Archive for April, 2010

Weekend Getaway: Santa Barbara

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

If you are looking for a place to get away that is close to home and requires no trips to the airport, Santa Barbara is one of my favorite destinations. Only about a three hour drive from most parts of San Diego county and with some beautiful vistas along the way, it will be a weekend you will long remember. Don’t want to drive? Hop on the train and just relax and enjoy the scenery.

Once in Santa Barbara there are many different places to stay, accommodating all budget levels. From five-star resorts like the Four Seasons Resort and the incomparable Bacara Resort and Spa, beautiful family resorts like the Fess Parker’s Double Tree Hotel by the beach, to quaint and comfortable bed and breakfast inns (my favorites are The Cheshire Cat, the Upham Hotel and the Simpson House Inn), there is really something for everyone.

There is SO much to do in Santa Barbara, or of course you can do nothing but relax. Stroll along the boardwalk, soak up the sun at the beach, visit one of the many area spas, take seasonal whale watching cruises, enjoy various water sports, bike rides, horseback riding, and hikes through the beautiful mountain trails. The Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens is a must-see and I highly recommend a visit, especially right now when there are rainbow palettes of colors everywhere you look.

The Museum of Natural History is a fun place to visit, and the kids will love it too. Right next door is the famous Santa Barbara Mission, established by Father Junipero Serra in the late 1700s. Tours are available so check for times. Directly across the front lawn of the Mission is one of loveliest rose gardens ever—a beautiful spot for a picnic lunch. The Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the best smaller zoos I have visited, with lot to do for the children and beautiful grounds to boot.

Downtown Santa Barbara is filled with excitement. State Street and surrounding areas are home to the Museum of Art, incredible shopping (with stores ranging from upscale boutiques to department stores to trendy and well-priced shops), movie theaters, live music and plays, musicals and symphony venues.

Dining is a treat in Santa Barbara and options are plentiful. One of my favorite lunch spots is The Natural Cafe on State Street. La Super Rica is a famous little ultra-casual Mexican restaurant that beckons people from near and far. If you love sushi you have to try Arigato on State Street.

Santa Barbara is a great escape and will make you feel as if you are a million miles away without traveling far. Bon voyage!

Share
RSS Feed

Appliance Rebates Increase for Local Residents

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

In an effort to encourage water conservation, Carlsbad residents can now take advantage of rebates for the purchase of high-efficiency clothes washers. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has recently increased the $100 rebate to $150 due to a grant from the State Department of Water Resources.

According to the San Diego County Water Authority’s conservation website, http://www.20gallonchallenge.com, high-efficiency washers can save between 20-30 gallons of water per load. Standard top-loading machines not only use more water, but are harsher on clothing, increase drying time, use more detergent and don’t clean as well as the new models, utilizing more energy.

For a list of washers that qualify for the rebate, as well as other appliances subject to rebates, visit the MWD site at http://socalwatersmart.com or call 888-376-3314.

The California Energy Commission is ALSO providing rebates for the purchase of energy-efficiency machines, but this program has different criteria for purchase and disposal of old appliances. For more information on this program please visit http://www.cash4appliances.org or http://www.energy.ca.gov/releases/2010_releases/2010-03-09_cash4appliancesPrgm_main-release.html.

Share
RSS Feed

Celebrate Carlsbad Day Is Coming!

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

It’s that time of year again…time for the annual Celebrate Carlsbad Day sponsored by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. On May 1st the celebration will take place at Legoland from 1:00-9:00 p.m., and admission will only be $15 for the day–that’s a $52 savings off the regular $67 ticket price!

The Carlsbad Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of raising private money for public school programs in the Carlsbad Unified School District. They have an annual telethon and student performances each year. This year the student performances will take place at Legoland between 3:00-6:00 (my daughter’s class is performing and it will be fantastic!), followed by fireworks at 8:00.

There are 5 ways to purchase tickets:

1. Go to the office at a CUSD school.

2. Visit a ticket sales outlet (Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, Visitors and Convention Bureau, San Diego National Bank, Lola’s 7-Up Market and Deli, Facelogic Spa, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Carlsbad Educational Foundation).

