Small Changes, Big Differences: 5 Low-Cost Ways to Give Your Home a New Look!

There are a lot of advantages to home improvement changes. They can make your space feel more modern, larger, and increase its value. And the good news is you don’t have to be an expert handyman (or handywoman) to make easy and simple alterations. Here’s how to better the look and feel of your home.

Living Room

1. Install new handles and door knobs: Buy new handles for your cabinets and drawers when you’re changing the style of a room. Get a modern feel by adding steel handles, or achieve shabby-chic comfort with bright colors that contrast classic wood doors and cabinets. Though old-fashioned, using a faux-crystal option will create a delicate look in a room.

2. Replace old light bulbs or add light fixtures: If the light in a room is looking dim, try stronger wattage bulbs (within the safety limitations listed on your lamp or light fixture). Floor lamps will also help achieve a brighter effect. Don’t rely on decorative desk lamps to drastically improve the brightness of a room, though they can enhance the mood and decor.

3. Paint the front door: It’s recommended that you repaint your front door every 4-6 years. (Pree’s Professional Painting) Whether it’s a neutral or bold color, if you give a door a new look, it can change the outlook you have on the rest of the house.

4. Polish floors: A weekly sweeping of your hardwood floors isn’t enough. Polish your floors every three months with a urethane-based polish, which creates a protective layer against small scratches.

5. Paint an accent walls: This design technique draws the eye to one wall instead of the others. Choose a bold color or wallpaper on the wall that features the focus of your room (e.g. a fireplace, a large painting). One accent wall technique is to keep with the tone of other walls. For instance, if your room is beige, paint the accent wall a deep, chocolate brown to keep with the neutral tone.

Make these small yet significant changes to your home, and you could be on your way to have your very own redesign at a fraction of the cost.


Top 10 Real Estate News Stories of 2012

Existing home sales at highest level in four years

by Tara Steele in Housing News – December 20, 2012  

Top 10 Real Estate New 2012Existing home sales are up, prices are improving, inventory is tight, and housing is showing signs of improvement, but the sector has found its bottom and is not recovered, rather starting that long road toward a recovery.

Existing home sales continue rising, inventory levels continue to tighten

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales continued to improve in November with low inventory supply pressuring home prices, rising 5.9 percent for the month, spiking 14.5 percent compared to November 2011. NAR reports that sales are at the highest level since November 2009.

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is healthy market demand. “Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a bursting out of household formation. “With lower rental vacancy rates and rising rents, combined with still historically favorable affordability conditions, more people are buying homes. Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy show storm-related disruptions but overall activity in the Northeast is up, offset by gains in unaffected areas.” Read more…

Brand loyalty: the real benefit of social media

by Carrie Gable in Social Media – October 31, 2012  

What to expect at the Loan Closing when Buying a Home

Loan closing is part of buying a home with a Century 21 M&M agent in Northern CaliforniaEvery day Century 21 M&M Realtors close home sales in Northern California. And, today is your day! You have found the home, obtained the mortgage, and the time has come… the lender wants you to sign some papers. This is called a loan closing – so what can you expect and how do you prepare for a loan closing?

Should you bring anyone with you?

Unless you have a working knowledge of real estate and finance, it’s a good idea to bring someone with you who does. This could be your Century 21 M&M Realtor, an attorney, an accountant – any person who knows the ropes and will put your interests first.
You may have many questions about the loan documents, however, the person handling the closing may not know the correct answers, or may be unwilling to advise you on legal matters.

If you aren’t sure about something, it’s a good idea to wait until you can get an answer that satisfies you. However, if the loan is part of a purchase, waiting may jeopardize the transaction, in fact, it may even jeopardize getting the financing.

What should I bring to the Loan Closing?

Ahead of time you will be advised by the person conducting the loan closing. You may need your checkbook or a cashier’s check, maybe some documentation such as – W-2 forms, bank statements, paycheck stubs, etc.
Whatever you are asked to bring, be sure to bring it. Otherwise, the loan closing maybe delayed for days, resulting in additional charges.

What should I challenge?

It’s a good idea to carefully read the fees and charges. You should have been made aware of these fees in the Good Faith Estimate when you applied for the mortgage. If you find anything out of line, it’s a good idea to bring it to the Loan Closer’s attention.
Double check the math, these days with computers mistakes don’t happen often, but they do happen. Check the debits and credits, make sure they are properly given. Point out whatever errors you find, it won’t take but a few minutes for a computer to correct and print a new document.

What will I need to sign?

