Perk up your porch for less

The first image one has of a home is the entryway. Guests should be greeted with an inviting space. Here are some inexpensive ideas to brighten up your porch to make it enticing for prospective buyers.

Color. If you don't want to invest in a new front door, simply paint the one you have. Color is an instant way to add a new element to your facade. If you like the natural look of your wooden front door, consider re-staining it to look like new. Also, hardware, such as knobs and doorknockers can be easily swapped out and upgraded for a new look.
Lights. Lighting is a great way to add interest and safety to the entrance of your home. If the expense of an electrician to install outdoor lights is out of the question, consider adding lanterns or flameless candles on either side of the door or steps. This will light the entry and create an inviting space.
Plants. Consider adding potted plants to the front porch. Choose plants or flowers according to the season, consider colorful tulips in the spring or mums in the fall.
Digits. The options for house numbers are seemingly boundless. Every size, material and style is available and prices range from inexpensive to astronomical. Select numbers that fit your budget and design. The numbers can go on the home itself or between the steps. However, they should be visible from the front of the home.
Welcome. The entrance should be well lit and safe. A welcome mat or small outdoor rug may prevent slips, in addition to catching any dirt before entering the home.

CNN lists the top travel destinations of 2013 based on economics, 'buzz', marketing and experts. Here are some locations that made this year's list.

  • Scotland, UK
  • Rabat, Morocco
  • Kosice, Slovakia
OK, so call me boring. I'd go to Ireland, Chile and Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo in December. 

Special Nutrition Care for Cats

Protein: Cats have the highest requirement for protein of all domesticated species. When cats were evolving, a high protein and fat diet was always available so cats never found it necessary to conserve proteins. Cats always "waste" some of the dietary protein by breaking it down for energy.
Taurine: Cats require taurine because they cannot convert other amino acids into taurine. Taurine is important to prevent visual, cardiac and reproductive problems and is found only in meat and fish.
Protein: Cats have the highest requirement for protein of all domesticated species. When cats were evolving, a high protein and fat diet was always available so cats never found it necessary to conserve proteins. Cats always "waste" some of the dietary protein by breaking it down for energy.
Fats: Cats also require both linoleic and arachidonic acids to prevent skin and coat problems and poor reproduction. Arachidonic acid is found only in animal sources of fat.
Vitamins: Pre-formed vitamin A must also be present in the eat's diet. Dogs can break b-carotene into two molecules of vitamin A; cats cannot. Pre-formed vitamin A is also found only in animal tissues.

New Puppy Checklist

Food and Water Bowls - There are a variety of these on the market, including height adjustable ones, so just choose the one that will best fit you and your new puppy's needs.
A Travel Crate - The guidelines for choosing a crate is to make sure that it is not too large. It should be large enough for your puppy to stand and to turn around, but small enough to make the puppy feel secure.
Nylon Leash -Avoid getting too long of a leash for your puppy. A 6ft. leash will keep your puppy a safe distance and give you more control. As your puppy grows and gets more accustomed to walking on a leash, you can purchase a longer one.
Adjustable Collar - Get one small enough so that it will fit now, but can also be adjusted as your puppy grows Veterinarian- Before taking your puppy home, find a veterinarian and make an appointment for a check-up. Also, take the time to locate a 24 hour animal hospital in case an emergency arises.
Food- Always consult a professional when choosing a food to make sure you are providing your puppy with the proper nutrition.
Durable Toys - Puppies love squeaky toys, but make sure to buy ones durable enough, so that puppy cannot get to the squeaker, which can cause a choking hazard. There is also a great selection of durable rubber toys on the market that are virtually indestructible.

Buying Beats Renting in 98 of 100 Metros



Buying beats renting in 98 of 100 metros (2/12)

Buying beats renting in 98 of 100 metros (2/12). Thanks to nationwide price declines and rising rents, buying a home is now cheaper than renting one in 98 of the nation's 100 major metropolitan areas, according to a rent vs. buy index from real estate search and marketing site Trulia.

In the two remaining metros, San Francisco and Honolulu, renting often beat buying, but buying could be a better deal for those who plan to stay in their home for at least five years and take advantage of the mortgage interest tax deduction, Trulia said.

