Friday, April 29, 2016

Be Happy--Stay Healthy!

It's been pretty well known for quite a while now.  The happier you are, the healthier you are.  This can translate into ways your home can make you happier. Read on.
It’s no secret that lush, green, open spaces, whether a backyard or expansive parkland, have a calming effect on our bodies. We can feel stress dissipate and our heart rates settle down.
In fact, the benefits of an outdoor environment are many and varied. If you have a backyard, no matter how small, do yourself a favor and add greenery wherever you can. Your efforts will pay you back even more if you plan to put your home on the market, since a well-developed backyard gives a big boost to its value.
A recent report on backyard greenery digs deeper into the topic. It’s from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, of all places, and it pulls together disparate sources to present some amazing facts. (An attractive infographic is also available.)
  • Researchers found that children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. They also found that schoolchildren who had more exposure to the outdoors performed better on cognitive testing. The effect was greatest when both home and school environments provided “green” time.
  • Living landscapes help you heal. Hospital patients exposed to window views of nature healed on average a full day faster than those with a view of a brick wall.
  • Playing in dirt is good for you! Mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium stimulates serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.
  • Knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier, healthier people. People who live within a half-mile of a green space were found to have a lower incidence of 15 diseases, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines. A 2015 study found that people living on streets with more trees had a boost in heart and metabolic health
  • Research has shown that turfgrasses remove atmospheric pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride, and perosyzacetyle nitrate from the air. Grass also helps capture dust, smoke particles, and other pollutants.
  • Walking or running in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect and produced cognitive benefits and increased working memory performance. Never mind that grass can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil thanks to a process called evapotranspiration.
  • Your lawn is a massive oxygen generator: 50 square feet of lawn produces enough oxygen each day for a family of four. And grasses remove about six tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year from the atmosphere.
  • Grass, trees, shrubs, and other plant life provide food and habitat for birds and small mammals. Insects, spiders, and worms live among the grass blades and below the surface in the turf.
  • So, get to work on that yard. It can only make you feel better.  I know my wife gets true joy from working in our garden.  Me? I love the daily attention I give to my tomato garden--and have every year since I was eleven! There's NOTHING like enjoying the tomatoes I've grown in a fresh salad, or as the base for a thick sauce for a dish of lasagna! Join the party!
  • Need ideas? Call us: Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Looking Forward: Home Design

We all want our homes to be as up to date as possible no matter where they may be located.  One important factor in that is the design of the home.  Is it modern?  Does it have the latest of everything? Does it make you proud to say, "Let me show you my home."

Well, one thing that counts a lot in this consideration is its design.  Pay attention to the following.  You may get some valuable ideas!

What will the modern home of 2026 look like? What gee-whiz features of today will be standard 10 years from now? Having a better understand of emerging design trends could be useful for today’s house hunters hoping to buy ahead of the curve — and for sellers hoping to entice buyers with home features that are out of the ordinary.
Some clues about tomorrow’s homes are revealed in the latest Home Design Trends Survey from the American Institute of Architects. More than 500 residential architects offered insights into what they think will be the most significant home design elements over the next 10 years.
The 10-year forecast for home design can be summarized in three words: functionality, accessibility, and sustainability — everything from healthier building materials and furnishings to homes that will be more resilient to bad weather. Here are some home design trends to watch for over the next decade:
HOMES THAT ARE SMARTER: Smart-home technology — automated controls and remote access via the Internet — will play a bigger role in managing home systems such as heating, cooling, security, and lighting.
HOMES THAT ARE HEALTHIER: Environmental health issues will grow in importance. Homeowners will steer away from volatile organic compounds in paint and composite wood, opting instead for natural-fiber upholstery, carpets without polyvinyl chloride backing, and air-purification systems.
STORMPROOF HOMES: Demand will grow for homes that can hold up better against natural disasters. That may mean elevating residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe rooms, and backup power generation.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Solar panels, water-reclamation systems, and tankless water heaters will become more popular.
AGING IN PLACE: Universal design elements will help an aging population stay in their homes longer — think wider hallways, added handrails, and one-level living spaces.
KITCHENS, KITCHENS, KITCHENS: Kitchens will increasingly be the focal point of the home, encouraged by open-design concepts and extra kitchen space.
OUTDOOR LIVING: Outdoor grills, patios, and decks are just the beginning. Outdoor kitchens and fully furnished outdoor rooms will increase in popularity.
WORKING FROM HOME: Telecommuting will continue to expand, and so too will the need for home-office space.
SMALLER, BETTER-DESIGNED HOMES: Access to public transportation and to commercial and entertainment districts will lure homebuyers to crowded urban areas. To compensate for smaller homes and lots, buyers will seek more innovative designs and personalized design features.

While we're on the subject, sometimes the most difficult thing to accomplish is finding an expert in the subject area you're concerned about.  We maintain a full database of experts in everything and anything that your heart could desire or your mind can conceive.  Most of them are folks we've had experience using for over twenty years.  The few not fitting that description have come on excellent referral from clients and colleagues of ours.  They stand by their work, and, on their referral, so do we.  Need help?  Give us a call!  Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091.

