Simple Tips for Earthquake Preparidness

This is a good time to remind you about earthquake safety.  By taking simple precautions you can rock and roll through the next one and come out without any cuts.  Expect a lot of broken glass both inside and outside of your home. Get an extra pair of flip-flops and keep them beside every bed in your home. If a quake happens during the night, like the Napa quake did, you can have your feet covered and protected from walking through glass. These were the most injuries the medical personnel treated yesterday and it’s so simple to prevent this in your own home.

If you think this earthquake safety isn’t worth your time reading about, let me show you what can happen with a severe quake, the kind they’re anticipating again in the Bay Area, but much bigger than 6.0. Much of this area is subject to liquefaction so pay attention. This kind of damage happens in an instant and we may, once again, be without power for a while so it’s important to have a safety kit handy.

Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

This subject is serious business and one that you should not ignore.  Get some simple supplies in a large container and make sure that container is easy to reach, just in case your home collapses during the quake.  Inside that box should be the following:

  1. Fresh water (enough for 3 days)
  2. Food that doesn’t require refrigeration or heat
  3. Canned juices
  4. Dried foods and milk if you have children
  5. Food bars – protein bars are the best
  6. Toilet paper
  7. Paper Towels
  8. Tissues
  9. A First Aide Kit
  10. Blankets or sleeping bags
  11. Pet food if you have pets
  12. Emergency blankets
  13. Can opener (manual)
  14. Emergency radio – either wind up or one that requires batteries and if you use batteries make sure they’re fresh
  15. Flash lights
  16. Matches
  17. Rubber gloves
  18. Sanitizing wipes
  19. Dust masks
  20. A roll of Plastic sheeting or a small tent
  21. Duct tape
  22. Electrical tape
  23. Pet containers nearby for your pet’s safety
  24. Gas wrench for turning off your gas line should you smell gas. DO NOT do this unless you smell gas because it will take PG&E a while to turn it back on if you didn’t need to do this.

You can make this kit or buy it.  eHow has instructions here.  There are many companies who sell them at fairly reasonable price.  Google earthquake safety kits and you’ll see many options.  What ever you do, rotate your supplies frequently.  Rotate the food and water and batteries every few months.  Have cash handy since ATM’s will likely not be working and cash will be king during an emergency.  If you can afford it, stow $100 somewhere that you can reach easily.

It’s also a good idea to stow an extra pair of shoes and warm jackets in the truck of your car along with a smaller version of the kit.  We never know what time of day, or night, a quake can strike and it’s important to be able to survive.  Keep a blanket in your car, too.

Have a safety plan in place for your family if you are not together when it happens.  Who will be the telephone point person that everyone can check in with?  Make that person someone who doesn’t live locally.  Be sure to have some kind of charger for your cell phones, too. Phones may be down and if you only use a cell phone text people your whereabouts. Check what your school safety plan is now that the kids are back in school.

We don’t know if the South Napa quake is a precursor to our Big One. We know our area will be hit with another big quake, around 6.9 or more, which is how big the Loma Prieta quake was. This USGA map shows a comparison between the Napa quake and Loma Prieta and the areas the quake was felt. A 6.9 quake is 20 times greater than the one most of us felt yesterday.  You can protect yourself and your family with simple items available at Home Depot. The biggest item and most important to install, is straps for bookcases and high cabinets than can tip over onto you or your floor. Get them and install them. Another simple one is call Earthquake Putty. A little ball of this putty under fragile items keeps them in place on the shelf (that you just secured to your wall). Museums use this all over California.  It’s a fix under $5 and a package goes a long way. Use it. Finally the other inexpensive fix is those child safety hooks on cabinets. Install them on your kitchen cabinets where dishes, glasses and canned foods are so those cabinet doors won’t open. If they can’t open they can’t spill out the contents on to the floor and make a mess!




