Posts Tagged ‘Pleasanton CA’

Does it Really Make Sense to Stage Your Real Estate Property?

**In case you cannot view this video here, please click the link below to view “Does it Really Make Sense to Stage Your Real Estate Property?” on my YouTube channel: **


0:09: Hi, this is Doug Buenz with the 680 Homes Video Channel. Today we’re going address a common question. Is it worth it to stage a vacant house?

00:19: In my opinion, it is definitely worth it for a number of reasons. Now, look I know it’s expensive. It can run anywhere from a thousand dollars a month to as much as five to six. I’ve seen some exclusive estates cost as much as ten thousand a month to stage.

Whatever the cost is there’s a benefit to it as well and it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the benefit.

00:42: Number one. It creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for the buyer. Buying a home is a process that’s emotional first. Buyers need to connect with your property on an emotional level and see themselves living there first.

00:57: The second reason. It’s easier for buyers to visualize themselves living in the property. When you have a vacant house, sometimes space can be deceiving. They’re not sure if the family will work for them. They’re not sure if their bed will fit in the master bedroom.

When you stage a house you give them a point of reference for furniture. It more easily allows them to visualize their own furnishings and personal belongings in the property.

01:20: The third thing is it lends itself to better photographs in marketing. It is really important in today’s digital world that your photographs, which are often the first point of contact for potential buyers, scream the benefits of your property that they draw the visitor in emotionally.

It’s really hard to do that with a vacant house. Vacant houses have four walls and a floor versus if you have furniture and top-flight designer accessories that really create a warm space. That is a much more compelling photograph.

01:55: Lastly, vacant houses attend to make the buyer feel that the seller is desperate. So when you stage a house, even though it’s obvious that the house is staged, I believe that it reduces the perception among the buyers that you’re desperate as a seller and you can’t even afford to put a couple of couches and a coffee table in your house.

So it’s important from the perception of value standpoint that the house is staged.

This is Doug Buenz and this is the 680 Homes Video Channel.

New Survey: Pleasanton is RICH!

According to , is rich. Not “a decent disposable income” type of rich. I mean Thurston Howell type of rich. I’m talking shopping on Rodeo Drive, vacationing in the South of France, and using Silver Oak as a cooking wine type of rich, at least according to, which ranked Pleasanton as the third wealthiest city in America, behind only Newport Beach, CA and Newton, MA.


In a new survey from, seven of the top ten “wealth centers” in the country are in the Golden State.

The survey combines several measurements from the Census Bureau, including per capital income, median income, the percentage of incomes over $200,000, and home prices.

Newport Beach, California, ranks #1, with a median income of $124,000. Twenty-nine percent of residents in this Orange County enclave haul in at least $200,000 a year, and the median home price is $1,000,001.

Coming in second is Newton, Massachusetts, outside Boston. Newton actually trails third-placed Pleasanton, California in all the big ticket categories except one: per capita income, which comes in at $56,000. Meantime, Newton’s median income is $104,000, and 22 percent of its residents earn more than $200,000.

Here are the top ten wealth centers along with the percentage of residents earning more than $200,000:

1. Newport Beach, CA–29 percent
2. Newton, MA–23 percent
3. Pleasanton, CA–24 percent
4. Arlington, VA–16 percent
5. Santa Monica, CA–14 percent
6. Mountain View, CA–14 percent
7. Thousand Oaks, CA (my town!) –14 percent
8. San Francisco, CA–14 percent
9. Sandy Springs, GA–18 percent

10. Sunnyvale, CA–14 percent

Wow. That is heady company. What is more amazing is that some of the other well known cities such as , , Orinda, Carmel, Tiburon, Saratoga, and even Beverly Hills did not make the list. So…. do you feel rich? Just wondering.

UPDATE: Thanks to Carl for pointing out that the study only includes cities with populations over 75,000. That would explain the absence of some of the notable cities above.

Pleasanton Market Update – Activity Spikes on Lower End

The Pleasanton real estate market saw a spike in sales in April, mainly in the lower end of the market. It seems that more buyers are jumping into the Spring market, spurred on by a combination of low interest rates, higher conforming loan limits, and a renewed sense of optimism that we are at or near the bottom of the market. However, the upper end of the market is still limping along, and while activity is better, there is still downward pressure on prices, especially on homes over $1 million. In April, there were 63 pending sales of single family homes, up from 45 in March, and 23 in February. Inventory is up slightly, with 237 single family homes on the market at the end of April, compared with 233 at the end of March.