Friday, April 08, 2016

It's NOT Just Curb Appeal

Often when considering how a home's value can be affected by the yard, folks talk of the front yard, usually in terms of 'curb appeal'--how it looks when you first drive up to it.  Yet, more and more, what's in the BACK yard is becoming important.
Although a home’s front yard greatly influences its curb appeal, most people making improvements to outdoor spaces are turning their attention to the backyard, according to a recent poll. And here in California, the number of homeowners replanting their lawns has surged, perhaps thanks to a much-needed, El Niño-fueled rainy winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
That’s according to Houzz’s 2016 Landscaping & Garden Trends Survey, which polled homeowners who had recently completed, in the midst of, or are planning an outdoor home-improvement project. The survey found that 75 percent of these owners are focused on overhauling some aspect of their backyards, compared with 54 percent tackling the front yard. About half of all homeowners renovating outdoor spaces reported spending six or more hours hanging out in them.
Children are a major factor influencing outdoor renovation projects, with one-third of homeowners making upgrades with youngsters in mind. Even more homeowners are pampering their pets, with 42 percent undertaking animal-related improvements. In both instances, space to run and play is the largest factor influencing the upgrades, with nontoxic plants also high on the agenda.
Houzz’s survey reveals that the drought of the past few years has weighed on buyers in the West and in California. Almost half of all respondents in Western states expressed concern over water shortages, compared with 14 percent of those in the South, 5 percent in the Midwest, and 1 percent in the Northeast. Nationwide, one in five surveyed was adding a rainwater-harvesting system, and 91 percent of those homeowners plan to use that extra H2O to irrigate their lawns.
Now that winter rains have finally returned to California and the Bay Area — albeit at less-than-hoped-for levels — homeowners are starting to once again consider natural lawns after the drought forced some to turn to artificial turf. In fact, the number of Golden State homeowners who are totally replanting their lawns has more than tripled since Houzz conducted its survey last year. This has led to an uptick in sprinkler upgrades across the state, with 68 percent of respondents reporting this improvement compared with 53 percent last year.
Regardless of where in the U.S. they call home, those polled were primarily motivated to revamp their outdoor spaces because of deterioration over time. Other top reasons for outdoor overhauls include finally having the financial means, enough time to complete the job, and purchasing a home.
If you’re planning a backyard overhaul with the arrival of spring, check out these tips for planning a well-conceived outdoor space, including furniture, lighting, and personal touches.
So, buying or selling, if you need some hints or ideas in this regard, give us a call--Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. As always, we're happy to help.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Unemployment Stays LOW

Well, the unemployment rate, both in California and locally, has remained low!  This bodes well for the real estate market, particularly if you are a Seller!
California’s jobless claims dropped again in February, further closing the gap between the state and national unemployment rates. And more jobs underscore the need for more housing, particularly here in the inventory-starved Bay Area.jobbutton
In its latest monthly employment report, the California Employment Development Department says the state added nearly 40,000 jobs in February, bringing the number of positions created during the economic recovery to more than 2.1 million. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, the lowest since August 2007.
That puts California within 0.6 percentage point of the U.S. unemployment rate, which fell to 4.9 percent in February. According to the Palo Alto-based Center For Continuing Study of the California Economy, that’s the smallest that gap has been since April 2007. Over the past year, the state has expanded employment by 2.8 percent, compared with the 1.9 percent growth recorded nationwide.
CCSCE says that California’s economy, the world’s seventh largest, will move closer to the No. 6 spot this year, a position currently held by France. The state’s construction and leisure and hospitality sectors are seeing employment surge, while the manufacturing and financial services industry are trending downward. The professional and business services sector, which includes the Bay Area’s tech-company bread and butter, experienced small job losses in February but has grown by 2.7 percent over the past year.
“Composition of employment growth remains broad-based both across industries and geographic areas within the state and looks promising to continue on the path for the rest of the year,” says Pacific Union Vice President of Business Intelligence and Chief Economist Selma Hepp. “Additionally, employment in high-wage sectors remains strong and above most of the other regions in the country, which bodes well for consumer spending in general and home purchasing in particular.”
The Bay Area’s economy continues to lead California’s job-growth charge, with employment levels now 12.5 percent above their prerecession peaks. That’s more than double the number in San Diego County, the state’s second-fastest-growing job market during the recovery.
Unemployment rates declined month over month on a nonseasonally adjusted basis in Napa (4.5 percent), San Mateo (3.0 percent), Solano (5.6 percent), and Sonoma (4.1 percent) counties while holding steady in the remaining five Bay Area counties. San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Clara are the only counties in the state to boast unemployment rates below 4 percent.
Still, unemployment rates in the Bay Area’s major job hubs haven’t reached the lows they experienced during the heady dot-com-era days, according to historical EDD data. In December 1999, the unemployment rate was 1.5 percent in Marin County, 1.8 percent in San Mateo County, 2.2 percent in Santa Clara County, and 2.4 percent in San Francisco.
CCSCE notes that even with the job growth, incomes aren’t rising fast enough to keep pace with home prices and rents. Thus, the need for more housing construction is crucial both in California and nationwide, a sentiment echoed by National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a recent column for Forbes.
February job gains in the construction sector are an optimistic sign for a housing market lacking in new product. “It is encouraging to see steady improvements in construction employment as a positive forward indicator of new residential construction coming online soon,” Hepp says.
Need more market info? Want to see what your home might be worth?  For these or other items, give us a call! Peter: (415) 279-6466; Jane: (415) 531-4091. As always, we're glad to help!