The rent vs. buy index is based on a price-to-rent ratio of asking prices to asking rents for properties on between Dec. 1, 2011 and Feb. 29. 2012, after adjusting for property and neighborhood attributes, the site said.

A price-to-rent ratio of 15 or below indicates it is less expensive to buy than to rent in an area; a ratio of 20 or higher indicates renting is less expensive than buying; and a ratio between 15 and 20 indicates buying could be cheaper than renting depending on individual circumstances, including tax considerations.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco County (which is one and the same as the city) had the highest price-to-rent ratio, followed by Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, both home to Silicon Valley. In all but San Francisco County, buying was less expensive than renting.

Resort Home Coming Soon

This is another great floor plan by Arcadia Homes. With five bedrooms on a beautifully landscaped 10,000 square foot lot you will feel like you are coming home to an exclusive resort.

Right now we are looking into the improvements that will make this home deliciously appealing to the eager home buyers. You can follow our progress at

A Safe Home is No Accident - Yard

■ Are your steps and sidewalks clear, and free from toys, tools, ice and snow?
■ Is your yard free from glass, nails, yard tools and any other sharp items?
■ Do you check play equipment and lawn furniture for safe use?
■ Are clotheslines strung high – so no one will walk into them?
■ Do gardeners wear protective clothing and limit time in the hot sun?
■ Does the person using the power mower wear sturdy shoes?
■ Are children kept away from power tools when they’re in use?
■ Are gas and charcoal grills kept clean and lit carefully?

Remember the Three Stooges? One of their routines was to step on the tip of a face up shovel and get smacked in the face by the hard wooden handle.  

I see shovels and rakes left neglected at the homes I visit. I've also seen a guy get smacked in the face by the handle.  It was fast as a whip!

 He did not think it was funny. Fortunately, he was the one who had left the shovel. I hope this jogs your memory when you see such tools. It is such a little effort to turn them face down.

A Safe Home is No Accident - Bedrooms

A Safe Home is No Accident - Bedrooms

■ Is a light within easy reach of the bed?
■ Are room heaters placed away from furniture and turned off at bedtime?
■ Are rooms with freestanding heaters kept well ventilated?
■ Is your baby’s mattress firm and crib free of pillows and loose blankets?
■ Are infant’s and toddler’s toys soft,with individual parts too large to be swallowed?
■ Are pins and detachable decorations removed from small children’s clothes?
■ Are plastic dry cleaner’s bags destroyed or kept out of children’s reach?
■ Does everyone know that there is no smoking in bedrooms?
■ Are candles kept away from windows and curtains?
■ Are closets kept clean enough for doors to open safely?

I am Here to Help

Buying a home can be stressful.

I will be your greatest ally championing your issues and guiding you through the process.

I will help with:
•    Determining affordability.
•    Identifying financing methods.
•    Providing estimates for all costs that will be incurred such as local taxes, municipal services etc.
•    Giving you insightful knowledge of your desired neighborhood.

Each home has a unique transaction process. Homes differ based on contract terms, financing options, inspection requirements and closing costs. It makes sense to have a me a CENTURY 21 Sales Professional by your side to help with negotiations as well as other parts of the home buying process, we can help.

If you're considering a move, or hear that any family, friends, neighbors or colleagues are, please feel free to contact me - I will get results.

Don’t Lag on Winter Home Maintenance

Homes may require some extra attention when it comes to maintenance to protect itself against the cold, harsh weather.

Keep out drafts. Twice a year check your windows and doors for any air leaks, and add caulking, if needed. If extra caulking won’t suffice and you don’t have the money for a replacement, consider adding a storm door to keep out drafts or at least purchasing a draft blocker, which lies at the bottom of your door to block out the cold air.

Check the heating system. Central heat and air units need to be checked over. When a unit is well-serviced it will save you fuel and thus money.

Assess the ductwork. Make a trip to the attic to ensure that any parts haven’t become disconnected as well as a critter hasn’t chewed through any duct work.

Clean the gutters. Gutters can become clogged of leaves or other debris. When that happens, they can hold water, which can eventually rot away the siding or roof of your home. Make sure to keep the gutters clean.