In the under $1 million market, pending sales of single family homes surged to 51 in April, up from 32 in March and 13 in February. This is the highest level of pending sales in well over 3 years in this price range. Inventory rose slightly in this price bracket, with 118 single family homes on the market at the end of April, up from 116 at the end of March. This is about a 2 ½ month supply of homes, which is certainly encouraging.


In the $1 million to $2 million market segment, pending sales were steady, with 10 sales in the month of April, which is the same level as March. Inventory declined slightly after steadily rising this year, with 81 homes on the market, down slightly from 83 at the end of March. Prices remain soft in this bracket, as there remains an 8 month supply of homes currently on the market and financing remains difficult to obtain.


The luxury home segment over $2 million continues to be sluggish, with 2 pending sales, both of which were brand new custom homes in Ruby Hill. Inventory is up, with 38 homes on the market at the end of April, up from 34 at the end of March. Inventory has been rising in this segment since January, when there were 29 homes on the market. This is a 19 month supply of homes at the current sales pace, and as a result there remains strong downward pressure on prices.


Average days on market for Pleasanton listings has declined to 125, after peaking in early March at 135. This reflects the increase in activity on the lower end of the market


Overall, it is certainly encouraging that buyers seem to be getting off the fence and entering the market. Lower rates, higher conforming loan limits, first time buyer tax credits, and more positive news about the economy seem to be spurring activity. Here’s hoping it continues into the Summer.

The Chronicle Hearts Pleasanton

The Chronicle took a break from its seemingly never ending doom and gloom, and featured a nice article on Pleasanton this past weekend. While as residents we are often focused on the issues and problems in the community, it is nice to see an outside writer’s take on our town. All in all, we have a lot to be proud of, and Pleasanton remains an extremely attractive place to live. The writer does a nice job of capturing the spirit of Pleasanton:

If the city of Pleasanton – approximately 65,000 people residing on 21.7 square miles of land located about 25 miles east of Oakland in the Amador/Livermore Valley – were somehow miraculously transformed into a person, she would, by all accounts, live up to her name: Attractive, intelligent, naturally charming and imminently sensible, she would be the kind of woman a man would have no qualms about bringing home to meet Mom.

She has the reputation of being a well-run, midsize city with a strong economic base, whose charms are especially attractive to young families: Sixty-four percent of the city’s 23,311 households consist of married couples; 40 percent of households have children under the age of 18 living in them.

Included among those amenities are two public high schools ranked in the top 400 in the nation by Newsweek; housing stock with a variety of architectural styles dating back to the 1850s and a range from mobile homes to multimillion-dollar mansions; 43 neighborhood, community and regional parks; a lively, pedestrian-friendly downtown with outdoor dining and specialty shops; a handful of annual events and festivals that bring the community together; and a city government, say residents, ruled by reason rather than greed.

There’s something else: With a median household income of $113,345 in 2007, Pleasanton was ranked as the wealthiest midsize city in the nation.

While her character is beyond reproach, she is, remember, a woman with a past – 114 years of it since incorporation in 1894. In her youth, she was a bit on the wild side.

“We were known at one time as ‘The Most Desperate Town in the West,’ ” says historian Mark Lester. “I think it’s a town of character – and it’s had its characters in it.”

Certainly, Pleasanton has maintained, and many would argue, enhanced its reputation as a premium destination in the East Bay. There are many factors that have contributed to this, including:

Top quality Schools.

Pleasanton has excellent public schools, certainly among the best in the Bay Area. Over 90% of the high school graduates from Foothill High and Amador Valley High go on to colleges or universities. And Pleasanton has been able to attract and retain excellent teachers, most of whom have advanced degrees.

Charming Downtown. Downtown Pleasanton is the heart of the city, giving it a historic and cultural identity that somehow provides an counter-balance to the hustle and bustle of our suburban lifestyle. It provides both residents and visitors alike the opportunity to dine, shop, or just stroll along Main Street, maintaining a link to years past when life was not so hectic. Especially true when Good Guys has their Hot Rod & Custom show periodically at the fairgrounds, and one can see a steady stream of older cars cruising down Main Street.


Good Commute Access. While traffic always seems like it is getting worse, Pleasanton does have good access for commuters. Located at the crossroads of Interstate 580 & 680, residents can (fairly) easily get to the job centers in Silicon Valley, Oakland, Walnut Creek, and San Francisco. BART, with a station in Pleasanton (and a new station under construction), provides direct service to San Francisco, a manageable 40 minute train ride away. There is also the ACE train, which provides service to San Jose/Santa Clara.

