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

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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 

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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 

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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 

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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 

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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

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Nicole Emanuel Real Estate

Coldwell Banker

(408) 410-2060

nicole.emanuel@cbnorcal.com

http://www.realestatebynicole.com

BRE# 01899594

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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 

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  • 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!

 

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

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“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!

Top 10 Websites for Home Buyers, Sellers & Owners

Want to search for your next home without ever getting out of your pajamas? There’s a site for that. How much will the mortgage and taxes cost you each month? There’s a site for that. Or do you want to know approximately what your home is worth today? Yes, there’s a site for that, too. And once you move into that new home, there’s a site to help you find local schools, restaurants, even your next dentist.

Okay, with apologies to the iPhone app commercials, I thought it might be helpful to list 10 of my favorite websites for people interested in buying or selling a home, remodeling their existing residence, or just looking for local information on their new neighborhood. There are countless websites, of course, and I don’t claim to have the ultimate list – just ones that have good value for homeowners and those looking to become owners.

Here are 10 of my favorites:
• CaliforniaMoves.com. Okay, I admit I’m biased. But Coldwell Banker’s consumer website offers a myriad of tools for home buyers and sellers, including advanced search engines, tips on
buying and selling, relocation information, and even community facts, figures and links. • Realtor.com. In that same vein, Realtor.com is also a good consumer website, especially for those thinking about relocating to other regions or want advice on buying or selling, as well as hiring an agent. There are articles on the market, consumer tips, and even suggestions on gardening and remodeling.
• CaliforniaHome.me. This new blog, powered by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, is a non-stop feast of all things California. From luxury home features and design ideas, to California events and celebrations, the blog if filled with everything that makes the Golden State such an incredible place to live.
• Zillow.com. Who isn’t interested in what their home might be worth, or even better, their neighbors? This website offers property valuations. While I’m not convinced that their estimates are always on target, they do give homeowners some general idea of its value, as well as tax records and other useful info.
• Bankrate.com. Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to buy, this site will help you figure out how much you can afford. This is one of my favorite financial websites because it offers mortgage rate comparisons, links to lenders, and literally dozens of different types of calculators to figure it all out.
• Local.Yahoo.com. So you’re ready to move into your new home. Now what? Go to this site to find a plethora of useful links and information on everything from local restaurants and coffee shops to city offices and police departments to public utilities to get the water and gas turned on.
• Yelp.com. Another great site for newcomers to an area is Yelp, which features customer reviews and ratings on every imaginable local business. Sure there’s the usual restaurant ratings, but you’ll come here to find favorite dentists, veterinarians, gardeners and yes, even real estate agents.
• ServiceMagic.com. For those homeowners planning to remodel or just looking for a contractor to do some routine work, this website can be quite useful. Service Magic prescreens a wide variety of contractors and also incorporates customer ratings in order to provide a list of recommended businesses.
• HomeTips.com. Run by Don Vandervort, a host on HGTV and well-known author of do-it-yourself books, this site – as you might guess – specializes in articles on how to maintain and remodel your home. One of the favorite search engines helps the weekend warrior figure out how to do a wide variety of repairs and save money.
• SFGate.com, MercuryNews.com and SacBee.com. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include our local newspaper websites. Not only do they offer the latest news, sports and business, but also good restaurant and movie reviews, job search engines, and valuable community information and links for all homeowners.

Top 10 Turkey Tips

Roast Turkey and StuffingWhether you’re tackling a Thanksgiving turkey for the first or hundredth time, these top 10 tips will ensure your big bird is the best it can be this holiday!

1. Thawing a frozen turkey requires patience and the safest method is to thaw it in the refrigerator. Be sure to plan ahead — it takes approximately three days for a 20 pound turkey to fully defrost.

2. For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Cooking times will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree oven for a defrosted turkey, and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for a fresh turkey.

4. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not densely stuffed. Consider adding flavor by loosely filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables (carrots, celery, onion or garlic work nicely) or by carefully tucking fresh herbs underneath the breast skin. For the stuffing lovers, cook the dressing in a casserole dish on the side.

5. For even roasting, truss your turkey.

6. Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with vegetable or olive oil, season with salt and pepper and tightly cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning (it will be removed in step 7).

7. Don’t be a peeping tom (no pun intended)! Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door and admire your handiwork. When the oven temperature fluctuates, you’re only increasing the likelihood of a dry bird. About 45 minutes before you think the turkey is done, remove the foil from the breast to allow it to brown.

8. Remove the turkey from the oven when the deepest spot between the leg and the breast reads 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Check the internal temperature of the stuffing as well – it should be at least 165 degrees.

9. Tent the bird with foil and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving. If you need more time to make gravy, heat up side dishes, etc. You can let the turkey set for up to an hour without losing too much heat.

10. Remember to carve your turkey with a very sharp or electric knife.

25 Fun Holiday Card Photography Ideas

Dog with Santa Hat Popping out of Present

Can you believe the holidays are already upon us?? It’s time to start thinking about sending out family holiday cards already. If you are looking for some fun photography ideas for your family’s holiday card, check out this post which features some unique and funny ways to showcase your wonderful family this holiday season! http://mylifeandkids.com/fun-christmas-card-photo-ideas/

Tips for Selling Your Home in the Fall

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Summer has ended, the weather is cooling, leaves are changing and, you may be surprised to learn, homebuyers are out in force. Autumn is a popular time for corporations to relocate associates – creating a pool of buyers who need to make quick decisions about housing. They’re serious about purchasing and, with fewer houses on the market this time of year, your house may soon be getting more attention. What can you do to make sure your home sells before all the leaves fall off the trees? Here are a few helpful tips:

Highlight the location. Bring the benefits of your location front and center. Establish a list of perks that your property offers, such as proximity to public transportation, schools, shopping, recreation or entertainment.

Use the season for curb appeal. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and by using that to your advantage, your home can stand out from others in the neighborhood. Leaves turning shades of crimson and gold can add extra appeal, but be sure they don’t get out of hand. Keep trees and shrubs properly groomed and pick up fallen leaves before they suffocate your front lawn. Add pumpkins, gourds or a fall display to your front porch to invite in potential buyers.

Stage your home. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in your home before they will consider buying it. You can help them by de cluttering, de-personalizing and thoroughly cleaning the entire house. Brighten your rooms by bringing the outside indoors with vases or displays of twigs, leaves or acorns from your yard.

Get everything in tip-top shape. Your buyer will most likely hire an inspector before closing, so pay close attention to elements around the home that are important in the fall. For example, make sure gutters are cleared of fallen leaves and that fireplaces are in working order.

Know your home. Access to real estate information on the Internet means that buyers are walking into your home more educated than ever. Take the time to review homes similar to yours on real estate websites like http://www.californiamoves.com or http://www.realtor.com. I can also let you know of the conditions and price ranges of other homes for sale in your area. This will allow us to better negotiate with potential buyers. Despite what you may have heard, this time of year offers plenty of opportunity to sell your home. By taking a few simple steps to make sure you and your house are ready to hit the market, you can better prepare yourself for what is to come. After all, the more welcoming your home is to possible buyers, the more welcoming it will be to offers.

Be sure to work with a professional realtor to ensure that you get top dollar for your home! Give me a call at (408) 410-2060 today to discuss your needs further!