Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What city would you vote for as the Best Place to Get in Shape?

Best places to get in shape


best places to get in shape
At left: A Fairfield, Conn. three-bedroom, 2½-bath, 1,458 sq. ft. home for $430,000. At right: A San Francisco three-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,600 sq. ft. home for $849,000.

It's not easy to step up your diet and exercise routine -- and having a Cinnabon on every corner sure doesn't help.

To find the best metros for getting fit, MONEY and Trulia crunched some health-centric data, looking for places with easy access to nutritious food, dietary advice, and plenty of exercise options.

We compare the top two. To top of page
East Coast vs. West Coast
Two of the nation's healthiest metro areas face off.
                                                                                                  Fairfield County, Conn.
                         San Francisco
Diet and weight loss centers per 10,000 households                0.36 0.28
For-sale homes affordable to the middle class 36% 14%
Gyms and fitness centers per 10,000 households 5.3 3.8
Increase in asking price (2012 to 2013)  9.8% 15.2%
Median home price  $470,000 $829,000
Median square feet for affordable home  1,317 1,000
Percent of population who walk or bike to work3% 9.2%
Ratio of "slow food" to fast-food restaurants 1.41 1.6
NOTES: Fitness-related data from 2010 and 2011. Pricing information as of November. Square footage and affordability data from October. SOURCE: Trulia

Monday, January 20, 2014

Here's a realistic look at the market for 2014

Real estate: Look for value in 2014

  @Money December 9, 2013:

The good news for housing is that price gains next year are expected to be only about half as strong as in 2013, when sellers stayed on the sidelines. Yes, that's good news. "For a sustainable recovery you want to see more balance between buyers and sellers," says David Stiff, chief economist at CoreLogic Case-Shiller, which is forecasting a 6.8% rise in the median home value for 2014.

Inventory is already improving. Nationwide, the number of homes for sale in September rose 1.8% vs. a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's the first increase since late 2011. In Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Orlando, inventory was 10% or higher than a year earlier.

"It will still be a sellers' market in 2014, given how far we have before inventory is back to normal," says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, noting the supply of homes in September was still about 15% below historical norms. "But it will not be as extreme as 2013," he says.

Buyers will also enjoy an advantage next year as real estate investors are expected to be less of a factor. Why? In an improving market, there are fewer distressed homes, which they covet. According to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking survey, the investor share of residential home purchases fell from 23% earlier this year to 17% in September. In a more balanced market like this, here's what you can do to get an edge:


Waiting for more inventory can make sense if you have a dream home in mind. But in 2014 there will be a price for delay -- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are forecast to climb from today's 4.5% to more than 5%.

Work with a fast closer. Qualifying for loans is easier now, but speed is another issue. Franklin, Tenn., agent Patty Latham says she will not work with buyers using a particular lender that has missed several deadlines. For speed, Virginia agent Rob Wittman suggests sticking with local lenders with ties to nearby appraisers.

What's fast? John Wheaton at Guaranteed Rate says, "Where 45 days was the norm, you can get an express closing in 20 days and even faster."

Lead with a credible offer. At a time of multiple bids, low-balling isn't the way to go. "The reality is, sellers don't have to come back to you with a counter if they've got better bids," Wittman says. Of course, you don't want to overpay either. Even in markets that are starting to experience bidding wars, such as L.A. and Boston, final sales prices are still typically about 1% below asking. Use that and your agent's local knowledge and go in with a respectable bid.


If you like your home and are not in a rush to sell, you have great flexibility. For instance, your rising home equity will make it easier to borrow against the property. That can help pay for deferred maintenance or home renovations you've been eyeing for years -- which will only add value when you eventually put your home on the market.

Remodel within reason. Home-improvement spending is expected to grow by double digits through mid-2014, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Atop the wish list: bathroom and kitchen jobs.

