Your Holiday Event Guide for the Bay Area!

If you are like us during the holidays, we attempt to take the little ones to all the fun events around the Bay Area during the month of December. We’ve composed a list of some of the best so you can get out and enjoy the season! If you think there are any other events that should make this list, let us know!

South Bay

Christmas in the Park

o.jpg

Running now until January 7, this yearly event draws thousands of visitors every year and features holiday lights displays, musical perfermances, free visits with Santa, carnival rides and even an ice skating rink! Entrance is free and rides and skating are paid.Located in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, Downtown San Jose. www.christmasinthepark.com

Fantasy of Lights 

20111122__ssar11226.jpg

Take the drive to Los Gatos to check out the annual fantasy of Lights event which features a 1.5 mile drive around Vasona Park with huge holiday light displays – some even set to music! Open December 5 – 30 (closed December 25). $20 per vehicle must be purchased in advance.Located at 333 Blossom Hill road, Los Gatos, CA 95030 https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/fol/Pages/AnnualFoL.aspx

Winterfest 

sjm-pizarro-1220.jpg

For the love of all things Winter, head to Great America in Santa Clara for ice skating, rides, a visit to Santa’s workshop, nightly tree-lighting, themed character performances and light displays. Takes place weekends in December. Located at 4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara www.cagreatamerica.com

San Francisco & The Peninsula 

Union Square 

TreeLightingMacysHorz-425.jpgCheck out the beautiful lit Macy’s tree in the heart of union square while you sip hot chocolate  and visit the decked out stores! Be sure to sit with Santa while you are there and enjoy some ice skating. Don’t forget to head into the Westin St. Francis to view their festive Sugar Castles.Located at Union Square, San Francisco www.visitunionsquaresf.com

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair 

df_logo-1.png

MirroringVictorian London, this holiday fair features music, theater, characters and charming shops overflowing with hand-made holiday treasures. Even roasted chestnuts and festive themed holiday food. Runs December 16 and 17th.Located at Cow Palace Exhibition Halls – 2500 Geneva Avenue, Daly City www.dickensfair.com

A Charlie Brown Christmas – LIVE 

charlie-1000x575.jpg

Your favorite characters dance and sing to bring A Charlie Brown Christmas to life! Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the whole peanuts gang will be there while the San Francisco Symphony performs Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music. Come early and enjoy a family-friendly reception featuring a host of activities to keep kids entertained. Runs December 21 – 24. Located at Davies Symphony Hall – 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. www.sfsymphony.org

EastBay
Fairy Winterland 

NW-EP-Main4.jpgChildren fairyland transforms into a holiday wonderland with holiday stories, crafts, lights displays, a nightly parade and a celebration of all cultures – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year. Runs December 15 – 23 Located at 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland www.failryland.org

Zoo Lights at the Oakland Zoo 
EVNHeader-ZLights17.jpgCheck out some holiday light displays, light shows, candy cane ride theme area and a nighttime train through the zoo all while checking out some of the animals at night! Runs December 1-31 (closed December 24/25) Located at 97777 Golf Links Road, Oakland www.oaklandzoo.org

comp-logo

Nicole Emanuel Real Estate

Coldwell Banker

(408) 410-2060

nicole.emanuel@cbnorcal.com

http://www.realestatebynicole.com

BRE# 01899594

Home Inspections – Specialists You May Want to Check Out

While most folks settle for a home inspection, pest (termite) inspection and possibly a roof inspection, there are a myriad of specialists you can hire to investigate just about anything home-related when you are purchasing a home. The California Association of Realtors put together this short list of the most popular, but some common inspections we see  also include:

Pool & Spa – If the home has a pool and spa, its a must to get it inspected. This is often an overlooked item and failing pool pumps and heaters can be very expensive.

Arborist – Does the home have a huge tree in the front yard? Is one of the trees looking overgrown? Sometimes, it makes sense to call an arborist to make sure the trees on the property are healthy and not in danger of falling limbs or needing to be uprooted (all of which can be rather costly).

Contractors – Are you considering doing some renovating to a home after purchase? Its smart to have a contractor walk the home before you purchase to ensure you can do all the items you want. Sometimes structural modifications might not work or will be very expensive due to the placement of load-bearing walls and foundations so its something you might want to know up front if you are planning on adding on to a home or re-arranging.

Specialist-Wanted-hi-res

comp-logo

Nicole Emanuel Real Estate

Coldwell Banker

(408) 410-2060

nicole.emanuel@cbnorcal.com

http://www.realestatebynicole.com

Boosting Your Home’s Curb Appeal

What would buyers see if they drove up to your home? Go ahead, take a look. Stand outside your home and try to look at it through a buyer’s eyes. First impressions are lasting impressions. If buyers see paint peeling, a crack in a window or an unkempt yard, they are apt to speculate that there are other, more substantial things wrong with the home.

