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Preparing your home for sale can make the difference between getting the price you want - or ending up disappointed.

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Quick Quiz

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What Romanian president banned Scrabble because he considered it a "subversive evil?"

Recipe: Marinated Mushrooms for Antipasto

Serves 6
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered if larger
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Boil 2 quarts of generously salted water. Add mushrooms and continue to boil for five minutes, or until tender.

Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add vinegar, the minced shallot, nutmeg, salt, pepper, tarragon, and oil to the mushrooms.

Toss to coat and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Serve at room temperature with olives, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, cheese, and crusty bread...and a glass of something festive.

Happy New Year!

Ask the Agent: This Month's Question

What should we look out for when buying an older home?

Age may be just a number for individuals, but is this true when you're considering buying an older home? In fact, your 1900s dream home may be a headache in waiting. You'll need to consider if it's insurable in its current condition, and whether you can even get a mortgage on an older home that's seen better days.

Many older homes don't meet today's strict health and safety guidelines. In the past, it was the norm to use lead-based paint, and older homes are likely have older wiring and pipes, ill-fitting windows, and asbestos insulation. All may require expensive fixes.

Ensure you have a trusted home inspector to suss out potential problems with your older home; he or she can save you future headaches and heartaches, as well as time and money. Older homes can be true diamonds in the rough, but do your due diligence before you buy.


Inside Your Newsletter this Month...
You Can Compete (and Maybe Win) vs. an All-Cash Offer

Depending on location and market dynamics, cash buyers (those not requiring a mortgage) currently account for a third of all home purchases, according to CoreLogic, a firm that tracks real-estate trends.

As a buyer who needs a mortgage to purchase a home, it will be tough for you to compete against an all-cash offer, particularly in a market where multiple offers abound. From a seller's perspective, an all-cash offer eliminates both hassle and risk, as do offers without appraisal or financial conditions, which, in a hot real estate market, can also reduce your chances of success. There are, however, some ways to make your offer more competitive. For example:

  • Try to avoid multiple-offer situations
  • Ask your agent to help you find off-market properties
  • Consider waiving the financing contingency clause, which allows you to cancel the contract if you don't receive loan approval, or if an appraisal comes in below expected value
  • Increase your down payment
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, securing a pre-underwriting letter may make your offer more attractive. Unlike a pre-approval letter, this one has teeth. It contains deep income and asset documentation, which sellers like to see, as it means you are a serious buyer, plus it may move you through the approval process more quickly.

Many cash buyers are overly confident and therefore submit unrealistic, low-ball offers. So, while cash is worth a 2 percent to 3 percent discount, sellers annoyed by the low bid might just accept yours instead.

Things We Love to Hate: How 'Hold' Music Began

MusicIf you’ve ever wanted to incinerate your phone rather than hear one more note of that infernal on-hold music, you're not alone. Russ Juskalian of Newsweek reports, "Of all the depressing statistics about a lifetime of consumer existence, this may be the most distressing: each of us is destined to spend roughly 1.2 years on hold." He calls it "a near-death experience."

Is Eric Satie to blame?

Simon Morrison, a Princeton Musicology professor, says we can thank French composer Erik Satie for the birth of background music, which he began writing in 1917 and referred to as "furniture music."

Or Alfred Levy?

Perhaps. But according to Tom Vanderbilt of Slate, " the spring of 1962, an application appeared in the U.S. Patent Office humbly titled, Telephone Hold Program System." The filer was Alfred Levy, a factory owner who thought music might keep callers from hanging up while on hold."

And now, there's research behind it. In his Newsweek article, Juskalian says, "Modern corporations, with the help of psychologists, have actually made a science out of keeping you on the line, using harmonic soporifics in an effort to subdue your rage."

However, a recent paper for the American Psychological Association offered these alternatives: tell customers where they are in line instead of apologizing every few minutes (cue the sounds of thousands of customers hanging up on your apology). Your customers will experience more satisfaction when they feel the line is moving quickly. Does that mean hold music is on its way out? Hold on!

 Real Estate Market in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa

Wondering How Much Your Home Is Worth?

How has the price of your home changed in today's market? How much are other homes in your neighborhood selling for?

If you're wondering what's happening to prices in your area, or you're thinking about selling your house, I'll be able to help.

Just give my office a call for a no-fuss, professional evaluation.

I won't try to push you into listing with me or waste your time.

I'll just give you the honest facts about your home and its value.

And maybe I'll also give you the "inside scoop" on what's happening in the housing market near where you live!

Just give my office a call or reply to this email to arrange an appointment. Alternatively, stop by at the office.

How to Find the Mortgage That's Right for You

The mortgage world can be confusing, and it pays to educate yourself about the pros and cons of different types of mortgages.

Fixed-rate mortgages offer rate and payment security, although they can be costlier than adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). So, while the low initial cost of ARMs may be tempting to home buyers, they do carry a degree of uncertainty. Consider the following:

  • A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is a stable fixed-interest-rate home loan. This is a good choice for borrowers who plan to remain in their homes a long time and want the security of knowing their monthly payment will never change.
  • A 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage typically has a lower interest rate than the 30-year fixed. Borrowers pay off the loan more quickly, and they also build equity faster. This appeals to buyers of less expensive homes and those looking to refinance without extending the loan out another 30 years.
  • An ARM adjusts periodically after a specified time (typically one year or five years) based on a mortgage index, such as Libor. If rates go down, payments are reduced, but if rates increase, payments increase. An ARM can be a good deal if you do not plan to remain in your home for long, providing you have the financial flexibility to cover higher payments if rates increase.
Other types of mortgages include interest-only mortgages, balloon mortgages (which have a low rate for a period of time before the loan balance comes due), and assumable mortgages, which can be transferred from a homeowner to a buyer, so a new mortgage isn't required. This can be a selling feature.

You'll want to choose a loan that minimizes your total cost (based on interest rate and upfront fees) over the time you expect to own the home, assuming the payment is affordable and you are comfortable with the risk you're taking on.


This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter. This newsletter is not intended to solicit properties currently for sale....