Friday, October 29, 2010

Montana Ave. 3rd Annual Halloween Hop

If you are searching for something to do with your family on Halloween, check out Montana Avenue's Halloween Hop!

Montana Avenue will be hosting its 3rd Annual Halloween Hop from 3pm-6pm on October 31. Kids of all ages will enjoy trick-or-treating all along Montana Avenue, plus all kinds of fun, spooky activities for kids including face painting, temporary tattoos, fortune telling, a doggie costume contest, and of course lots of candy!

Participants include:

Andrew’s Cheese Shop: Handing out candy
Aura: Handing out candy
Beauty Park Spa: Handing out candy
Blue House Antiques: Handing out candy & treats
Blues Jean Bar: Candy for the kids, discount cards for parents
Cheryl Fudge: Kid's Costume Runway Show & candy
Citron: Handing out candy
Classic Kids Santa Monica: Complimentary mini-sittings for ghosts and goblins big and small! 15-minute appointments available starting at 1:00 pm, walk-ins welcome from 3-6. Prints will be available for purchase approx two weeks after the session.
Dermalogica: Complementary Microzone Treatments (20 minute Face Treatments-regularly valued at $25.00). First come first serve. Gifts with purchases from 3-6pm. Staff will dress up and pass out candy
El Naturalista: Handing out candy
Engels & Volker : Handing out candy, creepy decor!
Estell: Handing out candy
Every Picture Tells a Story: Best costume contest -- with prizes including children's books and tickets to the Aero Theatre's Halloween screening of THE MONSTER SQUAD at 5 PM
Jonathan Adler: Handing out candy
Jurlique: Interactive mask station, handing out candy, and 25% of products during the event
Language of Flowers: Handing out candy. Pumpkin patch in the garden. Hot cider and sugar cookies with the purchase of a pumpkin.
Leona Edmiston: Handing out candy
Louise’s: Handing out candy. From 4-10pm there will be a Prix Fix menu for $14.95 (includes a side salad, entrée, and tiramisu) and half price bottles of wine (every wine they have)
Marcia Bloom Designs: Handing out candy
Margaret O’Leary: Handing out candy
Menchie’s: Menchie’s tattoos
Michael Stars: Face painting and candy
Mom’s The Word: Temporary tattoos & skull bracelets
Moondance Jewelry: Handing out candy
Nothing Bundt Cakes: Mini bundt cakes
Optical Design: Handing out See’s Lollipops
Peek Aren’t You Curious?: Handing out candy
Pilates Place: Handing out candy
Planet Blue: Handing out candy
Platino: Handing out candy
Pom Pom Interiors: Handing out candy
Ponte Vecchio: Handing out candy
Purple Poppy: Handing out candy. Free black or purple nail polish w purchase
Roseark: candy jewelry, ring pops and smarty necklaces
Rosemary McCaffrey: Candy chest, dress up, scary surprises, 15% off select merchandise
Rosti : Handing out candy
Scribble Press: Children’s activities
Shabby Chic: Handing out candy
Souliers: Handing out candy
Stephanie Grace: Halloween-themed candy bar
Subtle Luxury: Handing out candy
Sun Precautions: Handing out candy
Sweet Lady Jane: Candy corn brownie bite handouts, and Thanksgiving Holiday Bounty drawing
Three Bags Full: Madame Unravel Fortune Teller and handing out candy
To Wag For: Handing out candy and hosting Doggie Halloween Costume Contest. Prizes will be given for best & most original costumes.
Vero Chacon: Handing out candy
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5 Tips for First Time Buyers

Home buyers are an increasingly rare breed these days. Many who were eager to buy a house raced to take advantage of federal homebuyer tax credits. When those government perks expired in April, home sales essentially went into deep freeze, plummeting to levels not seen in more than a decade, according to the latest numbers from the National Association of Realtors. 

Still, the Realtors project that nearly 4 million existing homes will sell in 2010. First-time buyers, without the burden of a home to sell, could benefit from the foul market–and the record low mortgage rates.

But woe to the overconfident buyer. Here are five common missteps that first-time home buyers make.

1. Snubbing the real estate agent
With so many websites offering a mass of data on listings, who needs an agent? Most people, actually. Finding a house and figuring out comps–the price of comparable homes on the market–is the easy part. Managing the nuances of offers, inspections, financing and all the other pivotal steps to buying a home is where many new buyers tend to get tripped up, says Shii Ann Huang, an associate broker with The Corcoran Group in New York. 

