Saturday, June 24, 2017

Frustrated by the lack of housing inventory? Here are 25 reasons why people will always keep selling their homes.

Right now, it definitely looks like sellers are in the driver's seat in our Sacramento real estate market. But don't worry; there are always homeowners who not only want to list their home for sale, but need to. In fact, there are a variety of motivations why people stick a For Sale sign in their front yard, which means that opportunities always abound for homebuyers.

Here are 25 reasons why people will always sell their homes:

They’ve outgrown their current home
Many young homebuyers begin with a "starter home" which may be small (in square footage and in price tag). But after they become more financially stable in a few years, they may opt to sell and move into a more spacious home.

They just want a nicer, bigger home
Sometimes there’s nothing at all wrong with their current home, but sellers just fall in love with a bigger, nicer, or different home – perhaps in a neighborhood they’ve always wanted to live in.

They “messed up” on the purchase
Maybe these sellers made a grave mistake when they originally bought their home, like purchasing the smallest home on the block, one that was the scene of a grizzly crime (no wonder why it was so cheap!) or 2/3 of the house was unpermitted editions. In any case, the only way to reconcile that mistake is to move and pass it on to the next buyer.

A job transfer
Relocation out of the area because of a job transfer is one of the most common reasons people need to sell quickly, which means they are often highly motivated.

Moving in with a partner/marriage
Ahhhh that’s so nice! When a girlfriend and boyfriend decide to finally tie the knot (or just move in together), it often calls for buying a home together – and selling their current homes.

Divorce or breakup
It's an unfortunate reality of life that relationships sometimes don't work out. In most cases, it's often best (and necessary) to sell the house they cohabitate in and move on.

There goes the neighborhood
Crime is increasing, graffiti and vandalism are becoming more common, the local schools are declining, and you’re starting to see shopping carts abandoned on the sidewalks. Time to put up a For Sale sign and get out and move to a better neighborhood!

The Empty Nest Syndrome
Once the kids are all grown up and gone to college, couples often choose to sell their family home – which is now way too big for them and a little sentimental.

They want to be closer to family
It's very common for tight-knit families to try to stay together. Once the kids are grown and have their own families, that usually mean the elders selling their home and moving closer to them – not the other way around.

Their current commute is too long
Some people just want to be more centrally located and not have such a long commute to work, play, or city centers.

Retirement
You put in 35 years waking up early and going to work every day, so now that you’ve retired, it’s time to sell your house and move to Florida so you can finally sit by the pool and relax!

Health problems
When people have medical concerns or needs, special living arrangements sometimes offer peace of mind and a far healthier lifestyle. So instead of retrofitting their current home to accommodate their medical needs, it’s often easier just to sell and move into a dwelling that’s already equipped to accommodate them.

The loan becomes more expensive
Remember all of those loans that were adjustable, interest only in the beginning, or had balloon payments? Sometimes, the monthly payment rises higher than is feasible and that means selling is the only good solution.

The maintenance is piling up
If you were facing $25,000 in roof, foundation, heat and air, and/or necessary upgrades at your current home, would you invest the money and stay…or would you be inclined to put it up for sale and move into a home that didn’t need major repairs?

Job loss/loss of income
If you got fired on Friday and lost a major chunk of household income, the For Sale might be up on your home’s front lawn by Monday. Or, a maternity leave, career change or starting your own business, or any other financial setback could dictate putting your house on the market.

A promotion or influx of cash!
Congrats on winning millions of dollars in the lottery! Or maybe you were left a huge inheritance or were finally recognized and rewarded at your work. Either way, when people have more cash on hand they often choose to sell their home and buy one that is more befitting of their new means.

A lifestyle change
Instead of spending your whole Saturday mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and cleaning at your current home, maybe you’ve decided you want to windsurf and go wine tasting every weekend, and selling your home is the only way to achieve that dream lifestyle.

All of the neighbors are selling
Inevitably, others around us move away or go through life changes, too, and if your best friends/neighbors start moving out, sometimes it feels like the right time for you to list your home and move on, too.

The fixing is finished
If you're a DIY, fix it-and-flip enthusiast, then life becomes way too simple and boring when all of the hard work is done and the home repairs are finally finished. Time to sell and start over with the next "fixer" project!