You will be signing a loan agreement for sure, the mortgage, Ancillary documents and a Deed of Trust. Expect that every form will be explained to you, however, it is important to read everything, no matter how small the font or how insignificant the material appears to be. If there is a clause in there that you have not previously agreed to, have the clause deleted and initialed on the spot.

So rest assured, your Century 21 M&M Real Estate agent will be with you every step of the way, from Pre-Approval all the way to Loan Closing. Call a Century 21 M&M Realtor today at (800)350-1548 to get started on the path to buying a home.


Agricultural Real Estate Sales Growing Stronger

Last of a two-part series

Boosted by strong demand for almond orchards, open land with irrigation and growing interest from investors, sales of agriculture properties has been strong, according to Realtors from Century 21 M&M and Associates.

Jeff Titus, Century 21 M&M Real Estate Oakdale

Jeff Titus, Oakdale Office (209) 844-1759 email-jtitus

“Ag sales are relatively strong, I would say,” said Jeffrey Titus of Century 21 M&M in Oakdale.  “There are people that want to buy cheap and the people selling want top dollar.”

Ag sales also have been solid in the greater Madera area, according to Derrick Upton, a Realtor with Century 21 M&M in Madera.

“It’s going pretty good,” said Upton about his farm sales this year.  “I closed two escrows this month (September). “

Derrick Upton, Century 21 M&M Real Estate Madera

Derrick Upton, Madera Office (559) 675-5921 email-dupton

Upton said his most recent sales were $1 million for 456 acres of open ground and $800,000 for 53 acres of almonds.

The price of open land often is determined by the availability of irrigation water.  Titus said property in a water district is typically valued from $12,000 to $15,000.  Property with a history of having good source of well water is priced from $3,500 to $6,500.

Smaller dairies, up to 50 acres, often are purchased and then demolished and transformed into open ground.  Popular crops planted on open land include almonds, walnuts, grapes, cherries and olives, said Titus.

Titus said dairy sales are very slow.  “The financing is tough because the dairy industry is in the tubes,” he said.  “The income doesn’t support the price, so banks won’t loan money.”

“Almond ground has gone up from a year ago,” said Upton.  “Last year, you could tell someone it’s $16,000 an acre and they’d fall down.  Now, they’re looking to buy almonds for $16,000.  The price is high right now, it might not be in another month or two.”

Titus said almond growers are not able to produce enough product to meet the worldwide growing demand.

“The almond industry has done a tremendous job in increasing consumption of their product,” said Titus.

The demand for almond orchards has attracted outside investors.

“Almonds are up right now,” said Upton.  “A lot of investors are looking at almonds.  Some of them are afraid of putting money into the stock market.”

Titus, who works the eastern portion of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties, said a group of investors has purchased about 3,000 acres of farmland in the Oakdale area the past two years.

A September 19th article in the Los Angeles Times noted foreign investors are putting their money into California farmland.

“In California, investors from countries including Spain, Switzerland, China, Egypt and Iran collectively boosted their holdings 2.5 percent from February 2007 to February 2009 to 1.08 million acres — about 5 percent of the state’s total farmland,” the Times reported.

Upton said a foreign investment group recently purchased 1,200 acres of farmland near Chowchilla for $16.9 million.

Look for this real estate blog every Friday on the website. If you are looking for property in Northern California, or for more information on buying or selling a home, visit –  Please send any comments, questions or suggestions, to me at or just leave a comment below.

Face-to-Face, In the Field, Sells Real Estate in Sunnyvale CA

Amol Heda, Century 21 M&M Sunnyvale Office (408)307-3465

Amol Heda, Sunnyvale Office (408)307-9465

Amol Heda, a Realtor at Century 21 M&M and Associates in Sunnyvale, only spends 15 to 30 minutes a day at the office.  He believes his short office hours are the key to his success.

“As a Realtor, I’m better in the field, than in the office,” said Heda.  “I don’t even have a desk at the Sunnyvale office.”

It works for Heda.  An eight-year veteran with Century 21, he is having one of his best years ever selling real estate.  He sells residential, new homes and commercial properties.

Heda estimates he sells two or three new homes a year and typically closes a total of 12 to 15 real estate transactions annually.  Last April, he sold four deals, including $1.4 million and $1.35 million properties.

Sunnyvale Real Estate Overview

Sunnyvale Real Estate Overview, go to -

He does the paperwork for his real estate business from his a small personal computer.

“I have a really hard-working tablet PC,” said Heda.  “I can sign documents on my tablet PC.  My clients can sign too.”

Heda uses the DocuSign service that allows electronic signatures and paperless contract execution.

