How to Best Use Social Media to Explore Neighborhoods

Choosing a city to live in can be easy, but it can be a little more difficult to narrow it down to a neighborhood.

Without leaving your couch, however, you can explore a neighborhood through these three social media sites on a computer or with smartphone apps:

Facebook’s City Guides are a hidden feature that can help you find places in a neighborhood where locals go. It’s like an insider’s guide to the best kept secrets of a local area.

To find it on the website, search for “City Guides Facebook” or “City Guides” and the name of the city you want to explore. On the mobile app, open the Explore tab and look for City Guides.

Scroll to the section “Places The Locals Go” and you’ll see restaurants, cafes and other attractions that locals rate highly on Facebook. Upcoming events and popular attractions can also be viewed.

If you have Facebook friends who have visited the city or live there, their names will be listed. Reach out to them for more neighborhood tips.

The Places tab will help you get a visual feel for neighborhoods from photos that have been tagged with a location. When typing in a search on a desktop computer or on the mobile app, look for “Places” on the far right.

Also called geotagging, Instagram gives you photos of areas that may have been added only seconds ago. Search for a city under Places and you’ll see an almost never-ending stream of photos of the community and people who live there.

Advanced Search in Twitter will help you find hyper-local blogs, news sources and people passionate about what’s happening in their neighborhood.

To get to it, click on “Search Filters” after doing a search, then click on “Advanced Search.”

Type in the name of the community you want to explore to see what’s happening now or very recently. You can also look in the News and Photos tabs for updates.

Advanced Search can also be used to find recent posts from people who live in the city you’re looking at, possibly for tips on what locals are doing in their neighborhoods.

I hope you found this helpful. Contact me for more home and real estate insights and info.


The Case for Double-Paned Windows

Energy loss attributed to windows accounts for nearly 25 percent of the annual heating and cooling costs for the average American home, according to the Department of Energy. Do double-paned windows provide enough savings to justify their cost?

Experts say that even a clear glass, double-paned vinyl or wood-framed window can reduce energy usage by up to 24 percent in cold climates during the winter, and by up to 18 percent in hot climates during the summer, when compared to older, single-pane models. The savings may be even greater if you choose top-of-the-line models and/or triple-paned windows.

Double-paned windows are a boon to the environment as well, because when you burn less fossil fuel, you create fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

As an added bonus, double-paned windows significantly reduce traffic sounds and other outdoor noise, making them a smart buy in busy urban areas.

Apart from the cost, there’s no downside to installing double-paned windows, although experts say that quality matters. From failed seals to improperly spaced glass, poorly manufactured windows can negate energy savings and lead to other problems, such as condensation developing between the panes—so it’s wise to buy from a reputable dealer.

Also, replacing individual windows rather than upgrading entire homes or floors will not likely yield your intended energy savings. Old windows will still leak air even if you install one double-paned one, making it imperative to replace all the windows in your home at the same time.

Costs can vary considerably depending upon the number of windows to be replaced and the overall quality of materials used. On average, you may expect to pay between $300 and $500 per window, plus an installment fee. But competition is keen and sales do occur, so a thrifty homeowner should get several estimates before choosing a contractor.

Interested in more real estate information? Feel free to contact me directly.


Kitchen Upgrades Worth Their Weight in Resale Value

If a kitchen renovation is on your radar screen, and you plan to stay in your home long-term, you can figure on spending $20,000 or more – especially if you plan to rip out counters and re-configure your space.

But if you’re thinking of upgrades that increase your home’s resale value, as well as your own enjoyment, there’s a lot you can do at minimal cost to bring your kitchen up to date.

Designers advise putting your money into six specific areas to get the most bang for your update buck:

  1. Appliances – Replace basic white or black appliances with stainless steel, which will not only update the look of your kitchen but will likely be more energy efficient.
  2. Cabinets – It’s amazing what a coat of white paint will do to make your kitchen pop. But if tired, old cabinets are beyond painting, re-facing them will save you big bucks over replacing them.
  3. Hardware – Replacing standard cabinet hardware with fresh, bold designs is the easiest (read, ‘cheapest’) way to upgrade the look of any kitchen. Choose hardware that’s trendy, like brass, which is making a comeback, or contemporary styles that make a statement.
  4. Countertops – High end stone and ornate beveling is in vogue and expensive, but granite is becoming more affordable. Shop around for a good deal and this upgrade may cost less than you think.
  5. Backsplash – A snazzy backsplash is a focal point in the kitchen, and the right one can draw the eye away from kitchen flaws that might otherwise be glaring. Choose subway tile, which is a classic and sought-after option, or add a splash of color with a variety of reasonable materials available at most home stores.
  6. Lighting – An instant style makeover can be as simple as replacing that old overhead fixture with recessed lighting, under-counter lighting, and/or new accent lighting over a breakfast bar or kitchen table.