Keep resale in mind. While the focus was on value at the market lows, today "homes with all the fixings are the ones attracting multiple buyers," says McLean, Va., real estate broker Jon Wolford. So, yes, you can splurge a bit, but don't go crazy. Remodeling Magazine's cost-vs.-value survey found that moderate kitchen remodels ($57,500) recouped 69% of their cost, close to what minor jobs paid back. Over-the-top projects ($111,000), though, recouped less than 60%.

Take advantage of low home-equity rates. While 30-year mortgages rose nearly a point this year, rates on home-equity lines of credit have fallen a bit to 5.1%. That's because HELOCs are tied to short-term rates that the Fed isn't likely to hike until 2015.

If you'll need to repay your loan over many years, though, go with a fixed-rate home-equity loan. Today's 6.25% average is about 0.25 points lower than a year ago, as lenders are now more interested in doing deals, says Keith Gumbinger at Credit unions can be the best place to shop for home-equity loans. The average credit union rate is 5.75%.


List too early and you'll leave gains on the table. Wait too long and rising borrowing costs might put an end to bidding wars. You can't time the market perfectly, but you can keep an eye on inventory trends. Ask your agent to give you a monthly report on the number of listings compared with closings. Housing trends play out gradually.

Once you see a big uptick in listings relative to closings, you'll know price gains are getting ready to slow -- and that it's time to act.

Price it right the first time. Don't waste your time by listing too high only to have to wait and lower the price. "Buyers are smart these days -- they know where the market is, and now that rates are higher, they aren't going to bite on a list price above recent comparables," says Sara Fischer, an agent with Redfin based in San Diego. The real estate site Zillow reports that about one-third of listed homes in August had a price drop, up from 26% earlier this year.

Play tour guide for the appraiser. If your buyer's lender gets an appraisal that comes in lower than the agreed-upon price, you're in for plenty of headaches -- even in an improving market. You'll have to lower the price, the buyer will have to cough up a bigger down payment, or worst case, the deal might collapse, sending you back to square one.

Fischer recommends that sellers be present when appraisers come by. "They don't want to listen to the agent," she says. "But if you're the owner and can walk them through all the improvements, that can help the appraiser better understand what has gone into the home." She recommends handing the appraiser a spreadsheet of all upgrades, listing when they were done and the scope of each project.

Courtesy of CNN Money

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Will I Know?

As the grandparents of 2 preciouses boys, 4 & almost 3, and the parents of 2 grown sons, this blog touched our hearts as we are sure it will yours.  Have the Kleenex ready! So true and it goes so fast. Enjoy --Bill & Pat

One mother wonders about the man her son may become, and another wonders how her son has all of a sudden become a man. 

Driving down the road in a tree-lined suburban neighborhood, I see two teenage boys driving golf carts. The one in front is wearing a red polo and plaid pants. He pushes a lock of his dark hair aside and then sticks his hand out to touch the leaves on the trees next to him. The boy behind him calls out to him and they laugh, without a care in the world.

I see them and a flash-forward image of my son at that age pops into my field of vision; I nearly stop the car to shake it off. A wave of wistfulness washes over me with the knowledge that my son will reach this age more quickly than I can imagine right now. For an instant, I want to freeze time.
In the next instant, I feel a sense of relief for the parents of these boys that they have grown up so strong and healthy and independent. They have the good fortune of watching them grow. They have done their job the best they knew how.

I wonder what I will know about my son when he is the age of these two boys driving golf carts on a quiet street. And I wonder what he will know about me.

Will he remember that his father or I would lie next to him in bed every night until he fell asleep?
Will he remember that he would wake every morning with a smile and an "I love you, Mama"?
Will he remember playing baseball with us in the front yard, complete with the bases and bat his father had lovingly picked out for him?

Will he remember falling off his new bike in the first five minutes that he tried it? Will he remember that I cajoled him back on the bike and helped him gain his confidence back until he could do it by himself?

The reality is that he might not. But I will.

