Monday, August 31, 2015

Celebrating the special milestone of our 200th blog post!

Happy 200th! 

No, the Alfano Group Real Estate Agency wasn’t founded in 1815, but we have a different kind of anniversary to celebrate today – our 200th blog post!

I guess it doesn’t feel like work when you love what you do, because an amazing 200 blog posts later, we’re just getting warmed up!

As we sharpen our pencils to get busy on the next 200 blogs, we thought we’d recount the 10 blogs that were most popular with you – the reader - out of those 200. Once we tallied the winners, from a total of 32,138 blog page views, we were pretty surprised to see your favorites!

But this blog should be all about YOU. It’s our way to create a special relationship with each and every one of our clients, friends, readers, and followers, curating the highest trending topics from the world of real estate, mortgage, home ownership, design, luxury living, local and popular culture.

Starting with our very first post way back in 2013 - How good is your child's school? Check out these Placer County school rankings - all the way to our most recent - Let's rally for the cause; September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! - we’ve been wholly dedicated to delivering cutting edge information, market research, strategies and tips. Our mission is always to empower you to make the best decisions – and make a lot of money – when it comes to buying or selling a home. And though we always endeavor to be of service and provide value, it’s not all serious business; every once and a while we loosen up our necktie and blog about subjects that are just plain entertaining, interesting, and fun.

Of course we genuinely appreciate you reading our blogs, sharing, and coming to the Alfano Group Real Estate Agency with your questions, home buying and selling business, and referrals.

So we’d love to hear from you: What are you most interested in reading about? What topics would be most helpful? What practical and balanced information are you not seeing elsewhere? And what topics would you find the most fun?

As always, drop us a line or visit us at And thanks again for celebrating our 200th blog post together with the Alfano Group!

 The top 10 Alfano Group Real Estate Agency blog posts, ranked by reader popularity:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let's rally for the cause; September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and we could think of no better cause to trumpet, as children are the most innocent, undeserving, and heart breaking victims of this terrible disease. On Aug. 31, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed the month of September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Charity fundraisers (some of them pretty fun and creative!), sponsored walks and plenty of celebrity support and publicity are all contributors to raising money during September for childhood cancer, a pervasive decease that attacks up to 175,000 children every year. 

It’s now for all of us to promote awareness and gather support for children who are afflicted with cancer and their families, and also to raise funds for research so hopefully one day we’ll be able to cancel National Childhood Cancer Awareness. In the Sacramento area, there are plenty of fun charity walks, fundraisers, and events to assist the fight against childhood cancer, so educate yourself a little here and then get out and get involved!

 Important facts about childhood cancer:

-The sad fact is that cancer remains the number one cause of death by disease among children.

-But the good news is that increased awareness, support, medial technology, and advances in science have brought the survival rate from a mere 10 percent only 50 years ago to nearly 90 percent today!

-Despite these encouraging numbers, the number of children diagnosed with cancer every year has not declined over the last 20 years.

-Currently, about 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day.

-And each year, about 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer.

-The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is only 6 years old.

-More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.

-That means there are approximately 375,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the U.S., or 1 in 530 adults who are between the ages of 20 and 39.

-So what are the main forms of childhood cancer?

Children generally suffer from very different types of cancer than adults, though there is some overlap.

Here are the main types of childhood cancers:

30% Leukaemia. Cancers of the bone marrow and blood make up 30% of all childhood cancer diagnosis.

26% Brain and other central nervous system tumors.

6% Neuroblastoma. This violent form of cancer attacks early, with the development of nerve cells in the embryo or fetus.

5% Wilms Tumor. Developing in the kidneys, Wilms Tumor accounts for about 1 out of every 20 cancers in children, yet is still not widely known.

3% and 5% Lymphomas. The 2 main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma (3%), which is sometimes called Hodgkin disease, and and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (5%). Both types can occur in children and adults.

3% Rhadbdomyosarcoma. The most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children.

