Friday, May 26, 2017

20 Things you didn’t know about our State Capitol in Sacramento.

If you’re a Sacramento resident, then you’ve certainly driven past the California State Capitol building downtown, as well as meandered through its grounds and maybe even taken a tour inside. While you certainly know that it’s home to the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor of California, here are 20 things that you probably didn’t know about the Capitol:

1. The California State Capitol building is located at the west end of Capitol Park, an approximately 4-acre area between L Street to the north, N Street to the south, 10th Street to the west, and 15th Street to the east.

2. You may have know that, but you probably didn't realize that the Capitol sits at the exact coordinates 38.576572°N, 121.493411°W.

3. The Capitol was built to easily be the highest building in the City of Sacramento at that time. In fact, the 6-floor building is 210 feet high at the roof but reaches 247 feet high with its antenna spire.

4. With the population of California swelling with the Gold Rush, California was admitted as the 31st state in the Union in 1850, creating a need for a state capital.

5. The building was designed and constructed by architect M. Frederic Butler, who used a Neo-classical style with Classical Revival elements.

6. He planned the layout and aesthetic of the new California capitol in the likeness of the White House in Washington, D.C., including with its iconic white dome.

7. But Sacramento didn’t become the permanent seat of California's government until 1860. In between, the state capitol was moved to Monterey (1849),  Pueblo de San Jose (1849 - 1851), Vallejo (1852), then Sacramento (1852 – 1853), Vallejo again (1853), Benicia (1853-1854), and then Sacramento again from 1854 until the present day.

8. But even after Sacramento became the permanent seat of California government in 1854, there were several unsuccessful attempts by dissenting politicians to move the capitol to Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, and Monterey (as late as 1941).

9. Construction on the new Capitol commenced on December 4, 1860, but it took nearly 14 years before it was completed.

10. Its original projected budget of $100,000 swelled to $2.5 million by the time it was done!

11. But there was a larger human cost to the titanic project as well. Ruben Clark, a major architect on the Capitol, build, was committed to a Stockton mental institution in 1864 and died only two years later.  According to psychiatrists at the mental hospital, the cause of Clark’s insanity was listed as "continued and close attention to the building of the State Capitol in Sacramento."

12. Most people know that the third floor of the Capitol is home to paintings of every California governor. But it's not widely known that each California Senator is allowed to choose one local or newer artist and display his or her work in the building for two years.

13. The Capitol includes a statue of Isabella, Queen of Spain, as well as explorer Christopher Columbus.

14. But before breaking ground, workers and craftsmen posed for a giant group photo. Each one of them signed the photograph and then placed it in a time capsule, which was buried beneath the building’s cornerstone and remains there today.

15. The Capitol building project ran into some major challenges with flooding starting in December of 1861, when unusually heavy rains broke the American River’s levee. With the Legislature in session, a serious of even worse storms continued, flooded the grounds, making the area impassable. The Assembly actually passed a resolution to hire boats to take the legislators to and from the Capitol. But soon, the rising waters proved too much, and they decided to move the session to San Francisco temporarily.

16. The Capitol had a bizarre resident; for 13 years, a feral cat nicknamed Senator Capitol Kitty lived in the building. When the cat died, a grave was made for him, and Capitol Kitty is also featured in a children's book entitled, "The Adventures of Capitol Kitty: An Almost True Story."

17. The Capitol underwent a massive rehabilitation starting in 1975, restoring the Capitol to its original 1906 architectural grandeur. The project took six years and $68 million to complete, making it the largest restoration project every completed in North America!

18. In addition to the grand staircase being meticulously reconstructed using only old photos, an original marble mosaic on the second floor was rehabilitated. Each of its 600,000 pieces was removed, polished, glued to craft paper and grouted, and then reinstalled. The beautiful mosaic shows swirling patterns of California’s state flower, the golden poppy.

19. Our Capitol and the surrounding park were designated a National Historic Place in 1973, and the next year, it was registered as a California Historical Landmark.

20. The California State Capitol Building is also known as the "People's Building," and for a good reason, with more than 750,000 visitors and tourists gracing its lawns and halls every year.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Honoring the fallen with 20 facts about Memorial Day

1. Memorial Day is a United States national holiday that’s reserved for the last Monday in May every year. However, the weekend before that Monday is often celebrated with picnics and barbecues, parades and events, and family outings.