And when he gets to be a teenager, I will know that I have done my best to instill the values we believe in and taught him right from wrong and exhibited the kindness we want him to embody as well. I will know that he has successfully grown from baby to toddler to preschooler to boy to young man.

I will be relieved that I have gotten him to this point in our journey together. It will be a downhill ride for him on his own, without the training wheels at that point. It will be up to him to decide which activities, which classes, which sports to choose. He will choose his friends and girlfriends and he will learn what it means to love and be loved. He will understand hurt more than I wish he would, even knowing that it is necessary for him to grow.

He will be taller than I am, most likely, and stronger. He will be smarter, I have no doubt.
We will celebrate, the three of us, that he has reached young-man status and that life is good. This is my wish, always.

He will know that I am soft-hearted but firm. He will know that I am silly and will break out in a dance or song at the drop of a hat. He will know that I will talk to everyone and anyone and will probably embarrass him, just as my mother did. He will know where he gets his love of music and sports and wide-open spaces.

He will know that his parents love him more than anything in the whole world.

We are just beginning; and yet, four years have flown by as fast as a shooting star. I love this stage so much; he is still sweet and likes to hug mom and tells me fantastic stories he has made up from bits and pieces he has picked up along the way. I'm trying not to blink; 18 will come sooner than I want to imagine.

In the meantime, I will know this: these fleeting moments are each a drop of gold.



Eighteen years wasn't long enough.

I watch you as you sit on the sofa tonight, beautiful, young and dark-haired, with the bright blue eyes I've been looking into for this, my 18th year as a mother. You're excitedly planning your applications for colleges. You ask me for my input. Should you stay in the Midwest? Would California be too far?
I tell you the answer that is the right answer: I want you to be wherever you want to be. I say that I wouldn't complain if you picked the university two hours away, and pretend to be joking.

The truth is, I love you so much that I want you to be free and unencumbered in your dreams; I want your hopes to take you where you imagine happiness to be. I am grateful that I can pull myself away from the mothering soul inside me that aches with the wish to keep you always in the days of when we'd play trains together, and you'd pull me by the hand over to your side of the table, "See, mama... see? Stay sitting over here by me..."

To hold you forever in those days would serve me, but never you. You have your life to live now, and I want it to be one of adventure, happiness and confidence. I don't want you to feel that you can't leave me because I will crumble without you. We both know without me saying that in those first days when you're gone, as I walk past your room that no longer holds you while you sleep, I'll wander among your things, and wish the boy back who once called this home.

It's so funny, I somehow always imagined myself being the mother of little boys forever. Never seeing an end to these days, I lived them as if they were limitless in their count. And much too fast, we've come to the end of the diamonds in this mine. With each month that passes in this last year of you being home with us, the time of your undeniable leaving looms large. But it can't take away the beauty of the full facet of the jewels from these days, the wonder of the creation you've become. In what hour did you grow into the handsome, kind, considerate man who shares this life with me? Wasn't this supposed to happen bit by bit, not all at once?

But it is all at once, and, tonight, I can only think how very fortunate I am that I still have you within arm's reach. And even though I know there is no way that I could have possibly done and given and been the mother that I dreamed for you, I know that somewhere in our history together, I grew worthy of your love and trust... I know. For what other explanation could there be, that you still allow this woman, so foolish in her desperate adoration of you, to come to you where you sit now on the sofa and take your hand, while you lean into her shoulder and say, "See, mama...? You can stay sitting over here by me..."

You can find Alexandra at Good Day, Regular People, as well as writing regular columns at Aiming Low, Mom Renewal Project, MilwaukeeMoms, Sprocket Ink, and TikiTikiblog. She was named a 2011 BlogHer Voice of the Year for humor. In 2012, she was chosen to be part of The Moth's National Live Story Tellers Tour, and presented alongside Molly Ringwald. Alexandra is also a co-producer/director for the Listen to Your Mother show in Milwaukee.
Kristin Shaw is a freelancer by day, writer by night, a full-time wife of an Austin native, and mother of a mini-Texan. She's proud to be a co-producer of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show in Austin. You can find her on Twitter (@AustinKVS), her blog, Two Cannoli, or at The Huffington Post.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Helpful Maintenance Tips for your Home

January Home Maintenance To-Do List

Undersink mounted dual water filters.

