Weatherizing your Home for the Upcoming Winter


Weatherizing your Home for the Upcoming Winter

By Devin Valdez

As we enter November, we’ve already witnessed the weather beginning to cool down.

With the chill, Homeowners will begin to trade in their open windows & a/c’s and turn to salvation from their heaters & fireplaces,all the while dreading the increasing PG&E bill to come.

As we are in the transition stage of cool to cold, now is the perfect time to consider weatherizing, or weather-proofing your home.

Weatherizing is when someone protects a building and it’s interior from grueling elements (mostly sunlight, rain and wind) by modifying the energy consumption in hopes of increasing energy efficiency.

In short, weatherizing will assist homeowners in keeping them comfortable inside their homes, away from outside weather conditions, and it will do so in a budget-saving manner.

If you feel you don’t have the money or knowledge on how to weatherize your home properly, don’t fret, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) can help you!

WAP is a program that helps low-income families by lowering their energy bills by making their homes more efficient. If you qualify, the program will send professionals to your home and they will use top technology and testing to figure out how to boost your energy efficiency. For more information about  WAP and to find out if they can help you, check out this link

If you do not qualify for WAP, read below for a list of cheap ways to weatherize your home- provided by Conservation Mart.

  1. Door Sweeps: Interesting Fact: 1/8-inch gaps around the front and back doors let in as much air into the home as a small window open halfway. To fix this issue, we recommend attaching door sweeps on exterior doors. It is one of the most affordable ways to weatherize your home, installation only takes a few minutes, and it effectively seals drafts. How do know you need it? Lay a sheet of paper on the door frame, and close the door on it; if the piece of paper comes out easily without tearing that means you need a door sweep. For added protection, in fact, we recommend you test all sides of your exterior doors and weatherstrip if they fail the test (Read below Door & Window Weatherproofing to learn about weatherstripping). Cost: Around $6.50
  2. Weatherstripping: In addition to door sweeps, weatherstripping is another affordable and easy way to weatherize your exterior doors as well as windows. How do you know you need weatherstripping? Just conduct the simple test mentioned in above Doors Sweeps Better still, if you can stick your finger nail into a gap between the window and window frame, you need weatherstripping! Why we recommend it:It seals out unwanted outside drafts, moisture and dust, thus preventing heat loss and mold, while improving air quality and keeping bugs out of your house. Cost: Around $5.89
  3. Sealing Switches & Outlets: Interesting Fact:Almost 2% to 5% air infiltration comes from outlets on outside walls! Surprisingly, sealing switches and outlets isn’t something most homeowners typically think about at least not in the context outside of baby-proofing. But sealing switches and outlets located on exterior walls prevent unwanted drafts and heat loss very well. After all, if we seal and insulate doors, windows, and attics, it only makes sense to insulate switches and outlets on wall too – especially, since you can insulate the entire house for less than a couple of dollars and prevent up to 5% of air infiltration in your home. You can’t beat that! Cost: Less than a $1
  4. Water Heater Tank Covers: Have you ever noticed how cold the garage or unfinished basement is in the winter? If your water heater tank is in the typical not well insulated garage, think of how much heat it is losing. Additionally, think of the added expenses of reheating cooled water. Solution:Cover your tank with a water heater blanket and reduce heat lose by 25%+. Benefits: Affordable water heater blankets can reduce water heating costs by 4% or more. If you have a tankless water heater, check out inexpensive pipe insulation foam which also provides additional savings. Cost: Around $16
  5. Plastic on Interior Storm Windows: Energy inefficient windows can cause your home to be cold and money-guzzling. To prevent drafts, we recommend you seal your windows with very inexpensive plastic for windows (also called window insulation kits). (NOTE: Before you put plastic on your windows, we recommend you weatherstrip your windows. See above Door & Window for Weatherproofing for weatherization tips.) Why we love plastic window seals?Because the $0.20-square-foot plastic, when properly installed, can save you just as money as a new storm window! So, try this before you spend lots of money. (Helpful Tips: When adhering the plastic to the self-adhesive tape, start in the center of the window frame and move to the corners; and when blow drying the plastic taut, start at the corners and move to the center of the window.) Cost: Around $7

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California’s Wild Fires Burn Homes and Holes in Victims’ Pockets


Photo Courtesy: NBC Bay Area

California’s Wild Fires Burn Homes and Holes in Victims’ Pockets

By Devin Valdez

            California homeowners are again facing the cruel reality of wildfires and the damages they leave behind. Homeowners are hit first-hand with the reality of the importance of keeping your homeowner’s insurance policies up-to-date and as accurate as possible.

