Gap Between what Homeowners and Appraisers…

The divide between how homeowners and appraisers value homes is narrowing. (Photo: HousingWire)

Gap Between what Homeowners and Appraisers…

For the second consecutive month, the spread has tightened between average home appraisals and what homeowners think their house will appraise for. Quicken Loans added that while it’s too early to call it a trend, it is encouraging to see the gap between the estimates homeowners provide and the appraised values starting to narrow.

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Listing your home in winter could mean more money

Here are three strategies for making your home listing a hot seller this winter. (Photo: HousingWire)

Listing your home in winter could mean more money

While spring is commonly known as the peak home-shopping season, there are still options for sellers to make their home a hot seller this winter. Here are 3 strategies to help.

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Design a low-water zen garden

How to design a low-water zen garden

In drought times, here are tips on how to create a tranquil, low-water zen garden. (Photo: Sunset/Thomas J. Story)

The marquee exhibit for our 2015 Celebration Weekend event, this tranquil space proves that a yard can still encompass outdoor living even in times of drought. A backyard cottage has a high squeal factor, but that’s not the only reason to build one. For an installation at Sunset’s 2015 Celebration Weekend event, we remodeled a small structure, the kind of place that homeowners all over the West are using as guest cottages or rentals (think extra income and grass-roots housing relief). Around it, we designed a low-water yard where calm reigns—and the lawn isn’t missed.

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Fence Artistry….

Establishing an aesthetic boundary …. while protecting your foliage from our voracious deer population!
While privacy in our homes seems to be of paramount importance in this time of internet exposure, I love the melding of property separation with the beauty and creativity of these fences.
The combination of the open fencing set into a lower wall adds a creative contemporary design perspective.
Posts anchor nearly transparent vinyl-coated stainless steel mesh to provide safety yet still allow the visibility of the pool.
Here is a cost effective way to create an open fence concept on a budget.  Lumberyard wood and Re-bar. Good idea for keeping dogs out of fruit bearing orchards!


One more reason ~ Pacific Union

Pacific Union logo

Pacific Union Now Ranks in the Top 10 U.S. Brokerages for Sales Volume


Pacific Union is proud to announce that our firm has moved up the ranks of RISMedia’s 2014 Power Broker list and the latest REAL Trends 500 list. We are now one of the 10 largest brokerages in the U.S. as measured by sales volume.

Pacific Union’s 2014 sales volume was $6.75 billion, ranking us No. 9 on both lists, which track the largest 500 brokerages in the nation. We ranked No. 14 on the 2013 Power Broker list, No. 18 in 2012, and No. 23 in 2011. On last year’s REAL Trends 500 list, we ranked No. 13.

Our firm continues to experience in excess of 20 percent annual growth for the fifth consecutive year since the acquisition from GMAC Homes Services in 2009. We have accomplished these results organically, without acquiring other companies.

Perhaps more importantly, Pacific Union has achieved this growth with substantially fewer real estate professionals than our competitors. We were the only brokerage on both top 10 lists with less than 1,000 real estate professionals – 637 as of 2014. By way of comparison, the No. 8 ranked brokerage had roughly six times the number of real estate professionals as Pacific Union.

According to Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin, the company’s business model of attracting and retaining only the San Francisco Bay Area’s most talented and efficient real estate professionals is the primary reason for our firm’s consistent sales volume growth over the past few years.

“This is an outstanding accomplishment that Pacific Union achieved organically without acquiring a single competitor,” McLaughlin says. “I am honored and inspired daily to play on this special team of the finest real estate professionals — the people who make this kind of amazing yearly growth possible.”

Pacific Union’s relationship with the industry’s finest professionals is a direct result of our culture and commitment to their success. “Our culture is 100 percent our most significant asset,” Pacific Union President Patrick Barber says. “It’s in our DNA, and it’s what makes us tick, perform, and provide a level of elite service to our professionals and their clients.”

Staging ~ Almost a necessity!


Staging ~ Increases a Home’s Appeal

With the coming of spring, potential Bay Area homebuyers will begin pounding the pavement, and homes that make a good first impression are the most likely to make the biggest impressions on eager buyers in what could be a crowd of open houses.

That’s where home staging can help.

A recent survey by National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Staging showed that 81 percent of homebuyers found professionally decorated properties easier to visualize as a future home. Staged homes typically sell within 30 days, according to research by The International Association of Home Staging Professionals and Additionally, staging usually leads to a higher final sales price.

“Staging isn’t about decorating your home,” says Laney Nelson, Accredited Staging Professional stager for Walnut Creek-based East Bay Staging. “It’s about selling.”


