Sunday, February 26, 2017

15 Highly creative (and highly questionable) real estate agent ads.

At The Alfano Group Real Estate Agency, we realize that we're not the only game in town. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of hard working and dedicated real estate professionals around the country ready to serve you. But we always want to be known as the good guys in the business so today, so we decided to actually highlight some of our home-selling peers. After seeing this snapshot of their highly questionable real estate ads, you may come running to The Alfano Group when it's time to buy or sell your next home, but no can accuse us of not trying to help the competition! 

Of course, this is all in good fun, as Realtors search high and low for creative ways to get your attention - and your business. So we'll even be so generous as to add our critique to each!

Feel free to send us a funny or questionable real estate ad you've seen! 

1. I actually like the idea of framing the business card around this agent's face - but perhaps he should have buttoned up his shirt first? Or put down the tire? Or stepped away from the trailer?

2. I get the Home Alone angle (and it's actually pretty cute) - but superimposing your head onto McCauley Caulkin's body is never OK!

3. Two questions: why is Rod Peeler actually Rod Stewart, and why doesn't he ever sleep?

4. Just the fact that you got those sign riders made up signals that you are one or the other - or both!

5. A lamb with the head of a human floating around space? OK if that's not weird enough, why is the lamb wearing white space boots? 

6. I actually can't find fault with this one, because EVERYONE loves Doritos (including Dorita's parents, apparently.)

7. Wendy wouldn't be the first Wacko I've seen in real estate.


8. Bill got some bad advice. Unless he's a podiatrist-turned-Realtor. Nevermind.

9. The shopping cart is actually not a bad touch. But let's just sit back and reflect on the 1980s for a moment.

10. Nothing says "Crazy Cat Lady" like putting a cat on your real estate ad...and looking like one.

11. Is this from a movie or something? This can't be real! Check out the small print: "Voted 8th best real estate team!"

12. Everyone knows that eye lasers could easily start a fire in wood houses so no, Patricia.

13. This guy is actually hilarious. I bet Dave is fun at parties!

14. Chris gets an A for creativity, and an F for family counseling.

15. Is there a big market for Ghost Realtors these days?



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

40 Facts about police, firefighters, and paramedics in the USA

If you’ve ever had an emergency or had to dial 9-1-1, you were probably highly appreciative when the police, fire department, or paramedics showed up. In fact, there are several million brave and dedicated Americans working tirelessly to come to the aid of others, saving countless lives without fanfare or thanks. Sometimes, as with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, these civilian police, firefighters, and ambulance personnel pay the ultimate sacrifice.

So today, we wanted to celebrate and honor the men and women that put their lives on the line every day to help others, with 40 facts about firefighters, police, and paramedics in the USA:


1. There are currently over 1 million firefighters in the United States.

2. About 750,000 of these firefighters are volunteers.

3. The National Fire Department Registry lists 27,198 fire departments in the U.S., representing about 91% of all departments.

4. These fire departments operate from the 50,700 registered fire stations across the U.S.

5. 96% of all fire departments are small local operations, including some or all volunteer firefighters.

6. In fact, 69% of all fire departments have one station, while 17% have two stations, and 14% have three or more.

7. To staff all of these fire stations, about 1,217,300 personnel show up for work, including career, volunteer, or paid-per-call firefighters and civilian staff.

8. The average firefighter is 30-39 years old (28% of all firefighters), male, and makes $49,330 in annual salary according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

9. However, 26% of firefighters are 40-49 years old, and 16% are 50-59.

10. Together, they respond to more than 33 million fires and incidents every year!

11. However, reporting a fire isn't even the reason for most calls. In fact, people in need of medical assistance is the number one reason for firefighter response, with more than 21 million incidents per year.

12. Incredibly, the second highest reason for firefighter calls is false alarms, with more than 2.5 million per year!

Police officers and law enforcement

13. There are now more than 900,000 police and law enforcement officers dutifully serving in the United States, the most in our nation’s history.

