Friday, December 08, 2006

Today's Interest Rates

Have you heard that interest rates on a new home loan are as low as they have been in a long time? Take a look at some typical rates:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Something cool that Xerox is doing

If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!!

This is a great site.

Please send a card. You can even select from several pre-written messages if you don't know what to write.

It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Whether you are for or against t he war, our guys and gals over there need to know we are behind them...

Thanks to Priscilla B. who contributed this article!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Listing, An Affordable Condo!

Spacious 1,578 sqft, 4 Bedrooms, 3 Baths Rancho Bernardo townhome in the award winning Westwood community. Walk to Westwood Club, elementary school, bus stop for middle and high schools, and tons of local shopping. Cul de sac location among many trees and in a very private setting!

Asking price is between $385,000 and 435,876

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

You can also find out more about this home by entering the search code PRU7Q2C7 in any Yahoo! search window.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Listing in Westwood Rancho Bernardo

Comfortable 1,401 sf, 3 bedroom, 2 bath single floor home on a quiet, cul-de-sac in the established neighborhood of Westwood! Open the front door and you'll discover that this home is open and bright with room for your largest furniture! The cozy backyard includes a large fig tree and many flowering plants to the delight of any gardener. Need to play some tennis or relax at the pool after dropping the kids off to school? The Westwood Club is close by and not far is the award winning Westwood Elementary School. Oh, and watch out for the friendly bears in the backyard ;)

Asking price is between $500,000 and $549,876

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

You can also find out more about this home by entering the search code PRU3N9D7 in any Yahoo! search window.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Just Listed in Poway: 4 Bed/2 Bath/1501sf

This single-story model is rarely available and sought after for its great location, roomy kitchen with stainless steel appliances, open floorplan, fireplace, attached 2-car garage, tile roof, ceiling fans, alarm system, and sliding doors to the backyard. The home has recently been remodeled with a new kitchen, all new windows, upgraded bathrooms, carpeting, and modern paint colors. No need to do a thing... just move right in! Enjoy a private BBQ next to the freestanding covered patio or relax on the lush oversized backyard lawn. Tall trees behind the house provides for the perfect level of shade on those sunny San Diego days. The freestanding canopy over the patio stays and is a wonderful place to relax the day away. The property line extends beyond the rear fence and some neighbors have built a deck over the rear slope to further take advantage of the priceless views. Owner states that a wonderful breeze frequently flows up the canyon behind the home to provide natural and refreshing cooling. The sunsets to the West are breathtaking and this home is conveniently located with I-15 and Pomerado Road just minutes away. Avoid the rush hour traffic heading up the 15 and enjoy a central location near major areas of employment. No Homeowner fees and no Mello Roos!!!

Seller entertaining offers between $535,000 and $585,876.

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

You can also find out more about this home by entering the search code PRU8X3H6 in any Yahoo! search window.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rancho Bernardo Rotary Fundraiser

The First Annual R.B. Rotary Foundation Golf Tournament will be held Monday, October 30th on the beautiful Fountains Course at the Welk Resort off HWY 15 north of Escondido. Registration starts at 11:30am, golf at 1:00pm. Golfers of any level are encouraged to attend. The $100 registration fee includes 18 holes of golf, cart, box lunch, dinner, and many golf-related prizes. There will also be $10,000 hole-in-one and $5,000 putting contests. They're also raising funds to sponsor a day of golf at this event for Marines from the San Diego area with a $100 donation per Marine.

For more information contact John O’Neill at 858-487-8800 or register online at

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Local Museum Planned

The Rancho Bernardo Historical Society is planning a new museum building on the grounds of the Bernardo Winery located in Rancho Bernardo. Use of the land was donated by the Winery and a $600,000 capital drive is underway for building construction.

A virtual tour featuring the existing temporary museum and plans for the new building can be seen here.

A Pancake Breakfast fundraiser will be held on Veteran’s Day, November 11th at the Winery from 7am to 11am. There will be food, live entertainment, and prize drawings. $5/person. Contact Susan Floyd at 858-248-2030 or 858-487-4599 for tickets info or visit to learn how you can help!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting Ready For Fall

Temperatures are dipping and nights are growing cooler - the perfect time for a home heating system checkup. Savings, efficiency, comfort and maintenance are all important this season. Without yearly cleaning and inspection, a heating system can wear itself out fast. Here are some maintenance tips to keep your system running at peak efficiency and make the seasonal transition more comfortable and costeffective:

• Have ducts cleaned and sealed by a professional every three to five years.
• Clean or replace furnace filters about every two months.
• Use ceiling fans. They are a useful tool to keep the house warm. Heat rises and the ceiling fans push the heat back down.
• Turn down the thermostat. Homeowners can save 8 percent to 10 percent on their annual heating costs by turning the thermostat from 72 F down to 65 F at night.
• Trim or remove grass, weeds and leaves from around the outdoor heating and cooling unit. When airflow, air return and distribution vents are blocked, it puts a strain on the system and lowers efficiency.
• Use caulking or expanding spray foam to seal spaces around pipes and wires that lead from the attic or crawl space into the home.
• Place weather stripping around door frames and at the top and bottom of window sashes. Insulate attic doors and pull-downs.
• Upgrade older heating systems to optimize energy consumption. A Hybrid Heat system allows homeowners to heat their home by joining a heat pump with a gas furnace. This allows homeowners to choose between gas or electricity for their heating fuel, whichever would be more efficient for local weather and energy cost conditions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

8 Financing Tips

Thinking about getting a home? Think about the mortgage first!

1. Don't Stretch Your Loan Qualification Limits to Buy a Home Beyond Your Budget.
Living poor just to own a bigger or better home, makes for larger mortgage payments and risks difficulties in the future.

2. Get a Written Confirmation of Your Locked-In Interest Rate and Interest Rate Terms.

3. Understand All the Conditions of Your Loan.
You or a professional that you trust should thoroughly scrutinize each document.

4. Understand the Unique Terms of Your Loan.
There are many types of interest-only loans out there. Make sure you understand the details of your particular type of loan.

