Thursday, December 31, 2015

20 Innovations we'll see in our homes in 2020.

2016 is already upon us, with everyone (including us) speculating what the new year will bring. So let's jump ahead to 2020 to examine the technology and innovations that will be in our homes:

1. Smart windows
Windows will have built in smart sensors and digital panels that allow you to set the levels of light or dark, UV protection, and even scenery just by touching them. The need for window shades and coverings will be obsolete and of course the exterior face of all windows will be equipped to capture and harness solar energy.

2. Computational surfaces
Additionally, mirrors, shower glass, and just about any surface can be made “computational,” accepting our commands by touch screen and customizing our living experience.

3. Solar technologies
Likewise, a good portion of our power needs in the home will come from solar energy by 2020, no matter what the climate. Remember the solar road concept that basically made solar conductors out of paving tracks and materials? It’s a bad idea for roads but a great idea for homes, where roofing materials and even siding will all have solar cells implanted, finally taking us away from non-renewable fuels.

4. Personal 3D printing
Do you need a tool around the house? A part to fix a leaky faucet? Even a custom welcome sign with your address and family name on it? Instead of driving to the store, the average American will be able to just plug in their personal 3D printer at home, download the plans just like we download apps now, make adjustments online, and print these things. Very soon, we’ll be able to print custom clothing, toys, artwork, school supplies, and even medical tech, as the future of 3D printing is exciting and limitless.

5. Holograms
Sure, television screens will get thinner, more clear and interactive (such as with OLED technology already in development), but the NEXT revolution in communications and entertainment will be in 4D holograms, displaying television, video, phone calls, gaming, chats, etc. all in near-life like displays.

6. Closed water systems
Sadly, the UN reports that 75 percent of our world’s freshwater is already polluted. As we become more environmentally conscious and water becomes the most valuable substance on earth, even wastewater from our sinks, showers, toilets, and hoses won’t go to waste. Homes will have complex systems that allow for evaporative water and rain water to be captured, channeled into the system, filtered and used around the house. Likewise, wastewater won’t be expelled but refiltered and recirculated in our gardens, toilets, fountains, and hoses, etc.

7. Fingerprint scan security
“Do you remember back in the day when people actually carried these little metal key things around with them?” That’s what we’ll be saying in 2020, when unlocking your front door will be a matter of placing your finger on a sensor so the system can scan your fingerprints and approve you for entry.

8. Ocular scanning and facial recognition
We’re also likely to see ocular scans and face recognition technology for more advanced security systems, but in 2020, fingerprint security will do just fine for shedding these metal keys.

9. Biofuels
By 2016, the majority of people will be feeding condensed pellets made of waste, organic materials, agricultural byproducts and even garbage into heating and energy systems in our homes, allowing us to get further away from fossil fuels and save money with clean energy.

10. Light Peak technology
Light peak technology is a technology that allows super fast data transfer, eventually allowing us to sync and share terabytes of information in microseconds.

11. Personal computing will only need personal data
Information sharing will allow us to walk around with our own personal “computer” full of files, data, and storage, in a watch, pendant, pen drive or other vehicle, plugging in and accessing any portal in any room, home, business or office, anywhere in the world without relying on personal ownership of devices.

12. Personal food production
Everyone eats, and every home and even apartment has plenty of space to grow food with green roof and green wall growing systems. Spare closets, basements, attics, vertical gardens on the inside or outside of walls, and floating agriculture are all going to allow the average person to grow and consume a significant portion of their food, allowing us to save money, better monitor what goes into our food, and live healthier lives.

13. Shifting walls
Instead of applying a coat of paint when you want to change the color of a room, you’ll be able to program the exact color you want into digital walls and room, instantly turning it the desired color shade, design, or even replicating a scenic landscape.

14. Watch command
Everything in our homes – from entry to security, temperature control, appliances, filtering systems, and lighting, etc. will be controllable and adjustable by touching your watch – whether you are home or not.