3% Bone cancers. Primary bone cancers actually develop in the bone, as apposed to metastatic bone cancer, which actually starts somewhere else and spreads to the bones. The two main types of primary bone cancers that occur in children are Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

2% Retinoblastoma. Unlikely to be found in a child older than 6 years old, this cancer of the eye accounts usually occurring in children around the age of 2.

 Raising awareness and funds:

There are some amazing organizations and charities doing some amazing things to help childhood cancer causes. But no matter how big and established an organization, it’s the small, grassroots movements by regular people that often make a big difference. Here are just a few of our favourite charities that work tirelessly to eradicate cancer in children:

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

The founder of the foundation, Alex, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma before her first birthday and sadly passed away at the age of 8, having raised an amazing $1 million for research into cures for the cancer that took her life at such a young age.

"While bravely battling her own cancer, Alex and her family continued to hold yearly lemonade stands in her front yard to benefit childhood cancer research. News spread of the remarkable sick child dedicated to helping other sick children. People from all over the world, moved by her story, held their own lemonade stands and donated the proceeds to Alex and her cause."

Alex’s Lemonade stand has a strong celebrity following – from the likes of sports heroes to TV stars, singers and models, in particular Jordin Sparks and Cindy Crawford, who have both felt the effects of cancer taking a life close to them.

St. Baldricks

Maybe you’ve heard of St. Baldricks recently, a fantastic volunteer organization dedicated to raising money for treatment of childhood cancer. Every year, they raise pledges from friends, family, and co-worker in exchange for the fundraiser to shave his – or even her – hair completely off. This year they are recruiting college students for a ‘College Head-Shaving tournament’ and have already had great success.

St. Jude’s

The St. Jude’s Research Hospital is on the cutting edge of combatting cancer and treating children with the disease. The great thing is that families with a sick child never receive a bill from St. Jude’s, as care is completely free, as well as travel, housing, and food expenses. This September, St. Jude supporters in 58 communities will join together for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by participating in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer.

American Childhood Cancer Foundation

Formerly known as Candlelighters, this organization has been providing help and resources to families that have a child with cancer since 1970.

National Children's Cancer Society

The National Children's Cancer Society providing financial assistance, advocacy, education, and emotional support to ill children and their families, ensuring the best care possible.

Starlight Starbright

This is a great non-profit that helps children with cancer cope with the emotional and mental side of illnesss – fear, loneliness, isolation, and even boredom – by providing entertainment and family fun.


CureSearch focuses on raising money for childhood cancer research as well as awareness, critical undertakings in the war against childhood cancer.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation

This well known non-profit arranges experiences (or wishes described by the children) to kids with life threatening medical conditions, including cancer.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

10 Tips to spruce up your front porch so it's the envy of the neighborhood.

For many households the front porch is a place for family and friends to pass the time, a tranquil open-air alternative to stuffy, confining indoor rooms. In essence both an indoor and outdoor living room, the front porch a place to relax, kick back and reflect on the day, play games, talk to neighbors, or simply sip an ice-cold beer and watch the world go by. 

Once upon a time, the front porch represented the ideal of the American Dream like no other architectural feature, only surpassed by the white picket fence. The middle ground between the public and private, a common area shared between the purity of the home and the community outside, the front porch united the neighborhood and community.

These days, the traditional porch is making a comeback, but this time with a modern twist. Less confined by rules and architectural conformity, the porch is now a fun and inviting celebration of community, proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here are 10 tips how you can spruce up your porch to make it the pride of the neighborhood:

1. Lighting
Lighting dictates what mood you want to set on your porch. Many people are using ornate lighting fixtures made for outdoor use. Built-ins help backlight a front porch, giving it that magical glow. Or why not use some globe string or paper lanterns for a touch of charm? Need a little more light to brighten up the space?  Invest in a standing floor lamp or full on hanging outdoor chandelier. There are so many great designs available nowadays you are spoilt for choice. 

Candles are also a great lighting feature. To ensure safety, use hurricane lights - housed in a glass container in many great designs, where you can light a candle and forget about it without worry.