5. Pick the Right Kind of Loan.
Rates are higher on 30 year loans than on comparable 15 year loans. That's because there is a greater risk that rates will go up the longer the lender commits to a fixed rate.

6. If You are Buying Rather Than Refinancing, Consider Getting a Pre-approved Mortgage or Contingent Loan Approval Letter.
The former is a binding commitment for a loan up to a certain amount. It can strengthen your negotiating position with the seller, but it puts pressure on you to close a deal before the loan commitment expires.

7. Save Everything.
Keep copies of everything you send the lender and everything the lender sends you.

8. Take Advantage of the Deduction.
The mortgage interest deduction is one of the few remaining tax deductible interest payments, and it's also the cheapest form of long term financing.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Home Sellers Providing Incentives

The increasing inventory of available homes for sale has forced many sellers to reduce the asking price of their homes.

An alternative approach to reducing price is to pay down the interest rate a potential buyer would pay. This is called a buydown and it is typically cheaper to do than to reduce the price of the house.

A buydown is a type of financing where the buyer or seller pays extra points to reduce the interest rate on a loan. Buydowns make it easier to qualify for a loan because they lower a loan's interest rate. They can also allow you to buy more house for your money.

Sellers benefit from assisting with a buydown by increaseing the buyers ability to qualify for a loan, therefore, allowing the home to be sold quicker.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Importance of an Appraisal

An appraiser is a professional person who can tell you what your home is worth. The appraiser will come to your house and list the number and size of the rooms and any extras, such as a fireplace, porch, pool, or garage. The appraiser will compare your home and property to other homes that have sold recently with similar features. The appraiser then estimates that your home might sell for approximately the same amount of money as similar homes. This is called an "appraisal." In short, an appraisal is the estimated amount of money your home may sell for.

Home Inspections Are Not Appraisals!

A property appraisal is a document that provides an estimate of a property's market value. Lenders require appraisals on properties prior to loan approval to ensure that the mortgage loan amount is not more than the value of the property. Appraisals are for lenders; home inspections are for buyers.

What's My Property Worth?

It is common to ask the appraiser this question as soon as the appraiser has inspected the property. The truth is at that time the appraiser doesn't yet know. The inspection is the first step of many that the appraiser must complete before a value is determined.

The appraiser measures the house from the outside to determine square footage. The appraiser takes notes concerning the features of your house such as room layout, number of bedrooms, baths, etc. The appraiser also makes a determination of the general condition, appeal and functional layout of your house. All of these items are taken into consideration in the appraisal report.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Inspect Before You Buy

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you will make in your lifetime, so you should be sure that the home you want to buy is in good condition. A home inspection is an evaluation of a home's condition by a trained expert. During a home inspection, a qualified inspector takes an in-depth and impartial look at the property you plan to buy. The inspector will review the readily accessible exposed portions of the structure of the home, including the roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, basement and foundation, as well as the heating/air conditioning systems, interior plumbing, and electrical systems for potential problems. Home inspections are not intended to point out every small problem or any latent defect in a home. Most minor or cosmetic flaws, for example, should be apparent to the buyer without the aid of a professional.

During the Home Inspection

While not necessary, it is recommended that the buyer be present for the inspection. This allows the buyer to observe the inspector, ask questions directly, and obtain a better understanding of the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. The written report may be easier to understand if the buyer was present during the inspection. It is important that safe access and sufficient lighting is provided so that the inspector can inspect the property.

At the conclusion of the home inspection, the buyer should be well informed of the condition of the home. It should be known if there are visible, apparent problems, if repairs need to be made, or whether or not there are any risks of concealed damage, and whether further investigation is recommended and/or required. After the inspection is complete, you will receive a written report of the findings, usually within five to seven days.

Spending Hundreds May Save You Thousands

When you make a written offer on a home, you should insist that the contract state that the offer is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You will have to pay for the inspection yourself, but it could keep you from buying a house that will cost you far more in repairs down the road. If you are satisfied with the results of the inspection, then your offer can proceed.

It should be clearly understood that a home inspection is not to be confused with an appraisal, a building code inspection, a guarantee of any kind, and/or an insurance policy on the condition of the property.

Selecting a Home Inspector

As the homebuyer, it is your responsibility to carefully select a qualified inspector and pay for the inspection. The following sources may help you find a home inspector:

  • State regulatory authorities.
  • Some states require licensing of home inspectors.
  • Professional organizations.
  • Professional organizations may require home inspectors to pass tests and meet minimum qualifications before becoming a member.
  • The Internet or phone book.
  • Search under "Building Inspection Service" or "Home Inspection Service."
  • Your real estate agent.
  • Most real estate professionals have a list of home inspectors they recommend.

Other Inspections and Tests to Consider

It is strongly recommended that potential buyers consider having the following inspections and/or tests performed prior to signing the final purchase agreement:
lead paint, pests, wood destroying insects, and air quality, including radon gas. While some home inspectors are qualified to offer these services, these inspections and tests are not part of the basic home inspection and should be contracted through qualified licensed professionals in those fields.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Should You Have Your Ducts Cleaned?

Most people are now aware that indoor air pollution is an issue of growing concern and increased visibility. Many companies are marketing products and services intended to improve the quality of your indoor air. You have probably seen an advertisement, received a coupon in the mail, or been approached directly by a company offering to clean your air ducts as a means of improving your home's indoor air quality. These services typically but not always range in cost from $450 to $1,000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climatic region, and level of contamination.

Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.

If not properly installed, maintained, and operated, these components may become contaminated with particles of dust, pollen or other debris. If moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased and spores from such growth may be released into the home's living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms in people if they are exposed to them. If you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, it is important to make sure the service provider agrees to clean all components of the system and is qualified to do so. Failure to clean a component of a contaminated system can result in re-contamination of the entire system, thus negating any potential benefits. Methods of duct cleaning vary, although standards have been established by industry associations concerned with air duct cleaning. Typically, a service provider will use specialized tools to dislodge dirt and other debris in ducts, then vacuum them out with a high-powered vacuum cleaner.