That first impression, or curb appeal, can make the difference in the amount of money a buyers is willing to offer on a home listed for sale.

Here are some suggestions to enhance the curb appeal of your home to get ready for sale or even just to spruce things up a bit this summer: 

  • Mow the lawn, clean up and yard and prune shrubs and trees 
  • Scrub or paint the front porch and door. Sometimes an interesting pop of color on the door can really modernize the look of an older homea-little-front-door-love-curb-appeal-doors-painting.jpg
  • Check the porch or deck and hand railings to ensure they are secure 
  • Wash the windows, make them sparkle!! 
  • If you have time time and money, paint the exterior of the home. Try to stick to more neutral palates as some bright colors can be an immediate turn off for some buyers. Add color by painting the door a different color, instead. Exterior-before-after.jpg
  • Pick up and put away toys and bikes, outdoor bins are also great for storing these items 
  • Check that the lawn furniture is in good shape or, if not, store it away 
  • Add charm to the front and backyard by adding flower pots and planting fresh plants 

Curb-Appeal-before-and-after-7.jpg

  • Repair and paint the fence, if needed 
  • Repair the roof, gutters, and downspouts if needed 

These improvements are essential before a home sale and could mean an increase in sales price.  Feel free to call or email and let me know if I can answer any questions for you or make suggestions on how to improve your homes curb appeal!

 

Why Now May Be the Right Time to Downsize Your Home

Picture1

For many people, their house may be their biggest asset. But it also can be their biggest expense. That’s true whether they’re planning for retirement or even if they already are in retirement. So it’s no wonder that many homeowners begin to think about selling their home and moving into a smaller one as they approach their golden years.

Downsizing your home doesn’t have to mean downsizing your lifestyle. Homes have steadily expanded over the years with the average home now more than 2,600 square feet in the U.S. according to Census data – 60% larger than it was 40 years ago when families were bigger! So there is plenty of room to downsize without cramping your style.

But downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a smaller home. It can also mean moving to a less expensive residence that’s the same size. Something as simple as moving from a top, reputable school district to a district that is not highly rated may lower the cost of a house. And if you do not have school age children, the quality of the school district may not be that important to you.

If you’ve been kicking around the idea of cashing in on your home’s equity and moving into a smaller property, there are a number of reasons why it may be the best move you can make right now:

  • The housing market in our area has rebounded quite nicely from the recession with the value of many homes climbing in recent years. Cashing in on some of that equity appreciation may help provide retirement income and extend the life of your nest egg. For more information on the propriety of such a move, please first consult with your financial advisor.

  • A smaller home may mean a smaller mortgage payment each month if you are still paying off an existing loan. Or it might mean paying off your mortgage entirely and being debt free on your new home. Additionally, downsizing may lower your property taxes, energy costs, property insurance and ongoing maintenance and repair expenses depending upon the choices you make.

  • According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR), housing costs (including utilities, taxes and upkeep), represent one of the biggest expenses for a retired couple – 30 percent of expenses for a couple aged 65-74. That’s money that can be spent on other things in retirement.

  • For example, CRR estimates that a couple downsizing from a $375,000 home to a $250,000 home may be able to cut their annual expenses and increase their annual income from savings by a combined $7,260. CRR provides a calculator that may enable you to determine your own savings here. As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your financial advisor before making any decisions.

  • Some homeowners are reluctant to trade a house for a condominium or town house because of concerns regarding the financial impact of homeowners’ association fees. While such fees can change one’s monthly budget, keep in mind that you may be paying similar expenses as a homeowner in the form of maintenance and upkeep costs.

  • While a smaller home may mean less space, it could also mean less time and aggravation spent on keeping up a big house. Without all the work that goes into keeping up a bigger home, you may actually find a lot more time to enjoy traveling, hanging out with friends, picking up new hobbies and, generally, having more fun!

  • Moving from a suburban home to an apartment or condo building in a downtown area with amenities on site may open up a whole new world for retirees. Those who have made the switch often find that they now can enjoy more trips to the theater, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping, as well as taking advantage of fitness centers and other on-sight activities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, it can pay to downsize sooner rather than later for those approaching retirement or already retired. The financial benefits can add up over time. Additionally, as we get older, moving gets harder thus it may make a lot of sense to move now rather than waiting.

If I can help answer any of your questions about downsizing, please give me a call or e-mail me today. I’d be happy to discuss the pros and cons of making a move and help you decide if downsizing is right for you.

Should You Rent or Buy? Things to Consider when Making Your Decision?

headerimage

“To buy or to rent?” That seems to be the question lots of people are wrestling with these days with interest rates still near historic lows and the housing market continuing to gain strength in most communities.