How to Do You Want Hold Title? A Simple Question with Consequences

Are you are buying a new home in the San Mateo County?   How  you will be determining title of your property is a major decision for you when it comes time to sign your loan documents at an Escrow company. ˜How do you want to hold title?” is the question you will be asked and the person asking it, the Escrow Officer, can not help you with the answer.  It’s a simple question with multiple answers and most people don’t know what to say, or what each means.  If you pick wrong it could have terrible consequences should something happen to you oar your spouse.  Luckily, what you pick can be changed, and pretty easily.  Wouldn’t it be better to go the the Title company with an idea of what you want to do in advance?  Yes, it sure it would.

There are six ways one can have an ownership stake for property.  California is a community property state, where a married couple owns everything  equally unless it is something brought into the marriage as separate property such as an inheritance, or if  there was a pre-neptual agreement stipulating other arrangements drawn up prior to marriage.

Understanding how to hold title for your real estate is very important.  Take a few minutes to read throught this chart now and you will be prepared when you sign all of your documents at the closing of your new home.  If you are confused about what is best for you, talk to your lawyer or accountant before you go to sign. Not only can’t your Escrow Officer suggest anything, your Realtor really isn’t supposed to do it either as this is a legal decision you must make on your own.

The three most common choices for holding title for individuals or couples are Community Property,  Joint Tenancy, and Community Property Right of Survivorship. Tenancy in Common is used most with TICs. Title Hold Trust is used when you have a trust written for you.  Tenancy in Partnership is generally used in business situation only.

Community Property Joint Tenancy Tenancy in Common Tenancy in Partnership Title Holding Trust Community Property Right of Survivorship
Parties Only husband   & wife
Any number of persons-can be husband & wife Two or more persons or entities Only partners (any number) Individuals or groups-partnerships or corporations Only husband & wife
Division Ownership & managerial interests are equal Joint tenants have one of the same interest Ownership can be divided into equal or unequal interests Ownership interest is in relation to the partnership Ownership is personal property interest-can be divided into # of interests Ownership and managerial interests are equal
Title Title is in the community-each interest is equal Only one title to the entire property Each co-owner has a separate legal title to his or her undivided interest Title is in the partnership Legal and equitable title is held by the trustee Title is in the community Each interest is separate
Possession Both co-owners have equal possession Equal right of possession Each co-owner has a separate legal title to his or her undivided interest Equal right of possession but only for partnership property Right of possession as specified in the trust provision Both co-owners have equal possession
Conveyance Real property requires written consent of the other spouse & with separate interest cannot be conveyed except upon death Conveyance by one co-owner without the other breaks his or her joint tenancy Each co-owners interest may be conveyed separately by its owner Any authorized partner may convey whole partnership property fro partnership purposes Designated
parties within the trust agreement authorize the trustee to convey
property. A beneficiarys interest in the trust may be transferred.
Real property requires written consent of other spouse, an with separate interest cannot be conveyed except upon death
Purchasers Status Purchaser can only acquire title of community; cannot acquire a part of it Purchaser will become a tenant in common with other co-owners in the property Purchaser will become a tenant in common with the other co-owners in the property Purchaser can only acquire the whole title Purchaser may obtain a beneficial interest by assignment or may obtain legal and equitable title from the trust Purchaser can only acquire whole title of community; cannot acquire a part of it
Death On co-owners death, 1/2 belongs to survivor in severalty. 1/2 goes by will to descendants devisee or by succession to survivor On
co-owners death the entire tenancy remains to the survivor. This right
of survivorship is the primary incident of joint tenancy
On co-owners death his or her interest passes by will to devisee or heirs. No survivorship right On
partners death his or her partnership interest passes to the surviving
partner(s) pending liquidation of the partnership. Share of deceased
partner then goes to his or her estate
Successor beneficiaries may be named in the trust agreement, eliminating the need for probate On co-owners death the entire tenancy remains to the survivor. Subject to the same procedures as property held in joint tenancy
Successors Status Devisees or heirs become tenants in common Last survivor owns property in severalty Devisee or heirs become tenants in common Heirs or divsees have rights in partnership interest but not in specific property Defined by trust agreement, generally the successor becomes the beneficiary and trust continues Surviving spouse owns property
Creditors Rights Co-owners interest may be sold on execution sale to his or her creditor. Creditor becomes tenant in common Co-owners
interest may be sold on execution sale to satisfy creditor. Joint
tenancy is broken and creditor becomes tenant in common
Co-owners interest may be sold on execution sale tohis or her creditor. Creditor becomes a tenant in common Partners
interest may not be seized or sold separately by his or her personal
creditor but his or her share of profits may be obtained by a personal
creditor. Whole property may be sold on execution sale to satisfy
partnership creditor
may seek an order for execution sale of the beneficial interest or may
seek an order that the trust estate be liquidated and the proceeds
of community is liable for debts of either which are made before or
after marriage; whole property may be sold on execution sale to satisfy
Presumption Strong presumption that property acquired by husband and wife is community Must be expressly stated Favored in doubtful cases except husband and wife cased interest Arise only by virtue of partnership status in property placed in partnership A trust is expressly created by an executed trust agreement Must be expressly stated