14. About 556,000 of those are full-time and career sworn officers, with the rest being part-time, civilian, and volunteer personnel.

15. States with the highest populations and large metropolitan centers like California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois (in that order) represent the highest employers of police and law enforcement.

16. 88% of the law enforcement officers in the U.S. are male, and 12% are female.

17. Sheriffs' offices around the country employ approximately 291,000 career and full-time employees, including 186,000 sworn officers.

18. As of 2016, the median annual salary for police and detectives in the U.S is $60,270, representing an approximate hourly wage of $28.97.

19. Which states pay the most to their officers of the law? California, with 73,550 police officers, pays the highest national average at $78,790 annually, while Texas and New York follow not far behind.

20. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of police and law enforcement officers is expected to rise by about 33,000 members, or a 4% increase. It’s interesting to note that this represents slower than normal growth compared to many other professions.

21. An estimated 10% of police make $32,080 or less every year, while the top 10% earn $84,900 or more.

22. What does it take to become a police officer? The vast majority of departments around the country require a high school diploma (or college degree), candidates must be 21 years or older and pass rigorous physical, psychological, and technical testing. In many departments, a college degree in criminal justice or a related field is required.

23. Additionally, law enforcement personnel must be U.S. citizen, graduate from their local police academy, and undergo a period of evaluation during on-the-job training.

24. Interestingly enough, while a prior criminal record will seriously deter a candidate’s chances of joining the police force, it won’t necessarily exclude one from consideration.

25. However, high moral character is a requirement of officers of the law, and certain crimes – like domestic violence, racial crimes, etc. – automatically disqualify them.

26. Sadly, being a police officer is an extremely taxing, high-risk job. Injuries and on-the-job death rates are especially prevalent for police working in high-risk and urban areas. Firearm deaths, traffic accidents, and other forms of violence against police represent the highest instances of risk.

27. One interesting piece of trivia is why police officers are called “cops.” In fact, the moniker started in the mid 19th century, when the term “copper” was used in England.

28. In that country’s slang, a “copper” is someone who captures or seizes something – just like police and constables of the day captured criminals. Once that nickname spread to the United States, it was shortened to just “cop.”

29. Another theory proposes that "cop" is an acronym that stands for "Constable On Patrol." However, there doesn't seem to be any historical or etymological evidence to back this up.

EMTs and Paramedics

30. More than 155,000 registered Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) work in the United States.

31. As of 2015, their annual median income was around $31,980, or only $15.38 per hour.

32. For Paramedics, the annual median salary ranges from $43,525 to $54,710 per year.

33. However, EMTs and Paramedics are in high demand, with the field expected to grow by about 24% between 2014 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

34. EMTs and Paramedics treat approximately 25-30 million people each year!

35. Answering all of those medical and service calls adds up to about $6.75 billion every year.

36. The job description for EMTs and Paramedics includes responding to 911 emergency assistance calls, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, treating major wounds with urgent care measures, providing first-aid, driving an ambulance to transport patients to hospitals and much more.

37. It's definitely a job that most workers do because they love helping people – not for big money, as their work environment can be characterized as extremely physically strenuous and high-stress, as they risk their own lives to save ours.

38. In fact, approximately 50% of all Basic-level EMTs are unpaid volunteers, as well as 5% of all paramedics.

39. About 40% of all EMA personnel work for fire departments, responding to calls side by side with firefighters.

40. Currently, nearly 70% of all EMTs and are male, according to national data.

Now that you know more about police, firefighters and Paramedics in the U.S., go ahead and give them a big “thank you” when you see one!

8 Ways to hold title to real estate in California

If you've bought a home in California, then you know how many important decisions there are to make, including not only which house you wish to purchase, but what mortgage loan is best for you, what price and terms to negotiate, and what color to paint your kids' rooms. (Ok, maybe that's the most important decision!)