Stagers conduct a home assessment, examining items to be removed and refurbished, neutralizing decor to appeal to a majority of buyers, and maximizing both indoor and outdoor space to generate positive impressions of the home’s features. Replacing carpeting and flooring, painting, cleaning, landscaping, changing furniture, and even simple fixture replacements can help a property connect with buyers.

But mixing conflicting styles and accessories can put off homebuyers, according to Kelly Wood, a buyer’s specialist and a former stager. “The extremes don’t really work,” she says.

Additionally, staging and repairs offers the appearance of home upkeep, both in the real world and online, says Danielle Cirelli, owner of Walnut Creek-based staging company Designed to Sell. “Photos are an essential part of marketing because over 90 percent of the buyers will preview a property online,” she says.

Millennials, who currently make up the largest share of homebuyers, are even more likely to peruse online listings before visiting a home. Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin stressed the importance of technology on the real estate industry in his recent Inman Select Live presentation, saying that digital strategies are geared toward users likely to “give you eight seconds.”


Sellers who decide that staging is the way to go will likely want to employ the services of a pro. Many expert real estate professionals offer their clients a list of recommended contacts – including architects, general contractors, and interior designers – who can help enhance a home’s appeal. Some real estate professionals provide staging services as a part of their service package. Sellers can also find a staging company through online resources such as Yelp and Angie’s List or referrals from friends and family.

Though some sellers might fret over staging expenses, it actually costs less — an average of $675, according to NAR’s study — than the first price reduction – typically at least 10 percent of asking price. And a lingering home on the market sans staging can incur additional price cuts, according to Nelson.

Every month a home is on the market, there is a price reduction of usually 5 percent.

Savory Pie ~


Made this Chicken Sausage, Porcini Mushroom, Lentil pie last night with a Pecorino Cheese Crust………looked and tasted terrific!

How it started…..I had a busy day planned and it didn’t include a large chunk of time in the kitchen. But I really was feeling a savory pie. So while I was making the morning coffee I whipped out the food processor and made the crust in just a couple of minutes. Wrapped it in plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge for later that day.  While getting the dogs breakfast ready I put the lentils and the chicken sausage in a pot of chicken stock and simmered them together with a shallot for 25 minutes. Which was just enough time to get dressed before I went out the door.  Everything prepped for later in the day. Here’s the recipe. It’s so worth it.



1 cup lentils

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 chicken sausage fennel sausages

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 shallot

2 carrots, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup chopped parsley

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon sun dried tomatoes, chopped


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup (packed) coarsely grated Soft Pecorino cheese (about 3 ounces)



Add lentils to pot and cover lentils with chicken stock 1”. Add the two chicken fennel sausages, 1/2 t salt and a shallot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain; set lentils and sausage aside. Or if you are prepping early pop it in the fridge.

Pour 1 cup of boiling chicken stock over porcini in medium bowl; soak 15 mins. Remove porcini from soaking liquid, chop coarsely. (Reserve soaking liquid.)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh mushrooms. Sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil, onion, carrot, sage, and thyme. Sauté 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Mix flour into vegetables; cook 1 minute. Add porcini soaking liquid and the remainder of the chicken stock.

Cover; simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, 13 to 15 minutes. Add lentils; season with salt and pepper. Place the filling in a pie dish or 4 individual large ramekins. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before topping with the pie crust.

Do ahead. Can be made 2 days in advance Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; pulse until dough forms moist clumps. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll into a disc, cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 mins.
Roll out the dough on a flour service and place on top of the pie dish with the filling. Crimp the edges. Slit the top of the pie 4 or 5 times. Egg wash the top and sprinkle some sea salt on the crust.

Bake pie on baking sheet until tester the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remember the filling is already cooked. If the edges get too brown wrap them with foil 20 mins into the cooking.

Wow ~ Gorgeous & Water Saving

Thanks once again to SA Baxter Architectural Hardware for sharing what’s currently new and beautiful in home design features. Not only is this one of the most attractive water features I’ve seen but it’s designed to conserve water as well. A London student recently designed this conservation-friendly faucet that swirls your water into captivating geometric patterns as soon as you turn on the tap. The faucet weaves small jets of water into intricate, cross-hatched designs that look like they belong on delicate crystal glassware. The faucet head is a simple, minimalistic curve, making the designs it spouts out all the more delightful.

In addition to the faucet’s pleasing aesthetic, it also makes conserving water feel elegant and effortless. The designer, London Royal College of Art student Simin Qiu, created the faucet to use up to 15 percent less water than traditional faucets. Given the unusual and creative design and its positive impact on the environment, this fixture is anything but mainstream.