When you hire an agent to act as your "buyer's representative," she's obligated to put your interests first, even if her commission is paid by the seller and based on the sale price. Skeptical? That's all the more reason to find an agent on your terms. Ask friends and acquaintances for referrals and interview two or three candidates before deciding.

But don't let the agent find you. When Viviane Ugalde and her husband, both physicians, bought their first home in Sacramento nearly two decades ago they made this mistake. "We stumbled onto an agent when she saw us peeking in the windows of an empty house for sale," Ms. Ugalde recalls. The agent, who happened to live on the same block, came out of her house (wearing pajamas), offered to show the couple around the neighborhood, and ultimately helped them find a house. Then the agent, who was new to real estate, neglected to show up for the closing. "It was scary and confusing signing what seemed like a thousand pages," says Ms. Ugalde.

2. Guesstimating how much you can afford
Many buyers mistakenly take a do-it-yourself approach to financing. They use online calculators to estimate how much house they can afford, dive into the house hunt and then get a dose of cold water when lenders refuse to qualify them for that amount. "The process is so different than it was four or five years ago," says Diann Patton, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Grass Valley, Calif. Not only are lenders reading loan applications closely, she says, they're verifying employment and running credit checks multiple times during the process. 

Make a date with a mortgage broker or banker before you get serious about your search, says Ms. Patton. Remember, too, that the costs of buying and owning a home go well beyond the sticker price. While online calculators do take into account property tax and insurance, it's up to you to account for maintenance costs, moving fees and association dues.

3. Letting charm cloud your judgment
No one will fault you for falling hard for a charming older home. But, unless the house has been painstakingly remodeled or you're prepared to pay for repairs and upgrades, an old house can quickly lose its allure. Last year Alison Koop, a public relations manager for the University of Washington, came dangerously close to saying "I do" to a seemingly fabulous mid-century home in northeastern Seattle. Ms. Koop was so smitten with the big windows and vaulted ceilings in the living room that she neglected to notice the exposed wires, shoddy roof and other structural problems. Any delusions Ms. Koop had were laid to rest in the guest bathroom. "When the inspector turned the faucet on," she says, "the spigot fell off, hitting the floor of the tub with an exclamatory thunk." 

If you're considering an old home, don't let the inspection be your last line of defense, says Jay Papasan, vice president of publishing at Keller Williams Realty. "Negotiate a long due diligence period," he says. That gives you time to get real estimates from contractors and back out if need be.
Of course, new homes aren't without their drawbacks. Recently, many newly built homes experienced serious problems with Chinese-made drywall, for example. Proceed with care whatever the home's age.

4. Focusing on the house, not the hood
In hindsight, many buyers say they wish they'd taken their due diligence a few steps further to really get to know all the perks, quirks and hassles of living in a particular place. You can always fix up the house, but there's no easy remedy for annoying neighbors, oppressive homeowner association rules and marathon commutes. When Laurie Tarkan and her husband bought their first home in 2001 they were so infatuated with the circa-1924 three-bedroom cottage that–in addition to brushing over some of the headaches of an old house –they didn't give a whole lot of thought to its somewhat out-of-the-way location about a mile from downtown Maplewood, N.J., a popular New York suburb. "As a first-time buyer you're not aware of all the things you should think about that aren't about the house," says Ms. Tarkan, who after living in New York City for 17 years, still hasn't gotten used to driving everywhere.
Spend as much time as you can in your future neighborhood, ideally on different days and times. Eat in the restaurants, drop in a yoga class, test drive your commute. 

5. Making arbitrary offers
With housing inventory running high and sales at record lows, in most markets, there's no shortage of houses for sale and sellers desperate to get out from under them–all the more reason to hold out for the right house and the right price. But when you find that perfect house, don't assume you can lob a lowball offer or make unreasonable demands. Even in hard-hit markets, nice houses in desirable neighborhoods are fetching multiple bids.

If the house has been on the market for months, you probably don't need to worry about other buyers lining up behind you. Make an offer based on recent sales for comparable homes, foreclosure activity and market trends, and don't be afraid to start the bidding low. If the house is fresh on the market (or recently foreclosed) and other buyers are circling the block, put your best foot forward but don't get suckered into a bidding war. 

By Sarah Maxe
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Existing Home Sales Up 9.4% in September

Here is an article I read today on The article discusses a rise in home sales, which are attributed to great opportunities available to many first time buyers.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Existing-home sales bounced back strongly in September with first-time buyers driving much of the activity, marking five gains in the past six months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales - including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops - jumped 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million units in September from a level of 5.10 million in August, and are 9.2 percent higher than the 5.10 million-unit pace in September 2008.  Sales activity is at the highest level in over two years, since it hit 5.73 million in July 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said favorable conditions matched with tax credit are boosting home sales.  "Much of the momentum is from people responding to the first-time buyer tax credit, which is freeing many sellers to make a trade and buy another home," he said.  "We are hopeful the tax credit will be extended and possibly expanded to more buyers, at least through the middle of next year, because the rising sales momentum needs to continue for a few additional quarters until we reach a point of a self-sustaining recovery."