15. Gesture Control
Lighting, televisions, appliances, window shading, and many other functions around the house will respond to voice commands and gestures, not with archaic keyboard strokes and mouse clicks.

16. Conversing with the central computer
Likewise, you’ll be able to program every alarm clock, reminder, and appliance with simple voice commands to the home’s central computer, which will unify every electronic and digital function into a single easy to operate system.

17. Light-up flooring and furniture
Just about every surface will have intricate LED lighting systems or digital programming, which means you’ll be able to set your floor panels to light up when you walk on them (making your own disco dance floor) or allow furniture to light up and shift in color like a lava lamp when someone sits on it. Of course, the uses of this technology will have more practical uses like security.

18. Programming based on our heartbeats
Your home’s central computer will be able to read the heart rate and biometrics of the people in the room, adjusting the temperature, lighting, oxygen content, filtering system, and even noise levels to their individual pre-settings. Your home will also be able to detect if someone is sick or unusually angry, anxious, or tired, adjusting the environmental settings accordingly.

19. Storage solutions
With our population set to double by 2050 and the urbanization of living in mega cities, space will be at a premium. Innovative storage solutions that we can’t even dream of will make sure every inch of space in the home – like in the basement, attic, between the walls, etc. is used efficiently – but adaptable and flowing enough for a modern aesthetic.

20. Self-cleaning bathrooms and kitchens
We might not have maid robots in 2020 but the cleaning systems will be pretty self reliant, with intricate sensors and ultrasonic self-cleaning systems installed in the most germ-addled areas of the home like toilets, showers, sinks, garbage cans, water spigots, and on kitchen and cooking counters.

Did you know that Sacramento has 12 sisters? Meet them here:

Did you know that Sacramento has a sister? In fact, Sacramento has 12 sisters located all over the world that you probably didn’t know about.

It’s true – our beloved Sacramento, California has 12 sister cities spanning the globe. The first, Manila, Philippines (1961) was officially endorsed in 1961, and the last was Ashkelon, Israel as of August 15, 2012. In between there was Matsuyama, Japan (1981), Jinan, China (1984), Hamilton, New Zealand (1988), Liestal, Switzerland (1989), Chisinau, Moldova (1989), Yongsan-gu, Seoul in South Korea (1997), San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua (2006), Pasay City, Philippines (2006), Mexicali, Mexico (2006), and Bethlehem, Palestine (2009).

The Sister City international (SCI) program was enacted in the United States in 1959 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The purpose was to establish a “people-to-people” program with city partnerships that allowed citizens of both communities to learn about each other, foster involved business, grow good relations, and educational, economic and arts exchange.

Starting with the capital city of Manila in the Philippines in the early 1960s, Sacramento was host to a family tree of diverse, fascinating – and sometimes controversial – cities around the globe. Several mayors, delegates, and ambassadors of Sacramento have traveled to these cities abroad, as well as dignitaries, students, and regular citizens traveling to northern California to visit us.

Here is a quick fact sheet on Sacramento’s 12 sister cities:

Country: The Philippines
Located: Southeast Asia
Population: 1,652,171 as of the 2010 census (though it could be unofficially triple that or more)
Area: 14.88 square miles
Official website:

Unique facts: Manila is made up of 896 separate Barangays, or neighborhoods, each with their own local governance.

What it has common with Sacramento: Envision the worst traffic jam on the smoggiest day in Sacramento, then multiply it by 100 and you have an idea of every day life Manila.

Country: Japan
Located:  Matsuyama is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture (like a province) on the island of Shikoku in Japan.
Population: 516,419
Area: 165 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: The city name means “pine mountain” in Japanese and it’s known for its hot springs, some of the oldest in Japan.
What it has common with Sacramento: The city was founded in 1889, only a few decades after Sacramento officially became a city.