But we'll add one very important – but often overlooked – home buying decision to that list: how to hold title.

In California, there are 8 basic ways you can hold title to your house (or any real property) that sit under the umbrellas of Sole Ownership or Co-Ownership. In this blog, we’ll cover the essential information you should know about holding title, with the differences and benefits you’ll find.

Please note that this information is just an illustration for consumers for educational purposes. Please consult your title company, CPA and tax preparer, and real estate attorney for specific advice on how to vest title.

The 8 common ways to hold title to a house in California are:

Sole Ownership 
Sole ownership can best be described as when an individual or entity acquires title. Some examples of holding title through sole ownership include:

Single Man/Woman 
A man or woman who is not legally married or in a domestic partnership.

Unmarried Man/Woman
A man or woman who have been married in the past but are now legally divorced.

A Married Man/Woman, As His/Her Sole And Separate Property
It’s possible for a married man or woman to buy a house and hold the title in her or his name alone. For this to occur, their spouse must give consent and sign off on a quitclaim deed or otherwise relinquish all rights, title, and interest in the property.

A Domestic Partner as His/Her Sole and Separate Property
This occurs when someone is in a domestic partnership but wishes to hold title to a property in their name alone – and their partners consent by signing off and relinquishing all interest just like in the case above.

When two or more people hold title to their house together, they vest title through co-ownership.

Community Property
This is a common way to vest title to a house or property that’s owned by a married couple or domestic partners. According to the California Civil Code, real property conveyed to a married man or woman is automatically assumed to be community property, unless otherwise specified (by gift, bequest, or agreement). When property is held as community property, both spouses or partners have the right to half of the house or property, so both need to sign all agreements and documents to sell or transfer the property or take out a loan against it. However, each spouse has the right to dispose of/leave their ownership right in the property to an heir in their will.

Community Property With Right Of Survivorship 
This form of vesting title for a house or property owned together by spouses or domestic partners has one additional benefit: the right to survivorship. What that means is that when a husband and wife, for example, hold community property with right of survivorship and one of them dies, their remaining interest in the property does not pass to their descendants but remains with the living spouse. Sometimes, spouses or domestic partners vest title as community property with right of survivorship because of tax advantages it offers.

Joint Tenancy
According to the California Civil Code, joint tenancy is a form of vesting title to two or more persons with equal shares and interests. None of them have to be married or domestic partners, and they're subject to the right of survivorship in the surviving joint tenant(s). So when one of these two or more joint tenants dies, title to the property automatically and immediately vests in the name of the surviving tenant(s). With joint tenancy, the title must be acquired for all of these parties at the same time and by the same conveyance, with the document expressly declaring their intention to create a joint tenancy estate.

Tenancy in Common
This form of vesting title to a property allows for two or more co-owners just like joint tenancy. However, with tenancy in common they are allowed fractional –or unequal – ownership, so they are owed that same proportion in income or profit it generates, as well as expenses. There are also no rights to survivorship, so if one tenant dies, the title does not automatically go to the remaining tenants, but can be vested to the deceased person's heirs. Each individual tenant may also sell/lease, or will their share of the property as they wish.

In California, you may also hold title to your house or property in a trust. A trust is an arrangement where the legal title to your property is transferred by a grantor to a person called a trustee, who holds and manages it according to the best interests of the beneficiaries. For that reason, a trust usually doesn't hold title in its own name, but title is vested to the trustee, while the trust still holds legal title and rights.

Now that you have the basics about holding title to real estate in California down, let's go find you your dream house! Contact us to get started.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hip hip hooray! U.S. home prices rush past pre-recession 2006 peak levels.

Some time in September of 2016, the United States housing market blew past a key measure of home values, proving that the dreaded economic recession that started in 2008 is behind us. It was that month when the average sold home in the United States surpassed the previous peak set in 2016.