Although majority of HOI policies include fire insurance, that coverage may not be enough for owners who live in high-risk areas; and unfortunately, coverage may not be the easiest to find right now.

Many insurance companies have taken new measures to determine how much a property is at risk to a fire, and moreover, how much more their insurance premiums should cost according to those risks. On top of that, due to the increase in wildfires, some insurance agencies, have stopped writing the policies all together.

With insurance companies opting out of insuring homeowners in high-fire risk areas, homeowners are left feeling helpless. They are now forced to take different measures into their own hands to try and save money.

As a last resort, homeowners are turning to the California FAIR plan. This plan is provided by an association that is allowed to offer basic property insurance to California occupants, who have already tried to get insurance from market insurance companies, with little or no success. FAIR can cover up to $1.5 million for structures and other costs.

Homeowners have extra precautions and come up with ways to protect their homes, by making them less inclined to be at risk to fires. Some residents are adding fire-resistant landscapes or lawn buffers to create a zone around the home to slow down a potential fire.

One last thing to note, is that homeowner’s insurance policies are crucial for you and your family’s home. It’s important to contact your insurance agencies before disaster hits, to make sure your coverage is correct and accurate.


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Homeowners Insurance: The In’s & Out’s of Your Policy’s Coverage


Homeowners Insurance: The In’s & Out’s of Your Policy’s Coverage

By Devin Valdez

Over the past few weeks our world has encountered hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes. Cities and countries have been ripped to pieces, as we watch helplessly. Millions of people have lost loved ones, homes and personal belongings to circumstances that were unforeseeable and unanticipated.

Now, more than ever, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Besides protecting ourselves and families, homeowners need to be aware of how to protect their homes, in case of catastrophic emergencies.

Hurricane and winter seasons are nearing, and the weather is likely to be even more unpredictable. To be safe rather than sorry, it is highly suggested that all homeowners begin to investigate more into their homeowner’s insurance policies and coverages.

Hurricane Irma left behind close to $50 billion worth of damage, with over half of the damage caused by flooding- which is typically uninsured.

What’s Typically Covered:

Homeowners insurance usually covers damages due to wind storms, hail, fire, vandalism and lightning, but it more than likely DOES NOT cover damage caused by earthquakes or floods.

Typical types of insurance within your policy include:

  1. Dwelling Coverage: Coverage that will pay to rebuild or fix any damage that is covered by cause of loss.
  2. Other Structures Coverage: Pays for damages to detached buildings on your property such as sheds, a garage, fence, etc.
  3. Personal Property Coverage: Pays for items in your home that may be damaged or destroyed by a covered cause of loss. Items may include furniture, clothes, electronics, etc.
  4. Loss of Use Coverage: Will pay for expenses that can accrue if you need to leave your home while it is being restored. Expenses like food and lodge are included.

How to Check Your Policies Coverage:

Data shows that 2 out of 3 homes in America are underinsured. To avoid your home from falling into that category, make sure you contact your insurance agent and report any upgrades or specifics about your home you think they should know, to help generate a more accurate policy and coverage.

United Policyholders lists these 5 ways to doublecheck your coverage on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

  1. Take the time to explain your property…details, unusual features, collections, etc.
  1. Follow reasonable recommendations to increase limits
  2. Buy the biggest extended replacement cost endorsement you can afford. Extended replacement cost coverage, will pay up to 25 percent above your limits.
  3. Arrange for a professional home replacement cost estimator or building contractor to come to your house and provide an estimate of the cost to rebuild. Many insurers offer this service at no charge.

Extra Coverages to add to your Insurance:

Below is a list of items that usually ARE NOT covered by your homeowners insurance, but may be a good idea to buy the extra coverage.

