Fall Weekend Guide to Napa Valley
The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing into beautiful shades of red and orange and wine country is calling. Fall is one of the best seasons to plan a weekend trip to see all that Napa Valley has to offer. This area has hundreds of wineries that attract millions of visitors each year. Still, this region of California has more to offer than wine. There are plenty of outdoor adventures, relaxing spas and shopping areas to make for a busy trip.
Visitors to Napa Valley can leave the car behind and try an alternate way of getting around. The Calistoga Bike Shop offers both rentals and tours of the area. People looking to go on their own adventure can look to the shop for advice on which places to check out. Rentals start at $28, and helmets, locks and rack bags are included. Ride through Sonoma County on horseback for a unique way of experiencing the natural features of the area. Stables pair riders with gentle horses for trips all year long. One option is riding through wine grapes, apple trees and towering oak groves at Rollin F Ranch. Or people can take the seaside route, riding past the sand dunes along the Sonoma coastline.
People can get a taste of history while traveling through the region on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The rail cars on the train have been restored to their original glory dating back to the early 1900s. Couples can plan trips with an intimate dinner as the stars shine overhead. Or people can put their sleuth caps on and solve the murder mystery dinner. The Santa Train is also a family favorite. Leave the ground behind altogether and tour Napa Valley through a hot air balloon ride. Imagine rising up above the vineyards as the fog clears and the sun rises just over the hills. If this sounds like a perfect start to the day, then make a reservation for this unique tour. Many companies offer champagne mimosas and breakfast after the trip as well.
Take a night and enjoy live music or a film on the big screen. Silos Jazz Club is an intimate space where visitors can listen to rock and blues while sipping local wines. This venue has performances nearly every night. Upcoming acts include the Second Street Band, jazz pianist Mike Greensill and surf rocker John Wheeler. The Cameo Cinema is an elegant theatre that shows both independent and studio-released films. This theatre dates back to 1913, and it has since seen serious upgrades both in 1996 and in 2009. Visitors rave about the theatre’s sound system and seriously cheap popcorn.
Those looking for heart-pumping action should head to the Sonoma Raceway for NASCAR. This track hosts one of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, which takes place on a road course. Other events at the raceway include the Verizon IndyCar series, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series and motorcycle races by the American Federation of Motorcyclists. Video game enthusiasts might recognize the track. The track first appeared in “NASCAR Racing” in 1994 and has since shown up in several other racing games.
At least a half-day of the weekend trip in Napa Valley should be dedicated to a quick Sacramento trip. Just an hour’s drive away, the city dates back to the rough and tumble Gold Rush era. Visit Old Sacramento for a taste of history from the Wild West. Sacramento is the capital of California, and people can explore the origins of the state at the stunning State Capitol Museum. The city is hugged by two rivers, the Sacramento and American River. Visitors can rent a kayak or grab a fishing pole and enjoy a nice day on the water. Great weather makes going to the Drive-In theatre a great activity all year long. Catching a movie there won’t break the bank either, tickets are priced at $7.95 for adults and $1.25 for kids ages 5-11.
Relax after a long day at one of the various spas in Napa Valley. Dr. Wilkinson’s is a hot springs resort that has helped Californians unwind since 1952. Their signature service is the mud bath. The mud is mixed with volcanic ash and lavender, and it cleanses the skin while visitors sit back with cucumbers to cool the eyes. Mud baths end with a 30 to 60 minute massage by their expert staff.
Try some of California’s freshest produce at Oxbow Public Market. This 40,000 square foot area has a mix of food vendors and cafes along with an outdoor deck that provides views of the nearby Napa River. Indulge the sweet tooth at Anette’s Chocolates. Enjoy a freshly baked loaf of bread from The Model Bakery. Or sort through the hundreds of spices at Whole Spice to find the perfect accent to a meal.
Come for the wine and stay for the adventure for a memorable weekend in Napa Valley.
Source: Jeremy Alderman
25 Smart Home Technologies that Matter Most to Home Buyers
Nearly 60 percent of the real estate agents polled said they are seeing more smart home features in listing descriptions than they did two to five years ago.
Everyone is talking about the connected home. Smart home technology is becoming the new norm and now according to a survey of more than 500 Coldwell Banker sale associates it’s taking off in real estate as well. Nearly 60 percent of sales associates surveyed said they are seeing more smart home features in listing descriptions than they did two to five years ago, and one in three sales associates noted that properties with smart home features and technologies sell faster than homes without them.