Cash in on a seller's market
When the market appreciated so rapidly that homeowners were sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity after only a few years, it was hard NOT to sell and realize that profit (except that meant finding a new home to live in, of course.)

Got a new job in another state/area
Most people are either trying to find a better job or at least earn a promotion, but sometimes, the cost for that upward mobility is a transfer to a new state, a new city, or just a new area in the same region, which forces their hand on a home sale.

They really want a pool/one-story house/open floorplan etc.
Some people have discerning tastes and know exactly what they want in their ideal home. In that case, they may look for the opportunity to cash in on their current equity by selling, and then move on to their dream homes.

Apartment living is so much easier
These days, an increasing number of Americans are deciding that it’s time to sell the house and move to a smaller and easier apartment or rental, just for the sake of convenience and freedom.

Landlord sick and tired of the “4 T's"
Every year, hundreds of rental property owners sell their homes in Sacramento for no other reason than the “4 T’s”: toilets, taxes, tenants, and termites!

Probate/estate sale

When a loved one passes away, their real estate holdings often either are willed to heirs and descendants, who usually decide to sell the property, or it passes through a detailed legal process resulting in a probate sale.

20 Ways to Save Money on Your Energy Bills

While home ownership is the best investment you’ll ever make, utility bills can add up in a hurry, especially for bigger families or sizable homes. But the good news is that there are simple strategies and fixes to lower your electricity, heating and cooling, and water costs significantly every month – and help the planet in the process.

Here are our favorite ways to reduce on energy and utility bills around the house:

Refrigerator
Refrigerators with automatic ice makers use about 14-50% more energy than models without them.

Don’t store things on top of your fridge – it will block the heat that’s escaping from the unit and cause it to break sooner.

Likewise, if you put hot food items in your fridge, the unit will have to work harder to cool them, using more energy.

Even food and drinks that are left uncovered in the fridge cause it to use more energy since they cause condensation.

When looking for a refrigerator, choose an Energy Star qualified model, which will use 15% less energy than most models.

Dishwasher
Scrape your dishes free of food but skip the rinsing – it’s unnecessary since the dishwasher will handle that, and uses up to 20 gallons more of water.

Do you sometimes feel bad about using a dishwasher when you can be handwashing dishes, which doesn’t take any energy? Don’t! In fact, hand washing is actually more expensive in the long run because it uses far more water.

But wait until the dishwasher is full before running it, which save you about 400 gallons of water every month!

Speaking of saving water, Energy Star dishwashers will save you about 5,000 gallons of water per year!

Laundry
The vast majority of energy used during the laundry process comes from the dryer, so hang clothes up to dry in the sun or even on a line in the basement during winter months.

Washing clothes with cold water saves you money and extends the life of your water heater, and you really won’t be able to tell the difference.

In fact, about 90% of the energy used in the washing process comes from just heating the water!

Instead of dryer sheets, try putting a tennis ball or two in with drying clothes. They use less energy than sheets, speed drying time, and are reusable.

Bathroom
Installing an AAA-rated shower head (only about $30) will save the typical family about $1,000 in water bills every month!

For energy savings, skip the bath and take a shower, instead. The average bath uses 35 gallons of water, but showers only use 12 gallons on average.

Flush only when necessary – up to 30% of all water usage in the home comes from the toilet.

Switch to a high-efficiency toilet or set it up to use less water per flush, which can save the typical family $2,000 in water bills over the lifetime of the toilets."

Or you can simply fill a few water bottles with sand and sink them in the tank.  It will fill up less and use less water per flush.

Did you know that water from faucets accounts for 1 trillion gallons of water use every year, just in the U.S.? That’s enough to fill 1,514,165,013 Olympic swimming pools! So it’s important to fix leaking faucets, be mindful of water use, and converse wherever necessary.

Water heater
For most families, about 30% of their total monthly energy use comes from the water heater.

Even something simple like wrapping your water heater in an insulated blanket can reduce energy costs by 5-15%.

And a programmable timer will save you $25-$75 each year.

Lowering your water heater to the 120-degree setting can save you up to $450 annually.

Lighting
Replacing only your five most-used light bulbs in your home with CFL Bulbs can reduce your energy bill by about $65 per year. Imagine how much you’ll save if you do that in the entire house!

How important is it to turn off lights when you leave a room or aren’t home? Just one 60-watt light bulb burning 8 hours a day can cost you an additional $15 per year – per bulb.