2. In fact, nearly 32 million people take car trips over the Memorial Day weekend every year.

3. It also informally signals the start of summer, with Labor Day in September marking the end.

4. But, of course, the real reason we observe Memorial Day is to pay tribute to soldiers that have lost their lives fighting for this nation.

5. Our Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day.” When the modern holiday of Memorial Day was born out of respect for fallen solders during the Civil War, graves were decorated with flowers, wreaths, and flags – hence “Decoration Day.”

6. 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, leading to universal commemorations that spawned Memorial Day. That death toll is shocking when you consider that it’s more soldier casualties than both World War I (116,516 dead) and World War II (405,399 dead) combined!

7. Instead of being a holiday instituted by the government, Memorial Day grew out of simultaneous organic tributes to soldiers that came home in a coffin. As early as 1864 there are accounts of flowers put on graves of the dead after the Battle Of Gettysburg, followed by women decorating military graves in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The movement took a big step in 1866, when women from Columbus, Mississippi adorned graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers with flowers. 

8. In 1866, 219 Civil War veterans paraded through Carbondale, Illinois in a sign of respect, while that same year, an annual community service event began in Waterloo, New York. Waterloo is still recognized by Congress as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

9. The name morphed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day as early as the 1880s, but it became official in 1967.

10. Fallen soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia right across the river from Washington D.C. In fact, there are more than 300,000 gravestones at Arlington Cemetery, with an average of 28 more burials each day.

11. Most people don’t realize that Memorial Day hasn’t always been observed on the last Monday of May. Since the end of the Civil War, most people celebrated the holiday on May 30.

12. But when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1971, Memorial Day was permanently moved to the last Monday of May to ensure that people have a three-day holiday weekend.

13. Although not an official requirement, it’s customary for United States flags to be raised at half-staff on Memorial Day, although only until noon. After that, it’s raised proudly to the top of the flagpole until sunset.

14. Did you know that we’re required to stop whatever we’re doing and observe a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day? In fact, it’s now U.S. law after Congress passed a law in 2 000, which was signed by President Clinton!

15. Traces of the Civil War's separatism are still evident today, as several states observe a Confederate Memorial Day. Nine states have an official designated day to honor those soldiers who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War, including Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.

16. A popular icon to remember and honor our fallen troops is the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God,” reads the inscription on the tomb that holds the remains of the first Unknown Soldier.

17. Interestingly, although only six bones of that soldier remain there, recent DNA testing allowed the identity of the Unknown Soldier to be ascertained. In fact, it’s an Air Force pilot named Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who died when his jet crashed during the Vietnam Conflict in 1972. His remains were then reburied in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remains empty these days.

18. On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2,500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C. for the first annual Rolling Thunder rally to advocate for MIA and POW soldiers. The tradition grew year by year, and now, over half a million veterans and concerned citizens come to Washington D.C. for this mass demonstration every Memorial Day.

19. In decades past, a common American tradition was to go with family and eat a picnic on the grounds of a cemetery. Although it isn’t widespread today, there are still people in areas of the South that observe this ritual.

20. But people still visit cemeteries on Memorial Day to lay flags on the graves of deceased soldiers, plant flowers, and honor their own fallen loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Celebrate summer in Sacramento with these 50 fun things to do!

Summertime in Sactown, “and the living is easy” – as the song goes! There is no better time of year in the capital region, and we all look forward to hot weather, cool nights, family vacations, playing outdoors, and plenty of holiday barbecues by the pool. 

But too often, we have grand plans to make this coming summer the best ever by seeing and doing so much, only to look up and it’s already October. 

So we wanted to help you get organized, motivated, and just plain excited about this summer - from the first day, June 20, until the last day, September 22 - with our list of 50 top things to do in the region! 

Have fun – and remember to invite us to that poolside barbecue!

1. Cool off in the river! One of the best resources Sacramento has to offer is its rivers, and with not only the Sacramento but American River waiting for you to swim, float, kayak, paddle board and boat, there's never a shortage of wet and wild fun!