While he spends little time at the Century 21 office, Heda puts in the hours showing properties, face-to-face, out in the field.

Dorothy Oliver, sales manager at Century 21 in Sunnyvale, said Heda is among the 500 Realtors she oversees.  It literally takes a scorecard for her to know her staff.

Dorothy Oliver, Century 21 M&M Sales Manager Sunnyvale (408)307-3465

Dorothy Oliver, Sales Manager Sunnyvale (408)499-8875 email-dorothyoliver

“It’s really difficult,” she said about keeping track of personnel.  “I have photos and a master sheet.”

Unlike other parts of the state, the real estate market in the Santa Clara County region has been solid, she said.

“Our Sunnyvale market is great, along with the surrounding cities of Santa Clara and Cupertino,” said Oliver.

According to Trulia, a firm specializing in real estate statistics, the median sales price in Sunnyvale is $650,000, up 10.4 percent from the same period last year.  The average listing price of $461,254 is off just 0.1 percent from last year.  Through Sept. 8, total sales were 230, down 32 percent from the previous year.

The strength in the market, said Oliver, was in homes listing between $600,000 and $700,000.

“When you get to $600,000 to $700,000, you get multiple offers.  It’s really solid,” she said.  “I believe we’ll remain very strong through the rest of the year.  We’re optimistic.”

Overall sales, which are down from last year, have been impacted by holdups in financing.

“Some of our delays in our sales will be with our lenders,” said Oliver.  “Lenders are still very strict with buyers, even as rates are low.”

One bright spot in financing is the FHA single-family loan limit is now up to $729,750.  In addition, FHA has been strong for condominium purchases at qualifying complexes.

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Selling Million-Dollar Homes in Cupertino

It’s not easy selling a million-dollar home, even in Cupertino, where the averaging listing price earlier this month was $1.19 million and the media sales price was $950,000. Just ask Kim Connor.

Connor, a Realtor with Century 21 M&M and Associates in Cupertino, knows it takes attention to detail, “staging” a home and even a splash of fresh paint. The proof is the number of seven-figure homes she’s sold and acclaim she has received.

“I’m having a good year,” she said. “Last year I was Double Centurion*, and I think I’ll be there again this year.”

Kim Connor, Century 21 M&M Real Estate, (408) 807-1541 email-

Kim Connor, (408) 807-1541 email-

In August, she sold a six-bedroom, 3-1/2-bath home for $1.575 million and earlier this spring she closed on a $1.468 million property. Connor said in Cupertino, prices are determined by the home’s location within a top-ranked school.

Schools are rated and ranked by the Academic Performance Index established by the California Department of Education. Schools scoring in the 900 range are the most desirable. Connor said the home she sold for $1.575 million would have been worth $2.5 million if it were located just two miles closer to a top school.

“People are willing to pay up to $1 million for a 1,200-square-foot home in the right school district,” she said.

Homebuyers today do their initial shopping on the internet, said Connor. It’s essential for her listings to jump out to potential buyers.

“They’re looking at a lot of homes,” said Connor. “I believe it takes 11 seconds for them to decide if they’re going to look at your listing.”

To maximize her 11-second window of opportunity, she hires her own photographer and makes sure everything is as perfect as possible in the still photos and 360-degree virtual tour.

“I’m unique that I do all the staging myself,” said Connor. “The attention I put into detail is greater than anyone else I know.”

She shared two of her special tricks in staging, or preparing a home for sale.

“I actually add accent colors to the walls,” said Connor. “I have my own painter come in and accent the walls that I think are important for the photographs. I like to show contrast.”

A Connor staging also features something to appeal to children.

“I always do a kids’ room. Something for a young boy or girl that captures the imagination of children coming to the open house with parents,” said Connor.

One child’s room she prepared had a ballet theme, with ballet artwork, hanging toe shoes, tutu and matching bedding. “One little girl told her parents she didn’t care about the rest of the home, she wanted them to buy that room for her,” recalled Connor.

Connors said the Cupertino real estate market is strong but cautious.

“I think it’s cautious, because people aren’t going crazy about over spending,” she said. “But there’s an energy about wanting to be here.”

Mei Ling, Century 21 M&M Realtor (408) 829-3994

Mei Ling, (408) 829-3994

Mei Ling, a fellow Realtor at Century 21 M&M in Cupertino, concurred the local market is solid.

“The market is doing well,” she said. “Better than last year, but a little bit slower right now for the last couple of months. But there’s still people buying.”