When buying a home, make sure you evaluate whether you need to have the ducts cleaned. In reality, most of my buyers don't have it done unless we have a case where the system is old and obviously dirty.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Interest Rates

Here are the latest rates....

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Avoid the Disaster of a Home Water Leak

One of my clients recently went on a business trip for a couple of days. Naturally, he did all the normal things you would do when leaving a home unattended for a period of time. He made sure that all the doors were locked, that the TV, computer, and other electrical items were turned off, and that the mail would be picked up.

He told me that whenever he'd have to leave his home unattended that he would normally turn off the water main. For some reason he did not turn the water main off this time around. Would you?

Several days later he got back home from his trip and saw a puddle of water by the front door. At first he thought the sprinkler system must be leaking but you can imagine the thoughts running through his head as he slowly opened the front door....

As soon as he walked into the house his worst nightmare came to life. His entire lower floor was covered by an inch of standing water. The carpeting, the padding, the baseboards, the wallboards, the kitchen cabinets, his furniture, and anything else he happened to have on the floor all ruined to the tune of some $30,000 in damages. Apparently, a water pipe came loose at the joint and flooded his house for days while he was away.

Was there something he could have done to prevent this from happening? Yes, and there are things you can do too.

You shouldn't have to turn off your water main everytime you leave your home unattended. Opening and closing a water main may actually wear it out over time. Yet, its cheaper to replace it than coming home to a flooded home.

One thing you may want to do immediately is to check the water pressure coming into your home. So many times I'll encounter a home with very high water pressure. High water pressure could stress the water pipes throughout your home and cause them to burst over time. Your appliances like the dishwasher, clothes washer, water heater, and water softener are all affected by this and any one of them could cause trouble. High water pressure can be caused by a bad water regulator-- that funny cone shaped device next to your main water shutoff. You can easily check the water pressure with an inexpensive pressure meter that you can buy at any hardware store. Normally the water pressure should not exceed 80psi but check with your local codes. If you discover that the water pressure is off, you may be able to adjust the water regulator--- it has a small pressure adjustment screw or knob. But many times it turns out that the regulator needs to be replaced. That will cost you about 30 bucks for parts and maybe another $100 dollars for labor.

For the ultimate peace of mind, you may want to do what I did in my own home. I installed an automatic water shutoff system. Whenever water is detected on the floor throughout my home, a radio signal is sent to a receiver in my garage. The receiver will shut off the main water supply as soon as trouble is detected. The way this works is very simple. A sensor and transmitter is placed in strategic locations throughout the home. Places like the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, and anywhere really. The sensor constantly scans for water. So if the sink overflows and water reaches the sensor, a wireless signal is sent to the receiver. The receiver tells an electric valve to shut off the main water to the house. The system is easily reset for example when you accidently spill a bucket of water on the bathroom floor. But it works 7/24 and I don't have to worry about coming home to a flood.

Various manufacturers make these water sensor systems and some only sound an alarm when water is detected but don't turn the water main off. You can search the internet for the various manufacturers of water and flood sensors. If you're curious about what I have, its called the WaterCop. It cost me under $700 bucks complete and I was able to install the whole thing myself. You'll have to cut into the water main so if you don't know how to solder copper pipe you'll need to hire a plumber for that part of the installation. The individual water sensors located throughout the home are very easy to install.

Bursting water pipes and the resulting water damage doesn't happen very often. When it does, it can be very very expensive. If thats not the worst of it, your insurance company will probably raise your insurance rates and red flag the property. If you intend to sell the home, you'll have to disclose the flood and any resulting mold damage. This may cause potential buyers to avoid your home altogether.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Today's Interest Rates

Coming down ever so slightly!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Opt Out of Unsolicited Financial Offers

Have you recently applied for a loan? Have you noticed a big increase of unsolicited sales calls from other lenders soon after applying for your loan? It wouldn't make sense that your lender would take your loan application and immediately sell your contact information to a competing lender--- and indeed thats not happening here.

The culprits are the three big credit reporting agencies. They are actually taking your lender's FICO score inquiry and turning it into a sales lead. Amazingly, they sell your personal financial information to financial institutions who wind up contacting you. All this happens when your local mortgage company/lender checks your credit to provide you a rate quote.

How do you protect yourself? You can tell the credit reporting agencies that you want to opt-out and not have your name sold. Learn more by going to the website

Monday, September 18, 2006

Know Your Credit Scores!

Do you know your credit scores? Most people don't realize how important credit scores have become in today's homebuying process. Your credit scores literally control how much home you can afford if you need any type of financing to make the purchase. If you take two identical people with identical jobs and incomes who both buy the very same homes on the same street for the same price, but one person has a credit score of 720 while the other has a credit score of 620, guess what happens to the payments... they would be very different. The person with the higher credit score would likely have a smaller mortgage payment than the person with the lower credit score. In fact, the payment could be hundreds of dollars less!

In general people would bad credit scores end up paying a lot more for their loans including the interest charges and closing costs. This means they get a lot less house for their money and in many cases they may not even qualify to buy a home.

How does one get a credit score and keep it high? There are companies out there that look at your payment records on credit cards, car loans, and home loans among other things. You may have heard of companies such as Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. These are the big three but there are others. The point is, your past credit history is open for these companies to see. They'll use various techniques to come up with a number known as a credit score. Sometimes you may hear it referred to as a FICO score. FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Company who developed the most popular statistical method for coming up with a credit score.

In any case, The first thing you should do is find out what your credit score is. Go on the web and search for companies that give you access to your own credit scores. Companies such as and are only two of the many that are out there. They usually charge a small fee but its worth it.

