Stockton’s Thanksgiving Traces Back to – What, Exactly?

Next Thursday, at some point in the festivities we’ll be remembering the Pilgrims and their Indian guests on that first Thanksgiving Day in the New World. After all, that gathering was the genesis of today’s Stockton Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Or was it?

This momentary doubt surfaced when someone mentioned the Canadian Thanksgiving celebration. When you think about it, how likely it is that our Neighbors to the North would create a national holiday to memorialize some ancient Massachusetts get-together? Pretty unlikely.

So if their Thanksgiving doesn’t celebrate the day the Pilgrims feasted with their new Wampanoag friends, what does it celebrate?

The Canadian version is said to be offshoots of the Old World’s “Harvest Festivals.” According to England’s Metro News, “Harvest Festival in Britain is the ancient festival that celebrates a successful yield.” It’s a “Sunday of Thanksgiving” observed on the Sunday closest to the harvest moon (this year, it came on September 23). European Harvest Festivals are said to be remnants of pre-Christian harvest festivals, during which corn dolls are traditionally fashioned from “the last sheath of the harvest.” You can find many pictures of the corn dolls (they call them ‘dollies’). No Indian tribes. No turkeys.

Pagan festivals and dollies? Does this put the accuracy of all Stockton elementary school bulletin boards with their Pilgrim hats and turkey displays in jeopardy? Fortunately, there’s a problem with the Pilgrim-less version.

According to the British press, the corn dolls are “meant to symbolize the pagan goddess of the grain”—which would definitely predate Christianity altogether. But the fact is, corn was unknown in Europe until it was brought by Columbus from the New World. So the corn doll/pre-Christian link doesn’t work, time-wise.

I think we can safely bypass other Thanksgiving legends and just stick to our own story. Stockton’s Thanksgiving can continue to be the once-a-year occasion to remember its true spirit—a day we celebrate our gratitude for all we have and love.

Here’s hoping your celebration is delightful and fulfilling. Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Leaves Signal Home Improvement Season

Ah, November! Down every street we see the familiar sight of homes in Stockton, yards displaying evidence of the fall leaf drop and — yikes! — Winter is coming!

Beyond the unavoidable home maintenance issues: leaks in roof, cracks in windows, heating system checks, fall is also the best time to consider other, less obvious improvement projects.  Whenever the weather (and busy schedules) allow, whether or not yours is one of the homes in Stockton that will soon have a ‘For Sale’ in its front yard, a few less attention-demanding home improvement ideas that could merit your attention:

Fireplace Inspection! A crackling fire is a worthy antidote for winter blahs, but if you have a good, old-fashioned wood-burning fireplace, when is the last time you actually had it inspected? Experts say that chimneys should be examined annually for cracks, blockages, and ventilation issues.

Flooring Renewal! If you have one of the many homes in Stockton that features beautiful hardwood floors, refinishing them may not be high on your To-Do list this fall. Yet whether you are considering selling anytime soon or not, consider the advantages of re-finishing floors sooner rather than later. With the holidays on the way, who doesn’t want a home in sparkling shape for entertaining? The look of floors has an outsized impact on the way a home appears. And if you have been thinking of actually replacing any flooring, according to George Moore, a contractor and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers,  “Some types of flooring adhesives need the temperature of the house to be between 75 and 80 degrees. It’s for that glue to adhere properly.  Cold air can be a little more damp and can stop the glue from drying properly, so you could have a bonding problem.”   With energy prices rising, replacing flooring now may be a more practical solution than in the depth of winter.

Painting! For the same reason, homes in Stockton that could use a protective exterior painting should be attended to now – at least if temperatures hold within recommended limits. Indoors, once it’s time to crank the heat, other reasons apply. A heated home means closed windows and re-circulating air – far from ideal conditions for anyone trapped indoors with the smells and paint fumes.  Moreover, should a significant amount of cold air enter through doorways or windows, it could negatively affect proper drying.

The bottom line?  Because many improvement projects are well suited for the fall, it is also true that contractors and vendors are busiest this time of year. So, if you’re thinking about any that take outside help, get on the books now!  Whether you’re looking to sell a home in Stockton — or just keeping yours in top shape, this is a great time to get started. I’m here, too, whenever you feel like chatting about the local real estate market!