Country: People’s Republic of China
Located:  Asia
Population: 6,813,984
Area: 3,157 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: With almost 5 million people in the official city and almost 7 million in the metro area, Jinan still only ranks as the 24th most populous city in China!
What it has common with Sacramento: Chinese settlers were some of the first to Sacramento, working the gold mines and building the railroads, and there was a small yet lively Chinatown are located on I Street between Second and Sixth downtown, the traces of which you can still see today.

Country: New Zealand
Located:  Oceania, east of Australia
Population: 156,800
Area: 338 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: New Zealanders are called “Kiwis,” a reference to their national bird. Hamilton was also one of the NZ sites for the filming of the Lord of the Rings movies and you can still visit Hobbiton there.
What it has common with Sacramento: Sacramento sits at a low elevation, surrounded by waterways, and Hamilton is one of the lowest points in New Zealand and surrounded by seven huge bogs.

Country: Switzerland
Located:  Europe
Population: 14,042
Area: 7.02 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: Switzerland does things differently, often abstaining from regional wars, using the Swiss Franc instead of the Euro, and hosting foreigners so much that 23% of its population are not Swiss.
What it has common with Sacramento: Just as Sacramento’s foothills rise to meet glorious Lake Tahoe, Liestal is a hill city (1,073 feet above sea level) that sits in the shadow of the Swiss Alps.

Country: The Republic of Moldova
Located:  Eastern Europe between Romania and Ukraine
Population: 492,894
Area: 217 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: Moldova is a huge wine-producing nation, ranked as the 12th largest wine exporter in the world. Strangely, it also has the 3rd best Internet network in the world.
What it has common with Sacramento: Both Chisinau and Sacramento are capital cities (the former of a country, the latter of a state,) and their populations are almost identical.

Country: South Korea
Located:  A prefecture of Seoul, the capital city
Population: 227,400
Area: 8.44 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: The name means "Dragon Hill.”
What it has common with Sacramento: Yongsan-gu was until recently the site of a large United States military base in the center of Seoul, though it was moved in 2013.

San Juan de Oriente
Country: Nicaragua
Located:  Central America just north of Costa Rica
Population: 4,734
Area: 5.3 square miles
Official website: none
Unique facts: Many people think of dangerous civil wars when they think of Nicaragua, but in fact the country is now very stable and one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world! They filmed Survivor on an island near the charming and sleepy village of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
What it has common with Sacramento: San Juan de Oriente is a tiny community filled with ceramic artisans, known as the best at their craft in the country. So think of a Second Saturday Art Walk and that is what it might look like every day, 365 days a year!

Pasay City
Country: Philippines
Located:  One of the cities in Manila (the capital is so big they call it ‘Metro Manila’ and divided it up into separate cities!)
Population: 392,869
Area: 7.14 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: The culture of the Philippines is very Americanized and there are more than 1.5 million Filipinos living in California.
What it has common with Sacramento: Arden Mall and other malls and shopping centers are always bustling in Sacramento, and the SM Mall and other malls are a popular destination for Filipinos in Pasay.

Country: Mexico
Located:  The Mexican state of Baja California
Population: 1,025,743
Area: 43.9 square miles
Official website: none
Unique facts: Mexicali is the epicenter of the Mexican aerospace industry starting when Rockwell Collins established their operation there in 1966.

What it has common with Sacramento: Just like Sacramento and surrounding areas, Mexicali used to be primarily an agricultural region but now, thanks to the influx of industry and international companies, boats a skilled and highly educated populace.

Country: Palestine
Located:  Bethlehem is located in the West Bank about 6 miles from the Israeli city of Jerusalem.
Population: 25,000 people
Area: 4.097 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: Founded 1400 BCE, Bethlehem is attributed as the birthplace of Jesus.
What it has common with Sacramento: Just as Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, Bethlehem has always been a cultural, ethnic, and religiously mixed settlement. It changed hands many times over the centuries and now has a Muslim majority but still is home to a large Palestinian Christian community, with millions of tourists from all faith visiting every year.