The relevance of the smart home was also apparent at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas earlier this year. Members of the Coldwell Banker Real Estate marketing team attended CES. The team couldn’t walk more than a few feet without encountering a new piece of smart home technology. From security systems with advanced motion sensors to innovative systems that allow for lighting control from mobile devices, the connected home was ubiquitous.
Inspired by CES, Coldwell Banker compiled a list of the top 25 smart home products and technologies that matter most to buyers, based on the Coldwell Banker survey and CES favorites. The list is grouped into seven categories: security, temperature, safety, lighting, entertainment, appliances and overall connectivity.
Check them out below, and follow along all week as we continue to highlight smart home technology on the Blue Matter blog and through social media with #smarthomeweek.
1. Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock – With Kevo the smartphone is now the key. Home sellers can allow their realtors, or anyone else such as a neighbor or a housecleaner, to have access to specified doors for a designated time. Eventually when the new buyer moves in all they have to do is download the app and they’re ready to go.
2. iSmartAlarm –Meet one of the DIY smart home security leaders, with no monthly fees and no contracts. This easy-to-install wireless DIY system is great for apartments or small homes. The iSmartAlarm system is almost infinitely expandable via door and window motion sensors, smart switches, and iCamera and iCamera KEEP models with streaming video and video storage. Packages start at $199.
3. Oplink Connected– Oplink Connected is great for a slightly larger home, and provides a premier service for a low monthly fee. The DIY alarm package includes door and window sensors as well as video cameras which are controlled through its mobile app.
4. SAGE Security & Home Automation– Coming soon — SAGE allows for management of the entire connected home through mobile devices and televisions. The television-centric SAGE system enables consumers to check on children in another room via a video feed, see who rang the doorbell or lower the room temperature — all from the comfort of the TV room couch.
5. Nest Learning Thermostat – Tell a buyer that the home has a Nest thermostat and their ears will perk-up. The Nest Learning Thermostat absorbs its owner’s daily routine and adjusts the temperature accordingly. The Nest thermostat can be controlled through a phone, its built-in sensors detect an empty home allowing Nest to set itself to an energy-efficient temperature. Oh, and it also saves customers about 10 – 12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills per year — a huge win.
6. Honeywell Lyric Thermostat – Honeywell is known for temperature control and their new smart thermostat, the Lyric, is a solid entry into the smart home market. The most talked about advantages of Lyric are its geofencing feature and humidity sensor for more accurate comfort, control and savings. All of these qualities are definitely pluses for families.
7. Canary – This sleek-looking product is mostly about security, but it made this smart temperature list for its ability to monitor air quality, temperature and humidity. It’s cool enough to make an impression with potential buyers, at only $249. The Canary system is available in white, black or silver.
8. Big Ass Fans’ Haiku with SenseME – The world’s most advanced ceiling fan knows exactly when to speed up and when to slow down. Not to mention, it is a gorgeous and luxurious addition to any room. Starting at $1,045 it’s a better fit for luxury homes, but it will certainly set any listing apart.
9. Iris Safe & Secure Kit – With Iris, Lowe’s is making it simple for just about anyone to make their home smarter. Feel more confident that families, homes and pets are safe and secure with the DIY, self-monitored home security system. Receive notifications directly to a smartphone, tablet or computer whenever an alarm event is triggered.
10. First Alert Onelink – This suite of smart home safety products is fresh to the market. Included in this offering (and available for presale on Amazon.com) are a Wi-Fi combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm as well as a watch, both of which send phone notifications if something is amiss. The First Alert Onlink safety products, including the already available Wi-Fi thermostat, will be compatible with Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem.
11. Nest Protect – This smart home device is a smoke and carbon monoxide smart alarm that speaks in a human voice, telling the user if there’s smoke or CO, which room it’s in, and if there is immediate danger. Definitely comforting for families!
12. Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight – This genius little nightlight keeps track of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and home climate. If something’s not right, it sends immediate phone notifications.
13. Sengled Pulse Smart Bulb – This combination light and speaker had everyone buzzing at CES 2015. Simply twist the bulb into an existing light socket, download the app and connect to the Pulse bulbs. The Sengled Pulse Smart Bulb can stream music and control lighting at the same time.
