also just a cool place to hang out! Most of the mountains in Tahoe have villages, bars, restaurants, ice skating rinks, and other things to help you relax and recover after a day on the snow. And Mt. Rose is no exception, but it has a more casual local vibe with fun activities on the mountain and just some great runs (“Northwest” is my favorite), including a few with a view of Lake Tahoe!

In fact, they have some unique events like the Santa Crawl, where you can get heavily discounted lift tickets by dressing up as Santa for the day while you’re on the mountain. They also do a Beerfest, New Year’s Eve spectacular, poker runs and many other events throughout the year. Recently, they also added a “Magic” lift, a dual conveyer belt for one of their hills (it’s the 1st one in North America and only the 2nd one in the world!).

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I always have a great time when I go to Mt. Rose. Usually, I stay in Reno and then it is just a 20-minute drive up the hill, but it is also easily accessed from Incline or Kings Beach; even from Northstar. They have a newer lodge on the old Slide side of the hill and many locals on a nice day will tailgate in the parking area. The Mt. Rose lodge is more crowded, but the bar is my favorite, with no kids allowed and a taco/burrito bar.

Another La Nina this year? Start with Warren Miller …

According to multiple weather reports, La Nina is expected to strike certain parts of the U.S. this winter – the Rockies are on the path. Though after a big season for snowfall in Northern California last year, they are predicting it to be less wet and snowy in the upcoming months, without so much that it’ll be difficult to get to like last year!

With the season turning and snow on the mind, let me recommend a really cool annual event coming up tomorrow. Warren Miller’s “Line of Descent” is the latest in a series of snow documentaries that brings a traveling event to towns across the world. Last year I watched it at Squaw with Johnny Moseley as MC.

This year? Walnut Creek! You can see the show at the Lesher Center’s Hofmann Theater at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. There were a few balcony tickets left last I checked, but they will go fast. Tickets are about $23 right now, but it’s well worth it. The movie itself is always really awesome, and you can win free snow swag at the show!

If you love to ski or ride like me, make sure to check out this year’s trailer above. Then, once you’re thoroughly pumped up for snow season, go buy a ticket and meet me at the Warren Miller show! As you can see in the trailer, they’re featuring Squaw Valley in part of this year’s movie. How cool is that?

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Road Trips: Capay Organic Farm

This is a repost from the previous week due to some technical difficulties with loading pictures into WordPress, just in case you missed it, I think it is worth a repost.

I subscribe to an organic vegetable and fruit home delivery from Capay Organic Farms. I can choose every week or every other week for a month. They have a standard selection of items, but I can delete items and add others. I can even choose from other vendors who have pesto, cheese or milk. Do you remember when the milkman delivered glass jars to your door?

It also comes with a sheet that has recipes and a note from Farmer Thaddeus. What makes Capay different is they also host a handful of events at their farm throughout the year. Capay Organic Farm in Capay, CA (just Northwest of Sacramento) is only an hour away and is a peaceful place to reconnect with nature, avoid crowds and have a relaxing day.

I recently took a day trip for their Capay Crush. Picnics were encouraged, but they had some food trucks and about five wineries doing tastings. We were also encouraged to pick tomatoes, take a tractor ride around the farm, and try various artisan products from pesto to olive oil. All the while, live music by three different bands were playing throughout the day!

The best band was saved for the last from 8-10 pm. Dirty Cello played, adults and kids danced and just celebrated an overall great day. If you wanted to, you could camp for $35 for the evening amongst the fig trees. I spoke with one guy who has been doing this for more than 15 years and talked fondly of seeing the bright, clear stars at night. Here are some additional pictures:

The last event of the year at Capay Organic Farm is its Pumpkin Palooza on Sat., Oct. 21st, from 11 am – 2 pm. You can buy tickets at the farm ($5 for adults, FREE for kids 12 and under!) if you want to go!