Prevent freezing pipes. When the weather drops below freezing you need to keep your pipes from freezing. Let faucets drip and unhook all outdoor hoses.

Sumer Landscaping Tips

Summer landscaping tips

Landscaping has the potential to drastically enhance the curb appeal of your home, whether the purpose is to attract potential buyers or simply for you to enjoy. When landscaping your property, strive for a balance of flowering trees and/or shrubs throughout spring and summer, fall foliage in autumn and good structure in winter. Summer is the ideal time to highlight your the outdoor space with color, so check out our tips to make the most of the season.
1. Consult your local nursery to select plants that your yard can sustain. Conditions necessary for growth, such as shade or direct sun must be considered.
2. Remember to test your irrigation system; often maintenance is required after the winter season.
3. Select a variety of plants with seasons in mind. Evergreens will provide year-round foliage, structure in the winter and even frame your property for privacy. Deciduous and perennial plants add bits of color in the warmer seasons, but only bloom for so long. 4. Incorporate annuals into the landscape to supplement continuous color.
5. Remember to plant with maintenance in mind, some plants require consistent pruning or watering.

Return On Remodeling Investment - What is worth it?

How to get the most return on your remodel investment. What upgrades are worth it.

Remodeling Magazine and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently released their report comparing remodeling cost vs. value. The results vary depending on multiple factors including: region, quality of work, value of homes in your neighborhood, and when you plan to sell your home in relation to the completion of the project.
According to the overall findings, to boost the value of your home, start by upgrading the exterior. Replace your front door with a steel or fiberglass entry door to add curb appeal and value. Give your home a facelift and dramatically improve your facade by upgrading your existing siding. New garage doors will enhance your home aesthetically and functionally. The report also mentions that new windows save owners in energy costs and often add to resale value. When possible, the addition of a wood deck to outdoor living space is definitely a sought after amenity by potential buyers.
As for interior remodels, convert unused space into living areas. Finish the basement or convert the attic to a bedroom. Also, minor kitchen updates such as counter, cabinet, floor and sink upgrades are always big selling points.

Opportunity Knocks Again - The Fix Up Loan 203K

Now, I'll be honest, I haven't sold a house using the 203K loan. When I was a lender, I did originate Chase Construction Remodel loans. My expert at Bank of America tells me the two loans have a lot of similarities. (Read, a lot of work for your loan officer)

Lots of homes on the market are shining examples of "potential". The problem in most situations is the hardworking buyers can't see themselves having the time or the money to remodel.

This is where the 203K loan can be a boon. Picture adding $20,000 to $50,000 to your loan and fixing all the things wrong with your new home, BEFORE YOU MOVE IN!

This loan has lots of benefits such as no payments until construction is complete so you don't have both a house payment and a rent payment. The lender aggressively manages the process. They want your home complete in a month or two at the max.

Because I work with REOs I get some great deals from my contractors. This can make the loan dollars go as far as possible.

If you consistently find yourself liking homes but wishing they were not so tired, this could help you get what you want. Do your self a favor, make an appointment to talk to a Senior Loan Officer and learn how the 203k loan can give you the remodeling opportunity of a lifetime.

Buyer's Market Door Slams Shut - Real Time

There is an old saying I love that goes, "Opportunity will knock but, She won't knock your door down!" The current real estate market is opportunity knocking.

All the clients I have helped with Short Sales understand this. They got their sales completed so they will be able to buy a new home before the prices and the interest rates bounce up again.

I put a big production effort into having lots of people visit my open houses. Because of this, I meet lots of buyers. Too many of the people that are shopping for a home today act as if the great deals will go on forever.

It is as if each weekend they have Brad Pitt facsimiles to date so why worry about getting serious? When the market changes it will change fast, and in a snap, the Brad Pitts are gone and all that will be left are the Ozzy Osbournes.

Here is a real time example. Did you know there was a teacher loan that gave teachers in San Jose an interest free second to make their house payments more affordable?  This loan has been around for a couple of years.

A couple of weeks ago, the news came out that the Federal Government decided to take back funds, and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency would lose money they used to fund the Teacher Loan Program. A young teacher, who had been shopping a long time, suddenly had to make up his mind or lose the opportunity.

