Friday, December 11, 2015

Holiday Safety

Well, with the passage of Thanksgiving and the subsequent arrival of December, the Holidays are well upon us! Unfortunately, sometimes amidst the festivity, safety gets overlooked even in the most obvious circumstances.  Here are a few tips to keep your holidays as safe as they are joyous.

Frosty weather across the Bay Area is a clue. So are the colorful lights and decorations that materialized practically overnight at every single retail establishment as far as the eye can see. Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once more. Hanukkah starts on Sunday, and Christmas is only three weeks away.
If you’re preparing to deck your halls with boughs of holly — or maybe you’re ahead of the game and have already finished decorating — take a moment to make sure your holiday plans don’t put you or your loved ones at risk of accidental injuries, fires, or illness. Check out these holiday safety tips from the National Safety Council:
  • Never use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with any potentially flammable item.
  • When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, be sure to follow directions carefully. These sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.
  • Small children may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat, but many plants may be poisonous or can cause severe stomach problems. Plants to watch out for include mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis. Keep all of these plants out of children’s reach.
  • When displaying a tree, cut off about two inches off the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.
  • Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.
  • Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments or ones with small, detachable parts on lower branches where small children or pets can reach them.
  • If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
  • Only use indoor lights indoors (and outdoor lights only outdoors). Look for the UL label. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
  • Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Unplug extension cords when not in use.
  • If you have to use a step ladder near a doorway, lock or barricade the door and post signs so no one will open it and topple you.
  • A straight or extension ladder should be placed one foot away from the surface it rests against for every four feet of ladder height.
  • When you climb, always face the ladder and grip the rungs to climb — not the side rails. Always keep three points of contact on the ladder, whether two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
  • When using ladders outdoors, get down immediately if high winds, rain, snow or other inclement weather begins. Winds can blow you off the ladder, and rain or snow can make both the rungs and the ground slippery.
  • When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family, be sure to wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.
  • Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. They easily harbor and promote bacteria growth. Use clean paper towels instead.
  • Being a smart party host or guest should include being sensible about alcoholic drinks. Use designated drivers to get guests home after a holiday party — or encourage them to take a taxi.
The holiday season can be a hectic time. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds you that children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parent or caregivers. Coping with stress successfully can help children learn how to handle  stress better, too.
The South San Francisco Police Department has produced a one-page document — easy to print — with holiday safety tips for the home, while driving, shopping, for children, and in the event strangers come to your door.
The San Francisco Fire Department offers concise tips for winter and holiday fire safety.
However you choose to mark these last weeks of 2015, please be safe — and healthy and happy. And join with your loved ones to welcome the new year!

And when you're done with the preparations, if you have any real estate questions we can help with, give us a call!  Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Have a joyous and healthy holiday season!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Housing Projections in 2016

As we go to the home stretch of 2015, it is time to begin looking at market projections for 2016. At this point, it appears that values will continue rising, although possibly at a more moderate pace. Sources predicting this growth include the National Association of Realtors and Moody's Analytics.

A strong job market helped propel the U.S. housing market to its best year since the recession, and activity is expected to further increase in 2016, although rising mortgage rates and tight supply conditions could affect the pace of sales. monopoly_houses_113015
At last month’s 2015 Realtors Conference & Expo in San Diego, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun projected that U.S. existing-home sales will total 5.3 million by the end of this year and will increase by 3 percent to 5.45 million in 2016. According to Yun, the modest uptick in sales will be due to more move-up buyers entering the picture.
“Sales activity in 2016 will once again be primarily driven by the ongoing release of more pent-up sellers finally realizing their equity gains and using it towards the down payment on their next home,” he said.
NAR also points to heightened consumer confidence and job growth — particularly in Western states — as additional drivers of 2016 home sales activity, but it cautioned that more inventory is needed to meet demand and keep prices from rising too high. Although Yun expects housing starts to increase from 1.1 million this year to 1.3 million in 2016, he says that 1.5 million new homes are necessary to meet current demand. Supply conditions have been a particular problem in the Bay Area as the economy has exploded; in October, six local counties had the smallest months’ supply of inventory in California.
Cris deRitis, senior director of credit analytics at Moody’s Analytics and one of Yun’s co-presenters, said that a spike in new-home construction could help attract more first-time buyers to the market, a demographic that is at its lowest level in nearly three decades. Besides a lack of affordable inventory, first-time buyers face competition from investors and are burdened by student loan debt. NAR says that 41 percent of successful first-time buyers are carrying an average debt of $25,000, which hampers efforts to save for a down payment.
A final factor that will impact next year’s sales volume is the interest-rate hike that was projected for 2015 but never happened. NAR expects that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates as early as this month and that they will reach 4.5 percent by the end of next year. For the week ended Nov. 25, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.95 percent according to Freddie Mac.

So, hopefully this info will help you plan your housing decisions for the coming year. If you need further assistance, give us a call! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. We'd be happy to help!