2. Eppies Great Race on July 15 is one of Sacramento’s great summer traditions, with thousands of spectators cheering on triathletes and teams as they run (5.82 miles), cycle (12.5 miles), and kayak (6.10 miles) along the American River Parkway. Your support is always appreciated, as Eppies Great Race benefits Therapeutic Recreation Services, a Sacramento County program for people with special needs and developmental disabilities.

3. To kick off the summer the right way, visit the Placer County Fair June 22-25 in Roseville for four days of family fun! Go to for scheduled events and more information.

4. Pack up the car and head through the foothills up into the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains for hiking, camping, fishing – and much cooler temps!

5. A fast growing summer tradition is to kick it with the whole family at a Sacramento Republic FC soccer match where you can root enthusiastically for the home team to win another championship and hardcore supporters can even join up with the Tower Brigade Battalion.

6. If you want to play sports instead of just watch them, join one of the many summertime softball or baseball leagues in Sacramento, flag football, outdoor basketball and ultimate Frisbee rec leagues. Or you can get really serious about your fun in the Sacramento WAKA Kickball league! Find out more at

7. Every June in East Sacramento, Pops in the Park brings bands, beer, and neighbors and visitors together for four Saturday night events. To check out the next Pops in the Park schedule and more information, go to:

8. If you’re a fan of fast cars and hotrods, Placer County hosts a bunch of car and shows and races all summer. You can check out the whole list and schedule here:

9. Take your dog for a walk around your midtown on a beautiful day, or for more exercise (for you and the dog!) head to one of Sacramento’s great dog parks, like Sutter’s Landing Dog Park, Partner Park Dog Park, or Lynn-Robbie Off-Leash Dog Park.

10. There are even a good number of dog-friendly cafes, bars and restaurant patios these days, so you can do a “Pup” Crawl to Oak Park Brewing Company, Der Biergarten, Temple Coffee, Cafe Capricho, and more dog-friendly establishments. 

11. Of course, summer is the best time to stroll around Old Town in Sacramento, stopping for a big brunch on the riverside, taking in the shops, bars, cafes, museums, and other Old West attractions, especially during holidays and the many Old Sac festivals.

12. While you're in Old Town, come aboard the legendary Delta King. It may be permanently docked in Old Sacramento these days, but you can still enjoy the Pilothouse restaurant, a murder mystery dinner show at Suspects, stay overnight in one of the ship's staterooms, or just have a drink with friends on the top deck lounge. Go to for more information.

13. Wine lovers don’t have to go all the way to Napa for the perfect day of tasting, since the Auburn Wine Trail (or the Ale Trail ) are only about 2o minutes away, and the hills of Amador County are also dotted with great wineries.

14. Feel like hitting the links? Sacramento has more than a dozen spectacular public golf courses, and Sierra View, Serrano, and Rancho Murieta are a few of the award-winning private courses.

15. If you're a lover of the outdoors and want some fresh air and exercise this summer, spend the day hiking on one of the Sacramento region's almost limitless hiking trails. From beginners that want a twenty-minute stroll on a paved path to avid sportsperson who want to backpack far into the mountains, there's something for everyone!

16. Hot August Nights come to Reno, Nevada for a couple weeks every August, bringing the largest nostalgic car show in the world, as well as music, drinks, amazing food (try the barbecue!), and fun crowds.

17. Jump around! Jump around! If you run into a rainy day (or an 110 degree day), take the kids to BounceU in Roseville ( or Sky Zone in Sacramento ( for some high-flying fun.

18. Fun weekends start the moment you get out of work on Friday, as a short drive (or walk) downtown to Cesar Chavez Plaza will kick off the weekend with Concerts in the Park every Friday until July 29. Check out the lineup of bands at

19. The opus of every summer is the 4th of July holiday, and Independence Day is a great time in Sacramento. Line up early to catch the parades that go through the River Park or Arden Park neighborhoods, but the 4th festivities in East Sacramento are second-to-none.

20. We can't forget about the Sacramento State Fair – a staple of summers in Northern California! For about two weeks every July, you can check out the rides, amazing bands, displays and shows, nightly fireworks, and of course plenty of creatively fried foods. For information on this year's State Fair and band lineup, go to

21. Pack a picnic basket and relax on the beach at Discovery Park. 

22. Or spend the day playing on the shores and in the water at gorgeous Folsom Lake.

23. Instead of always going out to find summer entertainment, apply for a permit to close off your street and throw a neighborhood block party!