3. Call 760-929-1555 to have tickets emailed to you.

4. Go to website (http://www.carlsbaded.org/) and fax order form to 760-929-8788 with complete credit card information.

5. Mail order form with payment to: CEF, 5651 Palmer Way, Suite H, Carlsbad, CA 92010.

So round up the family and head on over to Legoland on May 1st…not only will it be a fun-filled day for a great price, but a portion of ticket sales will be supporting wonderful music and science enrichment programs at Carlsbad Unified School District schools. If you can’t make it please visit the website for more information on how you can help this worthy cause. http://www.carlsbaded.org/.

Share
RSS Feed

Why Should a Buyer Work with a Realtor?

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

It used to be that only Realtors had listing sheets, that buyers had no access to any sales information, and that an agent was absolutely needed in order to find and see homes for sale. Long gone are those days. Today’s buyers are savvy–they have access online to listings, photographs, sales records and sold comparable homes. They can find the homes online they want to see and go to an open house or call the listing agent to let them in. So why bother with an agent?? There are many reasons why working with an agent is not only a benefit to buyers, but also essential.

1. Legal Protection: Buying a home is a legal transaction. There are many things that can happen both during and after the close of escrow that can impact the buyer–both emotionally and financially. A homebuyer needs to understand the nature of EVERY paper he or she is signing, and know the consequences involved in signing off on disclosures and other paperwork.

When a buyer works with an agent that agent is a representative, or voice for the buyer, and that carries a lot of weight. Not only is an experienced agent trained to walk you through all the paperwork, but he or she also works for a broker that can protect you down the road in certain legal situations.

2. No Cost: Buyers’ agents do not cost buyers money, since the seller is the one who pays the agent. An experienced buyer’s agent adds great value to a buyer searching for property, even if the buyer likes to do the initial searching her/himself. Working with buyers means the agent is the representative of the buyer and can get all kinds of valuable information on interesting properties–like title reports, loan information, insurance claim information, and other facts and figures that will make decisions easier.

I love that many of my clients choose to do their own home searching. I think it is valuable because they eliminate those properties that are of little or no interest, meaning that I do not waste their time showing them those properties. Of course there are still clients who like to have me do all the searching, and I am happy to do that as well. During that time I can really educate the buyer on the different neighborhoods, floor plans, and other important area information that is of value.

3. Great information: An experienced Realtor can provide a wealth of information about a home, neighborhood, area…from school feedback to noise, and many other issues that effect daily life in an area. He or she will have or will be able to access information that a buyer alone may not be able to obtain (see above). Also, sometimes there is information that is only available to agents on listed properties. Many agents also are privy to information on properties not yet listed with the MLS (“pocket listings”), which may get you into a home before others even know it is for sale. An agent who really knows a particular area where you are searching can only benefit you as a buyer–so use your Realtor to help you get the most out of your home search.

4. Special types of sales: In today’s housing market there are lots of sales that are not traditional equity sales–short sales, foreclosures, bank owned properties. Each one of these sales presents certain challenges. Having an experienced Realtor on your side can sometimes determine whether or not you will be able to close escrow. Each type of sale has different requirements, and no two short sales are alike, no two bank-owned home sales will be identical. There is a lot involved in just getting through escrow when you purchase one of these properties, from legal issues to potential problems with the home, and your Realtor will know precisely what to do and how to make things beneficial for you as a buyer.

If you were arrested you or your loved ones would immediately call an attorney, right? Many people hesitate to visit the doctor on a regular basis, but if they became very ill they likely would make an appointment. Realtors are the same. Go ahead and search for that home on your own–personally I love to work with savvy buyers. But when you are ready to buy, find an experienced, professional agent who will be your representative. The word “agency” is powerful, and it works to your advantage.

Share
RSS Feed

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Spring is in the air and there is no better time to spend on beautifying and maintaining your home. From planting to cleaning, clearing to painting, there are lots of easy projects that can help your home maintain it’s value for years to come. Here are some great ideas to keep your home looking its best:

Windows: Spring is the perfect time to give your windows and screens a thorough wash. Take down screens and hose them to remove dirt and debris collected during the rainy season. Rescreen any screens that have holes or tears. Make sure to clean out all window tracts, which collect dirt, bugs and moisture during the winter. A bit of lubricant helps if needed to ease with opening and closing. Check all window locks and make sure they are tightened and functioning.

HVAC Filters: Make sure to replace (or clean the permanent ones) your filters before the air starts to warm up. After a cold winter and heater usage it is important to have clean filters, as it will save you money and prevent build up in your ducts. It is also a good idea to clean out all vents and make sure there are no obstructions.