2. Flooring
What do you want to feel under your feet when you walk out for your morning coffee, greet friends for a dinner party or have a moonlit dance? Reclaimed timber floors, polished concrete, low-maintenance synthetic wood, tiles, or area rugs are all suitable options for your porch floor. Just remember that this area is more than likely to be a high traffic and ideally will be waterproof, so take that into consideration when making a decision.

3. Music
How can you possible expect to socialize, entertaining and really relax without some great music playing? Sure, you can buy a stereo or outdoor iPod dock, but these days, homeowners are turning to the classier and higher quality option of hidden, wireless speakers outdoors. Don’t forget that wing chimes, hanging seashells, and decorative bottles can make comforting melodies on your front porch.

4. Materials
Bricks, natural stone, concrete blocks, white-washed clap boards, bamboo, antique wood, copper, glass tiles – there really are no rules when it comes to using interesting and imaginative building materials on your front porch. You can even add faux pillars, a decorative railing, or other building elements to make your porch look more traditional. Experiment with bright colors and even stripes and other patterns to find something that fits your personality.

5. Staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter
Nowadays it’s easy to create exactly the type of temperature you want on your porch. Whether you want to use your front porch during the chilly, rainy winter or need a cool outdoor space to escape the intense summer sun, you now have the choice of fans, misters, portable AC units, shade barriers, and indoor-outdoor heaters that will make your porch so comfortable, you’ll never want to go inside.

6. Themes
Try a theme when designing your porch and see where your imagination takes you. You can recreate an Oceanside beach house with a nautical theme using blue and white striped cushions thrown over a crisp white sofa, Adirondack wooden chairs, and seashells and pots of high grasses to finish the look. Or dedicate your porch to your favorite vacation spots around the world by collecting artwork, trinkets, furniture, fabrics and throws from your travels.

7. Spruce it up for the holidays
When it comes to celebrating holidays, we love to go all out! Halloween is just around the corner so turn your porch into the spookiest space ever, decorated with pumpkins, lights, cobwebs and fake spiders to creep out those little trick-o-treaters. Or cover your front porch in twinkling lights and scenes that would make Santa proud around Christmas time, and of course use plenty of red, white, and blue for the 4th of July!

8. Think of your porch as an outdoor room
When looking at the interior finishes for your porch, think of it in the same way as you might approach a room in your house. Of course you’ll consider flooring, lighting, color, pattern, scale and texture, but also don’t be afraid to take it a step further with mirrors, framed photos, book shelves, water features, a dining table and chairs, curtains, and other amenities that you might see indoors. There are some really cool creations that use synthetic materials, all-weather fabrics, and furniture designed for indoor/outdoor use these days, so don’t feel limited.

9. Seating
Figuring out what kind of seating you want is one of the biggest decisions in designing your porch. Hammocks and swinging chairs really make a porch fun and relaxing, or you can use an outdoor sofa, benches, comfy deck chairs, or even the good old-fashion rocking chair.

10. Plants and nature
Soften the look of your porch and inject some natural color with plants and flowers. Make sure you choose the right plants for your porch however based on if the amount of sunlight, protection, and water they’ll receive. You can also use hanging plants or easily design an area for creeper vines to grow, and adding a birdfeeder will give it just the right touch of natural beauty.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Private jets are luxurious toys for the rich, the famous….and you?

Private jets are luxurious toys for the rich, the famous….and you?

Celebrities, business men and royalty gallivant around on the world on private jets, unblinking at the price tag of a few tens of millions of dollars to add a two-winged toy to their collection. And while for any of us who have flown cramped coach, dealt with delays, and lamented over lost luggage recently that price tag may seem worth it (if we had it), there are now new ways for the average above-average patron to fly on a private jet.

But first, let’s take a peek at some of the most luxurious private jets in the world – and their star-studded owners.

A jet worthy of a prince.
Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talai has shown us that anything is possible in the private jet design world by taking a standard factory design plane, stripping out the interior and remodeling it for a mere $200 million. Not only does this now-$500 million Airbus A380 have stables for both horses and camels, but the Prince apparently cannot go anywhere without his beloved Rolls Royce which is tucked safely into a 2 car garage onboard. Along with a concert hall for entertaining 10 guests, marbled steam room, 5 master suites and 20 smaller private rooms cleverly worked into the design, upon walking around the plane you will also stumble across the prayer room that rotates to ensure it’s always facing Mecca.