According to official reports, the median existing-home price in the U.S. reached $236,400 in September 2016. That mark for all home sales was significantly higher than the previous peak of $230,400 we experienced in July of 2006 – more than a decade ago.

Our current $236,400 median home price was also up 6.5 from just a year earlier for the same month in 2015.

In other key measures, For Sale properties stayed on the market for only 34 days this summer (June), which was the lowest Days-On-Market on record since the National Association of Realtors began tracking that statistic in May 2011. In fact, 47 percent of all homes on the market sold in less than a month during June of 2016, according to NAR.

It’s even more good news for sellers of a non-distressed home, as those were snatched up in a median of only 33 days, while short sales (129 days) and foreclosures (39 days) lagged.

Speaking of distressed sales, short sales, foreclosures and other bank-owned properties constituted just 8 percent of sales this past summer, down from 11 percent the year prior. All-cash sales – another key indicator of a fledgling housing market and distressed sale volume – dropped to just 22 percent of all home purchase transactions, which was down 10 points from 32 percent a year ago.

According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, last year’s spring home buying season was the strongest on record since before the financial crash and recession.

"Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007," said Yun. "This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that's giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy."

Yun seems spot-on when he points to economic trends – not just a hot seasonal spring market – that are driving home prices. In fact, total sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condo, and co-ops jumped 3.2 percent during June, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.49 million – almost 10 percent higher than the previous year.

The growth in the U.S. real estate and housing market has largely come in the last half decade, not incrementally since 2006.

“A lot of that recovery has come in the last four years as the economy has strengthened and created more higher-paying jobs,” stated Taimur Khan, senior research analyst at Knight Frank, the firm that first produced the report on median home values jumping higher than 2006 levels.

But what we’re experiencing with higher home prices may also be attributed to a case of the rising real estate tide lifting all boats. While sales showed the highest pace since February 2007 across the entire U.S, with all major regions moving higher in June, there are still certain markets that are red-hot, bolstering the median price numbers.

In fact, NAR’s president, Chris Polychron, points to “drastic imbalances of supply compared to buyer demand in several metro areas, most notably in the West.”

The biggest home price pushes have been in the most expensive metro areas like San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and even Sacramento, dragging up the national average with them.

However, the economic recovery and home prices are not quite as rosy in other areas of the country. According to‘s chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, median home prices still haven’t reached pre-2006 levels in 35 of the country’s largest metro areas, including Stockton, Ca, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and some parts of Florida.

Smoke also points to the fact that home prices may be on the steady rise nationally, but haven't "recovered on a real or inflation-adjusted basis." Due to inflation, a home sold for $1 in 2006 is really $1.20 these days, Smoke illustrates, so home prices may be a little less hot than they first appear, not really catching 2006 levels.

Despite this caution, home values continue to be bolstered by a fundamental economic principle of (lack of) supply and demand. In fact, the number of homes for sale across the U.S. sits at near historically low levels, with only 2.30 million existing homes for sale, with housing inventory only 0.4 percent higher than a year ago.

 “When the right type of single-family house in the right area comes to market, people want to buy that home because they might not get that opportunity again,” adds Taimur Khan of Knight Frank. No matter how you look at it, the fact that home prices have jumped above pre-recession levels is an encouraging sign – and presents grand opportunity for home sellers in the Sacramento and Northern California region

Fun facts about the lesser known U.S. Presidents

With Presidents Day an annual holiday most celebrated for the fact that most of us get a day off work, we thought it was the perfect time to share some interesting facts and tidbits about U.S. presidents. But we all know about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, and even James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are household names. So today, we’ll share some fun facts and trivia about these lesser-known U.S. Presidents:

James Madison (1809-1817)
James Madison was our smallest president at 5’4” and weighing in at only 100 pounds.

James Monroe (1817-1825)
Monroe’s first term coincided with the end of the War of 1812, an era of unity that was called the Era of Good Feelings. Public sentiment was so warm and fuzzy that Monroe ran unopposed for his re-election, something that only happened one other time in U.S. history, with George Washington.