Rain Gutters: Clean out rain gutters and remove leaves and other debris.

Tree trimming: This is the perfect time to trim your trees. Make sure to trim them so they do not touch your home, as rodents and other critters can access your attic via trees that are too close to the house.

Plant flowers: The soil is in great condition from the winter rains, and flowers can be inexpensive if you plant seeds. It is a fun and easy way to make a big difference in curb appeal and gives you an enjoyable feast for the senses. You can even venture into drought resistant plants to give your garden a beautiful look without requiring too much water.

Sprinkler system check: Make sure to check your sprinkler system and program the timer. Pay attention to any city or county regulations such as allotted watering days and times, and do not set the timer to over-water your yard. Check all sprinkler heads and replace any that are broken.

Paint: Painting is one of the least expensive ways to beautify your home, and you can do it yourself. Walk around your home and see what rooms need touch-up paint, or even a new coat. It is a great time to try new colors! Painting makes one of the most noticeable differences in the appearance of your home, so have fun with it. Inspect the outside of your home as well–if it has been ten years or longer since you last had your home painted you may want to consider repainting. This not only approves the appearance of your home, but saves money in maintenance. If you have a stucco exterior and you noticed big wet spots on your house during the rains then it is time to consult a professional painter.

Check roof: You should check your roof at least once a year to prevent any problems from arising. It is important to look for cracks in tiles, broken tiles or shingles, or any damage that is apparent. As it is dangerous to walk on your own roof, especially if you have a tile roof (as they can crack), you should call a qualified roof technician to inspect the roof for you.

De-Clutter: Take advantage of the change in season and go through your closets, garage, attic, kids’ toys, books and clothes. There are a plethora of charities that would welcome your donations…and you will love the feeling of having less “stuff” laying around. Get the whole family involved. It’s also a great time for a garage sale. Be sure to check your medicine cabinets for expired medicines, and your pantry and refrigerator for expired food.

Leaky faucets: Many of us do not think to ever look under the sinks in our home. Take everything out of your sink cabinets in bathrooms and the kitchen and check for signs of moisture or leaks. While you are at it you can throw away old cleaning supplies. If you find any leaks be sure to call a plumber right away to prevent a mold problem.

Smoke Detectors: Check all smoke detectors after replacing batteries.

Share
RSS Feed

Tax Relief Bill to Help Troubled California Homeowners

Friday, April 9th, 2010

The California legislature passed a bill yesterday that could make a BIG difference in taxes owed to the state by recent homeowners who went through short sales or foreclosures. Unbeknownst to many of these homeowners, the state of California had not renewed legislation last year that used to allow short sale and foreclosure owners to avoid paying taxes on the canceled debt (the difference between what they owed on their mortgage and what the actual payoff was to the lender) in most situations, leaving many people with huge tax debts they were unable to pay.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Forgiveness Act passed by Congress in 2007 allows homeowners to avoid being taxed federally on canceled debt in most short sale, foreclosure and loan modification situations. The new California law will mirror the federal law and will last through 2012. The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

This news lifts a large burden off the shoulders of many homeowners who have lost their homes, and hopefully will allow them to get on rebuilding their lives after losing their homes.

Share
RSS Feed

Springtime in Carlsbad

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Can you feel it? It is beginning to feel like Spring in Carlsbad. The Flower Fields are in full, glorious bloom, birds are singing and the trees and hills are vibrant shades of green. We are in for a really treat for the senses over the next few months thanks to the winter rainfall. So grab your sunscreen and hat and get outside! There are a lot of outdoor opportunities in April and May to help keep Carlsbad beautiful–here are the highlights:

April 10: Trail clean-up at Lake Calavera. Meet at the lake from 8:30-11:30 to help with trail maintenance and beautification. For more information contact Gary Hill at 760-727-5764. The second Saturday of each month is trail cleanup day, with a focus on a different area each time. Check the city’s website for more information at http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/parksandrec/trails/events/Pages/default.aspx

April 17: Batiquitos Lagoon Cleanup. The Batiquitos Lagoon Nature Center holds a trail cleanup day the first and third Saturday of every month, beginning at 9:00. It usually wraps up around noon. For more information please visit http://www.batiquitosfoundation.org/newsite/index.php, or call the Nature Center at 760931-0800.