Here’s what’s for sale in San Mateo CA today.[idx-listings city="San Mateo" propertytypes="275" orderby="DateAdded" orderdir="DESC" count="30"]

Should I Stay in My Current Home or Move Up?

half an eyeIf you’ve been keeping half an eye on the real estate market around here lately, you’ve probably read, heard, or seen houses fly off the radar faster than a flying bullet. The market is hot and the number of listings in San Mateo County is small, making it a Seller’s Market.  The last time we saw a Seller’s Market was in 2006 before the wind sucked out the momentum of the market and the “crash” took place. The market is lightening hot.

Should I stay in my current home or move up is a reasonable question for you to ask if you bought an entry level home back then and your space is limited. Should I stay in my current home or move at all is also the question. Do you like where you are? Have you outgrown your home? Is your current commute killing you? Are the schools less than you hoped for?  All of these are questions you need to answer and be able to say yes to before you consider that move. Can I sell my current home and find a new one?  Ah Ha!  That’s the Sixty Four Thousand Dollar question. What do I do if I sell and have no where to go?  Even a bigger question.

Obviously only you can answer the questions about your needs and wants. If you have a good equity in your home, you might want to sell and invest in a new home. If you have a good Realtor, they can help you to figure out what is best. We have told clients not to move because it wasn’t in their best interest at the time.

Start a search for your dream home right here and let us help you figure out whether this is the right time to move. We know San Mateo County and can help you.



How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New Home (Part 3)

How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New Home (Part 3)The last in our series, preparing for emergencies in your new home means taking extra measure to protect your investment. Surviving a disaster is just the first part. Recovering takes longer and requires more advance planning. Start by designing your home to help you survive. Here are suggestions to get you on your way.

Prepare for Damage:

1. Reinforce your home:

  • Flood — Floods can accompany a large storm
    • Roof: Learn the impact resistance of your roofing type and investigate the possibility of making improvements. If upgrades are not an option, simply knowing what damage you might incur will help you prepare financially for any possibilities.
    • Purchased Homes: If you moved into a home in a flood prone area, improve your security by using waterproofing compounds to seal the walls in your basement.
    • Plumbing and Drainage: You may want to install “check-valves” for sewage traps to avoid back up into your drains. Consult with your local plumber to learn about the options for your home.
  • Earthquake
    • Verify Stability: Check your home’s roof, walls, foundations, chimney, brickwork and other areas requiring fortification. Owners living in older, pre-1935 homes should verify that their house is bolted to the foundation.
    • Furniture and Appliances: Fasten heavy furniture to the floor or wall if possible, and secure appliances that may damage utility lines if they move around. Use patchable cabinetry and get in the habit of placing heavy objects on lower shelves throughout your home.
    • Know Where to Go: Make sure you follow the Drop, Cover, and Hold On! instructions and teach your family members what to do. Identify the most secure furniture and teach children to crawl under it. If no sturdy furniture is available, crouch down near a solid interior wall.
  • Fire

    • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Ideal placement is in or outside all sleeping areas. Habituate monthly battery tests for your alarms and change batteries twice yearly at the time change.
    • Create a map or floor plan of your home with windows and doors in each room clearly identified. Designate two escape routes from each room each room. Practice exiting through both doors and windows.
    • Install an escape ladder in upper-story bedrooms and teach family members how to use it.
    • Choose a family meeting place outside where everyone can meet.