Disruption Keeping Stockton’s Halloween Fun…and Safe

Halloween in Stockton is the one day in every year when the regular order of things gets a thorough shaking up. For one thing, it’s the single day of the year when we expect our doorbell to be ringing non-stop for hours on end. It’s certainly the only time when prudence dictates that we stockpile bowls full of treats to serve as ransom payments against demands for booty from an onslaught of pint-sized masked neighbors.

For Stockton’s small fry, if all goes well, Stockton’s Halloween ranks right up there with birthdays in terms of fun and excitement—possibly because of the aura of good-natured bounds-testing that seems to hover over the proceedings. When else does everybody get to dress up in disguises? When else might some perfectly dignified adult don an eyepatch and start talking like a pirate? When else does practically the whole of Stockton agree to engage in a tradition that disrupts the normal order of things for the express purpose of just having some fun? Who thought this thing up, anyway?

For parents who may or may not find themselves costumed this Tuesday, the fun will be somewhat tempered by the grownup’s job of keeping everybody safe amid the spooky mayhem. Without spoiling the fun altogether, the most-noted Halloween safety concerns for Stockton homeowners are:

  • Keep your property’s walks and stairways well-lit.
  • Place pumpkins and other Halloween decorations well off to the side to prevent their becoming tripping hazards.
  • Secure pets away from the mayhem. Even the best-behaved may lose their cool after hours of doorbell ringing and screaming kids.
  • Avoid homemade treats and loose candy—parents can’t trust them.
  • Don’t leave treats outdoors for the kids to take. They can be tampered with.

Health authorities aren’t shy about advising parents to temper their little goblins’ candy intake. One good tactic: reserve a particularly enticing new toy to trade for a goodly amount of the sugary swag.

Here’s hoping your family has a safe and moderately sane Stockton Halloween. As soon as things get back to normal, I’ll be here, ready to assist with your next Stockton real estate venture!

Autumn is Stockton’s Landscaping Window of Opportunity

Stockton gardening enthusiasts already know this—but for those whose thumbs are anything but green, right now is a special time of year where landscaping is concerned. It’s Stockton’s high season for planting and transplanting!

You don’t have to intend on listing your Stockton home anytime soon to have a vested interest in maximizing your home’s curb appeal. After all, year in and year out the plantings in front and back yards can make all the difference in the kind of impact your property makes—it’s a pride of ownership fundamental. Neighbors and casual passers-by may not realize how much of a difference a pleasingly planted yard makes, but it’s one area that’s readily within every Stockton homeowner’s control. And experienced gardening hands know that right now it’s the key season for making the most difference for the least expense.

Autumn’s cooler temperatures are what creates the opportunity. The soil is still holding much of the summertime warmth while cooler air temperatures make for less stress on plants’ roots (and on the gardener doing the planting, too). Like bears, perennials need to hibernate. Their dormancy period constitutes a nice restorative siesta. It’s also a low-stress way for roots to settle into their new digs.

Most non-gardeners only start thinking about boosting the color and variety of their gardens with the arrival of springtime…but for many spring-blossoming bulbs, shrubs, perennials, and trees, that’s not the optimal time to get out the digging forks and shovels. Right now is when experts say it’s best to divide clumps of any perennials that have been doing well. It’s how to spread the color to other parts of the garden—at a total cost of nada. It’s also prime time to watch for sales at Stockton garden centers.

Stockton house flippers approach their projects on a much-compressed schedule—but for homeowners who aren’t thinking about selling anytime soon, taking the long view of property enhancement begins with their home’s setting: its landscaping. October is the perfect season for turning any long-range creative ideas into next spring and summer’s lush garden reality. Then when the time does come to buy or sell Stockton real estate, I hope you’ll think of giving me a call. I’m always here to share some no-obligation counseling and advice!

 

 

Fall Can Be Prime Time for Selling Your Stockton Home!!!

Springtime is correctly known near and far as the peak season for selling your home—in Stockton; elsewhere in the U.S.; probably on Mars, too. Everybody knows it. This has created a most unfortunate side effect: namely, the notion that if you missed the spring home sales binge, you’d best cancel all plans and hold your house off the market until next year (even if you’re actually ready to list).

