Some Things Are Hard To Change

What is it about women and their hair stylists? I don’t know a woman who doesn’t struggle with changing hair stylists. The exception is when we move out of the area and HAVE to change. But even then we struggle with the change…how do find a new stylist, the right one? What if we don’t like them, what if they don’t like us. What if we don’t like the products they use…it goes on and on.

I recently was forced to make a change. It was then that I realized just how long I had been going to the same stylist for my hair color. It started in my 20’s when I moved to San Diego and just added a few highlights for that “summer” look.  After my daughter was born, I started seeing a few gray hairs. After a while, we (my hair colorist and I) added color, to cover those pesky gray hairs AND highlights. Once my daughter was in college, the gray had outnumbered the non-grey and I no longer needed highlights, just color (am I seeing a pattern here…Does child-rearing have something to do with gray hair)?

When I moved to San Diego in the 1980’s and my search for a hair stylist here began. It didn’t take long, it was the second salon I ventured into where I felt at home. They were from New York City and had studied in Paris. I was impressed. And they were really good. The place busy with clientele from all over San Diego.

You may be wondering how many years has it been between then and now? 34 years. 34  years of monthly conversations about life’s ups and downs. About marriage, divorce, pregnancy, childbirth, work, fun, family, travel, health…you name it, we talk about it with our hair stylist. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays with them. We laugh and cry with them.

Why did I stay for 34 years? As I told an office friend recently when asked why I have stayed with the same real estate company for 23 of my 25 years in the business, there just wasn’t a compelling reason to leave. I was happy, we danced to the same tune. Why change for the sake of change? I believe in loyalty.

My friend of thirty-four years, my stylist, isn’t well now. Her health prevents her from working. I never thought this would be the way our story played out. I guess I thought we would be white haired old ladies together.

So, what is a girl to do? Fortunately, I have a great hair stylist who cuts and styles my hair. I had absolute faith in her that she could step right in and fill a big pair of shoes. And, she did, brilliantly. Thanks, Mandi. Who knows, maybe there are another 34 years on the horizon.



We have SO MANY limes, and now lemons, in our backyard and this blog gave me some great ideas about how to use them! Enjoy!

The Novice Gardener

Doesn’t it seem odd that citrus are a winter fruit? They taste so fresh, bright and summery. But their peak season here is when the weather turns cool, starting in the fall, and continuing into winter. This is the time when you most likely will find citrus of all kinds on sale, and at their most abundant.

And so it was, when I found bags of limes and lemons, selling for a pittance at the market. I could never resist a good deal when I saw one, so a couple of bags were duly bought. Even though I knew my annual box of citrus and persimmons would arrive from California, courtesy of my sweet and generous mother-in-law.

She has several fruit trees in her backyard. They were planted decades ago by my late father-in-law. Isn’t it wonderful that we still get to enjoy the fruits of his labor, even after…

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Autumn IS A Productive Time Of Year!


We harvested the remaining pumpkins from our garden this week. We had a record-breaking crop of pumpkins this year. Actually, it is the only year I can remember when we had more than one very small pumpkin on the vine. I don’t know what we did differently this year, I know we did not have big expectations. But, our garden was certainly bountiful this summer!

When you have a garden, you plant the seeds, watch them germinate, pull weeds, water, fertilize, chase critters away. You help the plants through hard times…too much heat, too much cold, not enough water, too much water. Some don’t make it, some surprise you.

Instead of letting the garden become dormant, we are preparing for a winter garden and then the spring garden. Even though the garden looks bare right now, there is a lot going on. Planning, sketching, mulching, reading about new plants. It is definitely a busy time for a gardener, just different.

In my real estate business, I am also preparing for 2014…preparing my business plan and goals. Looking at what works, what do I want to change. It is an exciting time for me as I look at all the possibilities ahead and the families I can help in 2014.

Someone asked me the other day if I am taking off the rest of the year! Ha! Some people DO think that the real estate business comes to a grinding halt during the last two to three months of the year. Nothing could be further from the truth. I almost always have a very busy fourth quarter. It is a great time to sell a home. The buyers who are looking are usually serious buyers, the looky-loos have other things to do. And, if you are a buyer, the sellers who have their homes on the market this time of the year are almost always serious sellers. Negotiations are usually easier this time of year – people are happy. Homes look great this time of year. They are decorated, the smell like pumpkin pie and turkeys in the oven. And, you won’t have to ask “I wonder where they put the Christmas tree”, you will be able to see for yourself!

So, if you are contemplating buying a home in San Diego, or selling a home in San Diego, looking for investment properties, or are looking for a vacation home, don’t let the holiday season stand in your way. This is a GREAT time of year to take that step!

Pumpkins & me

A Military Way Of Life

I have lived in San Diego for over 30 years, so it’s easy to forget that this is such a military town. It is a way of life here, something that too often is taken for granted.

