Three DIY Home Projects To Do Before Fall



Home improvement projects can be fun and add value, whether you’re making your home space more usable, more attractive, or more comfortable. Here are three projects to get your creativity flowing based on your skillset.



Painting your front door can increase your curb appeal and give a feeling of newness to your entryway. Choose your color in a glossy exterior paint – a quart should be enough. You may want to test a few colors in various lighting before you make your final decision.

Be sure you paint on a dry day with moderate temperature so the paint can dry and not blister. Start by either removing the door and any hardware or by taping off the areas that aren’t receiving paint. Scrape off any chipping paint, sanding the door if needed. Brush off any dust, dirt, or debris and apply paint with primer, or prime first and then paint it once dry.

Other ideas: freshen up the look of a room with a new paint color, accent wall, or cleanly painted trim.



Pavers come in all shapes and sizes and can create a flat parking space for an RV, more design and aesthetic to your entry, or even a whimsical path to outdoor space. Quickly spruce up an area, such as a garden, with a border. Or, dig a 5” deep trench set with compacted class V gravel and sand to create a long-lasting foundation for decorative pavers.

Other ideas: consider adding outdoor lighting along your new path or end it with a patio. An outdoor fireplace and seating area will make the space perfect for entertaining.



Kitchen and bathrooms are where we spend most of our time, and a mini-makeover can create a more beautiful or usable space. Replace hardware, add a tile backsplash, or install a new counter or sink to instantly transform your space. Install drawer roll-outs to increase storage and reduce clutter.


Local hardware stores and online tutorials are sure to inspire and instruct you on your makeover. And all these projects can be completed over a weekend.

Other ideas: consider installing shelving and/or organizers in a closet, laundry, or mudroom.

Don’t have the time or skill to do it yourself? Contact me about in-home services from a great handyman, plumber, or electrician.

The new normal for Silicon Valley home buying: 36 days on the market

October 21, 2014|Lauren Hepler| Silicon Valley Business Journal| Link


Forget, for just a moment, all of the hype about Silicon Valley’s mythical millennial tech talent clamoring for newfangled luxury apartments.

New monthly data for September from reveals that the region’s for-sale housing market is also crazy as ever.

Homes listed in the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas have only been on the market for a median 36 days, which leaves the Bay Area locales tied for the designation of the second-fastest-moving residential real estate markets in the entire country.

In what could be a testament to concerns about skyrocketing prices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley sending prospective buyers fleeing to farther-flung Bay Area housing markets, the neighboring Oakland metro area boasted homes with the shortest median time on the market at 35 days.

Oakland also had the most inventory, with 4,175 homes on the market as of September, compared to 2,050 in the San Jose area and 2,397 in San Francisco.

Median home prices were $500,000 in Oakland, $718,000 in San Jose and $949,000 in San Francisco.

See the chart at the bottom of this story for a breakdown of how the Bay Area housing markets stack up against other fast-growing tech hubs like Austin and Seattle when it comes to pricing and the amount of time homes are listed for sale.

The upshot for those looking to buy homes in the Bay Area — in case you haven’t heard the horror stories of competing with all-cash buyers or brokers specializing in selling homes before they even hit the market — is that competition to buy is extremely fierce, even if you can afford high boom-time prices.

As I have reported, median home prices that have in some areas surpassed $1 million also undermine the ability of even middle- or relatively high-income area workers to buy a home. Unaffordability pushed some would-be homeowners into the crowded rental market and some into buying in cheaper areas that can entail grueling commutes — that is, if they don’t decide to pack up and move somewhere much farther away that offers much more house for much less money.

Recognizing the potential economic threat posed to the region by unaffordable housing, local cities are now deliberating how to pay for and build new housing for workers at all income levels. Part of that debate is how much new housing should be single-family homes versus rentals targeted for more dense areas.

When it comes to the bigger picture for national home sales, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke notes in the new report that baby boomers adjusting their real estate portfolios before retirement and booming employment in STEM fields (science, technology engineering and math) are likely two big factors driving the market.