  1. Mold Coverage
  2. Sewer Backup
  3. Sinkholes
  4. Earthquake Insurance
  5. Flood insurance
  6. Termite Infestations
  7. Jewelry/Fine Art/ Expensive Valuables
  8. Pool accidents: You may have your pool covered in your policy, however what may not be covered is if there is a drowning in your pool. It may be wise to purchase additional liability insurance.

The main point of this article is to not find yourself at a loss should tragedy strike. Your home is a big investment, so it may be wise to fork out a few extras dollars, to obtain the right coverage for your home.

Should you have any more questions regarding your homeowner’s insurance policies, give your agent a call today!






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Excerpt From

“Refinancing” is a scary word for many people, but that shouldn’t be the case for you. For many homeowners, refinancing can not only lower your monthly payments and help with your monthly budget, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.


For years now, we’ve been hearing that interest rates will be on the rise, and although there have been some small increases, you’re still in a great position to drastically lower your interest rate. The general rule is if your mortgage interest rate is more than one percent above the current market rate, you should consider refinancing.


Don’t brush off refinancing just because it seems like a long and daunting process. An informational call with a lender to see how rates compare will only take a few minutes. There are also some programs for streamlining the application process. And besides, isn’t the amount of money you could save worth the time and effort?


Seeing your Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) increase after the introductory period can be incredibly stressful and place a squeeze on your budget. Many people assume they’re stuck, but ARMs can be refinanced, just like fixed-rate mortgages. You can even switch to a shorter term fixed-rate mortgage, such as 15 or 23 years. The longer you’re planning to stay in the home, the more sense it makes to look into refinancing.

For more information on refinances or to see if refinancing is the right move for you, give one of our expert loan officers a call today, 510-537-1900!

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The Rise of the AirBnB Investor


The Rise of the AirBnB Investor

By: Devin Valdez

A new fad is among us. More and more real estate investors inquiring about looking to buy a property that will that will aid them in running an Airbnb empire.

On their website, Airbnb promotes itself as a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”

In its short lifespan of 8 years, Airbnb has made itself a $25 billion company. Their mission to allow people to turn extra space in their home for profit, has made the company popular and in demand. With such a clear idea of what the return on investment will look like, it’s no wonder why investors are looking toward real estate and into properties for this type of renting use.

But before you hop on this cash-king train, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying a property for Airbnb purposes. See below.

  1. Location, Location, Location: Just like when you purchase a primary home for yourself, location is key! Airbnb doesn’t have as high a demand in the suburbs as it does in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. When looking at properties to buy, think from a tourist perspective and what their wants and needs may be.
  2. Be prepared from Obstacles: The buying and renovating process may actually be the easiest part. The process of getting your Airbnb running isn’t as simple as it may sound. Be prepared to know legalities such as local rules and regulations to have your property be a rental. If you’re buying a condo or apartment, make sure you know the HOA’s regulations on renting out your property. You should also learn about insurance and tax fees, etc.
  3. Time is Money: If you’re thinking that buying the home is all you need to do and the rest will work itself out- YOU’RE WRONG. There will be lots of time from you, from attending to your tenants’ needs, managing reservations, making sure your properties’ amenities are prepared and ready for your guests’ arrival- and the list goes on and on! Be prepared to not only invest money but time, as well!




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Improve or move?


Improve or move?

Unless you built a custom home, you probably have a long list of things you’d like to improve in your current home. Browsing online listings might get you in the mood to upgrade to a new home, or you might be thinking about renovating your current home after binging on HGTV. The answer to renovation vs. relocation depends greatly on what you’re trying to fix.

Thinking about a new kitchen? If you’re dreaming of a chef’s kitchen with new appliances and beautiful cabinets, renovating your own kitchen gives you incredible ROI and is less costly than moving. You’ll increase the value of your own home if you ever decide to sell, and there’s a profound sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a custom renovation.

Need more space? If you’re running low on bedrooms, there may not be a lot of options. Converting an existing room to a bedroom doesn’t create any new space. If you’re in a condo, an addition is probably impossible. And additions can be expensive even if it’s a possibility. Moving is usually the best option.

If the neighborhood isn’t ideal You may have seen some potential for your neighborhood when you first moved there, but perhaps it still isn’t welcoming the shops and restaurants you expected. If that’s the case, consider moving. There’s no sense in waiting years for the neighborhood to improve, especially if you can move to a house in the same price range in a more preferred part of the city.

