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Sheriff’s Department Annual Town Hall for San Carlos: May 7th.

Sheriff

Annual Police Update.

As they have done for the past several years, the San Carlos Police Bureau of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office will be hosting its Annual Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, May 7th -  7:00pm at City Hall (600 Elm Street).  This is a great opportunity to discuss ongoing crime prevention efforts in San Carlos, and to get the answers to your most pressing questions, such as:

  1. What’s going on will all these burglaries?”  You will receive an update directly from our Burglary Detectives on our most recent developments in the residential burglary investigations.
  2. How can I learn about crime in my neighborhood?”  You will learn how to plot San Carlos crimes from your home computer.
  3. What is being done to keep my kids safe in and around San Carlos Schools?”  You will hear from our School Resource Officer about all that has been done to protect your children in and around San Carlos Schools.
  4. What are the crime trends that will effect the City?”  You will receive an overview from the Police Chief about crime and policing activities in San Carlos.
  5. What is the most underestimated public safety threat we face?”  Answer:  Earthquakes.  You will get information about how to be prepared for a local emergency such as a major earthquake.
  6. Since the police can’t be everywhere at once, how can we better protect ourselves?”  You will receive valuable crime prevention information and learn about Neighborhood Watch.

If the past year’s meetings are any indication, this will be a very interesting and informative meeting.  So mark your calendars, and we’ll see you there.
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A Friday Thought: Cleaning Up San Carlos.

plastic bag

Bans on Bad Things.

Perhaps you’re already aware of this, but a few weeks ago the City Council of San Carlos voted 4-1 to adopt a ban on carry-out plastic bags, citing environmental concerns.   The ban will take effect on July 1 of this year.  Bonnie Eslinger of the Daily News did a great job covering the details of the council meeting and the subsequent vote, so I won’t rehash them in this post.  You can check out her article here.

Whether or not you believe that those evil plastic bags are indeed the scourge of the earth is probably a personal opinion, but I understand the Council’s intention of at least trying to do right by the environment.  After all, there’s no arguing that these bags take about a trillion years to break down in our landfill — the only two things that take longer to decompose are McDonald’s Cheeseburgers, and….

Cigarette Butts.

Hmmm…  OK, now that the 800 pound gorilla has been let out of his cage, let’s at least acknowledge his presence.    As I walk around downtown San Carlos, I see way more crushed cigarette butts on the sidewalks and in the gutter than I do those aforementioned evil plastic bags.    Maybe because the bags have the gift of flight is the reason we don’t see more?   But if we’re on the topic of monitoring what goes down our storm drains to the pristine waters of the San Francisco Bay (ahem),   one would think that there are far more butts than bags in the bay right now.

Banning smoking downtown is probably not the answer.  I don’t smoke, but that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t have the right to do what they want to their bodies.   We live in a free country.  That’s not the point.

But as I drove down Laurel Street yesterday and watched the driver in front of me fire a lit cigarette out the window, it dawned on me that I’d just like to see a more concerted effort by our smoking population, and perhaps the city, to find a way to fix a problem that we’ve ignored for too long.

Especially if we’re truly concerned about cleaning things up in City of Good Living.   Just a thought…
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San Carlos First Time Buyers: Your First Mortgage Payments.

“Why am I paying so much interest?”

Ask anyone who has just purchased a home what their reaction was when they opened their first mortgage statement – chances are that’s exactly what they thought.  I know that was my first reaction.  It seemed like 3/4 of my monthly payment was going just to pay the interest!!  My second reaction was “Aha, the bank is screwing me over by getting ALL of their interest up front!”   That seemed to be logical conclusion, since most people re-finance within a few years of getting their first loan anyway.   Why shouldn’t the banks “front-load” their loans — just another devious scheme by the banks to get more money, right?

Wrong.

There’s a reason for this…

While it may seem at first blush that the banks are “front-loading” their loans with interest, it’s actually not the case.   Here’s why: When the payments on a typical amortized loan are calculated, they’re broken down into a pre-defined number of equal payments (key word being equal here) that are comprised of both principal and interest.  Since the banks are entitled to the interest due on the principal balance, the amount of interest will always be higher at the beginning of the loan period because the principal is higher.   As you pay down more of the principal, the interest amount drops — consequently, toward the end of your loan period, your payment is made up mostly of principal, not interest.

There’s a great explanation of this whole process on Jack Guttentag’s outstanding “The Mortgage Professor’s Website.”   Click here for the article:

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First-Time Home Buyers” is a new category on the site that’s a resource for first-time home buyers in San Carlos, and for those who have general real estate questions.

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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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The FAQ’s on Counter Offers

faq.jpg

Few elements of a real estate transaction are more confusing and widely misunderstood than the Counter Offer.   And it can be even more mystifying when you consider deals where the seller is countering more than one offer.    In reality, the concept of the Counter Offer is pretty straightforward, but its implementation in a real estate contract is where most of the confusion occurs.

Why is this important?  Regardless of whether the market is hot, cold or somewhere in between, the Counter Offer is the main tool when the two parties negotiate the terms of the contract.  Therefore it’s important to have a good understanding of what they’re about.  I put together some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) that I have encountered regarding Counter Offers, and outlined them below.  For the sake of this clarity, assume that you’re a buyer and you have just made an offer on a home.  Obviously, the answers here are relevant for both buyers and sellers.

negotiation.jpgFAQ #1:  We submitted an offer on a home, and the seller countered our offer.  Does that mean he can only deal with us now?