To-Do #1: Change Water and Icemaker Filters

The disposable filters in your water filtration system and icemaker need to be changed at least twice a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

When filters become clogged, the flow of water slows and can allow mold to form inside the filter. Most water filters are easy to change, either by removing a screw-on cover or pressing a release tab. Be sure to take the old filter with you to the store, so that you can buy the correct replacement.

If you don’t have a water filter in your home, consider:

  • Water Filtration Pitcher: With no installation required, filtration pitchers have you drinking filtered water in a flash by pouring water into the pitcher through a filter mounted in the lid.
  • Faucet Mounted Water Filter: These units screw directly onto the end of your kitchen faucet, replacing the aerator with a valve that directs the water through the filter or out the faucet as desired.
  • Countertop Mounted Water Filter: These larger filters are less likely to clog than faucet filters. They screw directly onto the faucet, with a tube connecting to the filtration unit on the counter.
  • Under Sink Mounted Water Filter: These filters install under your sink and connect to a separate water dispenser installed next to the sink faucet. They require some plumbing and cutting a hole in your sink or countertop if one isn’t already available.
  • Icemaker Filter: These may come built into your fridge or can be added to the water line supplying your icemaker.
  • Whole House Water Filter: These units attach to your main water line and filter all the water entering the house. They generally only filter out rust and sediment.
Using a drain stick to clean a bathtub drain.

To-Do #2: Clean Bathroom Tub and Sink Drains

Over time, hair and debris can build up in your bathroom drains, impeding the flow and causing water to back up into your tub or sink. Not only is this unpleasant, it lets dirty water to stand in your sink or tub, allowing mold and mildew to grow both in the basin and in the pipes.

To clean a tub or sink drain, you’ll first need to remove the drain assembly and any drain grates covering the drain opening. Clean these with an old toothbrush and paper towel.

Next, insert a plastic drain stick into the overflow drain, then again in the main drain. A drain stick is about two feet long and is barbed or bristled to remove hair and gunk inside the pipe. Work the stick up and down, then carefully draw out debris and wipe it off with a paper towel.

Once the drains are clear, pour a cup of bleach down the drain, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to kill any mold and mildew in the pipes. Finally, flush the drain thoroughly with hot water, and reinstall the drain assembly and grate.

Now that your drains are flowing freely again, get out your sponge and cleaners to give your tub and sink a good scrub!
Wire baskets and shelves in closet.

To-Do #3: Clean and Organize Closets

The New Year is a perfect time to organize your home, and why not start with your closets? Over the course of the year, closets get full of all sorts of stuff that may or may not belong there.

Since it’s too cold to do much outside, take advantage of a day stuck indoors to organize and clean your closets, and perhaps add some new shelving or other storage organizers while you’re at it. Follow these steps:

  • Inspect Closet: Examine your closet and determine what’s working and what’s not. Is there enough hanging room? Are shoes overrunning their space? Do you have belongings in the floor that have no place to go?
  • Clear Out Closet: Next, remove everything from the closet – yes, everything!
  • Purge Unused Items: Sort clothing, shoes, and accessories, and set aside unneeded items to donate. A good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to go.
  • Clean Closet: Give the inside of the closet a good cleaning, and possibly a fresh paint job.
  • Update Closet: Examine the closet to see if you can make better use of the space. You can dramatically increase storage space with shelving, hanger bars, baskets, and bins that are tailored to suit your needs. For more information about DIY closet solutions, check out our video on How To Install a Track Storage System In Your Closet.
  • Fill Closet: Finally, put the remaining belongings back into your clean, neat closet.
Living room in home.

