Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Your Sacramento Railyards Fact Sheet.

Last week, hundreds of spectators, residents, and well-wishers gathered to celebrate a seminal moment in the Sacramento’s future: the grand opening of Railyards Boulevard, connecting downtown and the Sacramento Railyards site by joining 7th and Jibboom streets, as well as new extensions to 5th and 6th streets downtown.

Between the photo ops, enthusiastic residents and speeches by city officials, there was a palpable sentiment that, more than just another road, this was really a link between the capital city’s past and it’s promising future.

But if you’re a Sacramentan, you’ll probably get very familiar with grand openings and civic ceremonies, as new landmarks will be unveiled at the Sacramento Railyards frequently over the coming years and decades, transforming the region.

“To get to this point…is a real big milestone for the city,” said Councilmember Jeff Harris. “This project essentially doubles the size of our city center. It’s the biggest infill project right now in the US. This is a big deal.”

A big deal, indeed, since advocates, developers, and city officials have been working tirelessly to make the Railyards project a reality for parts of three decades or more.

In order to keep you abreast of all the exciting happenings with the project, we’ve compiled this Sacramento Railyards fact sheet:

The Vision
The Railyards is a 244-acre site located just north of downtown and south of the River District in Sacramento. Transforming the historic former site of the Union Pacific railroad hub, it looks to develop a state of the art mixed-use urban center, complete with a signature mass transit hub. With plenty of housing, hotels, retail spaces, office space, and entertainment venues like theaters, parks, and museums, the Railyards will be an economic boon for the city and a must-see destination for Californians and tourists alike.

History of the Railyards
At its inception in the 1860s, Sacramento’s rail yards were the central hub of the entire western United States, connecting the country and aiding commerce created by western expansion and the Gold Rush.

The first railroad in the Sacramento Valley was completed in 1856, and The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 after several other railroads like the Central Pacific merged.

As early as 1883, Sacramento’s terminal was the primary point of departure and arrival for thousands of travelers, workers, and innumerable goods.

In fact, in the early 20th century, the Sacramento railroad network was the largest west of the Mississippi River and employed an astounding one-third of all Sacramento workers!

Proposed Project
Plans for the Sacramento Railyards include:

6,000-10,000 housing units
405,741 square feet of retail space
2,757,027 - 3,857,027 square feet of office space
771,405 square feet of flexible mixed use
1,228,000 square feet of medical campus
1,100 hotel rooms
485,390 square feet of historic and cultural uses like museums
33 acres of open space for parks and recreation
A soccer stadium with 19,621 seats, and potential to expand to approximately 25,000 seats.

Once completed, the Railyards is expected to provide housing for an estimated 20,000 people, a community more populous than Land Park and Curtis Park combined.

The keystone of this redevelopment is the refurbishing of the former “Central Shops” buildings that originally served as the Southern Pacific Depot and maintenance facilities.

An expansive public market place will be at that site, as well as a railroad museum and performing arts center.

It’s estimated that new Railyards site will create 19,000 permanent jobs once it’s opened, as well as employ thousands of contractors and construction workers.

Initial Plan
Developer Millennia Associates tried to buy 70 acres in the southern portion of the rail yard in 2003, with hopes of eventually purchasing and developing the entire property. The project stalled until Thomas Enterprises, Millennia’s financial partner, finalized the rail yard purchase in late 2006.

The first version of the Sacramento Railyards redevelopment that was officially on the books was registered as P05-097 and approved by the City Council on December 11 2007. It was a scaled-down version of the monumental project we now are familiar with, encompassing “only” 12,100 housing units, 1.4 million square feet of retail space, 1,100 hotel rooms, 2.4 million square feet of office space, 485,390 square feet of historic and cultural space, and 491,000 square feet of mixed use.

Current Status
That 2007 proposal was updated in June of 2015, when a new proposal was submitted with a much larger scope, including a change of the land use plan that would incorporate two new additions: a soccer stadium and a Kaiser Medical complex with its 14-story hospital

The Railyards redevelopment has been portioned into five phases. The first phase, Infrastructure Building, is already underway.