I have been around the military and military families most of my adult life. Living in San Diego, most of us have friends and business associates who are, or were, in the military. I think all branches of the service are represented here, but mostly Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Once when we were attending a Century 21 event in Coronado and were staying at the Hotel Del Coronado, we were awakened about 4:00 am to Navy Seals storming the beach as part of their training. We got up and had our coffee on the balcony while watching them. It was awesome!

I had the privilege of attending a client’s Retirement Ceremony from the Navy on Friday. She has served as a Navy Nurse for 22 years. A remarkable woman, I don’t think I have ever seen her without a smile.  She is an optimist, a lover of animals, and has a great laugh. When she moved to San Diego, it was with the goal of finding a home that would enable her to reach her ultimate goal of expanding her dog rescue organization. We found the perfect place in Dehesa Valley.

While I have seen it before, the Passing the Flag – Old Glory Ceremony, always makes me cry. It is so moving. And, this week, it reminded me how honored I am to be able to work with so many clients and friends who serve in the military, whether active duty or retired. Why I am so glad I can help them with buying or selling a home, and help to ensure their move is as stress free as possible. That we find a place where their families will be happy and secure while they are deployed…perhaps a home they can return to at retirement…an investment in their future.

If you have never seen the ceremony, take a few minutes to watch. I think you will be proud of our military men and women, too!

Want To Make More Money When You Sell Your Home?

ImageSo, you have been pleasantly surprised by the increase in prices and you have decided to take the plunge and put your home on the market. You have watched the TV home improvement shows and know you should “get your home ready” or “stage” it, but what does that mean?

I can’t stress the value of “curb appeal” enough. When potential buyers arrive at your home and walk to the front door, are they making a list repairs that need to be completed? Or, are they drawn to the freshly painted and welcoming front door? The new door mat? The colorful flowers in the pot? It makes a big difference.

I recommend you stand across the street from your home and pretend you are a buyer…what do you see? Let your emotional ties to the home go and be honest.  Is the front door dusty and in need of paint? Can you see the trash cans? Are the walks clean?

Most homes show better with less furniture.  You have decided to move, so start packing! Rent a storage unit for furniture that blocks paths through your home and put them in storage. Do you need all the books on the book shelves – probably not, pack them. What about out of season clothes or toys your kids don’t play with anymore?

Now is the time to de-clutter – if you haven’t used it in a month, does it really need to be out on a counter? If not, donate it or pack it away!

You must de-personalize! Pack up those personal photographs. You want potential buyers to say “I can see myself living here” not wondering what kind of people live here now, looking at your family photos to see if they know you!

Your house needs to shine! Wash windows inside and out. Re-caulk tubs and showers if needed. Polish faucets and mirrors. Replace worn rugs. Hang up fresh towels. Keep the beds made!

Now is the time to make minor repairs. Even better is to have a home inspection that you can provide the buyer with a list of the items you have or will take care of.

Taking a couple of weeks to prepare your home for sale can be worth literally thousands of dollars…REALLY.  I would be happy to share more details for how to prepare your home for sale, just let me know how I can help you!

Is It A Good Fit: How To Choose to Realtor To Sell Your Home

ImageHaving sold homes in San Diego for over 20 years, I am still surprised how many people really have no idea how to choose a Realtor to sell their home. But then again, why would they? Selling a home isn’t something people do every day. Most families are staying in their homes for over five years before selling now, some much more than that.

It might surprise you to know that many real estate agents do not keep in touch with their past clients. Why? A variety of reasons…some were part-time agents and haven’t remained active in the business.  Some agents say they are afraid to talk to their past clients; they just don’t want to know about problems. Some agents are off to find the next sale and maintaining relationships just isn’t a priority. Unfortunately, it is true that most people do not hire the agent who represented them when they bought their home to help them sell it when the time comes!

So, how do you find a good agent? My advice is to ask your family and friends if they have an agent they would recommend. Then find out:

  • Is the agent in the business full-time?
  • Does the agent have a track record of actually selling homes?
  • Can the agent provide references?
  • Does the agent belong to the National Association of Realtors and the state and local Association of Realtors – not all licensed agents are “Realtors”.
  • Does the agent know the local market?
  • Does the agent have a marketing plan?
  • Does the agent have a professional website and presence on the internet?
  • Does the agent return calls, emails, and text messages in a timely manner?
  • Does the agent understand the legal documents they are preparing and asking their clients to sign?
  • Will the agent take the time to make sure you understand the contracts, the process, and anything that comes up in the process?
  • Is there good chemistry between you and the agent? Sometimes personalities just don’t mix, that’s okay!
  • Will the agent give you advice on how to prepare your home for sale?
  • Does the agent review the most recent comparable sales in your area to determine the asking price?

For most families, their home is their largest asset. Finding a professional and experienced Realtor to help protect that asset is an important first step in getting it sold for the best price, within your time frame, and with as little hassle as possible. Taking the time in the beginning to find a great Realtor will save you money, headaches, and will make the process much more enjoyable, maybe even fun!