He made an offer on one of my listings. The Teacher's agent has worked with me on several deals. He is very transparent and cooperative. Because of that we have continued to work on this purchase together even though it is complicated due to the fact the teacher got his acceptance for his loan ONE day before it was abolished.

SLAM!! Now there are no more San Jose Teacher Loans.

The opportunity to get a great LONG TERM home investment has never been better. Opportunity is knocking. What the hell?  Let her in!

The Two Projects that Create the Best Resale; What Buyers Should Know

Sellers, I want you to get your home sold for a price that keeps even your neighbors happy. So this advice will help you get the best price with the least investment.

Buyers, when I work with you I want you to avoid the knee jerk reaction of the statistical majority. That way, if budget is important to you, you will see the value in homes others miss.  Remember, if you do buy a house, then all this home improvement advice applies to your new purchase.

Once again Remodeling magazine has concluded that the home improvement projects that produce the best rate of return ratio between cost and sales price are exterior projects.  Making your home scream "pride of ownership" gets you more visitors. The more visitors the more likely you will get a good price.

I have a web page up right now with NO Exterior Pictures. That is because the yard had too much ground cover and unkempt trees. The site is  It would be incompetant to put the exterior pictures now since the Seller is willing to fix the "Welcome Mat".

The seller has had the landscaping cleaned up. Gotten professional advice on how to formalize the paths on this large lot. Ultimately, buyers are going to feel like they are on a trip to a Napa Valley Winery.

We want people to see it; just not on the mls until we have the Curb Appeal to make people stop and visit.

Now here is how this works for buyers. I had a Great Property priced as a Screaming Deal because I listed it just as it was 5 days from foreclosure.

The seller stayed home from work and cleaned house. We came in with the lights, cameras and staging props and had a beautiful set of interior pictures in one day.

Over the weekend, while I worked the open house, I watched buyers drive up to the house and make the decision to enter or drive away. It was easy to read their minds because the home was on a cul de sac.

Over 50% of the people drove on! The price was under 380,000 for a 3 bedroom house in the Rosegarden.  Why didn't all of them come in?

Negative Curb Appeal; the home was dowdy. It was a little bungalow shape that made it look smaller than it was. The nice front door was hidden behind an ugly metal screen. The lot was 100% flat and there wasn't a bush or a flower in the yard!

This home was not at all neglected. The seller was planning to build a front  porch to give it curb appeal and a place to sit in the evenings. Then the recession hit and the project died. The lawn was green and weed free. The paint was is great shape and the home had been remodeled around 2003.

The lesson for sellers is invest in a great front door, flowers, lawn, bushes, a deck and exterior paint BEFORE you consider more expensive projects like kitchen remodels. You still won't get all your investment back in increased sales price. But, you will improve your chance of getting a price that will let you sell.

The flip side of this, is that a smart buyer will smile when he or she sees a house in the right neighbor hood that has Zero Curb Appeal. Get out of the car and Investigate. You just might find a pearl inside the dowdy oyster.

Tips on Bank Owned Property

Sometimes you'll see bank owned property sit on the market for a long time. How does this happen?

The bank sets the price, not the local real estate agent. Many of these banks have no understanding of a local market of unique homes like Willow Glen.

Eventually the bank lowers the price it will accept to a number that represents a good deal for the home. The problem is that since the home has been on the market a long time, the buyers and their agents assume something is wrong with the home. Indeed, occasionally a lender has authorized new paint or carpet to help move the home.

This is good news for the bargain hunter. The home might have gotten multiple offers if it were priced right when it was first listed. Now, you may be able to buy without competition.

Short sale vs REO

In Willow Glen, only 18 short sale SFR homes are active. Only 7 REO homes are active. These are the bargain hunters homes.

Sure, Bank Owned property closes fast, but the Short Sale can be the better buy if you really need to stretch your budget.

I recently closed a short sale home that I had listed. The buyer was great and waited about 3.5 months for me to negotiate a deal with two lenders.

Earlier that year, the buyer had bought a foreclosure home for her son. It turned out there were lots of things wrong with that home. It ended up costing her more money than a regular sale home.