To keep your credit score high, you must always pay your credit cards and loans on time. A good lender can help you figure out ways to help you increase your credit score. As a realtor, I've had my homebuyer clients do specific things over the course of a few months to see their credit scores rise by the time they had a new house all picked out. For example, if you have credit cards that are maxed out, this will cause your credit score to fall. Either pay it down or transfer part of the balance to another underutilized credit card so that they both are below 50% of being maxed out. So lets say you got one credit card with a $5000 limit and you're at a $4000 balance. You also have another credit card with a $6000 limit but it has nothing charged to it. If you transfer half of the $4000 on your first credit card to your unused credit card, you'll end up have $2000 across 2 credit cards. Since they are now both below 50% of being maxed out to their limits, you should see an improvement in your credit scores. The 50% rule is not etched in stone, but its a good percentage to strive for since we've seen it have a big affect in the FICO scores.

There are many other fairly simple things you can do. My advice is to do whatever you can to pump up your score as it has a direct affect on your loan costs. If you can get your score into the 700's say at least 720, then congratulations! You'll have an easy time getting a great loan with the best interest rate.

Friday, September 15, 2006

2 Bedroom Detached for $450,000 in Rancho Bernardo!

Imagine coming home to an affordable 2 bedroom home in the prestigious Rancho Bernardo community of Bernardo Heights! This lovely home is situated on a gentle slope with no homes directly in front or rear. This single-story model is rarely available and sought after for its soaring vaulted ceilings, roomy eat-in kitchen, open floorplan, fireplace, attached 2-car garage, tile roof, and double sliding doors to the backyard. Enjoy a private BBQ on the covered wood deck or relax on the lush lawn. Or, escape to the Bernardo Heights Recreation and Community Center with swimming pools, tennis courts, exercise and meeting rooms. Not far is the acclaimed Poway Unified School District schools including Rancho Bernardo High School and Bernardo Heights Middle School. Located near a hi-tech area with major local companies such as Sony, HP, Northrup Grumman, Unisys, BAE, plus major shopping! Asking price is $450,000. To hear more information, call my 24 HR recorded info line at 1-800-530-1481 extension 9764. I'm the listing agent for this home, so don't hesitate to call, 858-213-6058, or e-mail me directly to go see it!.

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

You can also find out more about this home by entering the search code PRU5N5W6 in any Yahoo! search window.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS)

Do you want to know who are the 10 most wanted criminals in San Diego County? How about whether an offender is living in the neighborhood? Perhaps you are interested in San Diego County's crime statistics?

With ARJIS, you can get answers to many of your criminal justice related questions!

The Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS) is a complex criminal justice enterprise network utilized by 50 local, state and federal agencies in the San Diego region.

Click here to see it for yourself!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The $427 million i15 "middle segment" expansion project is well underway and targeted for completion in late 2008. Find out more by clicking on the map below:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mortgage Banker vs. Mortgage Broker

During the course of buying a home, I'm frequently asked by home buyers about lenders. One question that comes up is the difference between a mortgage banker and broker:

A Mortgage Banker:
Is a direct lender that originates and funds its own loans which are then sold on the secondary market. The advantages are:
1) Greater control over the loan process
2) Increased flexibility
3) Quicker response times
4) Faster and more efficient closings

A Mortgage Banker:
Represents many lenders and acts as an intermediary between the borrower and lender. The advantages are:
1) Access to a wider variety of loan programs
2) Increased loan options
3) Greater qualifying ability
4) Ability to taylor a loan to meet your needs

Friday, September 01, 2006

DO NOT CALL Registration

Five days from today, all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale calls. YOU CAN ALSO BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS.... To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone:


It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years. If you would rather register online, go to the website:

I registered some of my phone numbers using their toll-free number and the rest using the website. Both work fine and I recommend using the toll-free number since the process is faster.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More Energy Saving Tips: Lighting

Use fluorescent bulbs!

Best bang for the buck: change out the garage, attic, storage, and closet light bulbs first. Believe it or not, they use the most energy! Why? Because they are typically large wattages, and easily to forget to turn off-so they burn through a lot of electricity when this happens.

Next, the living areas in this order: bathroom, kitchen , living/dining/family rooms. Bedrooms last. This is the typical ranking of usage in a typical household.

Turn your computer off! Modern computers are designed to be turned off/on thousands of times-this includes hard drives. If you want faster booting, then use 'hibernation'; offers similar power savings as OFF, with a shorter boot time. Anything you have been told about 'hard drive wearing out' due to off/on cycles is rubbish.

TV sets: If you are gone for more than a day or so, turn it OFF, and unplug it. Most modern sets will remember all the settings, and will still consume small amounts of power when OFF. Pulling the plug shuts it completely off. Same thing for receivers, recorders, cell phone charges, VCRs, etc.

Spas: If you are willing to spend a few bucks, get a gas heater for the spa. You wonÂ’t have to run it very often, and it will heat up 10+ degrees in less than 15 minutes. The electric heaters require a long time to heat, so they are on frequently. In the long run, you'll save money. Pool heaters are nearly always gas-you couldn't heat it fast enough with electric to overcome the heat loss!

All of the above items can be surveyed, and recommended by the SDG&E Energy teams. For more info:


You will also find many free programs that can do some/all of the above work and NO cost if you qualify. At the very least, they will survey your home, and make recommendations specific to your situation. It takes about 1 hour, and is FREE.

Thanks to Scott B. for this article!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gas Prices Going in the Right Direction!

Since last Tuesday, gas prices have dropped about 8 cents. And, it seems that the best prices can be found towards the end of the week as they continue to drop.

Visit UCAN's website for an up-to-date listing of local gas prices.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Heating and Cooling Savings Tips

Here are more energy saving tips. This time for heating/cooling systems...

1) Use whole house fans, which pull cool night air into house through open windows. This save a lot on your AC bill. Attic vent fans, and cooling of the attic is essentially a waste of time. The attic does have to be properly vented with soffit, gable and/or ridge vents, but these are all passive i.e. no cost to run. Adding a fan to 'cool' the attic will not generate any savings--- PG&E has proven this. The only way this can work is by directly insulating the roof, which requires special, expensive insulation-not the pink fiberglass. Payback on this would be decade or more, if any.

2) Attic insulation: R30 or better! This translates to >12 inches of pink fiberglass or blown in.