  • No.  The seller is free to entertain other offers while you are considering his counter.  In fact, the seller can accept another offer even while you’re mulling over his counter.  So if you sense there’s lots of interest in the house you’re bidding on, you probably need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

FAQ #2:  We received a counter-offer from the Seller, but we’re not going to accept it.  Are we still obligated to buy the house per the terms of our original offer?

  • No.  When a seller counters your offer, he is effectively canceling the original offer and re-submitting a new one.   If you decline his Counter Offer outright, you have essentially killed the contract.  Note that you can write a Counter Offer to his counter, which has the same effect — he is no longer obligated to sell the home to you per the terms of his counter offer….and so on, and so on.

FAQ #3:  Is there any limit to the number of times the buyer and seller can counter each other?

  • Nope.   I have heard stories of deals that had 12-14 counter-offers before the deal was settled.  I can’t imagine what in the world they were haggling over for that many rounds of negotiation!

FAQ #4:  We just signed the seller’s Counter Offer with no changes!  We’re now in contract, correct?

  • Not yetThe Counter Offer is not binding until the maker of the Counter Offer is “notified” of acceptance  (in this example it’s the seller or the seller’s agent, if that’s specified in the contract.)   This is a VERY important point!  In effect, the seller can still accept another offer right up until the moment that he receives your accepted Counter Offer, even if you technically signed it before he received the other offer.  In reality this happens rarely, but it’s still possible.  “Proof of Notification” is absolutely essential.  So, if you’ve signed the counter offer, any good agent knows that it’s best to immediately hand deliver it to the seller and get a signed acknowledgment of receipt.

FAQ #5:  The seller received multiple offer on his house.  Can he counter more than one of those offers?

  • Yes.  This is what is referred to as a Multiple Counter Offer.  Multiple counters are a bit more involved, and you’re more likely to encounter one in a hot market when a seller thinks he can leverage one interested offer off of another to garner some additional money.   They are also very risky, because for the reasons we discussed in Question #2, the seller can easily go from multiple buyers to none if they don’t bite on the counter offer.

FAQ #6:  Two counter offers were sent back to the buyers.  What happens if they both accept? Isn’t this like selling one house to two parties?

  • No, although that’s certainly what it seems like.   In this situation, the contract is not binding until the seller signs and acknowledges the winning offer.  So even if you sign the seller’s Counter Offer without any changes, the seller still has the right to reveiw and choose which offer he or she will go with.   This is clearly stated on the contract that is used for multiple counters.  So like we discussed in Question #4, it’s vital to get that acknowledgment and signature from the seller.  If you’re interested in finding out more about multiple counter offers, here’s a great article by Dian Hymer of Inman News:  The Pros and Cons of Multiple Counter Offers.

I hope these questions and answers help steer you through the sometimes tricky waters of Counter Offers.  Remember that the majority of real estate transactions involve at least one or more rounds of counter offers, so don’t be put off or intimidated by them.   Look at it as a tool for two interested parties to reach common ground in a very important transaction.
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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Looking for a home improvement contractor? Don’t Panic!

When it comes to home ownership, there are few things more confusing (and sometimes intimidating) than having to find and hire someone to do work on your home. How do you find a plumber, electrician, painter, or carpenter? More importantly, how do you know if they are good, reliable, and trustworthy?

Obviously, you can ask a friend or someone you know who has had work done recently. That’s always a solid, relevant datapoint…but that’s only one reference. And what if you are new in town and don’t know anyone? The good ‘ol Internet can help out. There are two websites that I will discuss that can help get you on your way:

Angie’s List: http://www.angieslist.com The name-connection to the ubiquitous “craigslist” is obvious in the moniker. Angie’s List was created in 1995 by Angie Hicks in Columbus, Ohio as a way for homeowners to track and rate different contractors in the various home-improvement trades. Since it’s inception, Angie’s List has expanded into many areas, including the San Francisco Bay Area. This site is different from others in two main areas:

  • Cost. There is a fee to join ($15 sign-up, approx $5 per month.) The company rationalizes this as a way to get “honest” feedback about businesses. The thought being that only people who are serious about writing honest referrals will go through the effort and pay the cost. I don’t necessarily buy this rationale — it’s very easy for anyone to log in under a pseudo-email address and post a seemingly legit review. But for the purpose of this discussion, I’ll assume the vast majority are real.
  • Grading. Angie’s List allows users to grade contractors on an A-F grading scale, just like school, for key parameters such as price, quality, responsiveness, cost etc… There is also ample area for commentary, which is always helpful. As I mentioned before, as long as the reports are legitimate, they are very helpful.

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com Yelp falls under the category of a “social network.” It’s free and easy to join, and you can write reviews on any business from pizzerias to painters. Rating is done by giving a business 1-5 stars. It is a little less structured than Angie’s List, but the commentaries are generally more pointed and frank. If someone screws up on a job, they’re going to get “Yelped,” which is the equivalent of the old schoolyard dogpile. If nothing else, the commentaries are very creative and often amusing.

Diamond Certified: http://www.diamondcertified.org/ Diamond Certified is an organization that reviews and certifies various businesses based on a rigorous qualification process. These businesses are reviewed on a quarterly basis and must maintain a certain rating to keep their Diamond Certification. The positive of this is the obvious neutrality of the rating — no relatives writing the reviews. The downside is that you’ll have far fewer contractors to pick from (maybe that’s a good thing?)

In summary, regardless of whether you find your contractor online or through a friend, make sure to take the following steps:

  1. Get additional referrals or customer from the contractor (preferably a live person.)
  2. Interview multiple contractors.
  3. If you can, go see some of the work they’ve done. Electrical and plumbing is tough, but painting, floors and kitchens are easy to see.

I hope this helps! If you know of any other websites that cater to rating contractors, please post a comment below. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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