To-Do #4: Compile or Update Home Inventory

Finally, spend one of those cold winter days compiling a home inventory or updating the one you already have.

While nobody likes to think about losses in your home due to theft, fire, or natural disaster, a little preparation can go a long way to making the process of dealing with your insurance company easier should a loss occur.

To prepare a home inventory you’ll need a computer spreadsheet or paper notebook, camera and/or camcorder, and a tape measure. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Outside: Take a video of all sides of the outside of your home, including patios, landscaping, hardscaping, and sheds. Follow this up with photos from each angle. Take close-up photos of specific items, such as rockwork, outdoor kitchens, water features, and lighting to show detail. Record measurements, model and serial numbers, purchase price, and any other information that could help you determine the replacement value of the object.
  • Rooms: Next, move through your house room by room with a camcorder to video the interior. Slowly pan the room, starting at the upper left area from where you’re standing and moving toward the right, then down and back to the left across the lower half of the room. Repeat the process by taking wide-angle still photos of the room from each corner.
  • Individual Items: Now focus your camera on individual items of value. TVs, stereos, furnishings and rugs, equipment and tools, anything that would be important to replace in the event of loss. As you take photos, record on your spreadsheet each item’s name and image file number, along with as much information as possible. Record brands, model and serial numbers, measurements, and descriptive features.
  • Document Ownership: Finally, you’ll need to compile information to prove your ownership of each item. Record purchase dates and sources on your spreadsheet, and attach receipts and any appraisal statements to the inventory. Or, you can scan relevant document and attach them digitally to your inventory spreadsheet.
  • Secure File: If you compiled the inventory on paper, organize all documents neatly in a three-ring binder. If your inventory is in digital format, organize the digital files and copy them to flash drive, CD, or DVD. Make three copies of your inventory: one to keep at home, one to keep in your safety deposit box, and one to store in a remote location, such as with your insurance agent or a family member.
  • Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drone helps overseas buyers get a feel for mountain property's sweeping views

Terry Oakes of Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty says aerial photos captured by a drone are helping overseas buyers imagine how they’d build their dream home on an undeveloped 40-acre parcel on the market for $575,000 in Castle Rock, Colo.

Drone shots assembled into a two-minute virtual tour of Waverton Ranch provide a quick snapshot of the entire property that’s been seen by potential buyers in South America, Florida, Australia and Japan who are interested in the placement of landmarks such as rivers, hills and flat building sites, Oakes says.

 A growing number of real estate brokers and agents are experimenting with drones to shoot video and photos of listings, although their use remains a legal gray area.

 The Federal Aviation Administration permits hobbyists to fly drones away from airports at altitudes below 400 feet, but is still drafting regulations that would govern commercial use of the remote-controlled aircraft.

 The company that built the virtual tour of Waverton Ranch, Spotlight Home Tours, advises on its website that “helicopter and drone heli footage is an upgrade feature for all packages and not included in pricing shown.”

 Source: - See more at:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 10 U.S. cities for Chinese homebuyers


As the Chinese economy continues to boom, Chinese are looking abroad to spend money on real estate.

  @CNNMoney December 4, 2013: 7:54 PM ET

Detroit came in at No. 4 on the list of top U.S. cities for Chinese homebuyers

Where are they buying?

New York and Los Angeles top the list of U.S. cities they are most interested in, according to, a website where Chinese buyers browse global real estate listings.

More surprisingly, Philadelphia and Detroit come in at No. 3 and No. 4.

The top 10 list is rounded out by Houston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta, San Diego and Memphis.

Chinese buyers purchased $8.2 billion worth of U.S. property in 2012, according to Juwai. It ranked cities by how many searches they attracted from Chinese house hunters.

Related: 5 most affordable housing markets

This is a welcome clientele for U.S. sellers. The median home price among Chinese buyers was $425,000 in 2012, compared with the overall median U.S. home price of $199,500.