So…should you give up on selling your home in Stockton as we move into the cooler months?

Far from it! In fact, many agents with years of experience under their belts have done the math and consider autumn to be the second best season to sell a home. When you think about it, it’s logical. For one thing, there certainly are prospects who won’t wait—buyers who will be happily mowing their new lawns by the time next spring rolls around. Weather is another reason: fall brings many moderate, perfect-for-home-touring days. Then there’s the calendar itself, providing extra motivation to buy (e.g., everyone who wants to be in their new home before the holidays, or who needs to complete the sale in tax year 2020).

For those who aren’t falling for the wait-until-spring notion, here are a few tips that will help you spruce up your Stockton property for the fall sales market:

First off, make sure all of the personal summertime clutter—the kids’ camp gear, pool floats, the by-now thoroughly bent croquet wickets—are out of sight. Put the yard into tip-top condition with grass cut, shrubbery tamed, and lawn raked. You should be able to step out the back door and view an uncluttered vista. As always, the object is to enable anyone who visits to readily visualize their own family’s stuff in the cleared outdoor space.

Shorter days means waning natural light, so selling your Stockton home in autumn requires a little extra attention to lighting touches. To guarantee the home looks its best even in late afternoon, open the draperies, blinds, and shutters, and make sure lights and lamps are all turned on. Outside, anywhere the summer’s growing season has resulted in plantings that have overgrown windows, now is the time to trim them—it’s always amazing how less than an hour of snipping can brighten up a home’s interior. You may also consider adding some lighting along walkways, or a well-placed floodlight over the driveway. As we move deeper toward winter, those features will give a subtle boost to after-workday early evening showings.

You don’t have to have hired a professional stager to take advantage of the positive seasonal touches that go with the advent of autumn. Colorful mums, warm-hued candles, pumpkins (or just about any harvest-themed table décor items)—all are familiar details that have the predictable effect of helping people feel more at home. A few well-placed accents don’t take nearly as much effort as some other aspects of selling your Stockton home, but taken together, all contribute to a welcoming presentation.

Where is the nearest pumpkin patch? Where are the closest autumn-themed school or community festivities? Selling a home in fall can benefit when you leave some material about our local seasonal activities in the entryway. Sometimes the charm of a neighborhood winds up being the deciding factor for a waffling prospective buyer.

If you’ve been undecided about whether selling your home now—or waiting until next spring—is the best course of action, why not contact me today for a preliminary walk-through and pricing evaluation. I think we can put together a plan in action to get your home sold for top dollar sooner rather than later!

Top 4 Post-Labor Day House Hunting Changes For Some Stockton House Hunters

A while back, Forbes noted what they called “The Four Ways the Real Estate Market Changes” after Labor Day. The article recognized a truism that holds for most parts of California—namely, that the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is what most of us think of as “fall.” It went on to describe four ways the change of seasons alters the house hunting landscape.

Although I may not agree entirely with their broad brush proposition that a great number of house hunters throw in the towel after Labor Day, the four market changes described are often true enough.

1.      More of a buyer’s market. Buyers who have held off through the prime selling seasons are more apt to find sellers who are more open to negotiation.

2.      Action increases for vacation homes. This is prime time for Stockton home shoppers whose eyes are on vacation homes. By purchasing in the fall, “you can have it bought and furnished by spring.”

3.      Price dips. House hunters find that asking prices, like the autumn leaves, fall.  Forbes may have simply been unable to resist the simile, but in many cases, it’s true!

4.      Open-ended house hunting. Time pressures (like having to be moved in by the first day of school) will have vanished by Labor Day, so many Stockton house hunters tend to adopt a more leisurely house hunting attitude. There may also be something about crisp autumn days (and they’ll be here soon enough) that helps contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere—at least until the Holidays loom!

Every Stockton house hunter has specific individual goals and expectations—and of course, the same is true for sellers, as well. But it does seem to be true that post-Labor Day Stockton listings tend to include an uptick in price reductions—as well as some withdrawals that, as Forbes might have it, “will sprout anew” come springtime.

If your busy summer included activities and travel that kept you fully occupied, now may be an opportune time to inaugurate your own Stockton  house hunting venture. If so, do give me a call!