Local Jobs. While Pleasanton has good commute access, there is a strong local job base, with employers such as Oracle, Washington Mutual, Safeway, Roche, Kaiser, and Clorox to name a few. And San Ramon, with major employers such as Chevron and AT & T, add to the employment base in the region.

Range of Housing Options. Pleasanton has a wide range of housing options available, including affordable condos and townhouses, small lot homes, charming older neighborhoods, and luxurious upscale neighborhoods. And Ruby Hill, located on the Eastern flank of Pleasanton in the heart of the wine country, is well known locally and regionally its exclusive custom homes and championship golf course. It is safe to say that whatever your preference is in housing, you will be able to find it. Whether it is in your price range or not is another issue.

Open Space. While Pleasanton is a bustling mid-sized city, it is blessed with an abundance of parks and open space. The Pleasanton Ridge (including Augustine Bernal Park) has miles of hiking & mountain biking trails, with grassy hills, oak groves, wooded canyons, and captivating views of the valley. And to the East is the Livermore Valley wine growing region, home to dozens of wineries and gorgeous vineyards set in rolling hills.

Yes, sometimes it is nice to stop and smell the roses, and appreciate the community we live in. It is indeed something to be proud of. Now, let’s get to work on our budget and traffic issues.

I-580 Traffic Getting Better?

Pleasanton and Dublin CA area residents are well aware of the traffic gridlock that usually greets commuters heading East towards Livermore after 3:00 on weekday afternoons. At times, it seems that walking would be faster than navigating your way through the mess that is I-580.

I am happy to report that the traffic on I-580 seems to be much improved, thanks to the installation of metering lights on the on-ramps. Last week, I had to travel from Pleasanton to Livermore late in the afternoon (around 4:45 PM). I prepared for the usual gridlock and frustration by bringing along a new age CD and practicing deep breathing exercises. What I found was a pleasant surprise to me. Traffic was actually moving… even at 4:45 PM on a Wednesday. Oh sure, it slowed down in spots, and there was the usual assortment of obnoxious people passing on the right, etc. But overall, it did not resemble the usual late afternoon traffic fest on I-580.

Here are some photos I took while driving that afternoon. As you can see, there is actually space between the cars!




P.S., I don’t recommend trying this. Only years of practice as a multi-task expert enabled me to shoot these pictures while driving with my knees, talking on my cell phone, and listening to relaxation tapes at the same time.

Who are you going to vote for? Are you sure?

This is primarily a blog devoted to real estate and lifestyle issues in Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley, and in general I avoid discussing politics. But one observation I have made over time is that voters often are attracted to the personality and the idea of what a certain candidate represents, while having little or no knowledge about what their favorite candidate actually stands for. My mom, for example, is an Irish Catholic who was raised in the great depression. She is a card carrying Democrat come hell or high water, mostly because that’s the way most Irish voted at that time, and because of her fondness for Roosevelt and the New Deal. However, much has changed since the 1930’s, and yet she clings to the label “democrat” like Brittany Spears clings to celebrity. But if I ask her about specific issues, her responses are typically more conservative than liberal…. but she remains a tried and true “democrat”.

Here is a link to a short questionnaire about several important political issues. When you answer the questions about your feelings on these various issues, the survey tallies your answers and shows how your answers compare to all of the candidates’ actual stance on the same issues. This is the greatest thing since Al Gore invented the internet, because it removes the “rock star” persona and slick political messages that most people are attracted to, and instead focuses on what the candidate actually stands for, and how that compares to your personal beliefs. The results are very interesting to say the least. It shows you which issues you have in common with each candidate, and on which issues you differ. It is a fun exercise. Give it a try (courtesy WQAD in Iowa)

Select a Candidate Quiz

The 10 Best East Bay Restaurants

At least according to the Contra Costa Times. Now I know I live a sheltered life, because I have not been to any of these on the list. But this critic has, and here is his list of the 10 best. Most of these seem to be new restaurants, so maybe I get a pass for not having eaten there. Some of them definitely look interesting.

1. Wood Tavern. An instant success, the restaurant’s tempo blends the best of urban sophistication and neighborhood charm. Rich and Rebekah Wood, previously owners of Frascati in San Francisco, are ever-present. The food, by chef Maximilian DiMare, is at once refined and rustic, delivering bold flavors and hearty portions in a pretty package. Salads are sublime, the Hot Pastrami at lunch is transcendent, and DiMare shows talent with anything cured or smoked. 6317 College Ave. (at Alcatraz Avenue), Oakland. 510-654-6607.

