Bridget Alves                of Valencia

Blog - Full Service Real Estate Group, Inc

Sell your home faster by “going green”

Bridget Alves - Monday, December 14, 2015


In the past, home sellers have highlighted features like walk-in closets, modern kitchen appliances, and spacious bathrooms in order to entice prospective buyers. This day and age, these features are still big sellers, but the increased attention on “going green” these days provides sellers with a wealth of new opportunities for making their home even more appealing to the masses. You want your home to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is to tout the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, as well as cost-efficient.

Below are a few key changes you can make if you want to market your house as “green” or simply save yourself some money in the long run:

  • Save water by changing out the old toilets to new, high-efficiency toilets that use less water. If you really want to go the distance, you can change out the faucets and shower heads to high-efficiency models as well.
  • Change out old light bulbs and replace them with new, energy-efficient lights. Additionally, adding dimmer switches will allow people to adjust the fixtures to allow just the right amount of light in, saving money on electricity.
  • Replace any drafty windows with new fixtures. Drafts don’t mean cold is coming in, they mean heat is getting out. The more heat your home loses, the more you’ll have to run your furnace, and the more energy will be wasted.
  • Speaking of the furnace, make sure all of the HVAC components are well-maintained. Additionally, opting for allergen-free filters or whole house air cleaners can provide you with another selling point that’s highly regarded by those who “go green.”
  • Installing solar panels can be a bit costly up-front, but if you plan to keep your home for a while, they more than pay off in savings down the road. Also, the sight of solar panels on a home is often a major perk for the environmentally-conscious home buyer.

These are just a few of the many changes that can be done to make your home more marketable, and therefore more valuable, as well as potentially save you some money in the long run.

Improvements that increase your home value

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 30, 2015

Sometimes, a new home is desired but moving just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you don’t have the money to buy a new house, or perhaps the market isn’t right. In situations like this, homeowners often turn to remodeling; it’s cheaper than moving and can provide that change of scenery that the homeowner desires. In situations like this, it’s important to know which improvements will increase the value of your home, enabling you to recoup some (if not all) of the cost when you decide to sell your home in the future.

The first, and most obvious change would be to repaint or replace the front door. Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value report indicates that 96.6% of the cost of the door will be added to your home’s overall value. Just make sure you get a new door that actually goes with your home. If you don’t, you may end up creating an eye-sore that reduces your home’s value. 

Two of the most common remodels are to redo a home’s kitchen or the bathroom(s). Both are areas of the home where people spend a significant amount of time, and updating them can often pay off in both experience and in increased value to your home. When remodeling these areas, be very, very careful to ensure that the design fits in with the rest of the home. A rustic, “cabin in the woods” style kitchen is great, if you live in a rustic cabin in the woods. Installing a kitchen like this in a modern, suburban home would likely be weird, and turn off any potential homebuyers in the future.

No matter what additions or remodels you choose to make to your home, be aware of the cost of the remodel vs. the cost of the home. Just because you spent $50,000 remodeling your kitchen doesn’t mean it’s going to increase the value of your $150,000 house by that much. When your home doesn’t have the highest market value, making relatively minor cosmetic changes can make more sense financially. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars replacing your entire kitchen with high-end appliances and lavish tiles, try a smaller-scale renovation by replacing or repainting the cupboards and drawers. 

Last but not least, one of the most lucrative improvements you can make to your home is to increase the livable space without adding on extra rooms. Is the attic large enough to be a bedroom? Great! Turn it into one. What about the basement? Most basements are unfinished (they have concrete floors, ceilings with exposed pipes/wires, etc.) and finishing them will greatly increase the square footage of habitable space in the home, which will be reflected in the overall value.

Staging a home on a shoestring budget

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 23, 2015

So, you’re ready to sell your home. You’ve read all the home selling tips you can find, you’ve gotten yourself a rock star real estate agent to help you out, and you’ve got several thousand dollars available to put toward staging your home and potentially netting a quick sale. 

What’s that? 

You don’t have thousands of dollars in liquid assets to spend on staging your home? Well, you’re in luck, because it isn’t necessary.

The first thing you’re going to look at is your home’s curb appeal. A new, professionally landscaped lawn is great, but you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost. Start by mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes and removing any debris from the yard like branches or dead leaves. If you have the space, planting some flowers yourself can greatly increase your home’s curb appeal while not costing you very much at all. Remember to get something colorful but hardy. The plants won’t have to last long, but you don’t want something that requires a ton of extra care, either.

