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3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

June 13, 2019

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have ___________, so I’ll cut back somewhere else ” game, even when you don’t actually know where that somewhere else is or if you can realistically cut back there.

This post will show you how to pare down the excess and make sure to get the things you really NEED.

Make a List of Wants

Start by making a list of everything you want in your house. If you love it, jot it down. Have your spouse or partner do the same thing in a separate document.

Once you have everything down, start sorting your wants by order of importance. What’s your No. 1? Do you need large windows? How about a sunroom? Double sinks in the master? You get the idea.

Come up with your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Highlight the Important Stuff

Next, look at your list and consider:

  • The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.
  • Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved waaay down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “want” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

1. Is it on both of your lists?
2. Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?
3. Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?
4. Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.


Compost for Zero Waste

June 6, 2019

Disclaimer: That’s not my photo but I did just recently complete my first compost pile. I must admit, it was amazing to see the changes to the pile over time and to have zero waste! If you haven’t tried composting, you should. It’s gratifying and useful. Pile #2 has been underway for the last three weeks my garden! – Lisa

Zero Waste Home Workshop – June 22 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Whether you’re starting your zero waste journey or ready to take it to the next level, come learn how to set yourself up for zero waste success! The workshop is complimentary and open to the public.

Compost Bin Voucher Program Application

The City of San Diego has partnered with Dixieline Lumber and Home Center to offer compost bins at a discounted rate. Upon qualification, vouchers will be e-mailed within 2-4 weeks. To qualify, the applicant must be a City of San Diego resident. 

Solana Center

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on Zero Waste, composting, and water conservation. Their mission is to mobilize the local community through innovative outreach and provide consulting services to businesses and jurisdictions in order to address the region’s most pressing environmental issues and enact impactful change.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

Staged Homes Sell Best

May 30, 2019

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

A Guide to Mortgage Interest Rates

May 16, 2019

Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you’re a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don’t just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you’re pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you’re “locked in” you know what monthly mortgage payments you’ll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they’ll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don’t get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you’re “under contract” on a home—meaning you’ve made an offer that’s been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate? Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  • Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
  • Loan amount and down payment: If you’re willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
  • Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
  • Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren’t in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
  • Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
  • Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. “Fixed-rate” means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you’re looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • A mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • A mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  •’s mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

Make Your Move Smarter Not Harder

May 9, 2019

Save Money and Time by Renting Eco-friendly Moving Boxes From a Smart Move

Article By: Ciska Roos for Local Umbrella Media

The process of moving to a new place is like having a second non-paying job. It can be financially, physically, and emotionally demanding; you are responsible for expenses, scheduling, organizing, decluttering—and assembling mountains of cardboard boxes, making sure the bottoms hold when you transport that priceless family heirloom. You can always hire
a moving company to do the packing and unpacking for you, but do you really trust them with your keepsakes and valuables

There is another option: A Smart Move is the new, eco-friendly way to transport your things during a big, or small, move. Based in Carmel Valley, San Diego, this innovative company rents out clean, sani- tized, eco-friendly plastic boxes, which arrive at your doorstep pre-assembled. So, why are these plastic boxes better than the old-fashioned cardboard box?

Moving is not just hard on you, it is also hard on our environment. Those piles and piles of cardboard boxes that you painstakingly assembled and dissembled are labeled as recyclable. You might think that you are doing your part to help the environment when you break down those boxes and put them in the blue bin. But in reality, waste companies don’t want our recycling because it is contaminated with food and nonrecyclable materials. Single- stream recycling, where people throw all of their recycling into one bin, is partly to blame. Additionally, cardboard and paper products take a huge amount of energy to produce.

The best solution is to create less waste in the first place. Buying your own plastic containers is expensive and they take up space. Cardboard boxes are bad for the environment and a pain to put together and take apart. But you’re definitely not going to move small valuables one piece at a time.

If you rent A Smart Move eco-friendly boxes, you don’t have to worry about taking time out of your day to assemble or collapse anything, and you don’t have to worry about the impact your moving will have on our planet. Unlike some card- board boxes, which are just smooth, slip- pery cubes, A Smart Move boxes come with easy carry handles and may reduce injuries. The ergonomic design also allows for easy stacking, so no more awkward pil- ing or playing Tetris in the back of a truck. These boxes save time, and time is money.

If you’re a pros and cons kind of person and lists are your thing, here are just a few reasons why A Smart Move is indeed a smart move: Conveniently delivered to you
Come ready to be packed
Cheaper than cardboard boxes
Twice the storage capacity of cardboard
The bottom won’t fall out Has an easy grip handle
Crushproof and waterproof
Saves time, energy, and money

I came upon this idea several years ago when I had to move into a new home quickly,” said Lindsay Curtis, founder of A Smart Move, renting eco-friendly, reusable moving boxes. “I was upset at the idea of wasting cardboard boxes so I investigated a better solution that could be less hassle and better for the environment. Renting recyclable plastic boxes make good sense and actually cost less!

And there is no shortage of good reviews; the company currently holds an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews. “They are fantastic! They were super easy to work with and very quick in responding. They were also the best price from my research into similar options inSan Diego. Definitely will be using them again for future moves,” Melanie Thompson, a recent A Smart Move customer said in a review.