Tips for Organizing Your Home

No matter the size of your home, odds are you could still spend all day cleaning. Even though life tends to get in the way of secondary chores, identifying your home’s major bound-to-be-disorganized areas can help ease the clutter tension in your home and save you cleaning time.

Kitchen: With so many pots and pans and accumulated bric-a-brac, your kitchen can go from tidy to out-of-control in no time. Sometimes, you just don’t have the energy to put everything back exactly where it should go. To get back on track, take one day to strategically organize everything in your kitchen.

Take into account how often you use certain items and in what areas you use them. Keep your pots close to your stove, your utensils close to your plates; you get the picture. Divide your drawers so each item you are looking for is easily accessible. The way to win at this is to think lazy. Figure out what would be the most effortless way to go about cleaning up your kitchen and follow that path.

Closets: There are never enough hangers, there is never enough space, yet you are always adding more clothes. The trick to closets is to make sure everything stays in its place. Find ways to create divisions between your clothing items, be it drawers, hanging shoe-shelves, dividers, or boxes. The point is to make sure the proper clothes are getting appropriate hangers, and that everything else is staying out of the way.

Everything that’s out of season can be packed away. Neatly putting them away in a box can even open up space by creating a surface that you can stack things up on. Also, don’t forget your doors. Hang jewelry or shoe racks inside closet doors, clearing up more space for your other items.

Bathrooms: Last, but not least, is the never-ending disorganization that is the bathroom. With so many products and appliances, the task of organizing never seems to end. In this case, do the same as with the kitchen. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, and scrubs: it all goes in the shower. If your shower doesn’t have built-in shelves, buy hanging organizers.

Use your storage space wisely by stacking towels under the sink, getting baskets to contain your lotions, perfumes, etc., and purchasing additional storage to stow away brushes, cotton balls, and other bathroom items.

Get in touch with your inner organizer and benefit from the perks of decluttering!


New Home Trends: Papered Ceilings?

You may have heard that wallpaper is making a comeback. But have you heard about wallpapered ceilings? Technically, this trend is called ceiling paper, and it can transform a room in the same way papered walls can.

Highlight a space. Do you have a home office tucked to one side of your family room? How about a cozy reading nook? Add colorful ceiling paper to one portion of a room to divide the space naturally.

Make a statement. Just like a colorful throw cushion on a neutral couch, jazzy ceiling paper can make a “boring” room bold. Choose a fun print or color that shows off your personality and style.

Accent, accent, accent. Tie your ceiling paper into the rest of your decorating scheme by choosing the right accent color. Whether you go with a solid, stripes or a soft pattern, a papered ceiling done up right can complete the look of a room.

When wallpapering a ceiling, it may be best to bring in a pro, as the application can be tricky. If you’re a diligent weekend warrior and feel like going DIY, make sure to properly prep your ceiling for application by removing any paint and electrical fixtures. Experts also suggest creating a ceiling blueprint for precise application.

Interested in more home improvement tips? Feel free to contact me directly.


#Airbnbust: The Fall Of Short-Term Rentals

It’s a story that’s echoed across social media platforms from rental property owners across the nation: Vacation rentals are no longer generating the steady revenue investors grew to expect during the pandemic. The era of #Airbnbust has taken hold. 

Real estate investor Sabrina Must, who once rented her 2-bedroom condo in Encinitas, California, for $1,000 per night on a holiday weekend, has dropped her rates to $275 per night due to waning demand, The Wall Street Journal reports. Another couple who got into real estate investing during the pandemic saw strong bookings in the beginning, followed by low occupancy rates this past summer. 

It’s a problem for many everyday people who decided to try a hand at real estate investing during a period of booming demand, sometimes without a backup plan or the skills to remain competitive during a downturn. As the situation evolves, the short-term rental strategy is losing its appeal, especially as an entry point for beginners. 