2. Metro Lafayette. Metro was Contra Costa’s biggest hit this year. True to its name, it gave this hamlet a taste impeccably fresh oysters to skin-on fries. Founding chef Mark Lusardi has just departed, but Jack Moore, the tireless owner, insists that the kitchen hums without him. Minimalism is hip, but Metro distills the formula: refining service, simplifying and purifying the menu, and surrounding it all with an arty, almost austere, ambiance. Great wine list. 3524 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (in the Safeway shopping center), Lafayette. 925-284-4422;

3. Riva Cucina. The stripped-down cuisine here has startled some, but most foodies find it refreshing, on a par with Oliveto and Bay Wolf. Young chef-owner Massi Boldrini delivers — a stunning piece of fish, of cheese, of tomato, a little salt, a little olive oil — accentuating natural goodness. Riva is out of the way, but worth seeking out. While Boldrini’s cooking is sweet — from ripe produce and careful caramelization — it’s not overly rich. Small but stunning Italian wine list. 800 Heinz Ave. (at 7th Street), Berkeley. 510-841-7482;

5. Maria Maria. Maria Maria’s mellow-dramatic, wick-lit quasi-hallucinogenic dining room has you melting in your seat. Moles have a fruity, haunting complexity. Vegetarians will love the roasted chile rellenos; everyone else should indulge in a platter of carnitas, served in glorious gnarly chunks. A trio of salsas are best chased with agave-enhanced margaritas. 1470 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek. 925-946-1010; http://www.mariamariarestaurants.

6. Digs Bistro. Call 2007 “coming out” year for Digs. For 30 months, it was an underground “restaurant” where friends could gather to eat good food and indulge in the local music and arts. The 35-seat restaurant has all the charm of a fairy-tale cottage, including dishes with a homespun honesty. The cooking style is honest and gutsy — American, you might say — with just enough finesse to park in California. Start with the charcuterie and finish with a sundae. 1453 Dwight Way (at Sacramento), Berkeley. 510-548-2322;

7. Huynh. A number of Vietnamese restaurants — both upscale bistros and humble noodle houses — opened in 2007, but none outshone Huynh’s Jan. 6 debut. The dining room’s varied shades of green capture all that’s compelling about this fresh, calming and refined cuisine. The serving platters — metallic, Asian and shapely — are dazzling by themselves, and well-suited to the stark presentations. Look for stuffed squid, steamed bass with coconut broth and crusty Shaking Beef. 1512 Locust St., Walnut Creek. 925-952-9898;

8. Gigi. Slammed with customers the moment the doors opened in July, chef/owner Jeff Amber is just now catching his breath. His dishes, when the kitchen is calm, don’t blow you away so much as nourish you, like a market-inspired weeknight meal. He’s at his best with french fries, salads and seasonal presentations of fresh fish. The setting, in the antique cottage that housed Kaffee Barbara for 30 years, has the same sprawling brick patio and a refurbished, contemporary indoor space. 1005 Brown Ave., Lafayette. 925-962-0882.

9. Baci Ristorante. The garish decor will tell you otherwise, but Baci is trying hard to bring fine dining to Vallejo. With dishes such as grilled bitter lettuce and whole poached fish, Baci’s menu has the sex appeal of a Tuscan trattoria. Chef Scott Larson persuaded the owners to go upscale. It was a move as gutsy as the pastas are bold. Larson uses a minimum of sauce, extracting maximum flavor by searing produce and protein in extra virgin olive oil. 324 Virginia St., Vallejo. 707-552-4888;

10. Sahara. Mahida and Abe Hadeed have established a winning restaurant in a location that has struggled for years. Their dining room is bathed in the warm, golden tones of dunes at sunset. High-quality authentic kabobs, hummus and falafel are served at reasonable prices. Delicious wraps at lunch. Mahida makes everything by eye, taste and hand, meaning she’s in the kitchen all day, every day. Wines are quite reasonable. Service can be amateurish, but that just adds to the relaxed atmosphere. 907 First St., Benicia. 707-746-0505.

Absent from the list but definitely worthy of mention (in my humble opinion) are

Forbes Mill, Danville (Very good steaks and seafood)
Havana, Walnut Creek (trendy Cuban restaurant with great bar)
Izzy’s Steak House, San Ramon (Classic steak house)
Piatti’s, Danville (Still one of the best italian restaurants in the area)
Pasta’s Trattoria, Pleasanton (great pastas & seafood)
Zachary’s Pizza, San Ramon (unique pizzas, an Oakland institution now in San Ramon)
Senro Sushi, Pleasanton (probably the best fish going right now)
Casa Orozco, Dublin (consistently the best Mexican cuisine in the Tri-Valley)

There are dozens more, and it is always fun to talk about restaurants. Feel free to chime in with your favorite.