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
The son of a president, John Quincy Adams went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River every morning.

Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
Van Buren was the first U.S. president born in the United States!

John Tyler (1841-1845)
John Tyler fathered 15 children, more than any other U.S. president!

James K. Polk (1845-1849)
Polk banned the consumption of alcohol, gambling, and card playing, and even dancing from the White House!

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
Zachary Taylor had been a major general in the U.S. Army and hero of the Mexican-American War, but it was bacteria from some cherries he ate that led to his death five days later, on July 4, 1850.

Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
Fillmore married his schoolteacher, Abigail Powers, who instructed him at the New Hope Academy in New York when he was 19-years old.

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
While he was president, Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse, but charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence.
 Pierce was also so unpopular during his first (and only) term as president that his own party didn’t re-nominate him to run again, leading him to reflect that “There is nothing left to do but get drunk.”

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
Johnson was the first U.S. president to be impeached.

James A. Garfield (1881)
James Garfield was shot by an assassin only a few months into his presidency. He passed away 11 weeks later but not after doctors worked tirelessly to save his life with a new medical device – a metal detector that was supposed to locate the bullet in his body - invented by Andrew Graham Bell. However, the metal detector kept going off because of the metal bedsprings beneath him, so the surgeons kept cutting him open in the wrong places, contributing to his demise.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
Hayes became president only after possibly the most disputed election in U.S. history, losing the popular vote by 25,000 but winning the Electoral College by one single vote.

Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)
When Arthur wanted to redecorate the White House but there was no money in the budget, he simply started selling off historical relics to fund his project. In fact, “Elegant Arthur” pawned off 24 wagon loads of historical items in all, including a pair of Abe Lincoln’s pants and one of John Quincy Adams’ hats.

Grover Cleveland (1885-1889)
When his law partner passed away, Cleveland became a legal guardian to his 11-year old orphaned daughter. They actually wed 10 years later, making her quite a controversial First Lady – and the youngest ever – at only 21 years old.

Grover Cleveland (again) (1893-1897)
Grover, again? Cleveland holds the distinction of being the only U.S. president to hold office for two non-consecutive terms.

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
The grandson of President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin was the first president to enjoy electricity in the White House during his tenure. However, he was so scared of being electrocuted that he wouldn’t dare touch the light switches, sleeping with the lights on when he went to bed.

William McKinley (1897-1901)
McKinley had an unusual good luck charm – carnations, which he wore them at all times. However, on September 6, 1901, he gave his carnation to a little girl in the crowd, leaving him without his lucky charm. He was shot by an assassin shortly after and died the next week.

William H. Taft   (1909-1913)
The historically portly Taft inspired a line of stuffed possum toys called Billy Possum, named him because he once ate a huge possum for dinner.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
Wilson suffered a series of strokes in 1919 due to the stress of the presidency. He was rendered partially paralyzed and nearly blind, and only managed to stay in office and serve until 1921 with some serious help from his wife, who was nicknamed “the Presidentress.”

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
Harding had an affair with the close friend of his wife, Carrie Fulton Phillips. He was caught not through text messages or Facebook, but by the many love letters he wrote her.

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
Every morning, Coolidge would have someone rub Vaseline on his head while he ate breakfast – a bizarre ritual!

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
Hoover’s son kept not one but two pet alligators that roamed around the White House lawn and grounds.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
Johnson might have been the luckiest president, and not only because JFK’s assassination led to his term as president. In fact, when Johnson was serving in WWII he was set to board a plane, the Wabash Cannonball, for a bombing mission in the South Pacific. When he went to the bathroom and came out, the plane had left him behind. The Wabash Cannonball ended up crashing, with everyone on it dying.

Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)

Gerald Ford’s real name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. – not very presidential! He also is the only president not to become president or even vice president by public vote, since VP Spiro Agnew resigned, and then followed shortly by the Nixon’s resignation.