3) HVAC plumbing/ductwork: Duct tape-that grey, fabric, sticky stuff is worthless, and is no longer code. What to use: Aluminum tape-it is like thick aluminum foil, with seriously sticky glue on back. If your house is > 7-10 years, then you could remove ALL the duct tape, and replace with the aluminum tape. This will stop leaks permanently!

4) HVAC vents into rooms: Use gaskets similar to the electrical outlet ones. And MOST important: Do NOT close any ducts! This significantly compromises the proper flow of heated/cooled air, makes you HVAC less efficient, and will make things worse if you have hot/cold spots or rooms. If you do have a room that is always too hot/cool, then have a HVAC contractor check the valves located in the ductwork. They can make adjustments there, where the system has been designed for adjustment.

5) In summer, close the blinds, especially on the sunward side! In the winter, open the blinds, especially on the sunward side! Radiant heating and cooling through windows can account for >10% or your costs! Those with double pane, reflectively coated windows will have a far lesser effect from this, but every little bit helps.

6) Water heater blankets: most model less than 5 years old don't need them; in fact, using one may void the warranty! Check you water heater labels carefully before adding.

7) Insulating hot water pipes: If you can get to those in attics, crawlspaces, and garages, that will help. Please note: on gas heaters, that short section of pipe (usually about 18-24 inches long) next to the vent pipe should NOT be insulated! This is a code violation is some locales, as the insulation required to make any difference will be too close to vent creating a potential fire hazard. In other words, don't bother with this section unless you have an electric water heater. This short section has such a small contribution to heat loss it almost isn’t worth doing unless you can do most of the piping.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stopping Air Leaks to Save Energy

I've been posting several tips on saving energy lately since many of us Southern California residents have seen very high utility bills. The recent hot weather means more A/C use which translates into high bills. One of our readers sent me some additional tips that I'll post over the next several days. (Thanks, SB!).

In order of most to least:

1) Install double pane windows/doors

2) Install new weather-stripping around doors/windows. This includes interior doors to furnaces and A/C units. If you have a furnace/ac in a closet by itself, then the door needs to be weather-stripped. This is because the furnace/ac draws air into it, and it will draw air that has already been heated or cooled, and will send this up the vent and out of the house. This work requires an assessment by an Energy Partner or HVAC contractor to make sure the appliance is operating correctly, and has sufficient combustion air. (Combustion air is drawn via vent(s) from attic, crawlspaces, outdoors).

3) Door jambs! If worn, replace. Especially the sill plate.

4) Look under your sinks! The place where water and drains enter/exit the walls is a significant source of drafts. For small holes, seal with caulking. Larger holes should be properly repaired with wire mesh or plates and caulked.

5) Electrical outlets: switches, outlets, cover plates for lamps and so forth. You can get little gaskets from home supply store that fit under the cover plates for all of these-very inexpensive.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Get $125 off the purchase price of a new High Efficiency washer!

The Residential High-Efficiency Clothes Washer (HEW) Voucher Program provides a point-of-purchase discount of $125 off the cost of a new qualifying HEW. These machines use 60% less water and 55% less energy per load than standard top-loading machines. The Program is sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority, and its participating member agencies. Call the Voucher Processing Center at (800) 986-4538 or visit the Web at for more information.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Replace Not Just The Battery, But The Smoke Detector Itself!

Have you replaced your smoke detector(s) in the last 10 years? A working smoke detector can reduce your risk of dying in a house fire by nearly 50 percent. Most of us know to replace the battery annually. But did you know that, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years? Smoke detectors are very inexpensive and the current building code calls for one in each bedroom.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Interest Rates Overview

Great rates this week!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Finding Out About Schools BEFORE Buying Your Home

If you're shopping for a home and you have or will soon have school-age kids, you should become familiar with the local school districts. You may want to know, for example, how far the school is to your new home, how do the schools score, class sizes, special programs, etc. Keep in mind that district boundaries frequently change and homes on the same street could be assigned different schools.

You can do most of the research yourself online. District maps are frequently published, but to be safe you should call the school directly and ask if the home you are planning to buy is served by that particular school.

Here are two local school district sites that let you enter a home address to get the schools serving that home:

Poway Unified School District

San Diego City Schools

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Search Code for Yahoo Real Estate

Yahoo! and Prudential are working together and have introduced special search codes enabling visitors to bypass many levels of webpages and instead jump directly to the desired home.

For Prudential Realtors who choose to use this feature, they would simply assign a code to a particular listing. When someone is interested in that house, they would simply enter the published code into any Yahoo! search window (you don't have to be in the real estate section of Yahoo!).

For example, here's a 2 bedroom I have for sale in Rancho Bernardo. Go ahead and enter the search code PRU5N5W6 in any Yahoo! search window and learn more about it!

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ductwork Efficiency

Improving the efficiency of ductwork is the single most important energy measure for most affordable homes. Poor ductwork can waste hundreds of dollars each year and cause serious health and safety problems. It is best to locate ducts inside the living area-not in attics or crawl spaces. Do not use building cavities, such as closet returns, as part of the duct system. Make sure all joints in the ductwork are sealed permanently with mastic; duct tape and insulation do not provide an effective seal. After ducts are sealed, ensure that they have adequate insulation. The Model Energy Code sets minimum requirements, but higher levels are often cost effective.

Excess air leakage in homes can increase heating and cooling bills by 30 percent. Although windows, doors, and outside walls contribute to air leakage, the biggest holes are usually hidden from view and connect the house to the attic, crawl space, or basement. Reducing air leakage typically costs less than $200 for the average home.

A family of four can spend more for hot water than heating or cooling. Simple conservation measures, such as low-flow showerheads, tank insulation jackets, and convection traps in hot and cold water lines, pay back quickly.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Did You Know? Internet Home Buyers

Based on findings of the California Association of Realtors' 2006 Internet Versus Traditional Buyer Survey:

70 percent of buyers use the Internet as an integral part of the home-buying process. This number has nearly doubled since 2001.