Since the Railyards site contains soil and groundwater contaminants that are harmful for humans, environmental remediation has been underway since the 1980s in compliance with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Who is involved?
The Railyards land is owned by IA Sacramento Holdings, L.L.C., under the umbrella of InvenTrust Properties Corp. The project was master-planned by the Jerde Partnership firm. A local development team includes Larry Kelly, who was responsible for turning the MCClellan Air Force Base into a thriving industrial park.

Of course there are many city and municipal agencies and departments involved, but if you have any questions about the Sacramento Railyards or want more information you can contact Associate Planner Teresa Haenggi:
(916) 808-7554

Next Steps
With the Golden 1 Center opened the fall of 2016, the Sacramento downtown revitalization is in full swing, and that includes the Sacramento Railyards project.

As well as continuing to develop the infrastructure at the Railyards and connect more streets, the city will look to finish construction on nearby F and G Streets, finish new retail and housing projects on the 7000 block of K Street, and break ground on a new county courthouse building.

Now that our downtown is linked to the Railyards by the new boulevard, the first hosing units are expected to be completed sometime in 2018.

The new 20,000-seat soccer stadium could be built as soon as 2018 or 2019 in hopes of attracting a MLS pro soccer team.

The Kaiser Permanente major medical campus is expected to take six to nine years to open.

The proposed Superior Court building at the Railyards does not yet have a firm timeframe for construction.

In the short term, the city of Sacramento is expecting to finish their rehabilitation of the train station that sits at the entry of the railyard some time this winter. The $34 million revitalization of the block-long former station will mark the start of the process to attract retail and office tenants, as well as establish a new Amtrak station.

 “We are seeing a lot of momentum,” said Sacramento city official John Dangberg who oversaw the downtown arena. “But it still takes time for markets like Sacramento to mature.”

While we’d love to see that maturity come to fruition in the Railyards sooner than later, patience will be a virtue as the project marches on towards its epic finale, that will surely reenergize Sacramento.

Monday, August 22, 2016

We asked our past clients to rate our service. We never expected THIS!

At the Alfano Group Real Estate Agency, our greatest passion (ok, obsession!) is to help our clients with their real estate needs. We take pride in our focus on always putting the client first and always aim to be the most knowledgable, professional and hardest working agents in the business.

But talk is cheap without results, so we decided to find out what our past clients think about us. So The Alfano Group used an independent firm to conduct a detailed poll of our past clients. They asked people who've bought or sold a house with us six questions about our service, how they felt about the transaction, and if they'd use us again or refer us to others. 

When the survey results came in we never expected THESE answers:

1. I will use The Alfano Group when I buy or sell my next home:

5 out of 5 stars

2. I would recommend The Alfano Group to family or friends to buy or sell their home:

5 out of 5 stars

3. My agent empowered me with the best information, resources, and technology:

4.9 out of 5 stars

4. My agent helped me make a great investment or maximized profit on my sale:

5 out of 5 stars

5. My Alfano Group real estate agent always served my best interests:

5 out of 5 stars

6. My real estate agent was knowledgeable, helpful and professional.

4.85 out of 5 stars

While we were pleasantly surprised, we wanted to make sure that these answers portray a fair representation of our reviews. So we also checked our listing, and found that we also have a 5-star rating there based on 14 reviews, including:

“Tony is top-notch when it comes to professionalism, responsiveness, and true interest in his clients and colleagues needs."

“We felt very comfortable and with his guidance and expertise, were able to find the perfect home at a good value while selling our previous home for top dollar in less than a week!”

“Anthony is a fantastic realtor who is very detail oriented and knows the Lincoln/Rocklin/Roseville markets; and all of Northern CA well.”

We also checked in on our Facebook page, were we have 20 reviews.

What did our past clients rate us?

4.9 out of 5 stars!

In fact, 19 out of the 20 total reviews gave us 5-stars, with only one review for less than 5 stars! Some of the reviews include:

"My wife and I recently purchased and sold a house using the Alfano Group. Our experience was very smooth throughout the entire process. Tony was patient, straightforward, always available, and extremely knowledgeable of the real estate industry. We felt very comfortable and with his guidance and expertise, were able to find the perfect home at a good value while selling our previous home for top dollar in less than a week!"