Recent graduates, thirty-somethings, relocating professionals and even current homeowners have probably considered both scenarios recently. While each option has its pluses and minuses, the decision to purchase a home as opposed to renting is a complex one and really depends a lot on your individual circumstances.

According to a recent survey conducted for the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly eight out of 10 respondents believe buying a home today is a good financial decision. But the question that remains is whether or not now is the right time for you to buy.

For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial decision they will make in their lifetime. Here are just a few things to consider when deciding between renting and buying:

  • Do you have a steady income? Buying may be a sound financial decision for those with documented income and a good credit history. A steady income can provide a strong basis for the initial down payment and future mortgage payments. Lenders will look at your ability to repay the mortgage and how positive your credit history is when deciding
    if you qualify for a loan.
  • Can you cover the other expenses? When you own a single family home, you – not your landlord –will be responsible for all of the maintenance and repairs, everything from a leaky faucet to replacing a roof. Will you have enough money left over in your budget each month (after paying the mortgage, property taxes and insurance) to cover any repair issues that may pop up?
  • How long do you plan to stay in your home? Although homes often appreciate over time in most areas and many owners build equity through monthly mortgage payments that go towards the principal of the loan, values can go up or down during any period of time. Generally, the longer you plan on staying in your home, the more likely that buying may be the right move for you.
  • How much will your rent increase in the future? Obviously no one knows for sure what the future will bring, but a recent study by Trulia found that rents on average are increasing faster than home prices. In fact, homeownership remains 38% cheaper than renting nationally, and it’s less expensive in all of the 100 largest metro areas studied by Trulia. But each neighborhood and each home are different, so it’s important to do your homework.
  • How do your other options compare? For renters, calculating month-to-month housing expenses is as easy as inquiring about the monthly rent and average utilities. The calculation gets a bit more complicated when considering the monthly cost and benefits of owning a home. Buy-versus-rent calculators, which are available on websites such as ColdwellBanker.com, offer a good start in comparing the two options.

There is a lot to consider when weighing the pros and cons of buying a home, and you’ll likely have a lot of questions. The best thing that you can do before making a decision is to do your homework and become better educated on your options.
I’m here to help answer your questions and find the right course for you. Give me a call at (408) 410-2060 or send me an email at nicole.emanuel@cbnorcal.com and we can get started today!

How to Know if a Neighborhood is Right for You

Neighborhood

Before you buy a home and make what’s likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life, you owe it to yourself to receive quality information on your new neighborhood. Getting a deal on your dream home can quickly turn sour if the neighborhood doesn’t meet your expectations. Here’s how to research a neighborhood before you buy a home.

LOOK INTO THE CRIME RATES

In addition to the U.S. Census Bureau’s city profiles that list crime statistics, you can try sites like CrimeReports. com, which offers local maps where you can access crime data in near-real time (the site has partnerships with more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies). You might also visit the local police department to ask about crime statistics and what neighborhood watches or alerts are in operation.

CHECK SCHOOL REPORT CARDS

Even if you don’t have children, you should spend some time investigating the area schools (school districts are typically the largest beneficiaries of your property taxes). The reason for this is simple: good schools tend to attract a higher demand for homes, which can affect the value of surrounding properties. One way to research schools in your new neighborhood is to visit the GreatSchools website, a non-profit national organization, where you can find valuable information from local preschools to colleges.

REVIEW MUNICIPALITY AND PUBLIC SERVICES

It can be easy to focus on the condition of your prospective home, but you should also consider the general condition of the streets, sidewalks and parks in your new neighborhood. Take some time to research your new municipality (start with the official website) and the services offered. Don’t be afraid to call your local clerk’s office and ask questions if you can’t find answers on the website. Things like trash collection, street cleaning and general public maintenance can affect your property’s value over time, especially if these services suffer a sharp decline due to budget cuts.

WALK THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Visit the neighborhood at various times of day and on different days. The nature of a neighborhood changes from day to night and from weekday to weekend. Make sure the activity and noise levels are to your liking. If you see residents out doing yard work or walking their dog, ask how they like the neighborhood and tell them you’re considering buying in the area. Sometimes “insider” feedback can give you the real sense of a neighborhood.

When you’re in the market for a new home, it can be easy to get distracted by what lies within the walls. By following these home buying tips, you’ll be much better prepared to make an informed decision about your new neighborhood. That way, a sweet deal is less likely to turn sour. Please call me if you’d like help in further exploring a new neighborhood.

Kitchen Remodeling Ideas on a Budget (from $1,000 – $10,000)

If you are looking for ways to refresh your kitchen this spring, here are some helpful tips that you can use if you are on a budget. When should you tackle certain items yourself; or are they best left the professionals? You might not need to replace everything. Consider refinishing or re-staining cabinets and flooring to save some money…Find more tips here: Kitchen Remodeling Ideas on a Budget (from $1,000 – $10,000)