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Sell Your Home, Fast!


Sell Your Home, Fast!

By Devin Valdez

All home sellers have the same common goal, SELL THEIR HOME! And in most cases, the faster their home can sell, the better!

Sellers today have an advantage over past sellers, being that home sales are expected to continue at a steady pace and there are more than enough buyers.

Below is a list of ways you can sell your home, and sell it fast!

  1. Hire an Agent! Having an agent gives you an advantage because they have access to listings that you wouldn’t have searching on your own. They also have multiple connections on all spectrums of the real estate world, as well as more than enough advice and knowledge in regards to the process of buying a home.
  2. Stage the ENTIRE Property! Many sellers go all out in staging their kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. This is important because it gives potential buyers an idea of how your home can play a role in their lives, in the near future. However, don’t let the staging stop indoors. It’s also a good idea to stage your front and backyard. Staging your front yard offers potential buyers a strong curb appeal and staging the backyard can help sell your home to a buyer.
  3. Clean Up & Upgrade! Do a deep clean of your entire house. Get rid of things that are cluttering your space. Also try to depersonalize your home and remove photos and personal décor- things that might take away from the home itself. You want to think neutral when showing your home. As far as upgrades go, don’t go over the top. Focus on the smaller upgrades, typically in your kitchen and bathrooms. Things like fixtures, lights, etc. should be replace and upgraded, if need be. Also be sure your home is brightly lit, giving guests a warm and inviting feeling as soon as they walk in the door!
  4. Market Your Listing! Have your agent market your listing in their newsletters, social media sites, on the local MLS and on real estate platforms like, Trulia and Zillow! You want your listing to reach as many eyes as possible. Also, go a step further and market it yourself, posting it on all of your social networking sites, as well. Word of mouth to close family and friends never hurts, either!
  5. Price your Home Right! You want to make sure your agent looks at comps and similar homes that have sold within the last few months or are currently selling. These comparable home sales will reflect your home’s value. Price your home based off of what these comps are selling/sold for and also based off of what your home has to offer (locations, upgrades, etc.). Be sure not to get greedy when pricing your home because an overpriced listing will turn potential buyers away from coming to see your property.

If you’re looking for the perfect agent to help you sell your home, contact one of our EXPERT agents, today! 510-537-1900

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Appraisal: The Shade to the Housing Markets Fire Home Values?


Appraisal: The Shade to the Housing Markets Fire Home Values?

By: Devin Valdez

Finding an accurate value for a home is becoming a hard task to do for appraisers and homeowners, alike.

In the month of June, we saw the smallest gap between homeowner home value estimates and the home’s appraised value, at 1.7% of sellers overestimating their home’s value.

This is in part related to the increase in home values we have been steadily witnessing in 2017.

Due to the small supply for the huge demand of homes for sale and lack of new home construction, home values have risen in June by 1.25%, totaling a rise of 5.35% for the year, according to Quicken Loans.

As home values rise, we are seeing more and more of mortgage loans potentially fall. The cause of the destruct? – Low-Value Appraisals.

Appraisers are having a tough time keeping up with the rapid increase of home values because they can’t find comparable sales to properly give a home an accurate price.

“While a 1% or 2% difference in home value opinions may not seem like a lot, it could be enough to derail a mortgage,” said Quicken Loans Executive Vice President of Capital Markets, Bill Banfield. “A homeowner could be forced to bring more cash to closing to make a mortgage work if the appraisal is lower than expected.”

This issue is pricing out many first-time homebuyers, who are more than likely putting all their money into their down payment. The chances of them having a few thousand dollars extra to pay the difference of a low-value appraisal is slim.

It is predicted that the rest of 2017 will most likely see a continual rise in home values by up to 5%, and it is likely that more issues will ensue with appraisers pinpointing an appropriate value of a home based on comparables.

Experts say that that this low-value appraisal epidemic won’t fully diminish until home prices begin to flatten out.

If you’re looking to buy, now may be the right time before home values rise. If you are already a homeowner, now may be the best time to cash-in on your rising equity and refinance your home.