14. Lutron Caséta Wireless – This connected home solution allows for lights, battery-powered shades and temperature to be controlled from a mobile device. An easy DIY solution that’s affordable, these products are less than $150. For example, hit “morning,” lights will turn onto a certain level, shades will rise and room temperature is adjusted to the desired level.
15. Philips Hue – Philips Hue delivers more than 16 million colors and all shades of white light to personalize lighting to suit any occasion, mood or moment. With more than 230 apps, Philips Hue can sync lights to music, or even simulate a sunrise effect. Bulbs and lamps are now all controllable via the Hue app or MyHue portal.
16. Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set – With this simple starter set, turn lights off-and-on from anywhere, create schedules and dim to create the perfect ambiance. The set includes the WeMo link, which allows users to connect up to 50 WeMo Smart bulbs. Can’t get enough of Belkin WeMo products? Get tricked out with complete Belkin home automation.
17.LG Studio Collection – LG Studio, LG’s premium line of kitchen appliances, seamlessly blends best-in-class innovation with an uncompromising approach to design. Its full suite of appliances — including refrigerators, cooktops, ranges, ovens and microwaves — delivers integrated and timeless styling, embodying LG’s finest expression of aesthetics and performance.
18. Whirlpool Smart Duet Washer and Dryer – Whirlpool has made it easy to control every load at anytime from anywhere. The Smart Front Washer and Dryer now work with the Nest Learning Technology, helping to keep clothes fresh if the cycle ends while the user is away.
19. LG Mega-Capacity French-Door Refrigerator – LG’s Mega Capacity Refrigerator boasts incredibly impressive size. As the largest in its class, families have room for even the biggest shopping expeditions with space to spare! It also includes the Slim Spaceplus Ice System and the Smart Cooling Plus System, which help keep food fresher, longer. The LG Mega-Capacity Refrigerator includes a 10-year limited warranty.
20. GE ChillHub This first-of-its-kind smart refrigerator has two USB hubs, WiFi and an open-source IOS-compatible app that integrates with the refrigerator by allowing access to sensor data and control of fridge components. The first ChillHub accessory, Milky Weigh, will even tell you how much milk you have left!
21. N’FINITY PRO HDX Dual Zone Wine Cellars – The N’FINITY PRO is the most advanced wine cellar on the market. Equipped with an energy saving cooling system, telescopic shelving and dual zone cooling, these smart wine cellars will take care of all wine storage needs in the most cost efficient way!
22. Vizio 60″ P-Series Smart TV –This Ultra HD TV is crystal clear and lets users stream popular apps and favorite shows in UHD quality and use UHD playback from next generation cable and satellite receivers, Blu-ray players and more.
23. TCL Roku TV – The TCL Roku TV was released in August 2014 and quickly became a favorite because of its price and comprehensive smart TV features, such as its selection of more than 2,000 streaming channels, easy-to-use interface and simple remote. Recently, Roku announced plans to support 4K UHD streaming in future Roku TV models.
24. DishWorld TV App – The DishWorld app allows viewers to stream live TV on any smart phone, computer or tablet. The app can be used on Roku, Slingbox, Samsung Smart TV, Apple, Windows or Google Play devices.
Connected Home Platform
25. Iris Smart Kit: With so many ways to make a home smart, it can be a lot to digest and manage. Thankfully Lowe’s is making it easy with a single app to manage a Smart Home. Iris offers three starter kits and basic or premium service plans.
Source: Lindsay Listanski/ CB Blue Matter
8 of the Best Places in America to Retire
Finding a place to retire doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many living options for you to look at that offer the things you love.
Finding a place to retire doesn’t have to be stressful. Just think about what you love to do and what kind of adventures you want to partake in. There are countless places that offer the things you love, but for now here are 8 places that you should consider.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is a vibrant and attractive city for retirees. There are many opportunities for an active life in the great outdoors of Colorado. Colorado Springs is nestled at the base of Pikes Peak and is the home of the Garden of the Gods, one of the most breathtaking national wonders in America.
Indianapolis is the biggest city in the Hoosier state. Living in a big city may seem like a questionable financial move, but Indianapolis offers small-city pricing. There are numerous cultural activities that the city offers. Fan of the arts? The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers free general admission on the first Thursday of each month. If you enjoy world renowned art exhibits, beautiful gardens, or summer nights outdoor movie screenings, the IMA is the spot for you.