“When we see homes moving quickly in a particular market, we expect the trend to be supported by signs of local health like growth in industrial production and employment,” he said. “This month, we also observed more out-of-the-ordinary trends, including high proportions of math and science professionals, as well as baby boomers in each of the fast-moving markets.”

Silicon Valley median income now $94,572 — 43% higher than the typical U.S. household

September 24, 2014| Lauren Hepler| Silicon Valley Business Journal| Link


Silicon Valley’s median income is now 43 percent higher than the typical American household, underscoring both the upsides (bigger paychecks for some) and the drawbacks (housing, anyone?) of rapid economic growth.

At $94,572, the region’s 2013 median household income dwarfed both California’s statewide $61,320 median and the nationwide $53,291 median, according to a new analysis of federal data by think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. The proportion of households in Silicon Valley bringing in more than $150,000 per year also jumped from 26 percent to 29 percent last year.

That increase reflects the dynamism of a market rapidly adding high-paying jobs in fields like engineering and finance. But that picture of prosperity is clouded by declining economic mobility for those in lower-wage jobs and a decline in middle-class jobs, which doesn’t mesh well with skyrocketing costs of living.

“We need to call it like it is. We need to own up to our dysfunction,” Joint Venture CEORussell Hancock told me. “We like all these jobs, but we don’t want to provide the housing.”

As it stands, the region is on a path to an even more divided society where public-safety workers, teachers, restaurant workers — and, increasingly, white-collar workers like doctors and lawyers — can’t afford to live here, he said.

As I have reported, one major driver of the region’s $2,000-plus rents and million-dollar “average” homes is a jarring imbalance in the supply of workforce housing. Palo Alto, for instance, has more than three jobs for every one housing unit in the city. That jobs-housing mismatch becomes even more extreme when factoring in Silicon Valley’s much-discussed income polarization.

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August slowdown hits Bay Area housing market after red-hot year

9/11/14| Pete Carey| San Jose Mercury News| Link

After a red-hot start to the year, the Bay Area’s housing market is heading toward a fall and winter hibernation that should be easier for buyers battered by frenzied competition for a scant supply of homes for sale.

“We’re edging back to normalcy,” said Andrew LePage of CoreLogic DataQuick.

 This year’s big annual price gains came early, with February recording a 30 percent yearly gain for Bay Area single-family homes; March, 28.7 percent; and April 17, percent, as homebuyers strove to outbid one another for the few homes on the market. Price gains began leveling off in June and July. And August continued the trend, with slowing sales and more moderate sales price gains — especially in the South Bay — the real estate information service CoreLogic DataQuick reported Thursday.

In August, the median sale price of a single-family home in the nine-county Bay Area was up 10.5 percent to $650,000 from a year earlier. That compares with a 35.2 percent year-over-year price gain in August of last year, according to the Irvine-based company.


LePage said trends show there are fewer investors competing with regular buyers, and banks are making more loans that are over the so-called “conforming jumbo” limit of $417,000, which can carry lower interest rates and are vital to buyers in the high-cost Bay Area.

Prices were up the most in Alameda County, where they rose 17.3 percent to $668,500.

Smaller gains were reported elsewhere. Prices were up 9.9 percent to $478,000 in Contra Costa County; up 6.1 percent to $790,000 in Santa Clara County; and up 4.2 percent to $904,000 in San Mateo County. That compares with last August’s year-over-year gains of 32 percent in Alameda County, 39.4 percent in Contra Costa County, 24 percent in Santa Clara County and 33.5 percent in San Mateo.

Alameda County is essentially back to its pre-crash peak set in 2007, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, while Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have already surpassed their former peaks. Contra Costa County still has a way to go — it’s still nearly 27 percent below its high.

Some real estate agents in the East Bay said they were beginning to see price reductions as sellers realize they have missed the big buying season.