"Tony has helped me buy and sell 4 properties - He is a true professional that knows the real estate business!!!"

"I love the Alfano Group!"

Rest assured, even with our near-perfect customer satisfaction ratings and sterling reviews, we'll never stop striving to be better, bringing you the latest tools, resources, education and technology to make sure you have a perfect transaction - and make a lot of money - when you buy or sell with us.

Would you like to give us some feedback, too?

If you've bought or sold a home with the help of The Alfano Group, we'd love for you to take this quick survey:

And please leave an honest review on our Facebook and Yelp business pages.

Of course if there if you ever have a question, concern, or something extra we can do to help, feel free to contact us!

Thanks so much for trusting us with your business - and your reviews!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

15 More Big, Orange, and Foggy Facts About the Golden Gate Bridge!

In part oneof this blog we documented 15 facts about The Golden Gate Bridge. Here are 15 more colossal facts about the San Francisco and national landmark in advance of the big, orange, foggy bridge’s 80th birthday next year:

1. Conceiving a bridge that spanned across the San Francisco Bay proved to be much easier than actually building it. Starting way back in In 1920, three accomplished engineers, Joseph B. Strauss, Francis C. McMath, and Gustav Lindenthal, received letters inviting them to submit designs and bids for the new bridge project. Strauss thought he could build the symmetrical cantilever-suspension hybrid bridge for a price tag of between $17 and $27 million.

2. A commission set up to coordinate the build kept the design hidden from the public for a year. But when Strauss’s plan did come to light, the sentiment was not favorable, as the local press called it ugly, with one writer describing it as “a ponderous, blunt bridge that combined a heavy tinker toy frame at each end with a short suspension span. It seemed to strain its way across the Golden Gate.”

3. Strauss eventually altered his design plans (though, tragically, he never received money nor credit for designing the bridge), but funding the project was another challenge, as very little state or federal money was available. Most of the cost of the bridge was raised through $35 million in bonds sold by the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District. Local San Francisco residents even put their homes, farms, and businesses up as collateral.

4. Even approving the plan to build the Golden Gate Bridge was a colossal undertaking that took years of favorable court rulings, two Federal hearings, an act of State legislature, mass boycotts and a guarantee that local workers would be used.

5. There was huge opposition to the bridge’s construction, with 2,300 lawsuits filed against the bridge and its subsidiaries in 1930 alone. The Southern Pacific Railroad was a huge opponent because they had a majority stake in the ferry that took commuters across the bay.

6. Even the U.S. War Department was dubious about the project, since they thought Navy ships would be trapped inside San Francisco Bay if the bridge was ever bombed or collapsed. In fact, the War Department owned the land on both sides of where the bridge touched land, so it took six years for them to approve construction and issue the permit.

7. In the midst of construction, an earthquake struck the area, causing the half-completed bridge to sway more than 15 feet side to side. A dozen workers were stuck high up on the South Tower during the quake, stranded because the elevator wouldn’t run, all of them hanging on for dear life and throwing up repeatedly from the vertigo.

8. Construction of The Golden Gate Bridge marked a new era in construction safety. Before the bridge’s build, a rule of thumb for building bridges was to expect a worker fatality for every $1 million it costs. But instead of 35 worker fatalities ($35 million), only 11 worker fatalities took place. Requiring workers to wear hard hats (the first such practice in America) and safety nets suspended below the bridge deck helped save the lives of 19 workers, who called themselves the “Halfway to Hell Club.”

9. The Golden Gate Bridge has only been closed a few times during its history, including for anniversaries, construction work, and in honor of visiting dignitaries.
But the longest unplanned closure was on December 3, 1983, when 75 mph winds shut down the bridge for three hours and 27 minutes until it was safe to cross it again.

10. Until 1960, The Golden Gate was the longest suspension bridge in the word. That year, Japan's Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge gained that honor with a span of 6,500 feet. But the Golden Gate still wins the award for the most photographed bridge in the world.

11. On February 22, 1985 the one-billionth driver crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The lucky motorist, a dentist named Dr. Arthur Molinari, was greeted by fanfare, media, given a special hard hat and a case of champagne.