2. Get Insurance:

Typically, standard homeowners’ insurance does not cover damage caused by all natural disasters. Tornadoes tend to be covered, but flooding, hailstorms, and earthquakes may not be on the list. Check your homeowners’ insurance policy and speak with your insurance carrier about increasing your protection.

3. Start a Rainy Day Fund for Your Home:

It is never too early to start an emergency fund for your home. Many think it will not happen to them, but a lack of funds for home repairs can easily strip your family of financial security in the moment and for years to come. After putting your heart and soul into your home, you do not want to lose it all. Research the damage most likely to occur to your home given your location, possible risks, and home structure. With that information, you can begin estimating possible costs of damage and start building your fund.

4. Participate in Community Preparedness:

Get Involved In your community’s safety. Visit your local American Red Cross or community center and learn about taking classes to prepare you to help yourself and your neighbors in an emergency. The American Red Cross advises certifying yourself in CPR and First Aid so you can confidently assist those in need. Often, local community centers provide training and host drills to help you navigate the city in the event of an evacuation or need for shelter outside your home.



How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New Home (Part 2)

How to Prepare for Emergencies in Your New HomeIn a new home or neighborhood, preparing for emergencies in advance might just save you or your family member’s life. In Part 2, we cover the basics for inside your house.

Know your home:

Learn how to turn off gas, electrical and water lines in the event a disaster damages power lines near your home. Memorize the easiest exits from all rooms in your home. Keep hallways and doorways clear of clutter on a regular basis to avoid family members being trapped, confused, or injured if the power goes out or during an emergency evacuation.

Build A Kit

Create and maintain an emergency kit and keep your kit in an accessible place.

  • Water: Keep at least a 3-day supply of water for everyone in your family. This means 1 gallon of water, per person, each day. advises adding a small amount of household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper to your kit. “When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners.”
  • Medicine: Keep a 7+ day supply of any medicine your family needs.
  • Food: Keep a supply of non-perishable food that you can make easily.
  • Tools: Buy an extra tool set. Add any additional gear you may need specific to your emergency zone. Keep several flashlights, matches, a camera, whistle, dust masks, can opener and a map of the local area. Add to your set plenty of batteries (any type you need for a radio, hearing aids, cordless power supply, flashlights, etc.).
  • Clothing and Comfort: Prepare a 3+ day supply of varying types of clothing for each person in your family. Keep and emergency blanket and personal sanitation wipes and towels in the kit.
  • Radio: invest in a battery operated or hand-crank radio so you can stay informed.
  • Contacts: Buy an emergency cell phone (a pre-paid one works fine), keep it charged, and with your kit—keep a charger in the kit that you do not remove. Put all your emergency contacts in the phone AND in a notebook in the kit.
  • Paperwork: If possible, prepare copies of all important documents for you and your family.
  • Situation Specific: Remember to adjust the content of this kit for your situation and your family. If you have babies, elderly family members, or pets, if you live in the city or the country, in a single-family home or a multi-unit building the items you need for your kit will vary. Make sure you know what you need.
  • Pets: Many shelters cannot accommodate pets. Find pet-friendly shelters in advance and assemble a pet-specific kit to keep your “best friend” safe.

Involve Your Family

Do not wait until emergency strikes to make sure your family knows what to do. You might be prepared, but if the whole family is not on board it can be a struggle to keep everyone safe. Walk your children through the emergency process you design and make sure they have an understandable instruction manual to reference (we suggest images like on airplanes) if you are not home and they need to act. Post the instructions on the fridge, in the bathroom and on the interior of their bedroom door. Make sure they know exactly how to reach you and emergency services.

Prepare well in advance for important documents or treasured photos. An option is to store images of them on a cloud server accessible from any computer. That way, you are not tempted to waste time searching for them when you need to leave your home.