For more information on buying, selling or refinancing your home- please give one of our seasoned agents a call today! 510-537-1900




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By Devin Valdez

It’s no secret that rents are on the rise and home values are skyrocketing. The ability to be able to afford to live on your own, whether renting or owning, is becoming un-affordable for many people.

It isn’t uncommon to hear that nowadays people are having to work 2 jobs to make ends meet, and to be able to afford their cities’ cost of living.

Longtime residents among cities in California, such as Oakland, San Francisco (and really majority of the Bay Area) and Stockton are being hit the hardest with rising rents and increases in home values. And as the prices rise more people are putting the blame toward gentrification.

By definition “gentrification,” is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

Moreover, gentrification is being portrayed as a negative- as it pushes out the local, low-income individuals, and pulls in wealthier, new outsiders.

However, the displacement of low income residents, due to gentrification is one of the biggest myths that is told.

Lance Freeman of the New York Times, found that “longtime residents aren’t more likely to move when their neighborhood gentrifies; sometimes they’re actually less likely to leave (in part because of the improvements gentrification can bring).”

Although, seeing anyone lose their home is a tough pill to swallow, especially when it’s because they can no longer afford rising costs of living, gentrification can be beneficial to not just newcomers, but to the local communities and neighborhoods, as well.

Below are 4 keys points that illustrate the possible benefits of a gentrified community:

  1. Restoration: New landlords tend to buy the more affordable homes and restore what has been worn down or broker, cleaning up neighborhoods and homes, alike. Old buildings are restored also, as new businesses are built. Places like parks also see renovations to meet their new residences’ likings.
  2. Economic Growth: Gentrified neighborhoods become the new “hot spots” and are places people want to spend time in and be at. This creates a need for new, hip businesses to open and house these people, which then creates more jobs for the locals.
  3. Less Violence: NYU’s Furman Center conducted a study that proved gentrification provides its residences a place to live with less violence.
  4. Better Education: It is also believed that if property taxes rise in the gentrified neighborhoods, more public funding will be generated to public schools, providing our children better education.




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Mortgage Broker VS. Mortgage Bank

By: Devin Valdez

 Obtaining a mortgage loan is one of the first steps you will take when trying to purchase a home. Once you’ve decided to take out a loan, one big decision you may come across, is whether to get help from a mortgage broker or directly from the bank.

Although both outlets are providing the same service in the end- helping you get a loan for your home- your experience and process with each can be polar opposites.

Below is a list of differences when dealing with a bank and a broker.

The Broker

It’s important to know that brokers work as the middleman between you and a potential lender. Brokers DO NOT LEND OUT MONEY DIRECTLY, their job is to access and compare rates and prices between multitudes of lenders, which can usually offer you much more options than a bank will propose. Plus, the wholesale prices that brokers can receive with each lender, have a habit of presenting lower interest rates. And the options do not stop at rates. Brokers are also more flexible in the type of loans they can offer you. They have the ability to shop around multiple lenders to help you find the right loan program for your specific needs.

Moreover, you can say goodbye to piles of paperwork to fill out, because a broker has that handled. Brokers do all the legwork for you, you just have to provide them the information they need. Also, because brokers are working for their commission, they tend to hustle harder to ensure you, the client, are satisfied and your needs are fulfilled.

If you’re the type of person who likes to work closely with someone doing a job for you, a mortgage broker may be your better choice. Brokers are likely to be easier to get in touch with, and more personal. They don’t have the stress of working at a big bank with an overwhelming amount of clients. This advantage gives them a chance to take the time to get to know you.

Lastly, if your loan comes with a few hiccups, brokers may be the better choice due to their knowledge of many lenders and each lenders’ strengths, and their knowledge of the financing game.

The Bank

            The bank is the source that will DIRECTLY LEND YOU THE MONEY for your loan, thus giving them the control in your loan situation. The one who loans the money, is the one with the control. If a mistake is made, it is possible that it can be fixed quicker than with a broker, because the bank is dealing with itself.

Lastly, banks may favor you, if you are a client that they’ve had for years, and already have existing accounts with. They may offer you discounts for your loyalty, and you may find it more appealing to deal with bankers you are already familiar with.

For more information about obtaining a loan, please contact one of our seasoned agents at 510-537-1900.

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