Trump hates the movie selection on coach.
Clearly Donald Trump wasn’t a fan of flying coach, nor the movie selection on standard airlines. So The Donald had a Boeing 727-100 custom built, estimated to be worth a whopping $100 million. The presidential hopeful’s jet features a 52-inch flat screen TV where Trump and his guests can access over a thousand movies with just the touch of a button.

If one private jet is good, two must be better.
Russian president Vladimir Putin spent over $155 million recently not on just one luxury private jet but on two. These planes are collectively setting back Russian taxpayers over $165 million while his country remains on the brink of economic disaster, a serious point of contention – if anyone was bold up to scold the former KGP agent.

Travolta is so cool he owns a whole fleet!
When it comes to deciding what plane to take for a morning spin, John Travolta takes Putin’s two jets and raises him nine! Yes, the hip swinging ‘Grease’ star owns and pilots 11 jets, including a full-size Boeing 747. If this doesn’t make him cool enough, after launching the Spirit of Friendship tour to encourage people to travel after September 11, the high-flying Travolta was honored with the title ‘Ambassador-at-Large’ for Qantas Airlines.

Of course Oprah has a jet.
With her insanely busy talk show/media celebrity schedule, Oprah Winfrey is the last person you’ll find lowering herself to the pedestrian standards of first class air travel. So for her frequent globetrotting, Oprah splashed out on a Bombardier Global Express XRS, big enough for Winfrey to entertain up to 14 guests as her entourage takes off and lands with unfettered access to 500 private airports in the U.S. alone.

And while some celebrities enjoy the glitz and glam like P. Diddy and Mark Wahlberg, who touched down at McCarran International Airport’s private jet terminal in Las Vegas for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao Fight of The Century, some celebrities chose to follow the picture of frugality and fiscal responsibility, Justin Bieber.

Or, you can fly like “The Biebs.”
Yes, the Justin Bieber doesn’t own his own private jet, but that doesn’t stop him from posing inside a chartered G4 jet and posting the selfies on Instagram. Even though Bieber still paid a pretty penny to charter such a lavish jet, perhaps the kid has the right idea: charter a plane for one trip and be done with it – no additional fuel charges, landing fees, crew and maintenance costs to ever think about...

So can you book a private jet, too?
While booking a private jet for solo journeys still might be well out of reach of the typical middle class traveler, you don’t have to be a prince or Oprah to step foot on a private jet.

Of course you can book a private jet for one trip, which might cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 depending on your destination, though you may be surprised to learn that fuel is always the biggest expense, not the plane or the pilot’s services.

Fractional ownership is an increasingly popular way for business people and the rich (but not super-rich) to enjoy the private jet experience for special occasions or business clients without buying the whole plane. For a yearly fee that starts at a modest few thousand dollars, you can buy the use of the jet, crew, and pay off all the airport fees for a fixed amount of flying time (usually it starts penciling out if you’re going to fly more than 20 hours a year). Described as a timeshare for private jets, the popularity of the two biggest fractional ownership companies, FlexJet and NetJets, has increased after the financial crunch and Recession.

“Empty legs” is an aviation term for private jets that return to their home airports without passengers, essentially doubling costs without collecting a fee on the return leg. So several charter and private airlines, including Delta Private Jets, have introduced the option for elite and award-winning flyers to come along for the ride. The drawback? They usually only have 24-hours notice to fly, it still might cost a sizable $300-$800 (not too bad compared to coach), and it’s only available for the best airline patrons.

Taking fractional ownership and empty legs one step further, A 27-year-old entrepreneur, Sergey Petrossev, has just created an Uber-style app, funded by Jay-Z, which he claims will let anyone book a flight on a private jet with just one click. The app hasn’t really soared yet, but no one can accuse Jay-Z of not being a man of the people (although he and his wife, BeyoncĂ©, do have their own private jet.)