If you are looking to retire near the beach, Tampa is a great spot for you to check out. While Tampa is located right by the beach, the city still offers many urban attractions, such as malls, sporting events.
Aiken, South Carolina
Located in the center of South Carolina’s “Thoroughbred Country” Aiken is just a small town that is placed right outside of Augusta, Georgia. There are dozens of opportunities of take place in golfing tournaments, as well as to watch steeplechase horse racing. Aiken is also well-known for its parks, historic buildings, wooded areas, and art museums.
Rockport is one of the largest retirement communities in the United States; more than 25% of the popular is older than 65. Not only is it a thriving retirement community, but it also is conveniently placed between two big cities. The ocean is not very far away from Rockport, as well as all the amenities that come with living in or near a big city.
Astoria is a little beach town tucked into the Northwest corner of the beautiful state of Oregon. The mighty Colombia River runs through Astoria on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Lovers of nature need look no further than Astoria to find a peaceful small town with specialty shops and delicious, fresh seafood!
Mendocino is more than just a place—it’s a state of mind. Mendocino boasts gorgeous natural scenery combined with a tight-knit local community. With the perfect mix of social opportunity and natural wonder, Mendocino is a retirement dream.
Thinking about where you want to retire certainly can be stressful, especially if you have no idea where you want to purchase your new home. All eight of the cities that we talked about in this article are great places to retire; they’re all filled with fun adventures that you can partake in. Just think about what you love to do and you will be all set to pick the best location for you to retire in!
Source: CB Blue Matter/Sharon Le
Due to the season change and a bit of a seasonal lull in business, I had the time to sit down and work on my business plan for 2017. It felt great to just get this started- as last year, with a brand new baby, I didn’t have the chance to even bake cookies for Christmas- so I am doing great, right? While my business plan for 2017 isn’t complete yet, starting it has already given me a TON of inspiration for the new year and it has also gotten me started on achieving my goals- because why wait till the calendar says 1/1/17 to get started? If I want it, do it. I’ve kind of always felt this way about resolutions- why wait for the new year? Why not NOW? At any rate, I began to chip away at my goals early, and from time to time I will be blogging about that.
I built my business plan this year using the SWOT analysis- SWOT being “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats” and then used that information to identify setting my goals, making a marketing plan, forming a team (with vendors, etc.,) and Implementation and Follow up. Being relatively new to real estate- sometimes it is not the clearest thing in the world to have clearly set goals, unless you have a stellar mentor, like I did. Luckily, I had a mentor that was not only strong in the business, but she is also old school in that she believes in showing up, hard work and always doing your best for your client. Those were things that spoke to me. Having grown up on a farm, it was work ethic that I related to. Ok, a little too much back story- Sorry, I can occasionally get wordy.
So- when it comes to buying and selling- Why wait? Why wait to speak to a professional? Why wait until the season changes? This winter in Solano County, we are still experiencing some substantial sales- and it is currently a pretty fair market for buyers and sellers out there. If market rates stay in the mid 4’s, we are expecting moderate growth in prices this Spring. Last year, Spring was a bit crazy. There were starter homes getting 30 offers and going for 30k over asking. While I don’t think that it will be quite that crazy, it still has the potential to do so.
I recently ran a poll with other agents and found that in order to completely prepare a home to go on the market (repairs, paint, deep cleaning, yard work, cleaning gutters, conducting pest inspection, staging, and adding smart technology) usually takes a seller a full month. After a home hits the market, the average home currently spends 51 days on the market (according to current MLS statistics) before selling. So, based on that timeframe, we are already looking at closing mid-March if we were to get started now.
So, why speak to an agent sooner rather than later? Don’t agents want to hear from you when you are ready to list your home? Of course we want to hear from you when you want to list! But, we know how to sell homes and what projects are most important in order to sell a home… Save yourself some money, and let us help you determine what is important in order to get the most equity out of your home. Remember, we see homes and work with buyers daily- we know what they are looking for. We want to be involved in the conversation – whether it be a week, a month or a year before you are ready, we want to help you spend less money and make more money when you sell. It is our job to help you through the process- not just a transaction.