In fact, lighting accounts for about 25% of your entire electric bill.

Electronics
Your electronics and media appliances may seem like an afterthought when it comes to energy use, but they can add up to some big electric bills.

In fact, 75% of energy consumed by electronics is when they are turned off!

Believe it or not, it costs $165-$200 per year just to power an entertainment center that is turned off. Imagine how expensive it can get when you leave electronics turned on.

To prevent what’s called “phantom loads” or electricity use when electronics are off, unplug any device that has a light or digital readout when not in use.

Heating and cooling
Of course, cranking up the AC is a needed relief I hot summer months, but we tend to over and misuse our aircons, wasting energy and money.

In fact, just a single window air-conditioning unit costs at least $.50 every hour to run.

While a ceiling fan or plug-in fan only costs $.02 to $.03 per hour.

When it comes to whole-house AC, using a programmable thermostat and adjusting settings as needed can lower your electric bill b about 20%.

Just replacing the air filter on your AC once a month during high-use seasons can reduce your bill by up to 5%.

Plant trees for shade in front of windows and doors on the side of the house that gets the most sun. Sacramento even has a program that provides shade trees for free.

Caulking or filling leaks around doors and windows can reduce your energy costs by 15-30%!



Monday, June 12, 2017

10 More crazy things homeowners found inside their walls

When we buy a house and move in, our main focus is how it looks, or what's on the outside of the walls. However, homeowners over the years have found some pretty crazy, profitable, and even horrifying surprised when they looked inside the walls. In fact, in centuries past before there were banks (or before people trusted them), and even during our Great Depression, folks used to store all kinds of money and valuables inside the studs of their walls, trying to keep them safe for a rainy day.

In part one of this blog, we covered 10 buried and hidden treasures (or horrors) that homeowners have found. From money to coins to art and a whole lot more, here are 10 more crazy things have found inside their walls.

1. One homeowner in Oak Brook, Illinois, found the stash of modern mobster Frank Calabrese, including jewelry, firearms and a whole lot of cash.












2. Apparently, hiding shoes inside of walls was a common practice in medieval Europe, as a collection of 300-year old shoes was found inside the wall of the Gothic Liedberg Palace in Germany. Likewise, a single pair of shoes was built into the wall of Papillion Hall in England with the intention of ridding the family of a curse. In fact, shoes have been found inside the walls in hundreds of homes, cottages, and churches across Europe and the United States because it was believed to ward off evil spirits.












3. Shoes weren’t the only thing that was supposed to ward off evil spirits that they buried in walls. Believe it or not, they used to hide live cats inside the walls in 16th and 17th-century buildings in the UK with the same intention, which was often a practice used by witches.

4. Apparently, they hid all sorts of things inside their walls in the Middle Ages to ward off evil spirits and break curses, including…undergarments! Across Europe, mummified unmentionables have been found inside the walls of old homes and structures, a practice so common that it spawned the Deliberately Concealed Garments Project.

5. One couple recently found quite a bonus when they busted open their kitchen wall to do some construction. Buried inside, they found a 50-year old safe containing a bottle of bourbon from 1960, a copy of "A Guide for the Perplexed" by E.F. Schumacher, and $51,080. Bonus!














6. Now this is getting seriously weird – many homeowners in Europe have also uncovered “Witch Bottles” inside their walls, which contain ancient urine, hair, nail clippings, and red thread – the perfect combination to dispel evil incantations and spirits.















7. When Josh Ferrin bought his home in a Utah suburb, he never expected to find $45,000 tucked away within its walls. Incredibly, Ferrin tracked down the previous owner of the home and returned the cash. Now that’s some seriously good karma!

8. These homeowners found a dusty old figurine inside the walls of their home, but it’s a good thing they didn’t throw it out. The doll turned out to be the likeness of a former Russian czar, and they were able to sell it for $5 million at auction!













9. When this nice couple went to replace their flooring, they discovered medieval well buried beneath their living room! Instead of covering it up again, they simply put this glass display case over the top to show it off.













10. What would you do if you opened up a wall in your house and found a note that said: "Save yourself?" That's exactly what this homeowner found, contained inside an old locked briefcase. But aside from the dubious note, the case was held cash and silver, so they saved themselves with a shopping trip!