Country: Israel
Located: 31 miles south of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean Sea
Population: 126,819
Area: 18.451 square miles
Official website:
Unique facts: Throughout its ancient history, Ashkelon was ruled by the Egyptians, Philistines, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Persians, Arabs, and Crusaders.
What it has common with Sacramento: If the Mayors and leaders of Sacramento sometimes find themselves mired in controversy, so was the adoption of Ashkelon as a sister city in 2012, as it was met with political protests and loud opposition by some – but approved unanimously when it came to a vote.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Want to hit the jackpot in 2016? Double down on Sacramento real estate. (And wait until you hear who’s saying it!)

Don’t listen to us. We’re biased about this real estate thing, being that we’re a real estate agency whose members make their living when people buy and sell their homes. It’s in our best interest to say rosy, optimistic things about the Sacramento real estate market, like when we predicted (VERY conservatively) solid 6-8% home equity gains in the greater Sacramento area over the next year with many markets hitting double digits, or when we reported that the Fed rate hike was just a innocuous blip on the national housing market’s radar.

But this time, you may want to listen because it’s not us saying this and if they’re right, Sacramento real estate will be a downright hot commodity in 2016 – one of the hottest markets in the entire country. If they’re right, you’ll want to go ALL IN on Sacramento real estate in 2016.

That’s the findings of a comprehensive economic forecast released this week by that listed the 10 up-and-coming metropolitan markets in the country., the preeminent resource for everything housing, published the findings of their data and analysis by Chief Economist John Smoke.

Their opinion of California’s Queen City was that it would be one of the top ten real estate markets in 2016. In fact, Realtor and Smoke had Sacramento listed as the number four most up and coming real estate marketing in the country, behind only Providence, Rhode Island, St. Louis, Missouri, and San Diego, California.

Sacramento sat number four on the impressive list “where home buyers and sellers are the most motivated and active” according to Smoke and, with Atlanta, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, Memphis, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Boston, Massachusetts filling out the rest of the top ten.

Top 10 Real Estate Markets to Watch in 2016
            1          Providence, RI
            2          St. Louis, MO
            3          San Diego, CA
            4          Sacramento, CA
            5          Atlanta, GA
            6          New Orleans, LA
            7          Memphis, TN
            8          Charlotte, NC
            9          Virginia Beach, VA
            10       Boston, MA

To calculate these ten real estate jackpots, accounted for past trends, season variations for housing, and comprehensive economic data for every one of the 100 largest metropolitan markets in the country. Their statistical model further factored home sale and statistics, then spitting out a list of predicted future values for the coming year. They highlighted those markets where forecasted growth was equal to or better than the U.S. average, and voila…had their top ten.

In fact, Sacramento as well as the other nine markets on the list have real estate that’s in high demand, defined by 60% more listing page views than the U.S. overall average and inventory that sells 16 days faster than the U.S. average.

So why are we basing our advice to double down on Sacramento real estate on the recommendation of just one website, no matter how respected and diligent it is? Not at all. After released their findings, some of the biggest and most venerable media outlets and financial analysts parroted the prediction that Sacramento would come up all cherries, many of them including it in the top ten on their own lists, albeit based on a different combination of data and factors.

Here is a list of sources that either backed up’s placement of Sacramento in the top ten, or coronated the Queen City with their only list:

CNN Money
Inman News
Money Talk News
Realty Today
Home Buying Institute
Housing Wire
And even a national real estate website that starts with a ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘Rulia’ backed up Sacramento’s top ten status.

All of these websites/news outlets pointed to a combination of surging demand based on growing household formation (Gen X’ers moving up and Millenials moving in), a surging job market, low unemployment numbers, and other key indicators. As far as I can tell, their statistical models don’t even factor in the Sacramento X Factor – the rise of downtown redevelopment around a new arena.

