Archive for February, 2010

Reversion to Simplicity

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about refocusing on priorities and reassessing what is valuable in our lives. Into this equation falls one’s home and the manner in which we live. The real estate boom of the early 2000s was all about bigger, better, more, about keeping up with the Joneses. Homes were bigger, cars were bigger; everywhere you looked there was an overwhelming focus on getting the next BIG thing.

With the economy in dire straits, the last several years have been a wake up call; millions of Americans have to face the facts: all that BIG stuff doesn’t matter. It is the quality of life that matters.

Today’s buzz words have changed from McMansions, SUVs, bling and grande lattes to more realistic terms, terms like sensible houses, green appliances, family game night, sack lunches and yes, homemade coffee. This “reversion to simplicity” has caused many companies to change the way they market their products, including home builders.

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) reported at the end of 2009 that the median square footage of new homes dropped 9% between the third quarter of 2006 and the third quarter of last year.

KB Home, a large builder here in California, reported to USA Today at the end of last year that building smaller models helped it achieve a 62% increase in year-over-year net orders in the third quarter.

Many new construction developments are displaying smaller floorplans, complete with energy efficient appliances, solar power and drought resistant landscapes. They are also building closer to urban areas, with many new communities including multi-zoned housing tracts which incorporate businesses, eateries, shopping and parks within walking distance to homes.

Other companies have taken advantage of consumer trends. One of the best examples is the synthetic lawn industry, which really has a dual advantage: you get a zero-maintenance, great looking lawn year round AND you are saving lots of change on your water bill. Good for the environment and maintenance free….this is the new mantra for consumers.

Duane Ruth, owner of SYNLawn, a Southern California company that installs synthetic lawns for residential, business and golf courses, says that “We’ve seen year to year 50% growth in our installations with over 7,500 residential installs in So Cal so far.” Ruth says that according to studies hundreds of millions of gallons of water are saved a year by the lawns they have replaced, and “that’s millions of square feet of grass that are not being cut 32 times a year and dumped into landfills where they produce harmful methane.” For more information on synthetic lawns and their benefits please visit http://www.synlawn.com.

This new movement is not only sensible but is good for the planet. Most importantly though, it is good for our souls. It is the beginning of creating a new focus on priorities that we can pass down to our children. No matter what you do for a living, no matter where you live, you can make a big difference by embracing the reversion to simplicity. If you have more ideas on how you have or plan to simplify your life and your home, please post a comment below.

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CaliforniaFIRST Program Available to Carlsbad Residents

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

If you have always wanted to do more to help the environment and make your home more efficient, but weren’t sure how, here is your opportunity. Residents of Carlsbad are now eligible to participate in the CaliforniaFIRST program, allowing them to make energy efficient improvements to their homes and businesses.

On February 23 the Carlsbad City Council approved the City’s participation in the voluntary program, which is open to owners of residential, commercial and industrial properties. Owners can obtain low-interest financing to make energy efficient improvements to their properties, such as installing solar energy systems. The loans would be paid off by an assessment on the tax bill of the property owner.

Carlsbad is one of a handful of cities singled out to participate in the program’s inception, which eventually is targeted to spread to other cities across the state. It is funded by state bonds, and the City of Carlsbad is contributing $15,000 toward the startup costs of the program, which will be reimbursed through state grants.

Aside from solar electric and water heating systems, energy efficient improvements include tankless water heaters, dual-paned windows and insulation. Owners will apply and obtain an assessment to determine which improvements are needed to make the property more energy efficient.

To be eligible for funding under the program the improvements must be permanently fixed to the property. Application fees will be no more than $300, and financing limits on improvements will be $5,000 minimum and $75,000 maximum, with repayment terms set at 10, 15, or 20 years depending on the life of the improvement. Applications will begin being accepted in July on the City’s website. Visit http://www.CarlsbadCA.gov.

Carlsbad is once again on the cutting edge of improvements to the quality of life in California, and as always, is the greatest place to live.

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Coastal North County Golf Course Review

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Golf is a BIG sport, in case you haven’t noticed. It is a $7 billion industry, with 25 million golfers alone in the U.S. If you are a golfer or are thinking about taking up the game, you couldn’t find a better place then coastal North San Diego. The area offers some of the best and most beautiful public courses, many with gorgeous views and lush, rolling greens. Here is a quick review of some of the finest and most fun places to tee it up along the coast, from Carlsbad to La Jolla.

Four Seasons Aviara Golf Club and Resort: Located in one of the most prestigious areas of Carlsbad, the Aviara Golf Club is in great shape and presents a beautiful and challenging layout for a resort course. Although on the pricier side, you will not be disappointed. Practice your long putts on some of the biggest greens in the county. There is also a world class golf school by Kip Putterbaugh on the premises. Visit http://www.fourseasons.com/aviara/golf.html for more information.

The Crossings at Carlsbad: Carlsbad’s newest $68 million golf course provides some stunning views and a beautiful clubhouse, along with great prices for a round of golf. A few drawbacks include some awkward holes that had to be constructed around protected open space, the fact that it is a carts-only course (not favorable for the traditionalist golfer), numerous power towers along the perimeter, and frequent planes overhead taking off from neighboring Palomar Airport. But The Crossings is a great deal and the greens are usually in good shape, providing for a fun round. Visit http://www.thecrossingsatcarlsbad.com/kemper/courses/layout10.asp?id=182&page=3854 for further information.

Encinitas Ranch: Encinitas Ranch is a relatively easy, wide open course with nice ocean views. A great beginner course due to the lack of many sand traps or challenging holes, the ocean breezes and decently priced rounds will provide for a fun day. For more information visit http://jcgolf.com/courses-encinitas.php.