Sales of single-family homes were down 8.1 percent in the nine-county Bay Area in August, compared with a mere 3.2 percent year-over-year drop in August 2013, CoreLogic DataQuick said. Santa Clara County sales sagged 15.7 percent and Alameda County sales dropped by 12.2 percent from last August. Defying that trend, Contra Costa County had a 4.2 percent gain and San Mateo County sales rose 4.5 percent over the year.

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Chinese developer buys downtown San Jose tower site from KT Properties

August 19, 2014| Silicon Valley Business Journal| Nathan Donato-Weinstein| Link

In one of the most substantial downtown San Jose deals in ages, a Chinese real estate giant has acquired a major high-rise apartment development site with plans to start construction next year.


KT Properties just sold its roughly 2-acre site at 190 W. St. James St. — which is fully approved for 643 units in two towers — to Full Power Properties LLC, according to title records. Sources who have been tracking the deal said the buyer is an affiliate of Guangzhou R&F Properties, a major landlord in China that has been increasing its activity abroad. The price was not disclosed.

Shaoyong Liu, a representative of Full Power Properties LLC, declined to discuss the new owner in detail, but said the company was excited to invest in the city.

“They want it to be a milestone project in San Jose,” he told me in a phone interview from the company’s San Francisco offices. “The next step is to get all the building permits and then start excavation next year. Definitely the new owner, Full Power, is going to build it.”

Ken Tersini, president of Cupertino-based KT Properties, also declined to discuss the deal in detail or confirm the buyer’s capital source.

He described the Full Power as “the ownership vehicle that’s going to continue to move the project forward at full speed,” and added that his firm — which has already developed two high-rise towers downtown — “is going to continue to be very involved and active in the project on the development side all the way through completion. We’re very excited about our association with Full Power.”

KT bought the land about a year ago and immediately started going through the city approval process for a high-rise apartment development. It is currently a surface parking lot.

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How expensive is it to live in Silicon Valley?

August 13, 2014| Lauren Hepler| Silicon Valley Business Journal| Link


How do Silicon Valley’s notoriously high costs of living — $2,500 rents$9 one-way public transit fares, etc. — actually impact local residents on a daily basis?

Santa Clara County wants to know. It’s hosting a Aug. 25 public forum with the tagline ” The Price We Pay for Living in Santa Clara County,” which will be held as lawmakers consider changes to minimum wage and other economic policies that stand to impact large numbers of area workers.

In particular, the county is interested in ” Issues such as the high cost of housing; the need to work more than one full time job to make ends meet, the high cost of health care and education, inability to save for emergencies or retirement, young people having to move back home because they can’t afford to live on their own, reliance on pay-day lending, etc.,”according to an event listing on the website Eventbrite.

The Aug. 25 forum will be held at two times: 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Attendees will have two minutes to air their concerns and provide lawmakers with personal anecdotes about increasing costs of living. The event listing asks residents to specify the number of people in their households and the household’s income and ensures that the information will remain confidential. Those who cannot attend may email their testimony to the county.

The event comes as the county studies a sweeping package of labor policy changes, from a higher living wage for government contractors to mandatory paid-sick days and a new ranking system for businesses based on how they treat employees. Labor unions and allied nonprofit, religious and academic groups have some momentum to push for such changes following resounding voter approval of a minimum wage hike in San Jose during 2012.

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Million-dollar home sales hit record in Bay Area

July 31, 2014| San Jose Mercury News| Pete Carey| Link

There was a time when a million-dollar home was something families drove by on a Sunday outing to get a glimpse of how rich folks lived. But now they’re more common than Starbucks, at least around here.

APTOPIX Million Dollar Homes Photo Gallery

Fueled by the booming tech economy and seemingly insatiable demand for housing, the Bay Area set records in the second quarter of this year in the number of homes sold for $1 million or more as well as those costing at least $2 million, a real estate information service said Thursday.

In the nine-county region, 5,734 homes sold in the April-June period for at least $1 million, representing a staggering 24.5 percent of all sales of new and existing homes and condos, according to CoreLogic DataQuick. The previous peak was 5,699 in the second quarter of 2005.