Why the Short-Term Rental Strategy is Losing Steam

Oversupply limits cash flow potential

Airbnb occupancy rates have exhibited year-over-year declines for eight months straight, according to data from vacation rental research company AirDNA. It’s not because inflation has curbed the demand for short-term rentals. In fact, nights stayed are up 21.3% as of October when compared to last year. But the supply of Airbnb listings has surged 23.3% year-over-year. 66,000 new rental properties were listed this October, an increase that overshadowed the growth seen the October prior. 

What created the oversupply? During the pandemic, demand for second homes nearly doubled as low interest rates collided with remote work opportunities and the desire for more space. The skyrocketing demand for vacation rentals and record revenue data in 2021 also encouraged a new group of real estate investors to buy homes exclusively as rentals. And now, Zillow predicts the number of first-time landlords will grow significantly as second-home owners attempt to earn money from their properties while inflation persists and stock market expectations are bearish. Furthermore, homeowners who have locked in low interest rates may be tempted to rent their homes rather than sell when it comes time to move. 

Notably, occupancy rates are still up 12.8% compared to October 2019. AirDNA forecasts that supply will increase another 9% in 2023, despite high mortgage rates causing affordability pressure for would-be second-home buyers—but expects occupancy rates to stay elevated above pre-pandemic levels. However, if rising unemployment cuts into the demand for short-term rentals or if more homeowners decide to become hosts in an effort to boost their incomes, there’s reason to believe occupancy rates could dip even further. 

Growth in average daily rates and bookings slows

When compared to 2019, demand for short-term rentals has remained stable or increased all over the world. But Airbnb’s revenue growth slowed from 58% in the second quarter to 29% in the third quarter, and Airbnb predicts that holiday revenue won’t live up to market expectations. 

AirDNA also reports slowing growth in average daily rates. The 5.6% growth in average daily rates (ADRs) expected for 2022 actually represents a real loss due to inflation. And ADR growth is expected to slow to 1.7% in 2023, while inflation is predicted to remain elevated. The revenue per available room is also expected to decline because the slightly higher rates won’t offset the decrease in occupancy rates. 

Local governments are cracking down

Short-term rentals were relatively unregulated in the beginning days of Airbnb, and there are still plenty of cities that only require hosts to apply for a short-term rental license. But increasingly, local governments are tightening short-term rental rules due to criticism that an overabundance of vacation rentals limits the availability of affordable rental housing in a community. 

In New York City, short-term rentals of less than 30 days are prohibited unless the host is present and the guests are given unobstructed access to the entire unit. In San Francisco, short-term rentals must be primary residences where the owner lives for at least 275 days out of the year. Similarly, Denver only allows homeowners to apply for a short-term rental license for their primary residence. These are examples of a growing number of cities cracking down on short-term rentals. It’s evident that investors entering the short-term rental market now will need a backup plan because if large cities that depend on revenue from tourism are passing strict requirements for rental property owners, it can happen anywhere. 

How Investor Struggles Could Impact the Housing Market

New investors who snatched up rental properties during the pandemic based on forecasted ADRs at the time may not be able to cover their mortgage payments. As occupancy rates continue to drop, many may be forced to sell their properties. Widespread selling of properties intended for short-term rentals would increase the supply of homes, contributing to a downturn in home prices. Low supply is one factor currently preventing home prices from dropping too rapidly, even as prospective homebuyers pull back due to high mortgage rates. 

A more serious problem may occur if prices fall and new investors are left with underwater mortgages. Over the last year, debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) loans have become increasingly common, Bloomberg reports, allowing investors to qualify for larger amounts based on future income projections rather than a large down payment or personal salary. Some of these loans (it’s unclear how many) were packaged and sold to investors as mortgage-backed securities by Wall Street firms. Several lenders in the space have said they expect to issue hundreds of millions in rental-based loans this year, and a significant portion of borrowers will qualify based on projected Airbnb income. 

While most experts contend there won’t be a housing crash because lending standards are stricter now than they were before the 2008 financial crisis, these rental-based loans are another story. Without a full account of how many of these loans are out there, it’s impossible to say whether potential defaults could cause enough foreclosures to impact the economy. But certainly, the Airbnb slowdown could contribute to a larger supply of homes on the market. 

How to Stay in the Airbnb Game

The extensive supply of short-term rental properties means that investors in the space need to stand out as stellar hosts if they hope to maintain high revenues. Brian Egan, CEO, and co-founder of vacation rental management company, Evolve, tells The Wall Street Journal that the most successful hosts provide an outstanding experience by raising the bar for hospitality and ensuring the property meets or exceeds guests’ expectations after viewing the listing. 