The psychology of colors in your home

What colors are the walls in your home painted? You may not even notice anymore, or you only paid attention when you were first picking out paint and moving in. But psychologists and other experts now think that the colors you surround yourself with on a large scale – such as how you paint your various living spaces – will have a profound emotional and psychological effect on your family, evoking different sensations, feelings, and even memories depending on the hue and spectrum.

“Color is a universal, nonverbal language, and we all intuitively know how to speak it,” says Leslie Harrington, a color consultant for luxury home designers in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. “What color you paint your walls isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. It’s a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior.”

According to this color theory, each color elicits a unique emotional response in the viewer, impacting their feelings but also affecting behaviors, motivations, and even health through the mind-body physiological connection.

Let’s look a host of colors we might find painted on the walls of your home and find out what they mean, and then tips on what colors are best for certain rooms:

Red
Psychological effect: Passion, love, immediacy, energy
Brighter shades of red will increase energy but also feelings of hunger, while darker shades are more calming and add space, or immersion, to a room. Red rooms can increase blood circulation, breathing rates, and metabolism, but also may remind some of blood or war if too dark or overwhelming.

Yellow
Psychological effect: Cheer, attention, optimism, fresh, energy, happy, friendly, warning
Yellow is a great color for some rooms – but not others. It does activate feelings of energy, lightness, and happiness, but it can also trigger the anxiety center in the brain and flash warning. Lighter shades are fresher and more optimistic, while darker and more muted gold shades add a sense of antiquity. 

Green
Psychological effect: Natural, stable, prosperous, soothing, balance, restful, envy, jealousy
When organic and soft, green tones represent nature, bringing on the soothing and harmonious feelings of the outdoors. But when too dark or bold, they can also take over a room, triggering thoughts about money and prosperity (stressful) or even negative emotions of jealousy.

Blue
Psychological effect: Serene, trustworthy, inviting, smart, professional, stability
Blue is not a common color around the house except maybe in bedrooms or dens, but can illicit feelings of calmness, serenity, and even trust. Light blues the color of water are more refreshing and freeing, while darker blues are stately and important. But blues are almost never found in kitchens and dining rooms because the color acts as an appetite suppressant.

Purple
Psychological effect: Luxurious, mysterious, romantic, royal, sadness, arrogance
Purple is the color of royalty, luxury, and even romance. It rarely should be used in an entire room or else it could turn somber and morose, but accent walls could set the mood in the bedroom or offer an air of elegance around the house.

Brown
Psychological effect: Earthy, sturdy, rustic, grounding, organic
When it comes to home d├ęcor, brown walls are usually used with very light hues, like beige, sand, and tan. The right brown shade can add calming simplicity to walls and make the space look bigger, nicely accentuating the room’s white trim. However, hues that are too dark brown close off a room and make it feel smaller.

Gray
Psychological effect: Neutral, formal, gloomy
Gray is one of the most interesting colors because it emits an aura of neutrality. So painting a room (or exterior of your house) gray will accentuate all other colors against it, but this neutral color can also turn somber and gloomy if the tones are too dark.

White
Psychological effect: Clean, virtuous, healthy, airy, lightness
White contains every color in the spectrum, and likewise, white paints run the gambit of just about every shade or tint of other colors from yellows to grays, pinks to greens, and hundreds of tan-whites. But no matter what shade, it gives a clean, open, spacious impression, balancing a room while maintaining neutrality.

So which colors are right for each room in your house?

Living room 
You want comfort, familiarity, and conversation in this living space, so try warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and natural earth tones like brown and beige, or even gray. 

Foyer
The foyer is actually a great place to introduce people inside your home, creating a smooth transition by blending your exterior house color with the colors they’ll find in your living room, hallways, and other interior areas. 

Kitchen
Subtle reds, burnt oranges, and yellows are ideal colors for a kitchen because they actually stimulate appetite (that's why every fast food restaurant uses that color scheme!). While many people paint their kitchen off-white or some sort of tan, you may find that a little bland and uninspiring in the best room of the house.

Dining room
Once again, red shades work great in the dining room because they are energetic, signal food time to our minds, and also stimulate conversation. 

Bedroom
The bedroom should be relaxing, calming, and invite slumber, so use hues that are deeper and darker, whether they’re navy blues, forest greens, or dark gray. If it’s a small bedroom, yellow will make it look bigger.