24. After work or on a “Sunday Funday,” call up some friends and meet at Swabbies on the River for music, a few cold ones, river views, great fish tacos, and a great sunset.

25. Are you a big fan of craft brews? Grab some friends and visit a few microbreweries and tasting rooms in Sacramento and Placer County. The beer scene is growing like wildfire in the region, so you have plenty of great brews to sip! (Just remember to get a designated driver.)


Look for part two with the next 25 fun things to do in Sacramento and Placer County this summer! 

$1,000,000,000; All about the world's billionaires

Recently, Forbes magazine released their list of the richest billionaires in the world. Since there’s never been a trillionaire yet (although billionaire Mark Cuban predicts there will be one soon), this list also encompasses the wealthiest people on the globe. 

Here are some interesting facts, figures, and anecdotes about billionaires:

First off, we want to clear up how much a billion dollars is. A billion dollars is a thousand million, or one followed by nine zeros (1,000,000,000).

However, that wasn’t always the case. Interestingly, the old English definition of a billion was actually a million million (not a thousand million). So their version of a billion was 1,000,000,000,000!

Forbes released a record 1,826 names on their most recent Billionaires List.

Together, they have an aggregate net worth of $7.05 trillion.

Remarkably, that aggregate net worth is up from $6.4 trillion last year – a huge leap in wealth.

 The newest list of the world’s billionaires includes 290 newcomers.

A record 46 members are under the age of 40.

That’s contrary to the usual demographic of billionaires, with an average age of 60.4 years for the top 100 richest people in the world.

But thanks to this influx of new, younger members to the list, the average age has dropped by five years in the last year alone.

The youngest billionaire in the world is 24-year old Evan Spiegel, who is the co-founder of Snapchat and is worth an astounding $19 billion.

Many people assumed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the youngest billionaire. However, he never held that title even before Spiegel, as his college roommate, and Facebook co-contributor, Dustin Moskovitz, made more than a billion dollars but is eight days younger than Zuckerberg.

Women are also represented in the billionaire club like never before. In fact, we’ve seen a 50% increase in the number of female billionaires over the last 20 years.

Still, women only represent 12 out of the 100 top billionaires on the Forbes list.

Elizabeth Holmes, at only 31 years old, made the list as the youngest self-made billionaire woman.

One woman that is guaranteed to make the billionaire’s list is actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine from Seinfeld). Dreyfus’ father is a billionaire, and she will automatically become one of the wealthiest people in American once she inherits his fortune.

Another interesting statistic is that 88% of billionaires are married, compared to only 49% for the U.S. average.

Sure enough, billionaires seem to be family men and women, with an average of 4 children among the world’s richest billionaires.

So are billionaires all graduates of Yale, Harvard, and MIT? Not at all, as 25% of all billionaires are college dropouts!

The United States is represented by 515 billionaires on the Forbes list.

While the U.S. led the world in people with ten-figure net worths as recently as last year, China became the top billionaire nation in the world this year.

In fact, China added 242 new billionaires in one year alone, bringing the total to 596.

Inheritance and family wealth doesn’t seem to play a huge role in creating billionaires, as only 230 inherited all of their wealth to make the list. (Although many inherited some funds and worked to increase their net worth exponentially.)

In fact, 1,191 members of the Forbes billionaire list self-made their fortunes.

A professor at Stanford University gets credit as being a self-made billionaire…sort of. In fact, he amassed all of his wealth by investing in the ideas and inventions of his genius students.

The top countries for billionaires including China, the United States, Russia, Germany, and Brazil.

Moscow has more billionaires than any other city in the world, with New York City and London next.

But 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan is home to the highest number of billionaires of any one address in the world.

The first billionaire in the world was John D Rockefeller, who was worth an estimated $1.4 billion when he died in 1937. In today’s dollars, that’s almost $70 billion!

Henry Ford wasn’t far behind, becoming a billionaire in 1920. Ford’s fortune would be worth an estimated $194 billion today, making him the 7th richest person in the history of the world!

J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series of books, became the first person in history to amass her billion-dollar fortune by writing. At one point, Rowling was actually wealthier than the Queen of England! But when she started giving away most of her money to charity, she dropped her off the Forbes list as is now "merely" worth a few hundred million dollars.