More than nine out of 10 Internet buyers said that the Internet helped them better understand the process of buying a home.

Internet buyers are accustomed to receiving more frequent communication and faster response times from their REALTORS®

Internet buyers spend an average of 5.8 weeks considering buying a home before contacting a REALTOR®, while traditional buyers spend 2 weeks.

Internet buyers spend 2.2 weeks looking for the home they ultimately purchase, compared with 7.1 weeks for traditional buyers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This Week's Interest Rates

Here are this week's home loan rates

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Zillow Goes Mobile

Zillow has been often criticized and at the same time hailed for providing a service on their website where homeowners may get an instant estimate of value for any home. Simply by providing an address and zip code, the website returns a dollar amount along with an aerial map of the property in question.

The criticism comes from the fact that zillow uses a statistical method based on public sales numbers on recently sold homes. This can often result in wildly inaccurate estimates of value. Published sales statistics work better when a home is surrounded by similar homes. It does not work well with custom or unique homes. Zillow won't know whether a home has been renovated or upgraded so you won't get that in the price prediction.

Zillow makes it clear that this is not an appraisal. Only a certified appraiser can do the footwork and dig beneath the published sales data. Realtors also have more local information including knowledge about amenities, upgrades, buying trends, etc.

Still, Zillow provides a cool service. And now you can drive up to any home and get a text message showing you Zillow's estimate of value. Use Zillow's Mobile service. Here's how:

1) Create a text message using your cell phone addressed to:
2) In the subject line, enter the home's street address and zip code. For example, 123 Broadway, 92101
3) Send the message. A few minutes later you'll get a reply message from Zillow!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Circus is in Town!

From today until the 13th, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus excites the crowds with three rings of non-stop action! The show goes on at the San Diego Sports Arena. For tickets, call 619-220-TIXS. Performance times: 619-224-4171

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Federal funds rate stays put at 5.25%

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday ended two years of 17 consecutive increases in the federal funds rate, letting it stay put at 5.25 percent.

The Federal Open Market Committee may not be done raising interest rates to keep inflation in check, saying "some inflation risks remain." But unemployment in July rose from 4.6 percent to 4.8 percent and economic growth slowed to 2.5 percent this spring, off by nearly half from the pace of the first three months of the year.

"Economic growth has moderated from its quite strong pace earlier this year, partly reflecting a gradual cooling of the housing market and the lagged effects of increases in interest rates and energy prices," the committee said in a statement. Inflation risks remain, and "The extent and timing of any additional firming that may be needed to address these risks will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information."

The decision to take a break from interest-rate hikes was widely expected, and long term mortgage rates had already fallen to four-month lows in anticipation of the move. The 30-year fixed-rate average sank to 6.07 percent overnight, and the 15-year rate dipped to 5.78 percent, according to figures compiled by Bankrate. Source: Inman News, August 8, 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006

Increasing Your Home's Value

Your home is probably your single largest investment. While the value of your home is largely determined by such things as location, size, condition and amenities, there are still steps you can take to maximize its worth.

First, you need to evaluate your plans carefully if you're improving your home to put it on the market. Cutting corners could hurt rather than help your prospects, but you don't want to go overboard either. Your home's value should be no more than 20% above the average. That means a $10,000 kitchen improvement project might be a better idea than a $10,000 hot tub, especially if no other homes in your area have hot tubs.

In other words, it's best to keep changes simple.

Here's a list of remodeled projects that buyers are likely to find valuable:

Add a bedroom: Three- and four-bedroom homes are most desirable.

Install a master bathroom: When a bedroom has a bathroom, it means extra value.

Install a new shower: A new shower says a modern home.

Change your fixtures: Get a faucet that adds a decorative element to the bathroom.

Re-grout the tile: If the tiles are in good shape a new grouting does wonders.

Install new kitchen cabinets: Even just a paint job and some new handles will give your cabinets a fresh look.

Improve functionality: If you've got the space, an island is the way to go. New appliances make a difference too.

Expose the floors: Remove old carpet and show off the original floor. If you don't have hardwood floors, consider new carpeting.

Install new doors: Doors set off a room and make a great difference.

Paint the interior: A new paint job speaks volumes. Good colors to use are white, off-white, and a light yellow.

Add new light fixtures: Replace any that are damaged or out-of-style.

Add a fireplace: Even if you don't plan on using it much, it adds great value.

Take advantage of unused or underused space: If you can convert a basement or attic into a useful room, do it.

Landscape: A few strategically located plants and a neat-looking yard will impress.

Add a deck: It's a great use of exterior space because it increases your total entertainment area.

Dress up your porch and entrance: A freshly painted door with a new door handle can bake a great first impression.

Replace the windows: New windows not only give your home a new look, they can also lower your energy bill.

Remember, when it comes to your home, it's important to keep pace with your neighbors. Don't let your home become the most expensive on the block - but don't fall behind either. This is a case where it's best to be right in the middle!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Interest Rates Have Dropped This Week!

These are some of the best interest rates we've seen for months!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cooling a House and Saving Money

Over the past several weeks, the A/C has been running and running. My power bill is twice as much as it would normally be.

I've been looking around for ways to keep my home cool and to save money. There are several options available; bulking up on the insulation to keep the hot air out, upgrading the A/C units to modern energy efficient models, use more ceiling fans, or perhaps just leave the house and head out to the mall!

While surfing around the Lowes website, I came across what seems to be a relatively cheap way to keep a home cool. Its an attic fan that runs off of solar power so it doesn't use electricity. The fan moves the hot attic air out and keeps your home cooler. The price on their website is $277 and the item number is 41125. This may be worth trying as a weekend DIY project!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Using Colors in Your Home

The use of specific colors in decorating can really define the mood and purpose of a room. Below are some colors and how they influence a room.

Red - Increases circulation & muscular activity.
Orange - Signifies optimism & enthusiasm.
Yellow - Represents creativity & joy.
Green - Symbolizes balance & nature.
Blue - Represents inspiration & truth.
Violet - Suggests humility & spirituality.
White - Signifies purity & innocence.
Black - Suggests strength & restores energy.