Now she saw the virtue of Patiently Waiting for her short sale home.

For her 3.5 months waiting, she got a really nice home with full disclosures. The yard was over grown, but the house was delivered nice and clean.

If your budget is in the $500,000's, you can get a real beauty at


TAKE ACTION: The Fannie Freddie category "conforming jumbo" is about to go away. The new conforming limit is going to be about $480,000. That means that the loan payments on loans over $480K will go up because the interest rate will be about a full point higher than "conforming".

On an $700,000 loan the difference is 449 dollars a month. Now, if you are going to be OK making that extra $449 payment, let me point out your "opportunity cost".

The $449 payment is equal to an extra $79,079 in loan amount at the lower rate. Not only does delaying cost you a higher interest rate it buys you less house!!! There is still time but don't plan on a short sale!! You will save more in the long run buying a home you love with a great long term interest rate today.

Why is My Lender So Stupid?

Heck Yeah! Your Bank would rather foreclose and loose hundreds of thousands of dollars than work with you to 1) forgive the late payments now that you are back to work 2) get your payments a little more affordable since "its a recession" 3) reduce the balance so you are not so ridiculously upside down, 4) give you a "market" (today's) interest rate instead of the 7.375% you got when your home was worth more than the loan. 5) or let you catch up over a reasonable period like two years.

I was at the Convention Center Home Retention Event in San Jose in February. I had my homeowner call and ask three things of the Bank 1) will someone be there who can underwrite our loan modification application? 2) will they be authorized to extend the foreclosure date? 3) will they make sure the package is complete so we can move ahead?

The answer was "YES, YES, YES".

The homeowners took the day off and I met them at the convention center. They waited all day. By the time we met with our "officer" we were all tired.

The ONLY useful thing we got out of this was the insight that our Investor does not "do PRINCIPLE REDUCTION". Without a principle reduction, struggling to keep this home made no sense at all. 

In truth everything the Bank said was yes, yes, yes was Hell No!

Later that evening I was lucky to meet one of the heads of the event from a really HUGE bank.  I told him that we came with two options my homeowner's Investor. 1) reduce the balance by $75,000 and adjust the interest rate to market or 2) accept the Short Sale Contract I had in my briefcase that will lose the investor upwards of $200,000.

The Banker gave me a stunned look!

Here is the problem. Bankers are "servicers". They make their money on "fees". They get paid to send the bills and collect the money. That part is pretty competitive. Once the loan goes late, that is where they stick it to everyone! Including YOUR Investor!

No, the Bank is not your Investor. The Bank is similar to an overpaid, bad attitude clerk. That is why they disconnect you when you call; give you bogus information, treat you like you are the jerk. You know what I mean!

Your Investor could be the Teachers Association of Laredo's Retirement Fund. The crime is the Teachers  have no idea that you may be willing and FULLY QUALIFIED to give them a much better deal than the bank will tell them.

Face it, if I laid out for You two losses for you to take, one is $75,000 and the other $200,000 I don't have to guess which one you will take!!! The Teachers association would do the same thing. But Your  Lender Doesn't Tell Them.

Your Lender makes more money out of charging both You and Your Investor Fees than by helping the Investor make money. Since your "Lender/Servicer" has all the power and control, common sense will never apply.

I know this is not good news. I do hope you find it helpful. Feel free to call and ask me about your scenario. I am not an award wining, super Blogger Yet. I always have time for your friends and family.

Doing Nothing is the Worst Thing!

When you were applying for the loan on your house it was pretty easy. Helpful friendly people were eager to explain everything to you.

Now you have a loan that is worth more than your home. Your income has sagged with the economy and you could really use a little help and understanding.

Forget that. There is a reason that every time the bank speaks to you they say “we have to inform you that everything you say is being used to collect our debt”

That is where I help. I was a mortgage lender for 16 years before the recession. I know the rules, guidelines and programs that the your bank uses to qualify people for loan modifications and short sales.

I help homeowners with a careful and honest evaluation of their modification package. Follow the loan modification package instructions. Be very thorough.

Only one in ten applications for loan mods  are approved.  Call me now. I’ll help you evaluate your application.

Doing nothing is the worst thing.