Bathroom
Whites and off-whites work great in the bathroom, where they denote cleanliness and purity. For a children’s bathroom, you can have more fun with yellows, turquoise, or other light and bright shades.

Kid’s bedrooms
There are really no rules when painting your children’s bedrooms, but just make sure they are not the brightest of shades because that may actually deter them from falling asleep.

Home office

Try a nice sage green, which is the color of concentration, or mature navy blues for rooms with good natural light. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

30 Real estate facts that will blow your mind!

If you’re a homeowner or have bought and sold several times, you may think that you know real estate well. Some people may even find it a little boring, based solely on prices going up or down. But in fact, the phenomenon of housing, building, and land ownership are as old as human civilization itself – and just as interesting. To prove that point, here are 30 real estate facts that will blow your mind!

1. If you appraised the White House as if it was any other property and home in Washington DC, it would be valued at around $110 million!

2. In the midst of the Great Recession, 2009 saw more foreclosures than marriages in the U.S.

3. The profession with the highest percentage of homeowners (and least number of renters) is farmers and ranchers, with a 90.4% homeownership rate.

4. By the way, real estate agents are second with 84.9% homeownership, followed by postal workers (84%), firefighters (83.6%), and police officers (80.1%).

5. Do you think real estate disclosures are a little excessive in California? In New York State, owners legally need to disclose if the home they’re selling is thought to be haunted by ghosts or paranormal activity.

6. The average U.S. home built last year is early 2,600 square feet, and we even consider older 1,500 square foot homes small. But in most developing countries, a common home may only be 75 square feet – basically, one room!

7. We might hem and haw when interest rates climb a little bit these days, but we’re still spoiled compared to where rates have been in the past. In fact, the historical average for a 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate is about 8.53%!

8. The highest interest rate (in the modern era) was in 1981 when they were a whopping 16.04% for a 30-year fixed loan! But the lowest average interest rate was in 2013 when they fell to 3.66%.

9. Incredibly, since 1972, interest rates have been over 9% a lot more (15 times) than they have been under 6% (8 times).

10. Alaska holds two important distinctions for U.S. states: it’s both the northernmost state and the easternmost state.

11. Speaking of Alaska, many people don’t realize that Japanese forces invaded a few remote Alaskan islands during WWII, making it the only occupied U.S. land during that war.

12. When real estate and hotel mogul Leona Helmsley passed away in 2007, she left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, in her will.

13. There are five times as many vacant houses in the U.S. as there are homeless people.

14. The competition for the tallest building in the world used to be all consuming and create intense competition, so when the Chrysler Building went up in New York in the 1920s, the architects wanted to keep the final height a secret from other city's builders. So they actually built a 125-foot spire and stored it inside the building, and then only pushed it up out to top the structure when it was done, earning the designation of the tallest building.

15. These days, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world, reaching an unbelievable height of 2,717 feet tall (more than half a mile.) It’s so high that you can watch the sunset from the bottom floors and then take the elevator to the top and watch it again.

16. In order to preserve the natural scenic beauty, the states of Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine have laws that ban all outdoor roadside billboards.

17. Back in the 1930s, gangster Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd robbed a lot of banks. But he was seen as a hero by common people since he would collect mortgage documents and destroy them every time he robbed a bank, freeing hundreds of people from their home loan debts.

18. In China, they’ve made prefabricated construction so efficient that they can erect a 30-story skyscraper in only 15 days!

19. Eerily, on the owners of the World Trade Center had a meeting scheduled for 09/11/2001 to talk about their strategy in case of a terrorist attack. The meeting, which was to be held on the 88th floor, was rescheduled the night before because someone couldn’t attend.

20. In Scotland, homeowners who have paid off their mortgage paint their front door bright red as is the custom, letting others know they’re mortgage debt free.

21. In the U.S., we’d have a lot of red doors, as almost 30% of American homeowners – or 21 million homes - own their home free and clear.

22. Flood insurance is a necessity around Lake Superior. In fact, the Great Lake holds so much water that if it every emptied, it could theoretically spill one foot of water across the entire United States!

23. "We're going to Vegas!" is a common rallying cry for partiers, gamblers, and those who need a vacation. But most people don't realize that the majority of the Las Vegas Strip sits in the neighboring city of Paradise, saving casinos, hotels, and other establishments millions of dollars in taxes.