Hosts should also research the algorithms each listing platform uses to try to expand their reach and enhance their listings to improve conversions. Prioritizing professional photos and offering competitive pricing and policies can increase the likelihood that guests will book your rental, and quick response times are also important. 

Ultimately, a backup plan is essential. You may not be able to achieve the revenue you’re hoping for if there’s an oversupply of properties in your market. A deep recession could curb demand for vacation rentals in general. Or local regulations could prevent you from listing your property as a short-term rental altogether. You may need to shift to a medium-term or long-term rental strategy, which you should ensure is possible in the area where you buy. You should also have enough cash reserves to cover your mortgage payments and maintenance if fair market rent won’t provide positive cash flow. 

The Airbnb boom may be coming to an end, but there’s still an opportunity to earn money from short-term rentals, especially for experienced and strategic investors. Even as occupancy rates have dropped from their peak, hosts are earning more money now than they were before the pandemic. But property prices and mortgage rates have skyrocketed since then, so new investors must proceed cautiously. Don’t expect any property you buy to be an automatic success. Understand the risks, make research-backed purchasing decisions, and be prepared to pivot in the changing economy.


4 Loan Terms You Should Know

So you’re looking for a home loan? Before you find yourself up to your knees in brand new terminology, brush up on these common phrases:

FICO score
These are the credit scores that the majority of lenders use to determine your credit risk, and the number makes a very big difference in terms of what interest rates you are offered on a mortgage. This score boils your credit history down to a three-digit number that tells a lender whether you’re creditworthy. What is the FICO score based on? The biggest players are past payment history and outstanding debt. The average FICO score falls between 600 and 800, the median being 723.

Full documented loan
A full documented loan means that both income and assets are disclosed and verified. Income is used in determining the applicant’s ability to repay the mortgage and formal verification requires the borrower’s employer to verify employment.

This stands for Annual Percentage Rate. It’s a calculation that measures the net effective cost of borrowing. It takes into account some costs of getting the loan (including any applicable points), most loan fees and mortgage insurance. The APR is the most consistent means of determining price disparities between lenders.

Good Faith Estimate
This is a list of settlement charges that will occur with your new loan. Within three business days of receiving the loan application, the lender is obliged to provide the good faith estimate to the borrower. The good faith estimate gives the borrower the opportunity to review associated costs on the loan before proceeding.


Using Tech to Boost Your Home's Appeal

We are living in a technology-driven world, and your home’s connection with the digital world can be an important part of its appeal when it comes time to sell.

It wasn’t all that long ago that technology wasn’t a big factor in selling a house. It didn’t matter what cable company or internet provider you had; buyers weren’t going to make their final decision on that sort of thing. But these days, good internet and Wi-Fi service can be key for many buyers. As we rely on our devices and laptops more and more—for work, school and staying in touch with friends and relatives—connectivity is about a lot more than watching TV and playing video games.

Let house hunters know which service providers are in the area, and even keep the brochures handy during open houses. Most companies offer discounts to new customers; having that information available to buyers can be helpful in attracting interest.

Today’s digital world is largely wireless, but your home may still have some unsightly wires showing that aren’t necessary. Give your TVs, computers and printers a check to make sure there aren’t unused wires and cables that are all tangled up and making the area look messy.

Show off the technology you have. If you have an Amazon Echo, or similar device, use it to set lighting, turn on TVs or to play music. Likewise, be sure to highlight features such as a smart thermostat if your home has one. Not that you should invest in these technologies if you don’t have them, but they can be a plus.

Get rid of old technology. If you have old TVs or computers that aren’t being used, consider discarding them. Everyone likes TVs, but having one in every room is too much. And older technology can make a home seem dated.

On the other hand, a state-of-the-art television or theater room can be a big attraction. If you have a family room, or home theater space, stage the scene. Have the TV on (to a family-friendly movie) and set up snacks (nut-free) with the proper lighting. Create a scene that parents will want to experience with their kids, or that will make those without kids dream of the perfect movie night at home.

Investing in brand-new technology doesn’t make a lot of economic sense when selling a home, but taking some simple steps, and showcasing what you do have, can show buyers that your home will suit their twenty-first century needs.


5 Tips for Lightening Your Living Space

Do you dream of a light, airy living space? Do you want to feel like you’re living inside of a cloud? Below are five tips for a lighter living space, now.