When I feng shui a home to make it ready for sale, I'm careful to look at the home's colors and will make changes to help it sell faster.

So think before you choose your color scheme. It could change the entire mood of the finished room.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Security and Wireless Networks At Home

As a Realtor, I visit many homes every week. Frequently I'll have my HP tablet PC with me so that I can take notes or have contracts available for clients that I meet. It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk into a home, turn on my computer and 1 out of 3 times have immediate access to the internet. This is not supposed to happen. Your wireless network should be secure... only you should be able to access it, not me, not your neighbor, not some dude driving down the street scoping out free internet connections.

It's really weird when several neighbors all unknowningly have unsecured wireless overlapping each other. The people in one house may be using their neighbor's wireless internet thinking that they were in fact using their own. I was in a house once where the homeowner was telling me that he was in the process of moving his wireless box to another room so it was temporarily disconnected. He said that he was surprised his internet was still working fine and assumed that the wireless box did not have to be plugged in to work. Of course it doesn't have to be plugged in if you are stealing your neighbor's wireless connection!

You've heard about those new wireless video cams. Some people install them all over the house so from many miles away they can keep an eye on the baby's room, the pets, the garden, the entry doors. If someone can get access to your wireless network, it becomes all the easier for them to access your cameras and see whats going on in your own home. This could go on for months and you may never know it.

The solution is to secure your wireless system as soon as you install it in your home. The wireless box has 1 or 2 little antennas on it and its called a wireless access point or sometimes a wireless router. Making it secure is not difficult, but you need to follow the step-by-step instructions that came with the unit. Most people only do step one which is to plug the unit in. If you keep reading, you'll see a section that describes how to set up a secure password. Look for the initials WEP or Data Encryption and that should be checked on. You'll have to store a password for each wireless computer in your home. Its not hard to do and you'll have less reasons to worry about strangers having access to your home network.

Monday, July 31, 2006

2 Bedroom Detached Under $500,000!

Imagine coming home to an affordable 2 bedroom home in the prestigious Rancho Bernardo community of Bernardo Heights! This lovely home is situated on a gentle slope with no homes directly in front or rear. This single-story model is rarely available and sought after for its soaring vaulted ceilings, roomy eat-in kitchen, open floorplan, fireplace, attached 2-car garage, tile roof, and double sliding doors to the backyard. Enjoy a private BBQ on the covered wood deck or relax on the lush lawn. Or, escape to the Bernardo Heights Recreation and Community Center with swimming pools, tennis courts, exercise and meeting rooms. Not far is the acclaimed Poway Unified School District schools including Rancho Bernardo High School and Bernardo Heights Middle School. Located near a hi-tech area with major local companies such as Sony, HP, Northrup Grumman, Unisys, BAE, plus major shopping! Asking price is between $465,000 and 515,876. To hear more information, call my 24 HR recorded info line at 1-800-530-1481 extension 9764. I'm the listing agent for this home, so don't hesitate to call, 858-213-6058, or e-mail me directly to go see it!.

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

You can also find out more about this home by entering the search code PRU5N5W6 in any Yahoo! search window.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Interest Rates Stable

Not much changed since last week!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Feng Shui and Your Home

I practice feng shui to help my home sellers sell their homes faster and for a better price. How is this possible and what is feng shui?

First of all, feng shui is an ancient Chinese discipline that provides a framework for telling us how to arrange our homes to maximize our life energy called "chi". It is believed that by maximizing chi, good things happen.

Does it work? Like most people I really didn't put much into the claims made about feng shui. Sure, it made sense that if the house looks and smells nice, you're bound to get it sold faster. But beyond that, I was skeptical. Fast forward to today, I feng shui all my listings and I've had some incredible luck using it. For example, another realtor had a million dollar home on the market for over a year. After I feng shui'ed her listing, an offer came in within 3 days. Amazing. Many of my own listings have sold faster than the average. Of course, I've had some homes that did not sell fast despite all the feng shui that I could muster. What I do see is an extra edge that does help. When you're trying to sell a home, it makes sense to take every advantage.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lots of Space for a 2 Bedroom Home

Here's a home for sale in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego. If you are looking for a 1/4 acre lot with privacy in an upscale community at a great price take a look at this!

Click Photo to View Virtual Tour

12336 Fernando Drive MLS# 66055901
This sprawling ranch style home has 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, and about 2100 sqft. It includes a large enclosed lanai perfect for parties or as a third bedroom. All this on a quiet, low turnover street in the shadow of historic Battle Mountain! This is a wonderful house located in an ideal community within beautiful Rancho Bernardo. Very affordably price for this calibre home. Asking price is between $600,000 and 649,876. To hear more information, call my 24 HR recorded info line at 1-800-530-1481 extension 9754.

Monday, July 24, 2006

California ISO Declares Stage Two Emergency

Temperatures in San Diego continue to be high as well as the demand for power. The California ISO issued the following press release:

"The California Independent System Operator Corporation (California ISO) issued a Stage Two Emergency at 1:00 p.m. today, July 24, 2006 with operating reserves forecast to dip below five percent over today’s peak. Large commercial customers that have contracted with the utilities to curtail power during high demand days have been asked to do so. If an operating reserve of less than one-and-a-half percent is unavoidable, a Stage Three will be initiated. Involuntary curtailments of service to customers including “rotating blackouts” are possible during this stage of emergency declaration."


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sunsets & Serenity in Santaluz

Santaluz is a new San Diego community adjacent to prestigious Rancho Santa Fe and just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego. This is an expansive 3,800 acre village with panoramic views, 44 miles of hiking and biking trails, rolling hillsides, and the home of the Santaluz Club 18-hole Rees Jones championship golf course.

There are several homes available for sale here ranging from $1,500,000 on up to $4,000,000.