Even with the improvement, Yun said the market is underperforming.  "Despite spectacular gains in the stock market, principally from the financial sector recovery, most of the 75 million home owning families have more wealth tied to their homes.  Home values could soon turn consistently positive and help the broad base of middle-class families, but we are not there yet," he said.  "We're getting early indications of price stabilization, but we need a steady supply of qualified buyers to meaningfully bring inventories down and return us to a period of normal, steady price growth and to fully remove consumer fears, which would then revive the broader economy.  Without a firm foundation for middle-class wealth recovery, the post-recession economic growth likely will be one of the weakest in U.S. history."

Early information from a large annual consumer study to be released November 13, the 2009 National Association of Realtor Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, shows that first-time home buyers accounted for more than 45 percent of home sales during the past year.  A separate practitioner survey shows that distressed homes accounted for 29 percent of transactions in September.

NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said affordability conditions remain historically high.  "Potential first-time buyers can take heart in that affordability conditions this year are the highest on record dating back to 1970, but with the first-time buyer tax credit scheduled to expire at the end of next month, people could hold back from entering the market," he said.

"Our read is that housing overshot on the downside because homes are selling for less than replacement construction costs in much of the country, and the home price-to-income ratio has fallen below the historical average," McMillan said.

Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 7.5 percent to 3.63 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 7.8-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 9.3-month supply in August.  Unsold inventory totals are 15.0 percent below a year ago.

"The current housing supply is the lowest we've seen in two and a half years," Yun said.  "If we could continue to absorb inventory at this pace, home prices would return to normal, modest appreciation patterns next year."

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.06 percent in September from 5.19 percent in August; the rate was 6.04 percent in September 2008.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $174,900 in September, which is 8.5 percent lower than September 2008.  Distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

Single-family home sales rose 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million in September from a pace of 4.47 million in August, and are 7.7 percent above the 4.54 million-unit level in September 2008.  The median existing single-family home price was $174,900 in September, which is 8.1 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 9.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 680,000 units in September from 620,000 in August, and are 9.7 percent above the 561,000-unit pace a year ago.  The median existing condo price was $175,100 in September, down 11.7 percent from September 2008.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 4.4 percent to an annual level of 950,000 in September, and are 11.8 percent higher than September 2008.  The median price in the Northeast was $234,700, down 7.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 9.6 percent in September to a pace of 1.25 million and are 7.8 percent above a year ago.  The median price in the Midwest was $147,600, which is 1.0 percent below September 2008.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 9.0 percent to an annual level of 2.06 million in September and are 10.8 percent higher than September 2008.  The median price in the South was $153,500, down 7.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West surged 13.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.30 million in September and are 5.7 percent above a year ago.  The median price in the West was $219,000, which is 15.0 percent below September 2008.


Existing Home Sales Up 9.4% in September, Says NAR
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Susan Allen's Wine Pick of the Month

October Wine Pick of the Month: Orin Swift "Prisoner"
Cellar Notes:

The Prisoner
2008 Red Wine

Great color, deep, dark garnet with a clean and bright red band in the rim. The aromas take a minute to come up, and then they take off into a blend of ripe berry and cherry with just a hint of new oak. We age the wine in both new and seasoned French and American oak.

The front of the wine is soft and almost immediately begins evolving into the broad mid-palate. The mid has weight, length, and structure. The acids were great in 2008 and provide an essential rounding effect to the "big fruit" inherent in the wine.

The finish is long and filled with ripe, soft tannins. The 2008 has much the same tannin structure of the 2004 which is a personal favorite.

46% Zinfandel
26% Cabernet Sauvignon
15% Syrah
10% Petite Sirah
  2% Charbono
  1% Grenache

*these numbers are approximate

We are very proud of the 2008 Prisoner. It marks the first full vintage with our viticultural consultant Larry Bradley. His diligence and good sense helped make this wine what it is.