24. The game of Monopoly wasn’t intended to be a primer in the benefits of real estate investment, but originally to warn players about the pitfalls of Capitalism.

25. Warren Buffet may be one of the richest men in the world, with a vast fortune due in part to real estate investments, but the Oracle of Omaha still lives in the same house he bought with his wife for $31,500 in 1958.

26. The planet Pluto has a smaller surface area than the country of Russia.

27. You've probably heard of people who specialize in bartering, and maybe even seen TV shows where people try to "trade up" to bigger and better possessions. Well, one man started with a single red paper clip and traded his way up until he owner an entire house!

28. McDonald's, the most famous restaurant chain in the world, doesn't make its fortunes from selling burgers, but selling real estate to franchisees for their fast food locations. In fact, McDonald's is the largest commercial landowner in the world.

29. When Apple computers wanted to build a new facility in North Carolina, they bought a single acre of land in the path of the project’s build for $1.7 million from an elderly couple. Their profit? They’d bought it for $6,000 34 years earlier.

30. The wealthiest man in India has built a billion dollar personal residence, complete with 27 floors and six levels just for parking, accommodating his 168 cars.

It’s summertime in Sacramento! Celebrate with these 50 fun things to do

It’s summertime in Sacramento! There is no better time of year in the capital region, and we all look forward to hot weather, cool nights, family vacations, playing outdoors, and plenty of holiday barbecues by the pool.

So we wanted to present our list of 50 top things to do in the region! We covered the first 25 in part one of this blog, and here are the remaining 25 fantastically fun things to do and see in Sactown this summer!

1. Take advantage of Sacramento's ideal location by driving up to gorgeous Lake Tahoe for a day trip – or a whole weekend! Visit the gorgeous beaches at Emerald Bay, Secret Cove, and Sand Harbor and spend the rest of the day on the various mountains, enjoying hiking, biking, gambling, restaurants, and drinks with new friends, and enough sunshine and clean air to reinvigorate you for the whole year!

2. Did you know that Auburn is known as the official Endurance Capital of the World? In fact, Auburn hosts some of the most challenging (and downright crazy!) endurance events in the entire world, including ultra-distance running, mountain biking, horse races, and triathlons of all kinds. http://www.visitplacer.com/california-endurance-capital.aspx

3. Tours, tours, and more tours! Sacramento is home to some tremendous options when it comes to taking a guided tour, including local food tours, bike bus tours, the Old Sacramento Underground tour, wine tours, and just about everything else you can imagine! https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/Attractions-g32999-Activities-c42-Sacramento_California.html

4. Take the kids to the zoo in Sacramento! There are actually two zoos in the Sacramento region - The Sacramento Zoo located at Land Park Drive and 16th Avenue, and the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary at 403 Stafford St. in Folsom. They both have educational activities and fun events for children – even over night stays with animals! Sacramento Zoo: (916) 808-5888; Folsom Zoo: (916) 351-3527

5. If you’re at the zoo in Land Park, you might as well bring the kids to Funderland for amusement park rides or take the younger children to 88-Fairytale Town for a day of imagination and laughs.

6. Don’t forget to get your baseball fix by attending a few Sacramento River Cat games at Raley Field in West Sacramento, the nicest minor league park in America!

7. Screen on the Green features free outdoor movies at various parks around Sacramento during summer months. You can get more information at http://sacscreenonthegreen.com

8. Nothing celebrates summer better than ice cream, and if you want a little Sacramento tradition along with your frozen treats, visit Gunther’s for a 50/50, Vic’s for a milkshake, or any neighborhood Rite Aid for a $2 ice cream cone.

9. Summer is meant to be spent touring Sacramento on two wheels, so tune up your bicycle and hit the American River Bike Trail for a 26-mile ride from Folsom to Discovery Park, or join one of the man bike groups or bicycle pub crawls that are held during the warm weather months.

10. Second Saturday Art Walks are a summertime tradition in the capital city, as thousands of residents descend on downtown, midtown, and other neighborhoods to sample local artwork and fun. You can go to http://www.2ndsaturdaysacramento.com for more information and schedules.

11. If you haven’t gotten your fix of art on Second Saturdays, head to Roseville and Placer for their Third Saturday Art Walks, or Davis for their own ArtAbout on the second Friday of every month.

