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Many local residents are letting their lawns go brown to save on water during the drought. There are even penalties now for wasting water, so you don’t want to get caught with water running down the street from your lawn sprinklers! But some homeowners are getting nasty notices from their local homeowner’s association for not keeping their lawns green, so it’s created quite a catch-22!
However, there is a new law on the books that provides relief for this situation. On July 22 of this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2100 into law. The prevents homeowner’s associations from fining residents who stop watering their lawns during drought emergencies. Governor Brown had declared a drought emergency back in January of this year.
This new law only applies to homeowner’s associations, so other entities like a city or county could still potentially fine someone for not keeping their lawn green if they have laws like that on their books. However, I’d expect they will be quite lax on enforcing those laws given the severity of this drought.
I did hear a landscape “expert” interviewed the other day on the radio and he swears that most lawns won’t die if you stop watering them for a period of time. He claims it will just go dormant and will bounce back when you start watering it again. I have seen many brown lawns come back when water is turned on again, so he may be right. I’m sure eventually they will die if you leave them dry long enough, so be careful!


I get this question quite often from my seller clients as the closing date approaches. Many people think they should hold off on paying that last payment so they can “save” the money, but that’s not the case. When you make the payment, your payoff figure goes down by about that amount of money, so you are still getting credit for it. If you don’t pay the payment, your payoff will be higher, which means your proceeds will be less, so it’s a wash. However, you certainly don’t want to incur any late charges or hurt your credit.

The answer to the question should you pay that last payment depends on when your payment is due, when it’s considered “late” and when closing is scheduled to occur. For example, if your payment is due on the 1st, “late” on the 15th, and your close of escrow is scheduled for the 17th of that month, you should pay the payment around the 1st, and then let the title company know that you did that. That way they will update your payoff figures again right before the closing date so that you get credit for making that payment. If you don’t make the payment, you will likely get charged a late fee by your lender since they won’t get the payoff until the 17th, or even the next business day.

Now, if you just made your payment on the 1st, so you aren’t due until the 1st of the next month, and your scheduled close of escrow is the 25th of this month, then you can skip making that payment, because your lender will get the full payoff prior to any late charges. If you wind up mailing off (or pay by phone) a payment right near the closing date, be sure to let the title company know so they can again update the payoff figure. But even if they don’t do that, your lender should just send you back a refund for the amount you overpaid.


If you come to my house, the first thing you’ll notice is the noise. Five kids will do that! The second thing is that I am HORRIBLE at hanging things on the wall! I don’t know that any of our pictures are actually level, but it’s not for want of trying. I measure, then I measure again, I make marks on the wall, hold up a level, put the first nail in, then check again with the level before I put the second nail in, etc. but all to no avail. So then I take the picture down and put another nail in slightly higher or lower as needed, but it seems like it’s never quite right, and my walls end up with tons of holes in them.

That’s why I was so excited to see an ad in a recent real estate agent magazine for a device that helps you hang pictures easily and LEVELLY! It’s called “Hang It Perfect” and it runs about $20-30 depending on the size you get.

It has a cross beam, and then two arms that you line up with the hooks on the back of your picture. You line them up, then tighten them, then set it against the wall where you want to hang something. Then you look at the built-in level to make sure it’s lined up correctly and press to make small indentations in the wall where the nails should go. Set the device aside, then pound in a couple of nails and hang your art. Awesome!

You can learn more here: http://hangitperfect.com. I don’t get a dime from this. Just thought it was a cool thing that you’d probably benefit from if you are picture-hanging-challenged like me!


Last week I promised to show you how to estimate what your tax bill would be if you bought a certain home. You can get a copy of the current bill at the following website – https://taxcolp.co.contra-costa.ca.us/taxpaymentrev2/summary/ Once you pull up a property, click on “view bill.” This will take you to a breakdown of all the fees included in the tax bill. On the upper right will be “Assessment Information” which will show what value your property is assessed for.

On the left side will be “Special Taxes & Assessments.” These are flat fees, which means it doesn’t matter what your assessed value is. These can vary wildly from one neighborhood to the next. On the right will be “Ad Valorem Taxes & Assessments” which are a percentage of your assessed value. The first item will be the 1% Countywide Tax. Then below that will be a variety of school, park and misc. items, all at different percentages of your assessed value. At the bottom of that list will be your total of Ad Valorem Taxes as a percentage and a dollar amount.

If you are considering a property to buy, you should NOT just look at the prior owner’s total due and assume you will pay the same since the assessed value could be dramatically different. To estimate your tax bill if you are buying a property as a residence, take your new purchase price, minus $7,000 for the homestead exemption, then multiply it by the total Ad Valorem rate, and then add in the dollar amount of the Special Taxes and Assessments.

NOTE: This is for educational purposes only and should not be relied up for your future tax bill. Please contact the County Assessor & Tax Collector for more accurate numbers.

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