The biggest number of such sales was in Santa Clara County, which had 1,791, its largest total ever. San Francisco also set a record with 857 $1 million-plus sales.

A total of 1,117 Bay Area homes sold for at least $2 million, amounting to 4.8 percent of all sales. The previous high was 871 homes costing that much during the same period a year ago. Santa Clara County also was tops in that category with 399 sales, a county record. Other $2 million-plus sales records were recorded in Alameda, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin and Napa counties.

“Barring some shock to the economy, it’s likely these numbers will continue to rise,” said CoreLogic DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage, noting that the rapid appreciation in the value of real estate has hoisted the price of many homes past the $1 million mark. Although prices have begun to ease lately, he added, the cost of housing is still so high “it can be bad for people trying to get into the Bay Area market.”

Among those experiencing that painful reality is Amy Austin-Hanson, 31, who lives in an apartment in West San Jose with her husband, James, 34, a Safeway truck driver, and their 3-year-old daughter.

“There’s no way we can afford to buy a home and to make it,” she said. “Worse, rent in the Bay Area has skyrocketed. My husband and I went to the bank to try to qualify to maybe buy at least a townhouse. The lady actually laughed at us.” With their combined $75,000-a-year income and houses selling for $1 million, “we were told we’d never make it.”

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Is Public Transportation A Viable Option in Silicon Valley?

Can Silicon Valley’s car addiction be broken? 7 ways urbanists want to improve transit

July 25,2014| Silicon Valley Business Journal|Lauren Hepler| Link

Between Silicon Valley’s beautiful weather, the region’s concentration of small cities and the Bay Area’s stereotypically “green” values, Santa Clara County theoretically has everything it needs to be a model for public transit.

In reality, however, just 3 percent of workers in the county commute to work using public transit, according to a new report by urban planning group SPUR. In addition to a trove of data on traffic, the report offered seven strategies to drive up the proportion of area workers ditching their cars to commute. The proposals are outlined in full at the bottom of this story. (And the very last one may be the most provocative.)


SPUR addressed its suggestions to the Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, which orchestrates everything from buses to light rail to new highways. The report also adds a sense of urgency: Santa Clara County’s population is is expected to grow by 641,000 residents by 2040 — a 36 percent increase that could yield much more gridlock and pollution.

To implement the goals outlined below, however, VTA and groups like SPUR will run up against entrenched obstacles. Suburban land-use patterns have developed over the last half-century, and the region’s mismatch between where the jobs are and where people live (illustrated in this dynamic Silicon Valley traffic map) contribute to long commutes. There’s also a lack of dedicated funding for big transit upgrades.

Perhaps most difficult to overcome, however, is the sentiment that urbanized, walkable, transit-oriented development is more planning pipe dream than viable market opening.

“The idea that we as Americans are going to pedestrian shop is a romantic notion,” Randol Mackley, senior vice president of SRS Real Estate Partnerstold me earlier this year. “No one is going to buy a big screen TV and put it in a hemp tote and get on light rail.”

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MLB coming to SJC?

‘Silicon Valley’ Sues MLB: Give Us Our A’s!

City of San Jose filed suit in LA against baseball league & commissioner for blocking team’s move and depriving region of billions of dollars.

Susan C. Schena | | March 13, 2014 | link

Oakland Coliseum, still the home of baseball's Oakland Athletics. Photo: Wikimedia.
Oakland Coliseum, still the home of baseball’s Oakland Athletics. Photo: Wikimedia.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, saying his denial of the Oakland Athletics’ bid to move to the Silicon Valley hub could deprive the local economy of billions of dollars.

The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges interference with prospective economic advantage and interference with contractual advantage. The complaint seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

MLB Spokeswoman Ginger Dillon did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

According to the complaint, Selig wrote a letter last June 13 to Athletics Managing Partner Lewis Wolff denying the team’s request to move from the Oakland Coliseum to San Jose.

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