Time for a Little End-of-Summer Stockton Home Maintenance As Summer Wanes

It seems just yesterday that the beach towels were coming out of the closet—alas! With back-to-school specials ending and Labor Day Weekend upon us, it’s time to admit that summer is just about done for. Whether you’ve just purchased a new property, are sprucing up your Stockton home with thoughts of putting it on the market this fall, or are just getting ready for the change of seasons, now is time to take a critical look at your abode as you prepare for cooler temperatures.

Fireplace If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, it’s unlikely to have gotten much use for quite a while. Now is the time to make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and free of debris or other buildup (think ‘abandoned bird nest’). If it’s been a few years, calling in a pro to do a clean sweep is probably the best idea.

Carpet or Paint Whether or not you are planning to sell your Stockton home, if it’s likely you will be tackling any interior painting, carpet replacement, or major deep-cleaning, handling these projects while the weather is still mild will speed drying and maximize ventilation—making those jobs considerably more pleasant!

Tree Trimming Now is a good time to cut back branches that have overgrown your Stockton home’s roof—and one of the last chances to remove defective limbs while they still are easy to spot. Reducing the volume of leaves that will be clogging your roof’s gutters is a side benefit; another is eliminating an inviting pathway for the assortment of rodents who might seek refuge in your home as the temperature drops.

Yard Cleanup Also on the topic of pests: firewood, ladders, and toys stacked against the house can also attract spiders, mice, and other undesirables. It’s a good time to do an end-of-summer inspection stroll around your Stockton home to double-check that the walls are clear of anything that may have been temporarily leaned against them.

Once all is done, you deserve to sit back, relax, and prepare to enjoy some football (that’s what fall is for, isn’t it?). Sweater weather may not be here for a while, but you don’t have to wait until then to call me to discuss any of your Stockton home real estate plans!

Predicting Stockton Home Sales Using a Familiar Rule of Thumb

 

The volume of Stockton home sales this fall will depend on more than just the number and quality of listings—though they do seem to be stacking up fairly well. Predictions are always less than reliable, but when a major benchmark is met for real estate activity on the national scene, it can be a pretty convincing indicator.

In any case, it’s useful to take into account a wide variety of sources. They help you sniff out the reasons why home sales ought to surge (like low interest rates, today’s Stockton situation) or why home sales ought to fall (like an economic recession, thankfully not Stockton’s current situation).

So the Wall Street Journal’s headliner about new home sales came as red meat for local would-be real estate seers. “Sales of New Homes Surge to Highest Level Since ‘12,” read the headline in a story (it was right below “Student-Loan Defaults Drop;” itself another good sign). The “surge” story was calling attention to the latest Commerce Department announcement that new home sales climbed 18% in August, “the biggest one-month jump since 1992” and “the highest level of sales since May 2012…”

That last date is an eye-catcher, since the U.S. was then in a recession (actually, I think we could safely call it “THE” recession). Economists have been going back and forth for at least the past four years about whether the slow recovery was strong enough to stimulate the housing sector (Stockton home sales are part of that); or whether it was the other way around—or even whether the recovery was even truly a recovery.

The WSJ story dealt specifically with a surge in new home activity, which, since that comprises only about 10% of the market, could be a reason to ignore its value as a gauge. But that would be to overlook some extra information buried in paragraph #3 pointing out that “home builder optimism this month reached the highest level since 2005.”

That means rising new home starts. The builders are pulling out their hammers and saws.

Why is that so important? Take any headline-grabbing Wall Street or political scandal as an indicator. As the scandal begins to unravel, sooner or later some pundit will intone the irrefutable rule of thumb advice for how to uncover who or what was behind all the mischief: “Follow the money!

When the big new home builders start pulling out their wallets and breaking ground, the money (smart or otherwise) is pointing in the direction that augurs well for the whole of real estate activity—in Stockton, as well as nationally. If you have been waiting for that kind of activity to embark on your own home selling or buying project, it means that this fall your wait may be over. Give me a call to get more specifics about where your plans could fit into today’s local home sales picture!