Philanthropy and giving away vast sums of money characterize many billionaires. In fact, almost one hundred billionaires have signed “The Giving Pledge,” an agreement to voluntarily give at least half of their wealth to charitable causes within their lifetime.

Likewise, former billionaire Chuck Feeney (co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers Group) has given away 99% his $6.3 billion fortune anonymously, helping underprivileged kids go to college. He’s now not only fallen from the billionaire’s list, but has a net worth of “only” $2 million.

Not all billionaires are so generous, even with their own families. Notoriously frugal billionaire J. Paul Getty even refused to pay a $17 million ransom when his 16-year-old grandson was kidnapped by Italian gangsters. Only when the boy’s ear showed up in the mail three months later did Getty negotiate, agreeing to pay $3 million, but only if his son paid back $800,000 of that with 4% interest!

One Kuwait billionaire owns a portfolio of valuable URLs and domain names worth an estimated $3 billion, such as,, and, but he refuses to sell or do anything with them.

Perhaps the wealthiest person in modern history was Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord that made so much money in the cocaine trade that it’s hard to even quantify (or count, as he certainly never kept it all in banks).

Reportedly, Escobar lost about 10% of his profits every year – about $2.1 billion wasted - due to rats chewing up his hidden stores of cash, moisture decomposing it, or just burying it for safe keeping but then losing it.

He once burned $2 million in crisp new bills just to keep his family warm when they were on the run.

In his prime earning days, Escobar spent $2,500 a month just on rubber bands used bundle all of his endless stacks of cash!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

15 Things homeowners can do to make up to 3% more on the sale of their home

I call it the “3% Rule.”

And it means that the average homeowner can potentially make up to about 3% more on their home sale.

After decades in real estate and selling hundreds of homes, I truly believe that the average homeowner can do certain things to influence the sale of their home. In my estimation, homeowners can increase their net profit by up to about 3% compared to if they DIDN’T do these things (or compared to the competition).

Of course, this isn’t an exact science. But even a 1% increase in a $300,000 home sale would equal an additional $3,000 in a home seller’s pocket. And 3% would equal a whopping $9,000 – enough extra profit to hire a moving truck and take the family on a nice vacation before you move into your next house!

Remember that while some of the items on this checklist may seem fairly insignificant – or even obvious – it’s my experience that if you do them all and do them well, you’ll get more for your home and see a higher profit. The best part is that these are all things that YOU can do – influencing your own destiny without being subject to the whims of the market, real estate agents, and buyers.

But no matter if you end up making an extra $100, $1,000, or $10,000 on the sale of your home, it’s all a net positive. So what are the things you can do to help profit a little extra – maybe be even 3% in some cases – when that “For Sale by the Alfano Group” sign goes up in your front yard?

1. Clean
Before we even list your home for sale, it’s time to roll up your sleeves because it's time to clean your house from top to bottom. A thorough pre-listing cleaning will including getting in the corners, dusty shelves, tops of cabinets, packed garage, etc. that’s often missed with regular weekly cleaning. You’ll also want to make sure to steam clean your carpets, get water spots off of mirrors and shower doors, and recaulk and re-grout in kitchens and bathrooms where it's dingy or discolored. Definitely get rid of any trace of bad odors, like must, smoke, pets, etc. Just having your home sparkling clean and looking and smelling fresh will go a long way when the first prospective buyer walks through!

2. Declutter
Once you’re done cleaning, it’s time to go through your home and remove clutter, excess items, and two-thirds of your personal effects. A decluttered, de-personalized room will look bigger and more airy for the ever-important listing photos. It will also be easy for potential buyers to envision their own personal things in the space, and that’s a great first step towards selling for a higher price to help reach the +3% goal we set.

3. Evaluate the home’s condition
Buyers will order pest inspections, home inspections, appraisals, sometimes even roof certifications, and carefully go over the disclosures you send them. What will they see? You know your house better than anyone, so if you anticipate any issues or negative items popping up during these inspections, it’s better to address them – not mid-transaction when they could potentially slow down the sale, lead the buyer to ask for a price reduction, or, even worse, have second thoughts.