April 24: Arbor Day Celebration at Aviara Community Park. Join the fun and help plant trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Registration begins at 8:30 and volunteers must bring a complete volunteer application, which can be downloaded at http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/parksandrec/Pages/arbor-day.aspx. Volunteers will also aid in park cleanup and maintenance. Various experts will be on hand to provide information on trees and tree maintenance. Tools are provided but volunteers are encouraged to bring shovels, work gloves and hats.

May 1: Carlsbad Beach Fest. The third annual Carlsbad Beach Fest will be held May 1 from 11:00-3:00 at Frazee Beach. This is a great event way for residents to learn how to preserve our local beaches. Aside from assisting with beach cleanup, there are local companies present to help educate the public about what efforts and programs are needed to help preserve the coastal environment–from recycling to water quality to local wildlife preservation. Help make a difference here in Carlsbad! For more information please visit http://carlsbadbeachfest.com/.

All of the above events present great opportunities for adults and children to contribute to the community, make a difference, and keep Carlsbad gorgeous!

Share
RSS Feed

School Bullying Shows No Signs of Disappearing

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

I was dismayed this morning in reading an article in the San Diego Union Tribune on school bullying. Not only did it state that bullying has gone down statistically in schools since the tragic Columbine High School shooting, but it attributed this decline to the way schools appear to be handling bullying. Although I do not have specific numbers for local school districts (the article only mentioned districts in the East county and San Diego Unified School District), I can attest that bullying DOES happen in our schools, and officials often turn their backs on it.

Several years ago one of my children was the victim of bullying right here in the Carlsbad Unified School District. When it started in elementary school I admit the Principal was vigilant–he took it personally and made sure it stopped. While most children are afraid to point fingers at the bully for fear of retaliation, this Principal had some very creative ways to work around finger pointing. We also consulted a bullying expert who gave my child powerful come-backs to use that WORKED. These were the saving grace.

In middle school the bullying started up again the first year. I reported it to the staff and was told they needed names to deal with it. Touting the district’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, I was told that bullying was not allowed in the district. It continued and worsened. The saddest part was that a boy who carpooled with me was the victim of terrible bullying (he since left the school). I was concerned for this boy.

In my distress to help these kids, and having received nothing concrete from middle school personnel, I wrote a letter to the District, specifically to the Superintendent. I both emailed and mailed the letter. In it I stated that I felt the Zero Tolerance policy was ineffective, that there was plenty of bullying going on and nothing was being done about it at the middle school level. While elementary schools had assemblies and discussions on bullying to teach the children it’s repercussions, the middle school (or at least the one my child attended) had no such talks. My letter went unanswered.

Luckily my child came out of the bullying situation a stronger person, but that is because he chose to discuss it with his parents and we took action to help. Many kids do NOT discuss this with anyone and internalize it, leading to all kinds of problems, many of which can manifest themselves years later. Furthermore, if the victims are pulled out of schools where they are bullied I believe that sends the wrong message to the bullies. A victim should not be punished for being victimized.

With an increased number of bullying-related suicides this past year, and with more ways to be a bully since the advent of the internet, why is this topic not discussed in middle school? Middle School years parallel critical development years–puberty, self-discovery, learning to make choices that have consequences. Shouldn’t this be the time to hold assemblies and discuss the effects of bullying? Now is the time to bring this issue out into the open.

Share
RSS Feed

New Program To Reward Underwater Homeowners

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A new program is being unveiled today called Handshakes for Homeowners, which aims to recognize underwater homeowners (they owe more than their house is worth) who continue to pay their mortgages on time. With the goal of helping 200,000 homeowners in the next 12-18 months, this program is a creative albeit slightly strange way to reward homeowners, but hopes to prevent more foreclosures in the process.

Here is how the program works: regional centers will be set up with staff (“Handshake Helpers”) trained to go out into the communities and congratulate those who have consistently paid their mortgages. These do-gooders will receive handshakes, certificates and in some cases T-shirts or watches bearing slogans that announce the wearer pays his mortgage. Yes, I said T-shirts.

Lenders will be encouraged to help with the program by giving away trinkets to those who have proved loyal paying customers. These may come in the form of concert or sports tickets, for example. Lenders will be given incentives to participate but doing so is voluntary.

I know what you are thinking and it does seem rather silly. What these troubled homeowners would really like is a little leniency on their payments for being so consistent, right? But with lenders hurting so much I don’t think we will see that happening. Think of it as a little reward that you might not treat yourself to, and a pat on the back. We all could use a little pat, right?

Share
RSS Feed