12. Stretch and breathe your way to ultimate relaxation with weekend Yoga in the Park in Sacramento. Yoga classes are free (donations welcome) and held at McKinley Park every Saturday and Tahoe Park every Sunday.

13. If you're into yoga, there are plenty of places to downward dog and sun salutation to your heart's content in Sacramento, but one of our favorites is the yoga class held every Saturday at 9 am at Soil Born Farm. Enjoy an outdoor yoga class in their amphitheater and pick up some organic produce at the farm stand there!

14. On a sizzling summer day, there's nothing better than cooling off at a waterpark all day! So head to Raging Waters on the Cal Expo fairgrounds for rides like the Honolulu Half Pipe, Shark Attack Slide Complex, Cliffhanger, Splashdown, and Dragon's Den.

15. Or check out Scandia Family Fun Center where you can shoot a few rounds of mini-golf, whip around on go-karts, ride the roller coaster, hit one out of the park at their batting cages or just relax in the indoor arcade.

16. An East Sacramento local institution, Selland’s on H Street near Sac State offers some of the best gourmet food and wine you’ll find. They even have special events like Wine Wednesdays where you can try six featured wines. http://www.sellands.com/specials-calendar

17. A summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Bay to watch an A’s or Giants game, and you don’t even need to drive to enjoy the game. Amtrak now offers convenient service right near the ballparks, and you can bring friends and book a round-trip ticket with Companion Fares. Play ball!

18. Drive-in movies are a great bit of nostalgia for many of us, as there are now only 338 drive-ins left in the U.S. Fortunately, one of them is still open right here in Sacramento! Pack up the family and find a great spot at the Sacramento 6 Drive-In, where you can buy popcorn ice cream or other snacks. Tickets are only $7 for adults and $1 for children! www.westwinddrivein.com

19. Labor Day Weekend is a can't-miss event in Old Sacramento, with Gold Rush Days transforming the streets back to an 1850 western gold rush town for all to see and experience.

20. Rent an innertube, raft, kayak, or stand up paddle board and ride the current down the American River, starting at Sunrise and ending at Watt. You can get lessons and equipment at FLOW, RiseSUP, or the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, among others.

21. Speaking of all this water, what would summer in Sacramento be without boating on the river? So call up your best friend that owns a boat (who will be very popular every summer), and lie out, listen to music, boat hop, and even jump in the water this weekend!

22. Sacramento is called America's Farm-to-Fork Capital for a good reason, with incredibly fresh, healthy, and tasty fruits, vegetables, and other organic foods sold by local farmers every day of the week! Check out the whole schedule and locations at: http://www.farmtofork.com/taste-and-tour/farmers-markets/

23. The fall may be for apple picking, but summer is for picking berries, and there’s no better place to harvest your own strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries Patrick’s Berry Farm in Camino. Get ready to eat some incredible jellies, jams, and plenty of pies!

24. You don’t have to travel far at all to spend a day in some of the most majestic woodlands in the world in the Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests, hiking swimming, cycling, or even rock climbing. You can find out more here: http://www.visitplacer.com/national-forests.aspx

25. In fact, why not bring a tent and some gear and spend a night or two camping in the Tahoe National Forest, which has been named one of the top 20 national forests in the entire U.S.! You can also go camping closer to home in many more of Placer County's abundant forests, recreation areas, and campgrounds. http://www.visitplacer.com/national-forests.aspx



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Can you really start your own country?

Can you really start your own country?

Wouldn’t it be nice to draw a border around your house and property, plant a flag with your face on it, and establish yourself as the new King of the Republic of YOU? Believe it or not, it is possible to establish your own micronation. However, it remains ludicrously ambitious to think that the world community will ever recognize your new state. But it is easier than you think to at least form your own country on paper (or in your own mind).

Definition of a country or micronation

There is no one universal world accord or rule on creating a micronation, which actually works in your favor. But there is a framework for claiming statehood, which is outlined in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, signed in 1933 by the United States and other Latin American countries.

Article 1 of that Convention argues that “the state as a person of international law” needs to meet the following qualifications:
  • Have a permanent population
  • Define a territory
  • Have a government
  • The ability to enter into relations with the other countries

The next ten Articles of the Montevideo Convention detail that the “existence of a state is independent of recognition by other states, and is free to act on its own behalf—and that no state is free to intervene in the affairs of another.”