And the transactions are often quick and clean: 70% of the Chinese buyers pay cash, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Buyers have different reasons for picking a city.

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Diego have substantial Chinese communities.
Others seek homes near colleges their children can attend.

Related: Chinese homebuyers flood U.S. housing market

And the wealthiest of these Chinese buyers are looking for economically strong cities, using U.S. real estate to diversify their investments.

"They look at these as a safe haven for their money," said Pam Liebman, CEO of broker the Corcoran Group.

Wei Min Tan, a broker with Rutenberg Realty in Manhattan, said that most Chinese buy to rent out, or for sporadic use themselves.

"They often have kids in school somewhere nearby and they fly into New York, spend a few days and then go on to visit their kids," he said.

He added that most of these New York City sales are in the $1 million to $3 million category. "Rarely do they buy the trophy properties -- $15 million and up -- that make the news," said Tan.

Related: Cities with the most million-dollar homes

Cities like Detroit and Memphis are more appealing to Chinese looking for predictable, steady cash flow, according to Juwai. They're snapping up foreclosures and other heavily discounted properties, fixing them up and renting them to local residents. They hire local managers to take on the day-to-day maintenance and collect the rents.

In the case of Detroit, the buyers often don't even do repairs right away, according to Rachel Saltmarshall, president of the Detroit Association of Realtors. They're buying at tax sales and foreclosure auctions and holding the properties, sometimes keeping them vacant, hoping that the city's comeback is imminent.

Downtown Detroit is going through a renaissance, according to Kelly Sweeney a local real estate broker for Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel. "The Chinese are making bulk purchases of inexpensive properties, $25,000 or less, in the rings around downtown," he said. "They're banking on the downtown resurgence spiraling out into those rings."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Here's what a Fortune writer learned when he installed solar panels on his house.

The homeowner's guide to solar power

By David Whitford, editor at large

FORTUNE -- American homeowners added more solar-power generating capacity during the third quarter of 2013 than ever before, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association: 186 megawatts, up nearly 50% year-over-year. A tiny part of that—.002%—was recently installed on the gently-sloping, south-facing roof over my kitchen in suburban Boston.
Mine is a 15-panel, 3.75 kilowatt system, designed to replace about 80% of what my family would normally draw from the grid. If it produces as promised for at least 25 years, we'll cut our household carbon footprint by 62 tons and save $25,000 in utility bills. Total upfront cost: $12,951. Payback period, thanks to a ridiculously attractive package of state and federal incentives: less than five years. I know, why would anyone not?
I love my new power plant. Because I can, I monitor it compulsively, on my laptop and on my phone. At this moment, for instance—11:45 AM on a bright, bitter-cold January day—my roof is generating 2.51 killowatts of electricity. Since the dog is the only one at home, I'm pretty sure my meter is running backwards. That warms me.

MORE: Q&A with Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and CEO, Practically Green
That said, I've learned a few things over the past several months that I probably should have known going in. Nothing that would have changed my mind, but still. Herewith, my surprises
The Hassles
The incentives are generous, to be sure, but harvesting them all takes vigilance, effort and time. This year I'm anticipating a 30% tax credit from the feds worth about $3800, plus another $1000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Alas, I won't see that money until tax time, which in my case, as a habitual extension-filer, may not be until late summer.
Those are one-time offers. Most of the payback will come in slow drips over several years from the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, known as SRECs (pronounced S-RECs). Electricity producers buy them from solar producers like me to meet their solar generation requirements. Once a quarter, I have a ten-day window in which to take an eyeball reading of the meter in my basement and report the number of kilowatt hours I've produced to my SREC broker. (I could have paid extra for automatic reporting; that might have been a good idea.) The price I get for the SRECs is determined by the market, which in Massachusetts happens to be a bit soft just now, thanks to the flood of new installations. Happily, the state runs an SREC clearinghouse that guarantees me a minimum price for the next ten years. That sale occurs once a year, also in summer. Bottom line: I stand to generate a total of about $10,000 over the next decade, but it will take until 2024 to collect the full amount.