Stockton Landlords Profit through Considerate Rent Increases

Inflation has been barely noticeable for quite a while, but as Stockton shoppers have begun to notice how it’s been creeping up lately. For Stockton landlords, that triggers a subject that directly impacts the profitability of their real estate investment.
Managing rent increases properly—and communicating them in a manner calculated to preserve your tenants’ goodwill—is a subject estate author Kevin Ortner writes about in Realtor Magazine. A few of his insights:
• Raise rents on a regular schedule—usually, this will come at each lease renewal period (or when the agreement specifies)—but for month-to-month situations, once a year is recommended. Small increments on an annual basis are more predictable (and agreeable) than “catch up” raises scheduled less frequently.
• Be competitive. The “sweet spot” you are looking for is the best price you can get for your rental—which is also actually “how much tenants are willing to pay.” That’s subject to compliance with California and local laws in accordance with the terms of your lease. Research by starting with a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual calculation of Shelter Cost Changes—most recently, 3.4% at the end of August. The national trends are good to know but are not as significant as the more important data: the rates similar Stockton rentals are currently advertising.
• Give extra notice. You’re required to abide by the law and your lease, but when you give tenants more time, it makes any raise less burdensome. If the raise is competitive, tenants will have ample time to shop around and see that it’s reasonable.
• Work to keep good tenants happy. The most successful landlords frequently take their best tenants’ situations into consideration. If you decide to cut them some slack as a way of cultivating the relationship, you might even do what Ortner suggests: “show them what the rent increase was going to be”—but with that number crossed out and a smaller one in its place. You should also have determined the operating cost rises behind the rent increase, and be willing to share those facts.
The Ortner prescriptions are aimed at maximizing profitability by keeping rent increases rational—and tenant-landlord communications open. If you have ever considered the investment potential of becoming a landlord yourself, right now is a terrific time to investigate the opportunities our Stockton market is offering. Give me a call—I’ll show you what I mean!

Selling During the Outdoor Months Means Exterior Staging

As the days grow longer and the thermometer rises, everyone wants to start spending more time outdoors—to make full use of our yards and patios. But what if your Stockton home is going to be on the market this summer? Does it mean you have to stop enjoying yourself, stop entertaining guests, just because you want to keep the place in showable condition?

The answer is, of course, of course not. Using the outdoor spaces of your home means striking a balance between living your life and ensuring everything is in top condition when buyers come calling. It’s actually a staging opportunity, because most of your prospective buyers will be favorably impressed if your outdoor staging areas make it easy to picture themselves enjoying our beautiful Stockton summer weather.

Staging your home’s landscaping thus takes added importance during summertime, beginning with overall curb appeal. Any time of year, potential buyers are often swayed by that first impression: as they approach the house, the impact will be one they’d like their own future visitors to have. Staging an inviting front yard appearance does wonders for your selling prospects.

Make sure your lawn is trimmed and the yard edged. During springtime and fall, a 2”-3” grass length is recommended, but as the hotter summer months approach, longer grass will help shade the soil and keep roots comfy. Minimize brown spots and thin patches by giving the blades an extra half inch.

Staging walkways and driveways means keeping cemented areas free of volunteer growing things. Having weeds, clover, or anything sprouting between stones or pavement is not only unsightly, it brings to mind the work required for upkeep (a turnoff to prospects). Although chemical herbicides are popular, an eco-conscious (and penny-conscious) alternative is plain old kitchen vinegar.

The most important staging advice for the outside of the house is that it give the impression that a fresh coat of paint won’t be needed for quite a while. Cleaning it can be enough, or if not, new paint may be needed. You can opt for professional painting, but if your home is sided, or if you’ve recently (within the past five years) had your home painted, pay attention to details like windows and other smaller touch ups you can easily do yourself.

If staging the back (and possibly front) yards is likely to be a really important part of marketing your Stockton area home, give some attention to outdoor furniture. It’s expensive stuff, so if it’s going to really be a key selling point for the property, it might be worth the effort to really make the space shine. If you don’t have any outdoor furniture (and don’t plan to need any in your new house), consider hiring a stager just to handle the exterior spaces.  Less expensive than a full home staging, exterior staging can make a huge difference in the overall appeal of your Stockton home during the outdoor months.

Once you’ve revitalized of your home’s outdoor areas, keeping it in top showing condition need consist of little more than the regular weekly yard work and cleanup, a relaxing prospect for enjoying your property throughout the good weather months. And do give me a call—I’m standing by to take care of the rest!