Either way, it seems Sacramento is in being lauded as one of the hottest real estate markets in the country for 2016, definitely worth doubling down for residents and investors. But by all means, don’t just take our word for it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Alfano Group's Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

2015 was a great year for real estate in Sacramento, with home values rising and encouraging signs for the future thanks to downtown redevelopment, new jobs, and infrastructure expansion. But before we turn the page of the calendar to 2016, let's take a look back at some of the best issue, topics, and ideas from the last 365 days. Here you'll find the top 10 blog posts from The Alfano Group Real Estate Agency, ranked by your page views and clicks. We hope you enjoy this long back and please let us know if you have any questions or there are topics you'd like covered in 2016! (Just click on the image to read the full article.)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 Real Estate Market Trends For 2016 (Part 2)

It's been a great year for real estate, both nationally and in our own Sacramento region, but what will 2016 hold? Here are five more trends that analysts,  economists, and housing experts expect to see this coming year. To read part one of this blog with trends one through six, click here

6. Interest rate rise stabilizes growth
We all know by now that the Fed just raised their benchmark rate by .25 points, which will bump up mortgage interest rates slightly, but that’s not bad news at all. In fact, the Fed is raising rates to temper inflation and slow growth since they see so many positive economic factors, like job numbers and housing. Interest rate increases will be gradual and aren’t expected to hamper buying since any increase will also mean the economy is healthier and jobs and wages heading in the right direction. No matter what, interest rates are still historically so low and the cost of buying is far less than renting in most areas.

7. City living in large metropolitan markets has seen its zenith
The cost of living, housing, and real estate in some large cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, etc. have become prohibitive, driving some out of the cities or in search of suburbs or “second cities” that are still affordable. While urban living is still attractive to many Millenials and other young couples, as they age, they’re expected to head out to the suburbs. There, they’ll find lower housing prices, better values, and a better place to raise families. At present time, 37 percent of Millenials prefer living in the city versus 29 percent who prefer suburban living, but that number has shrunk, and faced with the choice of either staying an urbanite or being able to buy a house and move to the next stage of their life in the suburbs, the number of those 80 million Millenials who make the latter choice will be significant.

8. Location, location, bike trails and walking?
The suburbs may see a new influx of migration, but today’s young buyers will be looking for different amenities than their parents and grandparents did. Millenials, young buyers, and new suburbanites would love to recreate some of the access, convenience, and culture of city living, but in their own quieter neighborhoods. That means parks, bike trails, neighborhood markets, cafes, and restaurants, and easy access to trains and light rail for commuting without driving. Builders are keeping this in mind, creating “pocket” communities within greater suburbs for new homeowners to work, play, and raise their families without traveling far.

9. More loan products open the door for homeownership
Even as interest rates rise slightly, lending will be healthy in 2016, invigorated from a diverse new set of mortgage loans introduced into the market that will grant access to new homebuyers. As many Americans can now afford the monthly payment for a home but can’t scrape together the sizable 20% down payment traditionally needed to buy, there will be an array of purchase loans with less money down. In fact, Fannie Mae now has a loan that allows for multigenerational families to spread the cost of homeownership by counting income of boarders or renters and other family members. Likewise, Fannie Mae FNMA and Freddie Mac beginning to purchase loans with only 3% down payments, or 97% loan-to-value products, which is expected to greatly boost access to those loans, as now only about 11% of the mortgage market is comprised of loans with down payments of 3% or less. In all, the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts that new mortgage originations will rise to $905 billion in 2016, up from $821 billion in 2015, an encouraging sign.

10. The West will still be the best
In 2016, we’ll continue the trend set in 2015 of the largest gains in home prices concentrated in the western part of the country. From Denver to San Francisco, Austin to San Jose, Salt Lake City to Seattle, and many points in between, year-over-year gains were up to or exceeding 10% in major western cities in 2015. While those numbers may adjust back down to earth a little in 2016, analysts still expect the best gains for equity in the left half of the country.

So what’s our prediction for Sacramento?
Based on all of these ten factors we laid out and the economic climate of the greater Sacramento region, we predict that single-family home sales will increase by about 6-7 percent in 2016 over this year, and the median home sale price will increase by 7-10 percent.