The Grid
When Hurricane Sandy blew through Boston in the fall of 2012, and many of my neighbors lost power for days, I had a happy vision of my own solar future. As long as the sun rose on the morning after, I figured, I'd be up and running.
Not so. My setup, like virtually all home systems, is designed to shut off automatically when the grid goes down. That made no sense to me at first, but I get it now. Power flows both ways. If all the solar houses in town were feeding an otherwise disabled grid, there would be no way for workers to safely repair downed transmission lines.

It's not impossible to fix, just complicated and expensive.  You'd need a surefire way to store power (batteries, lots of them) or make power (a generator) whenever you're not making any with solar, which where I live is most of the time. In the dead of winter, even on sunny days my system wakes up around 8:00 A.M. and goes to bed around 4:00 P.M. David Crane, CEO of NREG Energy, tells me that eventually his company will offer an affordable solar/natural gas generator combo package suitable for the residential market, providing true independence. But not yet.
The Vagaries of Weather
Boston has an average of 2,634 sunny hours per year, according to the National Climactic Data Center. Not in the same league with Phoenix (3,872) or Las Vegas (3,825), certainly, but not as bad as you might think. Columbus, Ohio has only 2,183; Houston, 2,578. But what Boston gets a lot of that Houston doesn't is snow, and when we get a storm like the one that arrived the week before Christmas—heavy snow topped with an icy frosting that sticks to the roof for days—my system stops producing.
Living where I do, I expect to shovel the driveway and the walk; I never imagined I'd be thinking about shoveling the roof.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Are you missing the thrills of skiing right now?

Enjoy Ski Season At Home

Are you missing the thrills of skiing right now? Have you always wanted to go skiing but can’t? If you answered yes, then the following exercises are for you. They will bring the sensations of a ski vacation into your life, wherever you are.

· Buy a new pair of gloves and immediately throw one away.
· Drive slowly for five hours—anywhere—as long as it’s snowing and you’re following an 18-wheeler.

· Place a small pebble in each of your shoes, line them with crushed ice, and then tighten a C-clamp around your toes.

· Secure one of your ankles to a bedpost and ask a friend to run into you at high speed.

· Throw away a $100 bill—now.

· Dress up in as many clothes as you can and then proceed to take them off because you have to go to the bathroom.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Local Market Trends for Tracy and Mountain House

The following information is from the local MLS database, as of January 2, 2014 and is compared to (December 1, 2013).As we enter the first month of 2014,we are still seeing mostly all equity sellers  as prices are beginning to level off.There are less homes on the market,  and most listings are not  receiving as many multiple offers and most are at the asking price or slightly below, if they are priced right. Interest rates have stayed the same with 30 yr fixed at 4.63% and 15 year at 3.64% 
   If you have been on the Fence about selling your home then NOW is still the time to sell. With the holidays over there are typically less homes on the market and  more and more will be coming on the market in the months to come. If you are curious to see how much equity you have in your house, give us a call for a market analysis! Or go to our new service for instant valuation of your home on the internet at Just click on What's My Home Worth"or  Just call or e-mail for an hassle free appointment or to just talk about the market anytime. 1-800-894-7282 or
Tracy, CA
Total # of residential properties for sale in the city of Tracy: 78 (114)
# of REO (foreclosures): 6 (6)
# of Short Sales: 5  (7)
Average # of days on market: 39 (32)
The median price of all homes for sale in Tracy: $394,500 (365,000)
Number of properties currently under agreement: 118 (174)
# of REO: 6 (5)
# of Pending Short Lender Approval: 32 (55)
Median pending price: $340,000 ($317,000)
Residential property sold over previous 30 days: 81 homes (66)
REO's sold in the last month: 2 (3)
Short sales sold in the last month: 14 (9)
Median sale price: $342,500 ($342,500)
Median # of days on the market:  13 (15)
Mountain House, CA
Total # of residential properties for sale in the city of Mountain House: 22 (37)
# of REO (foreclosures): 1 (1)
# of Short Sales: 2 (2)
# of New Construction: 7 (7)
Average # of days on market: 48 (32)
The median price of all homes for sale in Mountain House: $446,940 (436,880)
Number of properties currently under agreement: 38 (40)
# of REO: 0 (0)
# of Pending Short Lender Approval: 10 (12)
Median pending price: $416,954 ($404,975)
Residential property sold over previous 30 days: 13 homes (14 homes)
REO's sold in the last month: 0 (0)
Short sales sold in the last month: 1 (1)
Median sale price: $425,508 ($417,940)
Median # of days on the Market: 27