La Costa Resort: The recent renovations to the famous La Costa Resort and Spa have brought prestige back to the locale. Unfortunately the course was not upgraded, and with the loss of a big annual PGA event the upkeep has suffered. Course conditions are somewhat poor, with bumpy greens and a lack of sufficient sand in the bunkers. Walking is permitted with a caddie. Prices are on the high side but the views of surrounding La Costa are beautiful and the clubhouse and restaurants are fantastic. For more information please visit http://www.lacosta.com/golf.aspx.

Torrey Pines: Torrey Pines is by far the most spectacular, most challenging, and all around best course for the money in San Diego. Almost tournament-ready all the time and exceptionally well- maintained, Torrey is home to PGA tournaments and provides for a challenging game; the South course is likely as tough as any course in the world. The greens and rough are perfect and you will not be disappointed. Prices can be a bit high if you are not a resident, but even so it is well worth it to play a course like this. If you are planning on playing on the weekend I advise you get there at sun-up, as it is first come-first-to-tee-off, and it can be slow if you get there later. For more information visit http://www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com/.

The bottom line is that if you are a golfer, or would like to be one, you will never be bored in San Diego. By the way, if you ARE a golfer (or would like to be one), you have to check out this AMAZING line of golf products. Yes, I am a little biased but it is a fact. You can even check out the press on it. Visit http://www.iliacgolf.com to see what I mean.

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The Latest Mortgage Modification Assistance News…

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are instituting two new programs to help struggling homeowners with their quest to get modifications. Freddie Mac claims to have helped 250,000 homeowners with loan modifications to date, so the time is better than ever to try and work out your mortgage issues. Here are the new available opportunities:

1. Borrower Help Centers: Help centers are and will be opening up in numerous areas to assist delinquent Freddie Mac borrowers with loan modifications. Homeowners will be able to visit these centers and get one-on-one counseling and questions answered for free. As of now these centers are located in Chicago, Phoenix, San Bernardino (Southern California) and Washington, DC. Counselors are specially trained in helping with modification and other financial issues. Following are the borrower help centers:

Chicago, IL

Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA)
1152 N Christiana Avenue
Chicago, IL 60651
773- 489-8484

Chicago Neighborhood Housing Services
1279 N. Milwaukee Ave., 5th Floor
Chicago, IL 60642
773-329-4185 (English)
773-329-4181 (Spanish)

California ‚ Inland Empire

Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services (NPHS)
320 W. G Street, Suite 103
Ontario, CA 91762
800-761-6747

Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix NHS
1405 East McDowell Road, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85006
602-258-1659

Chicanos por la Causa
1242 E. Washington Street, Suite 102
Phoenix, AZ 85034-4043
602-253-0838

Washington DC

HomeFree-USA
3401A East West Highway
Hyattsville, MD 20782
301-891-4606 (English)
301-891-4607 (Spanish)

2. Borrower Help Network Phone Assistance: The phone network will be similar to the help centers and will provide counseling and information to delinquent Freddie Mac borrowers.

The counseling provided is labeled “holistic counseling,” which includes an assessment of the borrower’s debt and credit issues. Many community organizations are participating in helping borrowers with these programs, including the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), HomeFree-USA, local Neighborhood Housing Services in Chicago, Phoenix, and Ontario, California, and other local community organizations. Following are the phone assistance location centers. To find out more and get contact number please visit http://freddiemac.com/avoidforeclosure/.

To get more information on modifications and refinancing options under the Making Home Affordable Program you can also visit http://makinghomeaffordable.gov/. You can also contact HopeNow, a free homeowner help hotline, at 888-995-HOPE.

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Then and Now

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

We may take it for granted, but so much has changed with the technological explosion of the last few decades. In just a short time our lingo, the way we do business and live our lives has been altered drastically. Our children cannot fathom some of the little nuances we thought to be conveniences just a few short years ago. Ready for a laugh?

Here are some of the things you would never hear us say when we were younger:

“Just send me a text.” “Facebook me.” “”IM me.” Send me an email and I will check it on my phone.” “Check out the video I posted on YouTube.” “Put it in the Recycle bin.” “Follow me on Twitter.” “Check out that website.” “Let’s watch a movie on demand.” “Did you record your show on the DVR? Both shows at the same time?” “Is that organic?” “I downloaded the song to my iPod.” “I’ll have a grande skinny vanilla soy latte.”

Here are some things that our children will never say:

“The VCR ate my tape.” “The tape player ate my tape.” “I just got a new Walkman.” “You have to type that paper on your typewriter.” “I crimped my hair” (although I think this one is coming back!!).

It is clear that life is moving at an ever-increasing pace, but it is still always fun to look back at how much things have changed in such a short time. Growing up I remember thinking that my parents looked so nerdy in their younger photos, and also thinking that my children would never say that about me. Now my children look at photos of me from the ’80s and laugh at my hair, my clothes, makeup…even though in today’s high-tech world our children think they are so cool, their children will be laughing at the pictures of today one day in the future (and those pictures will likely be in a very different format).

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Carlsbad Citizens Academy

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Carlsbad Citizens’ Academy is now forming for spring of 2010 and is accepting applications. The Academy allows citizens to come together to learn all about how the city functions. The course is 7 weeks long and will be held Thursdays at 5:00 from March 4-April 15, 2010.

The Citizens’ Academy enables members to learn about many aspects of the functioning of the city, include finances, public works, city planning, fire and police, and cultural arts. Academy participants will meet with city council members and staff, as well as tour the behind the scenes operations of the city.

Close to 1000 residents have participated in the program since its inception in 2001. To obtain an application please go to http://www.carlsbadca.gov/, or call the Citizens’ Academy information line at 760-434-2800. The deadline is February 12 and space is limited to 50 residents. Applicants must be Carlsbad residents and must be 18 or older.

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