If I’m reading that correctly, that means that your nosey neighbors can’t file a protest and block your attempt at turning your front yard and house into your own country. So anyone is free to declare themselves a new micronation. However, the Montevideo Convention isn't the rule of law or even universal international agreement, so achieving legitimacy is a whole new battle.

Nations that currently don’t enjoy universal recognition

Already, the waters are muddied when it comes to the number of legit and universally recognized countries in the world. In fact, there isn’t even one definitive answer to the question “How many countries are there in the world?” The most complete answer is that there are 196 countries, but that’s where it gets complex.

For instance, Taiwan – the island nation in Asia – claims sovereignty, but China also claims that Taiwan is part of their country. Most of the world do recognize Taiwan as its own country, but some do not.

There is also the case of Palestine in the Middle East, with only 70.5% (136 out of 193) United Nations member states recognizing it as a country. Conversely, Israel is not recognized by Palestine, nor Syria.

The list of states with “limited recognition” narrows to the more obscure:

Armenia is a country…except that it’s not recognized by Pakistan, and Cyprus isn’t recognized by Turkey), etc. North Korea is not recognized by two United Nations members, Japan and South Korea. Abkhazia broke from Russia in1999 and formed its own country, although it’s still not fully acknowledged by UN member states. And a desolate slice of sand in the Western Sahara is claimed by Morrocco, but also formed its own micronation, called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). It goes on and on.


But where will it be?

The biggest question that arises in the quest for your own country is where you’ll establish it. After all, you want some terra firma to call your own, even if it’s just a small plot. Here are a few geographical options for your new micronation:

Islands

The easiest way to picture your own nation is on an island somewhere, with its sandy shores dictating the border lines and a built-in aqua barrier from neighboring countries. The only problem is that there really aren't unclaimed islands just hanging around in the world. 

Even if you did come across an abandoned island that you find suitable, by international marine law, it needs to be outside another country’s territorial waters (usually 12 miles offshore) and 200 miles outside of any exclusive economic zone.

That’s the snag the Principality of New Utopia ran into when they set up shop on a small island in the Caribbean, only to find out that they were within the Exclusive Economic Zones of both Honduras and the Cayman Islands.

Other territory

Just about every inch of usable land in the world has been claimed by existing countries with two exceptions:

Antartica doesn’t belong to any country, although it is jointly managed by the most powerful states in the world.

Also, Bir Tawil is an 800 square mile slice of land that sits on the border between Egypt and Sudan, but neither claim. But if you're thinking of packing your bags for Bir Tawil, you should know that it's already been "claimed," by an American farmer from Virginia named Jeremiah Heaton, who set up the micronation of North Sudan just so his daughter, Emily, can be a real-life princess.

Conquer your neighbor’s country

With these territorial concerns, you may be looking enviously at your neighbor’s country. In fact, history is filled with instances of countries that were established after another was invaded or conquered. Sometimes it works but in other cases, like that of Comoros, Vanuatu, and the Maldives, it fails miserably in defeat and death.

In the 1850s, American William Walker raised a small army of private mercenaries and invaded parts of Latin America with the intention of forming his own county or colonies. He actually overthrew the presidency of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled for one whole year. Unfortunately for Walker, his new enemies ousted him from office in 1857, sending him on the run until he was executed in Honduras in 1860.

Buy an existing country

How about trying to be a little more diplomatic and just purchasing a country? But even for the Bill Gates, Sir. Richard Bransons, and Warren Buffets of the world, it probably still isn't financially feasible. That's what a group of libertarians found out when they tried to buy Toruga from impoverished Haiti, but were rejected and sent packing. (No report on if they lost their purchase money deposit.)

Build your own floating nation

This is probably the most realistic approach, and the concept of modern, human-made floating cities and communities has undergone some fascinating evolutions.

But wealthy libertarian Michael Oliver tried a different approach to building his own island nation when he dumped countless tons of sand into the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji. It worked, too, as the new landmass held up and he was able to proclaim sovereignty as the new Republic of Minerva. Unfortunately, his success drew attention and he was quickly invaded by Tonga and annexed into that country!

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Look for part two of this blog, where we give you examples of micronations already in existence, the official international rules on statehood, and a checklist with everything you’ll need to form your own country!