Short of hiring your own home inspector, you can pay your handyman or a licensed general contractor to walk through and give you a quick but thorough assessment of your home’s condition. He or she can tell you what will most likely need to be repaired immediately before the home sale closes, what will need some TLC a year or two down the road, and even give you prices to do the necessary work. Of course, essential repairs like a leaky roof, cracks in the foundation, and inadequate heat and air systems definitely need to be addressed before we put a For Sale sign up. Taking care of these things before the buyer ever walks through will help foster their perception that the house is squeaky clean and well-maintained, and therefore more likely to offer full price or negotiate less.

4. Spend on light repairs only
Yes, we want to take care of important home repairs, and fix anything that could compromise health, safety, or cause further damage to the home. But after that, we’ll want to focus our time and resources on the repairs that will drive up your price and cost you the least, ensuring that your ROI on these repairs is through the roof.

5. Spruce up your kitchens and bathroom
There are also plenty of small repairs and fixes that focus the ever-important kitchens and bathrooms that could boost your offer price. Low-cost (sometimes even DIY) projects like painting, replacing dated lighting or fixtures, etc. in kitchens and bathrooms always strengthen your sales price because those are the rooms that buyers tend of focus on the most.

Research into listing and sale prices reveals that putting money into improving kitchens and bathrooms yields the highest ROI of any home repair, and houses that have new, modern, and updated kitchens and baths consistently sell for more than similar houses without those improvements – maybe even for up to 3% more!

6. Curb appeal
Another way you can boost your home sale profit is by dolling up your curb appeal. Even if you don’t have the time or money for expensive upgrades, you can create a great first impression for buyers just by painting your front door a bold, bright color! Step out to the street and look at what a buyer will first see as they walk up to your home for the first time. A fresh coat of paint on the front exterior of your house, planting some flowers, installing a new mailbox, putting up solar walkway lights, power washing the driveway, and doing a little landscaping don’t cost a lot but will enhance your cub appeal.

7. Consider having your home staged
When it comes to netting more from a home sale, the adage, "You have to spend money to make money," may apply to home staging. In fact, for higher-end and luxury home sales, enlisting the help of a professional stager is a must. It won't cost much at all but will offer huge returns when your home sells.

In fact, national statistics show that staged homes sell in an average of 13.8 days while non-staged homes sell in 30.9 days, and staged homes sell for an average 17% higher sales price, offering a 586% return on investment. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 potential buyers said they had trouble visualizing how an unfurnished home could appear if they lived in it, and 81% of buyers report that a staged home is easier to visualize the property as their future home.

Look for part two of this blog with 8 more things homeowners can do to possibly make up to 3% more when they sell their home!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Equity Report 2017; Your home may be worth WAY more than you think!

There is no doubt that the US real estate sector is still booming, with prices continuously rising in many markets across the nation. In fact, home prices have climbed higher for 53 straight months now, allowing many home sellers to cash in – and many others to escape a negative equity situation.

In fact, in just the first three quarters of 2016, U.S. homeowners saw their equity rise by $837 billion.

The party kept going as homeowner equity increased to $63 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to real estate data analysis firm CoreLogic. With those strong equity gains to finish out 2016, an estimated 62,000 homeowners across the country went from the red to the black in their home’s value in those three months alone.

Rolling into 2017, 48 million U.S. homeowners had positive equity in their homes. Even better, 13,125,367 U.S. homeowners were in an equity-rich position (loan-to-value ratio of 50 percent or lower), representing 23.4 percent of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage and an increase of more than 2.6 million from a year ago.

In total, U.S. homeowners now have approximately $11.2 trillion in untapped home equity. Interestingly, $6.2 trillion of that total equity belongs to homeowners 62 years and older.

To see how far up the equity ladder we've climbed, consider that in 2012, less than 5 years ago, we experienced the valley of underwater equity with 12.8 million homeowners owing more than their home was worth. In all, nearly 1 in 3 of all U.S. homeowners were underwater on their homes during the dark days of the Great Recession between 2010 and mid-2012.

However, since that low point, the number of seriously underwater homeowners has decreased by more than 6.7 million.

As of Q3 2016, there were 6.1 million seriously underwater properties in the U.S., which represents nearly 10.8% of all properties with a mortgage. While that seems high, it's still a decrease of 854,000 underwater homes from 2015, as the number of equity-rich homeowners has increased by 2.6 million in just that time.