12. However, another seminal event – the bridge’s 50th anniversary on May 24, 1987 – was a complete disaster. A crowd of 50,000 people was expected to show up for the ceremony, but more than 800,000 well wishers and spectators attended!  With all of that weight, the bridge started to sag in the middle and a 17 mph wind started swaying it side to side, creating mass panic in the crowd, many of whom became nauseas or claustrophobic in the thick crowd. Soon, the entire bridge flattened and the arch disappeared under the greatest load it carried in its 50 years of existence. But according to engineers, there was no reason for concern since the bridge was designed to move up to 15 feet vertically and 27 feed side to side, and even a maximum weight load would only put 40% stress on the suspension cables.

13. The Golden Gate Bridge has appeared in more than two-dozen movies, including The Maltese Falcon (1941), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Rock (1998), and San Andreas (2015). Unfortunately, the bridge is often the target of destruction by aliens, attacking foreign armies, or cataclysmic natural disasters.

14. The bridge holds the dubious distinctions as the top destination for suicides in the world. That macabre track record started only three months after it opened in 1937, when a man named H.B. Wobber took a bus to the bridge, casually told the other passengers that this was where he got off, climbed the rail and jumped.

Since then, there have been more than 1,500 suicides from the Golden Gate, an average of one suicide every three weeks. Even though they hit the freezing cold water at 75 mph, more than 30 jumpers have actually survived the fall, and there are now 11 crisis counseling phones along the span.

15. The Golden Gate is such an imposing structure that it actually impacts the weather patterns in the bay and city, particularly the famous San Francisco fog.  In fact, the bridge redirects the fog stream up and over or down under the bridge, effectively separating high pressure from low as fog crosses its path.

Shattering the millenial home buying myth.

Why are millenials not buying homes? The simple fact is that for some reason America’s millenial generation (or ‘Gen Y’), defined as 18-29 years old, are not buying homes anywhere near the rate of their predecessors or older generations. With roughly 66 million millenials encompassing 24 million households in the U.S., post-college and early working adults in their 20s, this group forms a huge portion of our population that are normally buying their first homes or moving to the suburbs to start families in droves.

There are several root causes that explain their choice to rent en masse, but there are also several narratives or perceptions that have come to define millenial home buying behaviors that are just not true.

In this blog, we’ll define the three main reasons that are floated for why millenials aren’t buying homes, and explore if each of them are true or not based on statistics and facts.

But first, a primer on the millenial rent-over-buy preference:

Facts about millenial home buying:
  • The number of first-time homeowners has dropped precipitously since the mortgage meltdown and Great Recession. These days, first-time buyers constitute about 32% of all buyers, the lowest percentage since 1987, when typically that number is 40%.
  • But it’s not jut millenials who have opted to rent in record numbers, as homeownership rates in the U.S. have fallen to around 63.7% from a 2007 peak of 69%, the lowest rate since the 1960s.
  • From 2006 to 2013, the number of millenials living with their parents increased by 15%. That may not seem like a big number, but it adds up to almost 10 million people.
  • First-time homebuyers have kept the same median age for the past 40 years. In 2015, the median first-time homebuyer was 31 years old, compared to 30.6 in the early 1970s.
  • There is still hope since about two-thirds of all millenials haven’t reached that median 30.6 age, and about 22% of all millenials are still under 25.
  • Millenials are now renting a median of six years before buying their first home.
  • By 2025, millenials will form 20 million new households in the U.S.

Three popular narratives why millenials aren’t buying homes: 

1. They don’t want to buy.
2. They can’t qualify for a loan or can’t afford to buy.
3. Record student loan debt is preventing them from buying.

Reason #1 They don’t want to buy.

The narrative that millenials don’t want to buy a home is false. In fact, research shows that the majority of millenials prefer to own their own home over renting. Surveys show that millenials born from 1981 to 1997 look at homeownership as favorably as their parents, grandparents, and previous generations.

A 2014 survey conducted by Fannie Mae revealed that most millennials reported that owning a home was more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons — including control of living space, flexibility in future decisions, privacy and security. 49% of respondents who were young renters also stated that their next move would likely be to own their own home.