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Man’s Best Friend

A man and his dog were walking along a road. Suddenly it occurred to the man that he was dead and his dog was dead, too. He wondered where they were going. After a while, they came to white wall and a magnificent gate made of gold and mother-of-pearl. He saw a man and called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”
“This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered.

“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.

“Of course, sir, come in and I'll have some water brought right up.”
“Can my friend come in, too?” the traveler asked.

“I'm sorry sir, but we don't accept pets.”

The man turned and continued on his way. After a while, he came to an old farm gate with no fence around it. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside. “Excuse me!” he called to the man. “Do you have any water?”

“Yeah, there's a pump over here, come on in.”

“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog.

“Of course. There’s a bowl by the pump.”

They went through the gate, and the traveler gave some water to his dog. When they were full, he asked “What do you call this place?”

“This is Heaven.”

“Well, that's confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road said that was Heaven.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the gold and pearly gates? Nope. That's hell.”

“Are you angry that they use your name?”'

“No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friend behind.”


Wednesday, January 1, 2014




Just hours before his deadline at midnight last night, Governor Jerry Brown signed or vetoed all the legislative bills on his desk to end the legislative process for 2013. Below is a summary of some of those mostly taking effect next year that may be of interest to you.  The full text of each new law is available at


Adjoining Owners Equally Responsible for Shared Fences and Boundaries
Commencing January 1, 2014, adjoining landowners must share equally the responsibility for maintaining boundaries and monuments between them. Adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties, as well as equal costs for construction or maintenance, unless otherwise agreed in writing. This new law also provides specific procedural requirements for an owner who intends to incur costs for a division fence to notify the adjoining owner of the estimated costs and other information. Existing law enacted in 1872 which requires a homeowner who fully encloses a property to refund a neighbor a just proportion of the value of a division fence has been repealed.
Assembly Bill 1404.


Smoke Detectors Specifications Changed
Starting on July 1, 2014, the State Fire Marshall will not approve a battery-operated smoke alarm unless it contains a non-replaceable, non-removable battery capable of powering the smoke alarm for at least 10 years. This rule was originally slated to take effect on January 1, 2014. Until July 1, 2015, an exception to this rule applies to smoke alarms ordered by, or in the inventory of, an owner, managing agent, contractor, wholesaler, or retailer on or before July 1, 2014. Furthermore, starting January 1, 2015, the State Fire Marshal will not approve a smoke alarm unless it does all of the following: (1) displays the date of manufacture on the device; (2) provides a place on the device to insert the date of installation; and (3) incorporate a hush feature. A previous requirement for the smoke alarm to incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced has been eliminated. The requirements taking effect on January 1, 2015 was originally slated to take effect on January 1, 2014. The State Fire Marshal has the authority to create exceptions to these requirements.


Minimum Wage Increased to $10 Per Hour
Minimum wage in California has been increased from $8 per hour to $10 per hour. A one-dollar increment from $8 per hour to $9 per hour will come into effect on July 1, 2014, and another one-dollar increment from $9 per hour to $10 per hour will come into effect on January 1, 2016. The minimum wage has been $8 per hour since January 1, 2008.
Assembly Bill 10.