Orin Swift Winery
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taste of Abbot Kinney - A Taste of Venice

Taste of Abbot Kinney Sunday October 24th, 2010

Street Map of Taste of Abbot Kinney
If you are looking for something to do this weekend I highly recommend the second annual Taste of Abbot Kinney. It gives you a great and budget friendly way to try out the best restaurants, cafés, bars, and more on acclaimed Abbot Kinney Blvd. Here is some more information from their website:

On Sunday, October 24, 2010, Inside Out Community Arts will host the 2nd Annual “Taste of Abbot Kinney.”  The event will  take place from 3-7 pm and once again feature Abbot Kinney’s burgeoning family of restaurants, drinking establishments, artists and merchants.
“We are very excited about this year’s event,” says Executive Director of Inside Out, Varina Bleil. “The Abbot Kinney restaurateurs are so generous and offer terrific food and the feel is very authentic, very Abbot Kinney!”
Event highlights include food and wine tastings from participating Abbot Kinney restaurants, samplings from local wineries and select gourmet food trucks, unique experiences from salons and retailers plus musical performances. Some participating restaurants: Abbot’s Habit, Abbot’s Pizza Co., The Brickhouse, Casa Linda, French Market Café, Hal’s, Joe’s Restaurant and Bar, Lemonade, Lily’s French Café & Bar, Marla’s, N’Ice Cream, The Otheroom, Primitivo, and Three Square Bakery & Café and Tlapazola Grill.
Some participating Food Trucks:  Ludo Truck, Del’s Lemonade, Jodi Maroni, Lake Street Creamery, Organic Oasis, Slammin’ Sliders, The Surfer Taco, and TnB BBQ.
Some participating Wineries:  Acacia, Babock Winery, Conway Family Wines including Deep Sea Wines and Rancho Arroyo Grande Winery, Four Vines, Gruet Winery, La Marca, Zaca Mesa Winery all courtesy of Lincoln Fine Wines.
Some unique experiences available: Haircuts from Floyd’s Barbershop, Spa services from Nite Spa, photographs from Erica Serress, Tarot readings and more.
Some participating bands and musical acts: Adam Stern & Friends,  Bird York, citysquare, Kai Brown, Nina Storey, Thelonious Dub, and All Destroyed Momentarily.
Tickets will be available on line at and at the event’s three entrances.  Visitors can purchase $2 taste tickets, for $30, $50 and $100 packages.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard and its merchants reflect the artistic Venice community it serves. Often described as the place where surf culture meets bohemian chic, Abbot Kinney is a street with an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants, stores and galleries. The LA Weekly referred to Taste of Abbot Kinney as a Tour de Force and it is likely to become one of the hottest tickets in town.

The Taste of Abbot Kinney is walking urban adventure, one of the newest and most original food and wine events in Los Angeles.  Buy your tickets in packages of 15, 30, 45 or 60, get your map and set off on a journey of eating, drinking, art and music performances. 
Follow your trusty tasting map and exchange your fistful of tickets for....
  • Special menu tasting items from Abbot Kinney restaurants
  • Tastings from select food trucks
  • Samples from cafes with sweets, treats and drinks
  • Wine tastings
  • Beer tastings
  • Music performances by local and internationally known artists
  • Surprises all along the route....from NiteSpa, Floyd's Barbershop, Tarot Card Readers and more...
  • Prize drawings!   Anyone up for a new 52" flat screen TV?
This is truly a one-of-a-kind immersion into the vibrant Venice culture. Only in its second year, the event has already generated a big buzz
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SOLD! 821 BAY ST #A5 ($660,000)

Santa Monica

3 Bed / 2 Bath
Sq. Ft. 1480

Come and see the NEW look. Striking Michael Folonis designed three story architectural townhome. This end unit has outstanding & dramatic entertaining space that is flooded with sunlight, cross ventilation for cooling ocean breezes as well as central A/C & heating. Modern & sleek lines, soaring ceilings for large artwork, w/b fireplace, hardwood floors, carpet & slate floor entry. The large 3rd floor bedroom has a wall to wall closet, privacy & a generous sized sundeck with mountain views. 2 SxS parking, extra storage.

Call me today and I can help you find your dream home or help sell your current home! 310.704.0815
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SOLD! 10732 FRANKLIN AVE ($700,000)

Culver City
2 Bed / 2Bath
Lot Size: 5000
Sq Ft: 1470

Stunning opportunity to own this charming 2BR+2BA in Veteran’s Park. Benefits are galore. Lots of light, formal living room w/wood floors, fireplace and built-ins. Family room, breakfast area, great indoor/outdoor flow for entertaining, vintage tiles in bathrooms. Beautiful tree-lined street in coveted neighborhood. Close to schools and Coombs Park.

Call me today and I can help you find your dream home or help sell your current home! 310.704.0815
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