Love having a ‘green’ option for moving boxes! We used ASM for a kitchen remodel. The boxes stack really well and were nice not having to build them. Cost is about as much as you’d pay for cardboard. Would highly recommend,” said Rachel van Betten, another satisfied San Diego client.

Boxes are offered in groups of 25–100+and include dollies, easy to peel labels, and zip ties all free of charge. Aside from the eco-friendly boxes, A Smart Move also offers packing supplies; bubble wrap; mattress covers; wardrobe boxes made with corrugated plastic; laundry bags made from a consistent, heavyweight Polyester that is durable, long-lasting, and tear-resistant; packing paper; and chai /sofa covers.

You can now calm the chaos of moving while also helping the environment. It is a win-win situation. For more information about A Smart Move, email or visit

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

Outdated Advice

May 2, 2019

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

How to Slash Your Home Energy Use Through Strategic Gardening

April 25, 2019

Heating and cooling our homes eats up plenty of energy. Reduce the load with native plants that block summer sun or winter winds.

Editor’s note: Want a climate-friendly home? Your yard is a good place to start. This is the third in a five-part series of guides on how to manage your outdoor turf to reduce your carbon footprint, all while creating bird-friendly habitat. Read part one and two as well. 

A well-designed yard can pack big climate benefits outside of your home—and also inside it, too. 

Acccording to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residences generate more than 21 percent of the country’s total climate emissions. “Our houses are a major factor in climate change because of the energy used to build and operate them,” says Ellen Larson Vaughan, policy director for high-performance green buildings at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. A big portion of these emissions are linked to heating, cooling, and ventilation, which account on average for about half of home energy use.

By strategically placing trees, shrubs, and vines to block blustery winter winds or create shade, you can slash the amount of fossil fuels required to heat and cool your house and dramatically reduce your climate footprint. As a bonus, you’ll put a dent in your utility bills.

To maximize your yard or garden’s climate potential, consider the following tips.

What’s Your Climatic Zone?

Which landscaping strategies will make most sense depends on where you live. A U.S. Department of Energy map divides the country into four climatic zones—cool, temperate, hot and arid, and hot and humid—and an accompanying list prioritizes the three most effective actions for each region.

If you live in the cool zone, which includes the Northern Plains and Midwestern states and northern New England, it makes sense to create windbreaks to insulate your house from winter cold and to make sure no evergreen trees block the sun from reaching south-facing windows. If you’re from a hot and arid zone, your best bet is to shade your roof, walls, and windows. Making the most of summer shade as well as directing cooling breezes toward your house are the most important actions to take in the hot and humid region, while residents of the temperate zone should take advantage of the sun’s warming effects in winter and cooling shade in summer.

Made for Shade

As the sun beats down on your house, a huge amount of heat can be absorbed through your roof and windows. However, some smartly located plants can conserve energy and curtail greenhouse gas emissions while reducing your air conditioning costs by 15 to 50 percent.

Where overheating is a year-round problem, use evergreens to provide continuous shade. If you reside in a temperate region, employ deciduous plants, which lose their leaves when cold weather arrives, to block solar heat in summer but let it in during the winter. Wherever you live, be sure to avoid shading any solar panels on your roof.

A few easy ways to shade your house include:

• For quick results, plant shrubs or small trees to shade east- and west-facing windows in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky and solar heat can directly penetrate.

• Alternatively, plant vines that will quickly clamber up a trellis or other support. Permanent structures like wooden lattice trellises are most appropriate in hot climates where preventing solar heat gain in winter isn’t a problem. 

• Large trees and shrubs take longer to fill in but ultimately provide the most extensive shade. Trees can reduce summer temperatures significantly, especially when they’re located on the south and west sides of your house. A six- to eight-foot deciduous tree planted near your home will begin shading your windows right away. Depending on the tree species and the height of your house, it will shade the roof in five to ten years.

Warding Off Winter Winds

As anyone who has tuned into a winter weather report knows, wind chill makes cold significantly worse. However, it is possible to keep your house warmer, conserve energy, and reduce your carbon footprint by planting a windbreak—a band of evergreen trees and shrubs located perpendicular to the prevailing winds. In a study done in South Dakota, windbreaks cut home fuel consumption by an average of 40 percent. They also, of course, provide habitat for both breeding and migrating birds.

To create a windbreak with maximum protection, plant at a distance from your house of two to five times the mature height of the trees. Use species that have branches close to the ground, such as native spruces and firs, or plant trees and shrubs together to impede wind gusts from ground level to the treetops. On small city or suburban lots, a dense evergreen hedge planted perpendicular to the prevailing winds several feet away from the house can help keep it warmer in winter.

Capturing Breezes

You can also apply wind-shaping principles to keep your home cool. To direct breezes toward your house, plant a hedge parallel to the prevailing summer winds, in a funnel shape that is wider away from the house and narrower close up. The hedge will not only enhance the breeze but can force cooling air through your windows.

By Janet Marinelli, Audubon

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Are you considering selling or buying a home this spring? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help. 

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