However, the story about our equity gains and losses remains a tale of two groups of cities. In fact, the zip codes with the highest equity gains in the last year include:

78027 in San Antonio, TX
53.1 equity rich
Up 30%

33974 Lehigh Acres, FL
45.0% equity rich
Up 29%

97206 Portland, OR
52.6% equity rich
Up 27%

37208 Nashville, TN
45.4% equity rich
Up 27%

How about the U.S. zip codes that have the most number of properties still seriously underwater? (Seriously underwater homes are defined as have -125% or more negative equity.)

07017 East Orange, JN
62.4% seriously underwater
Number of underwater homes up 38% in the past year.

64130 Kansas City, MO
51.4% seriously underwater
Number of underwater homes up 30% in the past year.

08865 Phillipsburg, NJ
44.2% seriously underwater
Number of underwater homes up 23% in the past year.

43211 Columbus, OH
71.0% seriously underwater
Number of underwater homes up 22% in the past year.

63121 Saint Louis, MO
54.6% seriously underwater
Number of underwater homes up 22% in the past year.

While the number of seriously underwater homes seem to be most prevalent in certain metropolitan pockets, our median home prices have gone up for 18 quarters in a row, allowing a record number of homeowners to accumulate positive equity.

But it’s not just rising prices that are helping our housing market turn a profit. In fact, homeowners are staying in their houses longer before selling these days, a trend that’s allowing them to accrue more equity, as well. As of Q3 2016, the average home seller has lived in his or her home of 7.94 years, a new high based on modern data.

Before our current equity boom and the Great Recession that preceded it, the average home seller had owned their property only 4.26 years – a stark contrast.

By analyzing 88 metropolitan areas with a population of at least 500,000 people or more, data reveals that the areas with the highest share of equity-rich homeowners include:
San Jose (55.7 percent)
San Francisco (49.8 percent)
Honolulu (39.3 percent)
Los Angeles (38.2 percent)
Pittsburgh (34.5 percent)

Other metro areas in the top 10 for the highest percentage of equity-rich homeowners include Portland (33.1 percent), San Diego (33.0 percent); Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California (32.7 percent); Seattle (31.5 percent); and Austin, Texas (31.0 percent).

However, the same research shows which zip codes have the highest share of seriously underwater homes, including Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Ohio; East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; Trenton, New Jersey; Cleveland, and Milwaukee.

Despite the national trend of upticking home prices and equity-rich owners, the share of seriously underwater homeowners increased in 21 of the 88 metro areas analyzed since just last year – a puzzling and concerning statistic.

But for more Americans than ever, their homes keep on rising in value, creating record equity and an opportunity to profit for prudent and opportunistic homeowners.

The 10 Most Dangerous Threats in Your Home

If you're like most people, your first and strongest instinct is to keep your family safe, and that's especially true when you are all at home. Unfortunately, the average house contains many things that can threaten to do us harm. Some of these threats can compromise the house, itself, indirectly putting your family in bigger danger. You could even be put in serious financial risk because of these threats! But just by knowing about these common hazards and exercising a little bit of preventive safety, you'll manage to protect your family and loved ones infinitely better.

Here are the 10 most dangerous threats in your home (in no particular order):

1. Lead
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that causes a range of dangerous health problems – and commonly shows up in older homes. If traces of lead are ingested or absorbed into the body, it can interfere with brain function occur, even causing permanent damage to the brain, nervous system and vital organs.

Before it was outlawed, many household products contained high amounts of lead. Once lead was discovered to have adverse health effects, it was banned from use in 1978. So if your home was built before 1978, you might have traces of lead-based paint lurking under newer layers of paint. Lead presents the biggest risk to children, who might put lead-based paint dust or paint chips in their mouths or hands, or breathe it if someone is sanding or doing construction and the particles go airborne. Both children and adults are at high risk of lead poisoning.

2. Termites
Rats, mice, other rodents, wasps, bees, spiders, and snakes are no fun to have around, but there are far more dangerous uninvited guests that may try to take over your home. For example, termites and other wood-destroying pests can cause mass damage to your dwelling. Unfortunately, infestations and the insects themselves are so small and hard to detect, the damage often is invisible in wood framing, below subfloors, structural beams, or inside any other wood that makes up your home.