I must tell you about one of my personal favorites, a brand new Tuscan masterpiece with breathtaking views of the golf course and a vista to the distant Pacific ocean. This is a 6,844sf, 6 bedroom, 7 bath home with an enchanting inner courtyard, outdoor fireplace, pool with waterfall, plus quality stone, granite, antique wood floors, and expensive fixtures throughout. Asking price is $3,699,000 to $3,985,000 and the beautiful furnishings are negotiable. Give me a call at 858-213-6058 for more information or if you would like to tour this or similar homes in Santaluz!

Friday, July 21, 2006

This Week's Interest Rates

Dropped nicely since last week!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Luxury Homes Selling Fast At 4S Ranch

4S Ranch is located in the North County area of San Diego just west of Rancho Bernardo. Its a beautiful new community emerging as one of the region's finer places to live and raise a family.

Today, I visited an enclave of 66 homes in a development called Ivy Gate. Unlike most of the new homes being built in 4S Ranch, these homes are on estate size lots ranging from 1/3 to 3/4 acres. The homes are exquisitely detailed with incredible features such as high end kitchens, french doors, courtyards with outdoor fireplaces, and architectural styles ranging from Tuscan, Spanish and French. These homes are available with four to six bedrooms and three and one-half to six baths, and some include large guest suites with separate living and bedroom areas. The various plans also feature versatile areas such as a private office, tech center, teen and media rooms.

Only about 10 homes are left. With pricing ranging from $1,465,760 to $2,349,950 for the fully furnished model that will be released for sale. Specific prices are:
Plan 1, 3820 sf $1,465,670
Plan 2, 4205 sf $1,675,815
Plan 3, 5177 sf $1,769,975
Plan 4, 5359 sf $1,821,740

If you are considering a brand new high-end luxury home, you should look into these. Contact me immediately and I'll be able to provide more detailed info, virtual tours, and specific home availability. Out of town and moving to San Diego? No trouble since we can do eveything electronically.

This photo is the front entrance to Plan 4 taken with my Treo 700p today:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Great Price & Location on a San Diego Townhome

17075 West Bernardo Dr., San Diego CA MLS# 066050136

Here's a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 955 sqft home in Rancho Bernardo's Waterbridge where you'll find lush gardens, a playground, clubhouse, pool, and rec room. Children can walk to the Westwood Elementary School or have the bus to nearby middle and high schools pick them up right outside their gate. You'll be just a couple of blocks to the I15 freeway entrance, and a couple more to shopping at the Mercado, Starbucks, the banks, restaurants, and stores. There are many award winning restaurants and soon, there will be a Chinese Buffet, all within a mile of your new home! This highly upgraded townhome offers the extra security that comes with a second story entrance. Your assigned carport is directly behing the home, and your assigned parking space near the end of the walkway. Asking price is $310,000 to $350,876.

See the virtual tour by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yahoo Getting's Home Price Estimator

Announced Today!

Yahoo's real estate section will have a new feature: home price estimates based on Zillow. You'll be able to type in an address in Yahoo and see Zillow's home value estimate along with a Yahoo map of the area.

Yahoo also has a marketing partnership with my broker, Prudential.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another Hot Day in San Diego

The average July day time temperature for San Diego is supposed to be 76 degrees. For the past several weeks, the temperature in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego has been in the 90's!

The high temperatures have strained the power grid. As a result, Gov. Schwarzenegger today ordered state agencies, departments, boards and commissions to implement energy conservation plans and reduce the state's use of electricity at peak hours by 25 percent for the rest of the week. Residents have been asked to turn off all unnecessary lights, postpone using appliances until after 7pm, and turning the A/C thermostat up to 78 degrees F.

California's energy efficiency marketing and outreach campaign, "Flex Your Power" has much more information on what you can do to help. Click here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Treo 700p as a modem with a Tablet PC!

I just got my new Treo 700p smartphone last week from Sprint. So far it has been working perfectly and its exactly what I need for my real estate business. I have both a desktop server and an HP Tablet PC and I sync my new Treo with both of them. For my desktop, I use the Treo's USB/power cable for a direct-connect. For my Tablet PC, I use wireless bluetooth. The syncing process with my outlook on both PC's is quick and painless. Needless to say, the bluetooth syncing is almost magical! I was expecting glitches but the thing actually works!

The best part is using my Treo as a modem. I signed up for Sprint's EVDO data plan which enables the Treo to use their hi-speed network. I can access any of my pop/smtp e-mail accounts (three so far) and download all my e-mail directly to the Treo at comfortable speeds. The modem feature is awesome and it is the perfect accessory to the Tablet PC. I can go anywhere, leave the Treo in my pocket, log into my Tablet PC and be on the internet in seconds-- all over the bluetooth connection and NO cables. I'm finding that the speeds are excellent but they seem to vary probably because of network strength and bluetooth.

I used to give me an idea of the performance using bluetooth on the Tablet PC and I am somewhat relunctant to publish the numbers here. There are so many variables and I'm not performing a controlled test. Perhaps there is a better way to test connection speed and I welcome suggestions. But for now, I can say that I've ran dslreports 5 times tonight and each time I got widely different values ranging from 78kbps to 224kbps on download speeds and 57kbps to 64kbps on upload. I was a little surprised at the 224kbps since that seems too good to be true especially since my connection is over bluetooth. My signal strength was 2 bars. So, more tests are needed. In any case, my internet connection "feels" fast enough and I was able to browse the internet and do anything I normally would do if I were connected to my cable modem at home. By the way, as a comparison, I usually get around 4700kbps/360kbps on the cable modem.

I'll post more info about the Treo 700p later. If anyone is interested in getting one, I'll have to relate my 2 hour ordeal at the Sprint store trying to get the discounted price (about $400) and the family plan with modem. For some reason, the store people were not able to bundle the modem plan along with the family plan (2 phones sharing minutes- other phone was a standard samsung flipphone). A Sprint rep that we called on the phone from the store was also convinced that a combo was impossible. I left the store with the family plan and no modem plan. I waited a day, called Sprint and one of their Treo specialists was able to add the modem (but it was a struggle).

So far, I am very happy with the Treo. Now, where is my bluetooth headset...