Ling, a six-year industry veteran, said she typically sells homes ranging from $600,000 to $1.8 million. “The $600,000 to $800,000 homes are selling faster certainly than the higher range homes,” said Ling. “A $600,000 home only takes one week to sell.”

Santa Clara home sales graph, for more inforation go to -

Most of her sales are from nearby Santa Clara, which has an average listing price of $564,845 and a median sales price of $498,558.

“I don’t sell much in Cupertino, even though my office is there,” said Ling. “I live in Santa Clara and that’s where I specialize.”

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*Double CENTURION® – an agent must close 120 – 179 units or earn $380,000 – $569,999 in Adjusted Gross commission during the calendar year.

The Real Estate Market is ‘Half Full’

While a recent newspaper headline exclaimed: ‘Home market still depressed’, Century 21 M&M and Associates Realtor John Lazar only sees a ‘once in a lifetime’ buying opportunity.

John Lazar, Mayor of Turlock, CA

John Lazar, Turlock Office 209-581-2240 email-jlazar

“I’ve never seen so much opportunity in my lifetime,” said Lazar, a 22-year real estate veteran and the Mayor of Turlock. “I doubt we’ll see this type of market again in my lifetime.”

With the media taking a ‘half-empty cup’ interpretation of recent slumping realty statistics, Lazar’s attitude is the cup is ‘half-full.’ There is no question area homes sales have suffered.

Here are some of the recent stats for Stanislaus County:

• Median-priced homes have fallen from a peak of $396,000 in December 2005 to $140,000 in July 2010

• 641 homes were sold in July 2010, down from nearly 1,100 homes in July 2005

• Dropping home prices have made homes much more affordable.

Stanislaus County families earning the county’s median income could afford to buy nearly 84 percent of the homes sold in April through June. In 2005, the same families could only purchase 3 percent of the homes sold in the fourth quarter.

Lazar said the amazing jump in affordability, Stanislaus is No.1 for the state, makes real estate a great buy. “I think it’s a mistake for anybody with the ability to purchase a home not to be in the market,” he said.

Bella Daniel, Turlock-Main 209-602-9492 email-bdaniel

Bella Daniel, Turlock-Main 209-602-9492 email-bdaniel

Bella Daniel, a Century 21 M&M Realtor in Turlock, said many potential homebuyers are waiting on the sidelines because of fear. They fear home prices will go lower and they fear losing their jobs.

“All they hear is bad news, all doom and gloom,” she said. “They don’t need to wait. This is the best it’s going to get. Get rid of the fear.” Daniel said  “buying now pencils out for renters and first-time homebuyers.”

“The cost of rent is higher than what they can own their own home,” said Daniel. “Why pay someone else’s mortgage.” Working 10 hours a day, six days a week, Daniel is busy. She has already matched her unit sales for all of 2009, with four months still left in the year.

Short sales make up half her business and the remainder is dedicated to helping children of past clients. “The process in today’s market with bank short sales, multiple offers and more challenging financial requirements, can take longer to purchase a home, but the

Owen Burgess, Turlock-Main 209-985-4034 email-oburgess

Owen Burgess, Turlock-Main 209-985-4034 email-oburgess

wait is worth it. We’ll get them into a house,” she said.

While home sales have definitely slowed since the federal homebuyer tax credit ended April 30, Century 21 M&M Realtor Owen Burgess said he is “staying pretty busy.” However, Burgess said he is not convinced the housing market has hit bottom. “I still think we have a little ways to go,” he said. “I think we’re getting near the end.”

Judy Lea-Caton, Turlock-Main 209-613-4611 email-jcaton

Judy Lea-Caton, Turlock-Main 209-613-4611 email-jcaton

Judy Lea-Caton said the rumor of financing interest rates being low, but difficult to qualify for, also is hurting realty sales. “It’s a little harder than it use to be, but getting financing hasn’t been impossible,” said Lea-Caton, a Realtor at Century 21 M&M in Turlock. “A good mortgage broker can help clean up your credit. It’s not as hard as everyone is saying.”

Interest rates are at record lows. Lea-Caton said she recently closed a sale that had fixed financing at 4.25 percent. In addition, FHA down payment requirement only has increased 0.5 percent to 3.5 percent. Slow bank approval of short sales, hurt Lea-Caton’s productivity the first half of the year. With the bank approval time shortening from six months to three weeks, she’s dramatically increased her sales.

“I’m extremely busy,” she said. “I have seven files on my desk right now,  said Lea-Caton. “Wachovia Mortgage sets the standard for moving short sales. You can have written approval in seven to 10 days and close in 30 to 45 days.”

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