Millenials may be more pessimistic about our economy and their finances compared to other generations (and for good reason, having witnessed the Great Recession and record foreclosures and bankruptcies), but Fannie Mae found that the majority of millenials surveyed still have a positive outlook about home buying. In fact, more than two-thirds of all millennial renters said that it was a good time to buy.

Renting is looking less and less attractive to millenials as time goes on, too. Considering that rents are rising at a shocking rate in many areas of the country, the portion of people who pay more than 30% and even 50% of their income towards housing is higher than ever, home ownership is less expensive than renting in many cases – a fact not lost on smart young people who have to write a check for their housing every month.

Reason #2 They can’t qualify for a loan or can’t afford to buy.

In that same Fannie Mae survey, millennial renters were asked their primary reason why they weren’t buying a home. 57% of respondents said that they weren’t buying for financial reasons.

Their answers included:
1.         Insufficient credit score or history
2.         Affording the down payment or closing costs
3.         Insufficient income for monthly payments
4.         Too much existing debt

While there are additional strains, stresses, and circumstances on the typical millennial budget, their financial situation may not be as dire as they believe. In fact, credit score standards have loosened again since the ultra-tight mortgage market during the Great Recession, and banks are offering common sense loans with options for most credit scores in the 620 and up range. A large portion of young people don’t even know what their credit score is, and it appears that they over estimate what score they’d need to buy.

Additionally, many millenials stated that coming up with a down payment and closing costs was preventing them from buying. But when asked exactly how much money they’d need to become homeowners, 42% of those ages 18-34 said they didn’t know how much money it took to buy, and 73% didn’t know about lower down-payment options that range from 3% to 5% of the home’s purchase price, like with FHA loans. In fact, RealtyTrac estimates that about 30% of all homebuyers put down 3% or less on the cost of the home.

Is it conceivable that something as simple as a misconception that they’d need a 20% down payment is holding a large number of millenials back from buying?

Reason #3 Record student loan debt is preventing them from buying.

Probably the most-cited factor for low millennial homeownership is their record level of student loan debt. There’s no denying that student loans debt burdens are higher than ever before, jumping by 56% in the last decade to nearly 1.2 trillion dollars, with the average college graduate with student loans carrying nearly $28,950.

But is that debt really disqualifying them from owning a home? Probably not, if we mind the data.

Millenials definitely have debt and monthly payments to worry about, as a recent Survey of Consumer Finances revealed that 42% of millennial households have student debt, and an additional 35% have auto loans. Their median student loan debts averaged $17,200 and their auto loans, $11,000. But the same Fannie Mae survey found that 53% of millenial renters carried debt that added up to less than $10,000, and only 10% had debts over $50,000.

But remember that student loan debts correlate to college graduates, and according to credible research, higher education rates have a positive - not a negative - impact on homeownership rates. In fact, a Panel Study of Income Dynamics revealed that homeownership levels went up for each successive level of education, even if student debt rose accordingly.

The study found that when a married household with a bachelor’s degree had $30,000 or more in student loan debt, homeownership rates dropped only 2.1%. Those with a master’s degree and $50,000 or more in student loans saw just a 5% dip in homeownership. Likewise, TransUnion found that those with student loan debt owned homes only 3% less than those without debt. This strong homeownership showing is definitely due to education levels, as these studies found that only when a household had $50,000 debt but just an associate’s degree did home ownership rates fall by a significant 16%.

Additionally, it’s estimated that only 8% of households that are repaying student loans had monthly payments that ate up more than 14% of their monthly income. According to New America, a nonpartisan policy institute, the median debt burden from student loans for millenials was only 11%.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans ages 25-34 earn a median monthly wage of $2,940. Black Knight Financial estimates the average monthly principal and interest mortgage payment at $945 per month based on the median home price, which would equate to a 32% debt-to-income ratio. Since the acceptable debt-to-income range for mortgage lending 28% to %36, based on these numbers, a significant number of millenials living in most places in the U.S. outside of the most expensive markets can afford to buy a house.