     My beautiful mother-in-law…

Jim & MomMy beautiful mother-in-law…she turned 90 years old in November and it was while attending her 90th birthday celebration in November that we realized that her “forgetfulness” was really dementia.  She brought her four boys up attending the local Methodist church, but she was raised a Christian Scientist and those beliefs still have a hold on her. She does not like going to the doctor and has avoided them as much as possible in her later years.
Mom had a happy marriage, full of the usual ups and downs, but she and my husband’s father had a good life. They had four sons whom they cherished, loved, and celebrated as unique individuals.  She became a widow 20 years ago and 15 years ago found love again with a widower who lives nearby. She has been truly blessed in loving and being loved by two truly good men.
Now we watch this lovely, graceful woman as she battles dementia. We feel blessed that she is happy and that she laughs at her memory lapses, she isn’t angry or distressed. We are happy she still knows us and trusts us.  As the fog of this disease shrouds her mind, there are still moments when she seems like her old self. And, there are moments when I think she knows exactly what is happening.  As we talked after a wonderful Saturday morning brunch, she said, “I don’t remember my age, but I know I am really getting old”, and she seemed content in that knowledge. After all, she has led a happy life.
As we said our goodbyes, the twinkling eyes and lovely smile are still there. I hope they will be there the next time we see her. How I will miss them if they are not.

Is The San Diego Home Market Changing?

   Yes, you heard correctly, the real estate market in San Diego is looking up!  After five years of a downturn and a year of relatively stable prices, local experts say we may see 3 to 5% appreciation in real estate this year and a sales volume increase of about 10%.

Why is this happening now?  The number of sales that were bank owned was down 25% from March 2011 to March 2012.  In the May 2012 edition of “Econoplay”, I was quoted:

“Local real estate forecasters are calling for 3% to 5% price increases this year. They also expect volume sales to increase by around 10% over 2011,” Pontzious noted. Cash buyers and people who can put down large down payments also seem to be ignoring low appraisals and buying anyway. “If they continue to do that, it will drive prices up,” she said, noting that appraisals are losing credibility because of their over-reliance on distress sales.”

The inventory in most parts of San Diego is extremely low and we are seeing multiple offers on many properties. Remember two to three years ago when it was so difficult for home buyers to have their offers accepted? We are seeing that again in some areas.

My advice?  If you want to sell your home this year, get it on the market now!  If you are buying a home, be prepared for multiple offers and be prepared to pay full price or over in many instances.  Have questions? I can help!

Are Short Sales For You?

With so many of the homes on the market today being short saleImages, they are something every buyer needs to consider.  Before you jump in with both feet, though, there are some things to think about! 

  • This is not your normal transaction. No matter what terms you and the seller agree to, the lien holders may not agree, and you are back to square one. The lien holders may make seemingly arbitrary decisions or requirements. That is the name of the game! 
  • You will not get a great “deal” with a short sale. Yes, the price may be discounted some, and that may not be worth the wait. The will banks have an appraisal or valuation of the property….we all have access to the same information, so value isn’t a secret. You will see short sale listings priced below market value in some cases. This is to encourage buyers to write an offer so something can be submitted to the lien holders to get the ball rolling. It doesn’t mean that the lien holders will accept the price you offer, and they often do not. You can expect to pay close to market value for a short sale in most cases.
  • Short sales do require experienced agents on both sides of the transaction…it is not time to work with a novice! Especially the listing agent should be experienced with short sales or you may waste months of time.
  • If you do not have extra money for repairs, do not make offers on short sales. In most cases, they are sold in As-Is condition and neither the sellers nor the lien holders will make any repairs. There may be exceptions, but don’t go into a transaction expecting it. If you are purchasing with FHA or VA financing, the property needs to be in good condition. 
  • Short sales take a long time!  The fastest closing I have seen is about 45 days, many take several months…up to a year or more. In our area, 90 to 120 days is normal. So, if you need to be moved in a certain time frame, short sales may not be for you.
  • Remember that even though the short sale process has, in many cases, improved, not all short sales will be approved. Some will never close escrow and will go into foreclosure. 

KCM posted a great article about short sales, you can read here.

Short Sales — Are There Options?

Short sales are becoming a way of life, kind of the norm in San Diego. Unfortunately, for too many families these days, a short sale may be the best option. . . but for others. . . well, here’s a true story.

I had clients who were being transferred, he had a government job that required a security clearance, which requires good credit. With prices falling, they were faced with moving hundreds of miles away and trying to rent their home…this would mean they could not purchase a home in their new location….or, was there another way of looking at the situation?  For this family, they made the decision to bring money to closing. It meant taking money from savings and some from 401k, and this isn’t for everyone. But in their situation it enabled them to sell their home and purchase their dream home with a VA loan. They happily moved last month.

I have had other clients borrow from family members and pay them back on a monthly basis. It enables them to keep their credit and move on, buy a new home.

Short sales will probably be a way of life for some time to come….but there may be other options..think about it…and, if you know someone who needs some help, let me know, I can help!