As far as the interior of your home goes, remove the clutter and unnecessary pieces of furniture. Doing this will not only get you a jump on your packing once your home sells, but it will create the perception of a larger space inside the home. People don’t want to buy a home in which they feel cramped, and removing unnecessary bits of furniture like bookshelves, end tables, dressers, etc. will go a long way to making the place seem more spacious.

Finally, clean it, and clean it well. You want to remove every speck of dust and dirt, every fingerprint on the wall, errant hairs and window smudges. An impeccably clean home looks newer and less lived in, even if it’s 50 years old. 

With some hard work and know-how, you can get your home staged for viewings for a few hundred bucks. However, if the home needs some serious work done (such as replacements or repairs), and you’re not qualified to do it yourself, you may need to bite the bullet and shell out the dough for a professional.

Open Houses: Artifact of the past or effective home-selling technique?

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 16, 2015

In the decades before the internet existed, open houses were the go-to strategy for home-sellers looking to show a property to prospective buyers. They figured that the best way to “get them through the door” was to, quite literally, get them through the door and proceed to show off the home’s features and amenities. This day and age, though, the view of many a home-seller is that an open house is a waste of time. While it can attract prospective buyers, it also attracts nosey neighbors, the tire-kicking type, and people with nothing else to do. Many real estate agents of today figure that the best way to market a home is to show off the pictures online and let interested parties make appointments to view the home.

The internet is an incredibly useful tool when looking for a home and most websites can provide you immediately with a wealth of information on it. You can find out the floor plan, square footage, view photographs and get data on the neighborhood’s demographics easily and quickly. What digital data cannot do (yet) is provide you with information on how the home feels. What’s it like to stand inside that kitchen or living room? Does the light shine in throughout the day, or are the windows situated so that after 10:00 a.m., the whole place is left shrouded in shadow? 

Open houses can also be a lot more convenient than “by appointment only” for sellers who are still living in the home. Rather than having to constantly go from “lived in” to “ready for viewing” 5 or 6 times a week, specific dates and times are set for buyers to come in and view the home as the seller wants it to be seen.

Holding an open house is not only beneficial to buyers, but it can provide valuable information to sellers as well. When you hold a well-advertised open house, you can see first-hand by how many people come through the door what the market’s response is to your home. If your open house sees a healthy flow of people throughout the day, you’re likely doing something right in terms of marketing your home. However, if the turnout is decidedly stale, or most of those who show up make a bee-line for the free refreshments, then you may need to take a look at what you’ve done up to this point and how to make your home more marketable. 

No matter what, you must market your home online. But, don’t overlook the option to also hold open houses. They were effective home selling tools in the past, and they can still be today.

Multiple offers: Where are they?

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 09, 2015


When the housing bubble burst back in ’08, selling a house was nigh impossible. Over the next few years, the tepid market and high unemployment made home selling a difficult and arduous process. While the housing market may not be what it once was, things have gotten better, but some folks are still finding that offers aren’t flooding in the way that they’d hoped. Why could this be?


The homes that get the most attention from potential buyers have positive aspects in three main categories: presentation, price and location. 


The term “location, location, location” is widely used in the business world as one of, if not the, most important factors when determining the success of a business, but it also applies to homes. Homes located within good school districts, for example, are going to be in greater demand than those in bad ones. On the other hand, homes on busy streets or near freeway entrances (or exits) typically garner less attention than those on quiet residential roads. Make sure to adjust the price accordingly if your home is in a less than desirable location. Your real estate agent can help you if you’re not sure.


As mentioned above, the pricing of a home should reflect the area that it’s in, but it’s also dictated by a number of other factors. These factors include things like the market value, whether it’s a strong seller’s market or not, the price of the homes around it, and various other criteria. Buyers want value, so be wary of the price of homes around you when pricing your own. If your home is the most expensive in the neighborhood, even by a few thousand dollars, it can quickly shut down a lot of potentially interested buyers. 


When selling a home, don’t think of it as a house; think of it as a product. Making cost-effective upgrades to the interior and exterior of the home will make it more appealing to the masses. Additionally, hiring a professional home photographer can greatly increase the appeal of the home with their artful methods and ability to accentuate the positive in the eyes of the viewer. In an era where the majority of people shopping for a home begin their search online, the photographs are often the first (and if they’re bad, only) experience that prospective buyers will have with your home.