Paint it white. Well this is an obvious one. From walls to wood paneling and hardwood floors, two coats of white paint will turn your living space into a year-round winter wonderland. Done and done!

Minimize. Do you really need all twenty of those awkward family photos on that side table? De-cluttering surfaces will lighten space with smooth lines. Cut clutter by adding hidden storage systems (like an ottoman with stow space), and minimize furniture to a handful of necessary pieces.

Add mirrors. Mirrors have long-since been a go-to trick for opening up a space. In addition to wall mirrors, consider adding mirrored back splashes or mirrored trays. Not into mirrors? Sparkle can do the trick, too. Glass-top tables and crystal candle holders, anyone?

Lighten the linens. Breezy, airy curtains and snow-white throws will make your space seem plush and comfortable, like snuggling with a sheep.

Shades of gray. To avoid looking as if you doused your house in bleach, consider adding soft, light shades of gray or blue to your color scheme.


4 Reasons You Should Compost

If you’re environmentally aware, you’re likely already doing several things at home to help the planet. Recycling, using less water and fuel and making smart purchasing choices can all help reduce your carbon footprint. Composting is a fantastic way to help out mama earth, and with many convenient options, it’s no longer just for those living in the country.

Below are 4 reasons you should consider composting.

It gives back. By composting your food scraps, you’re helping to keep hundreds of pounds of food waste from rotting in landfills. Instead, it will turn into healthy, nutrient rich soil right in your yard or compost space. If everyone composted, sources show we could divert roughly 36 million tons of waste from rotting away in landfills.  

It creates healthy plants. If you have a yard or garden you tend to, composting is one of the top ways to help yield a healthy harvest. Compost feeds your plants a top notch diet and helps them grow big, strong, and more pest resistant.

It can save you dollars. If you’re used to purchasing fertilizer for your garden or yard, using your own composted soil can save you money, and nix the need for the harsh chemicals found in many store-bought fertilizers.

It’s convenient. Many city-dwellers don’t compost because they believe they don’t have the space for it, and who wants a rotting pile of scraps in a tiny apartment? However, there are many programs that support composting in cities. In fact, over 90 U.S. cities and communities offer municipal food-waste collection in a fashion similar to recycling programs. Some cities, like San Francisco, even require composting. The hilly city has a compost and recycling pick up routine that keeps a stunning 75 percent of trash out of their landfills. Do some research on your community to find a compost system.


How to Detect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poison is a silent danger that claims over 400 lives in the U.S. annually, as well as over 20,000 visits to the emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To keep your family safe, know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

“Safety is our top priority at DTE Energy, and we urge residents to be particularly alert to carbon monoxide danger during the fall and winter heating season. It’s when CO exposure most frequently occurs,” says Brad Burcz, senior safety and health engineer, DTE Energy.  “One of the best defenses against CO poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide alarm near all sleeping areas in your home. If dangerous levels of CO are detected, an audible alarm will alert you.”

DTE offers the following tips to prevent CO poisoning in homes and businesses:

  • For businesses, install carbon monoxide alarms in main areas away from vents and appliances or equipment that produce smoke or steam.
  • Replace batteries in CO alarms annually.
  • If a CO alarm is activated, or the presence of carbon monoxide is suspected, immediately get out of the house or building into fresh air, and if necessary, seek medical attention.
  • Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are operating and venting properly.
  • Get an annual furnace inspection by a licensed professional.
  • Check yearly to verify flues, vents and chimneys are connected, in good condition and clear of debris.

Like this update? As your local real estate professional, I can provide more great tips like this and answer any real estate information questions you may have. Contact me today!


This information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. You should rely on this information only to decide whether or not to further investigate a particular property. BEFORE MAKING ANY OTHER DECISION, YOU SHOULD PERSONALLY INVESTIGATE THE FACTS (e.g. square footage and lot size) with the assistance of an appropriate professional. You may use this information only to identify properties you may be interested in investigating further. All uses except for personal, non-commercial use in accordance with the foregoing purpose are prohibited. Redistribution or copying of this information, any photographs or video tours is strictly prohibited. This information is derived from the Internet Data Exchange (IDX) service provided by San Diego Multiple Listing Service, Inc. Displayed property listings may be held by a brokerage firm other than the broker and/or agent responsible for this display. The information and any photographs and video tours and the compilation from which they are derived is protected by copyright. Compilation © 2024 San Diego Multiple Listing Service, Inc.