Check out some of the fun things they offer for Pumpkin Palooza:

  • Farm Talk with Farmer Thaddeus
  • Organic farmer’s market stand
  • Tractor rides
  • Face painting
  • Petting zoo
  • Pumpkin patch
  • Local olive oil tasting
  • Homemade pesto tasting
  • Authentic Mexican food from Tacos 911
  • Hand-baked goods from The Upper Crust
  • Artisan gelato
  • Cold brew and hot coffee

If you’re looking for a fun family road trip that is still a reasonable drive away and will make for a memorable Saturday, go take a look at Capay Organic’s Pumpkin Palooza in a couple weeks! Or one of their other events coming in 2018.

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Capay Organic Farm: box delivery, fun events…who knew??

I subscribe to an organic vegetable and fruit home delivery from Capay Organic Farms. I can choose every week or every other week for a month. They have a standard selection of items, but I can delete items and add others. I can even choose from other vendors who have pesto, cheese or milk. Do you remember when the milkman delivered glass jars to your door?

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Image may contain: food

It also comes with a sheet that has recipes and a note from Farmer Thaddeus. What makes Capay different is they also host a handful of events at their farm throughout the year. Capay Organic Farm in Capay, CA (just Northwest of Sacramento) is only an hour away and is a peaceful place to reconnect with nature, avoid crowds and have a relaxing day.

I recently took a day trip for their Capay Crush. Picnics were encouraged, but they had some food trucks and about five wineries doing tastings. We were also encouraged to pick tomatoes, take a tractor ride around the farm, and try various artisan products from pesto to olive oil. All the while, live music by three different bands were playing throughout the day!

The best band was saved for the last from 8-10 pm. Dirty Cello played, adults and kids danced and just celebrated an overall great day. If you wanted to, you could camp for $35 for the evening amongst the fig trees. I spoke with one guy who has been doing this for more than 15 years and talked fondly of seeing the bright, clear stars at night. Here are some additional pictures:

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

No automatic alt text available.

Image may contain: outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

Image may contain: outdoor

The last event of the year at Capay Organic Farm is its Pumpkin Palooza on Sat., Oct. 21st, from 11 am – 2 pm. You can buy tickets at the farm ($5 for adults, FREE for kids 12 and under!) if you want to go!

Check out some of the fun things they offer for Pumpkin Palooza:

  • Farm Talk with Farmer Thaddeus
  • Organic farmer’s market stand
  • Tractor rides
  • Face painting
  • Petting zoo
  • Pumpkin patch
  • Local olive oil tasting
  • Homemade pesto tasting
  • Authentic Mexican food from Tacos 911
  • Hand-baked goods from The Upper Crust
  • Artisan gelato
  • Cold brew and hot coffee

If you’re looking for a fun family road trip that is still a reasonable drive away and will make for a memorable Saturday, go take a look at Capay Organic’s Pumpkin Palooza in a couple weeks! Or one of their other events coming in 2018.

 

Enjoy some gorgeous hikes before summer ends!

With the warm summer weather starting to tail off a bit, all you hikers will want to get out there and hit these last few trails before the season changes completely. Here are four great hike ideas close to San Francisco, from Time Out San Francisco.

  1. Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve: a more remote, forested getaway in the Oakland hills with stunning views of the Bay in every direction!
  2. Angel Island: 360-degree views of the Bay Area from the highest point, and just a cool getaway for some nature and history.
  3. Alamere Falls: If you’re brave enough, you can sneak close to the edge of the 40-foot falls that drop into the ocean.
  4. Lands End: An oldie, but a goodie – you can’t beat this classic hike, which can take you through the Sutro Baths, along the coastline, and towards breathtaking Golden Gate views.

Obviously, there are plenty of local hikes in the East Bay to explore, too. Mt. Diablo and The Open Space are always fun, as are the views from the Berkeley Hills and Grizzly Peak. If you want something easy to take a stroller or a couple dogs on, try the Lafayette Reservoir!

We are very blessed to live in an area that has temperate weather even in the winter, but the beauty of the trails (and the lack of mud!) disappears as fall converges on the summer.

It’s supposed to stick in the low 90’s for the rest of this work week, and then start the decline into the 80’s and 70’s in the weeks to come. Take advantage now before you hole up next to the fireplace for the winter!

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: www.ccwater.com.

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 www.map-testing.com. 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!