The nitty-gritty on vacation homes

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 02, 2015


Owning a vacation home is the aspiration of countless American homeowners. Doesn’t it sound nice to have your own home-away-from-home, set in a glamorous location that you can escape to whenever your schedule permits? Buying a vacation home can be an amazing experience, provided that you know what you’re getting into before you decide to do it. If you’re thinking about making such a purchase, try taking these into consideration first:

  • Rental income: One way to help offset costs is to purchase a rental home in an area that other vacationers will need lodgings. Local real estate agents and vacation rental companies should be consulted about the possibility of renting out the property while it’s uninhabited. 
  • Be cognizant of the area’s “high” season: Depending on where your vacation home is located, there may be a certain time of the year when a large influx of travelers arrives. For example, most warm, sunny places see a rise in tourism during winter months, when those who dwell in frostier climes seek warmer surroundings. Scheduling your vacations during these “high” periods can significantly impact your rental income. 
  • Maintenance can be problematic: Who is going to maintain your property while you’re away? Just because nobody is residing in the home full-time doesn’t mean that things won’t need to be done. Foliage around the property will need to be maintained, lest you return to an overgrown nightmare, and indoor cleaning and repair will need to be taken into account. Contacting a local property manager and making use of their service will cost more in the short-term, but it will likely be well-worth it.
  • Location, location, location: Last but not least, the location in which you purchase your rental home will have an immense impact on how often you can use it. Purchasing a secluded cabin in the mountains can sound like a dream getaway, but how accessible is the place really? The further you have to travel, the less likely you’ll be to make use of the property as time goes on. Often, the most fulfilling and oft-visited vacation homes are those that are purchased just a few hours’ drive from your permanent residence. 

Save money with drought-tolerant landscaping

Bridget Alves - Monday, October 26, 2015

It’s no secret that California’s drought is becoming an increasingly difficult problem. It’s already lead state officials to place strict limits on how much water a household can use without facing the possibility of fines. It’s even gotten so bad, that just last month, LA County officials placed millions of “shade balls” in the Los Angeles reservoir. These 4-inch balls are weighted down with water inside and placed into reservoirs to create permanent shade over the surface of the water. The shade lowers the temperature and greatly reduces the rate of evaporation.

So, what do these “shade balls” have to do with your home? Well, not much, but the idea behind them – that of saving water – can easily translate to the homeowner in the form of drought-tolerant landscaping. It’s estimated that 50% of a household’s water usage ends up going into the landscaping, whether it’s watering the grass or the plants, and drought-tolerant landscaping can reduce the overall water usage by 50-75%. 

Using less water helps conserve what little we have left, but it will also pay dividends as your monthly water bill shrinks considerably. Going drought-tolerant doesn’t mean you have to pull out your plants or pave over your grass, it just means changing the plants you do have to something that requires less water to survive. It can also translate into less maintenance via replacing your grass with gorgeous flagstones or tiles. There won’t be any need for weekly visits from a landscaper (or their weekly charges) when all you need to do is lightly water the plants once or twice a month.

Not only will drought-tolerant landscaping help save you money, it can make your home even more desirable when you’re trying to sell it. Who, apart from lawn enthusiasts, wouldn’t be interested in a home that not only costs less money to maintain (thanks to needing less water) but takes up less time for the minor maintenance it does require? There are also a wide variety of tax benefits that drought-tolerant lawn owners are qualified to receive. 

Pests: A new homeowner’s unwelcome guests

Bridget Alves - Monday, October 19, 2015


According to pest experts, moving into a new home doesn’t always mean it’s uninhabited. If a home has been vacant for a while, there’s a good chance that insects and/or other pests may have taken up residence themselves. Also, the acts of moving in/out provide ample opportunities for all sorts of critters to find their way in. Think about it: doors are propped open for hours at a time, things are carried in and out, and items are often left outside and untended until they’re moved to their new location. If you’d like to reduce the odds of an insect infestation in your new home (and who wouldn’t?) here are a few simple steps to follow:

  • Be careful where you acquire packing materials
: In an attempt to save money, many movers will look to grocery stores and other major retailers to try and get free boxes. The problem with this is that you don’t know where these boxes came from, or how long they’ve been sitting around. Cockroaches, for example, love to eat the glue used in the construction of cardboard boxes and are highly likely to be found in ones acquired at grocery stores and warehouses.
  • Watch what you eat: Your meals, when moving, will likely consist of fast food and take out. Be very careful not to leave the trash out, as the leftovers from the meal will act as a beacon which lures pests from insects to mice. When possible, try to dispose of your garbage away from your home.
  • Don't store items in packing materials: As mentioned above, pests love packing materials. Anything you plan to store in the home should therefore be kept in plastic bins with tight-fitting lids as opposed to cardboard boxes. Even if you only plan to keep the boxes around for a day or two, it’s often in your best interest to unpack them and be rid of the boxes immediately. You’ll have plenty of time to find a place for things once you’re moved in.


Moving is a lot of work, but doing it smartly can greatly decrease the headache involved and help keep your new home free of any unwanted guests. 

Is earthquake insurance worth it?

Bridget Alves - Monday, October 12, 2015

Last year, South Napa experienced a magnitude 6.0 earthquake that caused about a billion dollars’ worth of damage and destroyed 6 homes. Prior to that, California hadn’t experienced a major earthquake in decades; which is probably why so few homeowners have been purchasing earthquake insurance. About 20-years ago, one-third of California homeowners had earthquake insurance policies. That number has dwindled over time to about 9% today. Part of the reason for the drop is likely the fact that there were so few damaging earthquakes during the period. Another part is probably the cost: earthquake insurance can be expensive, and there’s no real guarantee it will ever come in handy.

What many folks don’t realize until it’s too late is that run-of-the-mill homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover earthquakes. A person must purchase an additional earthquake policy or add one on to their existing homeowner’s police. Depending on the location and size of the home, the average cost of earthquake insurance in California can be anywhere from $800 per year to $5,000 per year – prompting many homeowners to wonder if it’s worth the cost.

Earthquake insurance usually has a high deductible cost associated with it, meaning that the homeowner will have to pay a pretty substantial amount out of their pocket before their insurer will pay out a claim. What many people don’t know, though, is that there are 2 kinds of earthquake insurance: structural insurance and personal property insurance. Structural insurance is the one that will pay out of the home is damaged, and usually includes a high deductible. Personal property insurance, though, often has a very reasonable deductible and is the one that will replace the things you own that were destroyed as a result of the earthquake. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you want to purchase earthquake insurance for your home. It might be wise, at the very least, to check and see what the rate would be for your home and if you can fit it into your budget. According to the experts, California is set to experience a major earthquake in the coming years. But, hey, they’ve been saying that for decades, haven’t they?

A few points on multi-family homes

Bridget Alves - Monday, October 05, 2015


What if there was a way to not only purchase a home to live in, but one that can help make you a bit of money, too? There is, and it’s been a growing trend in real estate the past several years. The way to do it is to buy a multi-family home, such as a duplex, live in one side and rent out the other. On paper, making this sort of purchase can sound like a fantastic idea. Renting out a portion of the home will make the overall mortgage payments lower, thus allowing you to pay off your house faster, or at the very least save some cash while you live there. Then, if you ever decide to move, you can just rent out the portion in which you live and everyone is happy. Right? 


Not always.


Here are a few things to consider before you purchase a multi-family home:

  • Taxes are much more complex for owners of multi-family homes. Because it’s 1-part home, 1-part investment, your taxes are going to be very different than if you purchased a single-family home. Always consult a tax professional before making a purchase like this.
  • Make sure it’s a legitimate multi-family home. Just because a home has an attached apartment or other living space doesn’t make it a multi-family home. A lot of times, a person will build an addition onto their house to produce income. Unfortunately, many of those people will not get the addition permitted, and if you buy that home, you now have an apartment that you cannot rent.
  • Proximity to your renters can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll be right next door, and if your renters are trashing the place, you’ll likely find out quickly. On the other hand, you’ll be right next door, and if your renters are loud or obnoxious, you’re the one who has to deal with it. Additionally, if you have needy neighbors, they can easily find you.


Buying a multi-family home can be an excellent investment vehicle. If this is something you’re looking to do, make sure you do your due diligence beforehand in order to avoid some of the potential pitfalls like those listed above.

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