Subterranean termites are the most common variety – and they also happen to cause the most damage, but damp-wood termites, dry-wood termites, wood boring beetles, and carpenter ants can also invade a home, even rendering it unlivable if unchecked.

3. Mold
Toxic mold can grow in unlikely places in your home wherever there is moisture, often hidden behind the walls, attics, and under the floors. The most dangerous types of molds emit mycotoxins, which can cause illness and respiratory problems, or even hospitalization and death in extreme cases.

Mold can only grow where there is a steady source of moisture, like leaky seals around plumbing or roofing, or even where groundwater seeps in your basement. It grows fast, requiring only 24-48 hours to mature, so mold should be handled with extreme caution.

4. Home fires
We have a home fire every 10 seconds in the US, or a fire big enough to call the fire department every 60 seconds.  Firefighters in the U.S. respond to 374,000 residential fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Sadly, about 13,000 people lose their lives in home blazes every year, or one every three hours. The monetary damage incurred from house fires is an alarming 11.7 billion dollars a year.

A large number of home fires get started when residents fall asleep with lit cigarettes, from accidental kitchen fires, or shorts in faulty electrical wiring.

5. Water damage
Water damage that seeps into the home is a serious threat that can cause major damage. Of course, burst pipes or broken sewage lines are disastrous and can be exorbitantly expensive to fix. But smaller, slow leaks and water intrusions can enter through faulty rooflines, unsealed windows and doors, or pool up under sink cabinets, in basements, and in crawl spaces. Even small drips can rapidly cause wood rot and provide a perfect breeding ground for termites and other wood-eating pests as well as an ideal place for dangerous mold to sprout.

6. Carbon monoxide
High levels of carbon monoxide gas are a silent and invisible danger in any interior space. Even short-term exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems. Once breathed, it essentially replaces oxygen in the blood, killing off cells and starving vital organs of oxygen flow. The scary thing is that carbon monoxide can come from a variety of common household items and appliances. It's also totally odorless, colorless, and can incapacitate or kill within minutes in some cases. Many states have laws requiring landlords to put in carbon monoxide detectors, so homeowners would be wise to do the same. 

7. Lawsuits
Unfortunately, we live in one of the most litigious societies in the world, and that means virtually anyone can sue anyone whether it's reasonable or not. Visitors, delivery employees, and service workers who come on your property and then get hurt can sue you, and most people would rather have major surgery than go through a lawsuit. Slip and falls, dog bites (about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year!), accidents involving children and pools or trampolines, even falling tree branches are common sources of lawsuits against property owners.

8. Thefts and home invasions
According to the FBI, there are approximately 2.5 million home thefts and forced entries every year, or about 1 in every 30 households. The average loss for each home burglary is $2,230, which adds up to about $4.7 billion every year. But the damage goes beyond the material, often having lasting consequences for the residents. The psychological toll and feelings of violation can remain far after the monetary damages are forgotten, often making a house no longer feel like a home.

9. Natural disasters
Referred to as "Acts of God” by insurance companies, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, hailstorms, sinkholes, mudslides, and forest fires are just some of the natural disasters that can befall a home. In California, the fear of a sizable earthquake is a valid concern, and recently, the damaged spillway in Oroville Dam forced 80,000 residents to evacuate. Of course, no one can predict when a natural disaster will hit – or prevent it – but homeowners are often woefully underprepared.

According to United Policyholders, about two-thirds of U.S. homeowners would be underinsured if some sort of adverse weather or geological event struck. It’s advisable to have evacuation supplies ready, extra food stored in your garage, batteries for flashlights and a family plan should some catastrophic event occur.

10. Cyber crime
Does identity theft really count as a danger to homeowners? In fact, identity theft and other types of online fraud are on the rise in the United States – and the stats are staggering. Approximately 15.4 million people have their identities or financial data compromised and exploited, costing them upwards of $50 billion dollars. To compare cyber theft, it amounts to three times more than the combined losses from all other types of theft like personal, burglary, motor vehicle, or property theft.

Whether it’s malware that infiltrates your computer and corrupts your data, hackers who steal your passwords and commandeer your financial information, or cyber criminals who assume your identity and open new accounts under your name, the damage could cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars and take years to clean up – without the thieves ever physically entering the home.