Friday, August 31, 2012

Redwood City Schools Educate Children to Excel in the 21st Century

Any parent considering a move to a new area has two priorities: the safety of the family and the quality of the education.  Parents in Redwood City, and the Palm Park neighborhood, are in luck. Bay Area schools are some of the best in the nation. With a rich culture of diversity, and continued emphasis on curricula other communities have had to cut - such as art and music - Redwood City schools excel at meeting the needs of their students.

Elementary Education in the Palm Park Neighborhood of Redwood City

Elementary students in the Palm Park neighborhood belong to the Redwood City School District. The district is more than 100 years old.  Schools boast high Academic Performance Indexes that continue to rise each year.  The active parent community offers a successful local Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), enthusiastic national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) membership, and parents have even come together to form Art in Action to promote art in the public schools. The Redwood City Education Foundation is a community based fundraising effort that, among other things, has helped to prevent music from being cut from the public primary school curriculum.

Secondary Education - Sequoia Union High School District

While Sequoia Union High School District places an emphasis on academic excellence, they also understand that not all students are university bound.  SUHSD endeavors to provide career and technical development and strive to cultivate student internship opportunities. SUHSD works with Redwood City School District to maintain a collaborative effort to provide a sense of community and to streamline students' educational paths to avoid learning gaps between the 8th and 9th grade years.  They also work closely with
CaƱada College so students interested in pursuing their AA degree can move comfortably from one educational realm to the next.

Private School and Charter School Opportunities in Redwood City

In addition to an excellent public school system, residents of the Palm Park community also have private and charter school options.  St. Pius School and West Bay Christian Academy offer K-8 education with an emphasis on Christian education. The Palm Park neighborhood is also lucky enough to have two fantastic Charter Schools.  They offer an alternative educational curriculum while meeting current state standards.  Summit Preparatory High School was voted by Newsweek as one of America's 10 Best High Schools for 2011 and was also listed as one of the 10 most transformative schools in the nation!

Another alternative for parents and students looking for a school with a more customized education approach is North Star Academy. North Star Academy is designed for high-achieving students with unique learning goals and talents. The program has a compacted academic schedule allowing students to pursue extra curricular activities as a part of their educational requirements.

Life After School - Palm Park is a Family Friendly Neighborhood

Not only is the Palm Park Neighborhood lucky enough to have some of the finest schools in the nation, it has a variety of children and family oriented activity centers and parks.  The Sequoia YMCA has tutoring programs, after-school care, as well as fitness programs to keep children active and healthy.  The Parks Recreation and Community Services also offer a wealth of year-round activities for children, families and adults. Book mark their Events Calendar to keep up on what's going on at any time of the year.

The Palm Park Neighborhood is the Place To Be

Families love the Palm Park neighborhood and all that it has to offer. From wonderful schools to our children and family-oriented community, you and your children will be happy to call it home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

If Part 1 of The American Dream is, "Own Your Own Home," Part 2 is certainly, "Enjoy the Tax Benefits.".  Any first time home buyer knows there are tax benefits to owning real estate but that's as far as the understanding of tax laws goes. There are write-offs for people who only own one home, there are write-offs for people who own investment properties, and there are write-offs for homeowners who make certain energy efficient upgrades to their home. It can be tough to keep them all straight.

If you own real estate, and especially if you own more than one piece of property, it is a good idea to consult with a professional tax accountant to make sure you get the most of the tax benefits designed to help home owners. In the meantime, here are some things to think about before the next tax season rolls around.

7 Federal Tax Write-offs for Homeowners
  1. Oh, the interest you have paid.  Sometimes, first time home buyers think their entire mortgage payment is tax deductible.  Not so.  However, the interest you have paid that year is considered a write-off.  This is not a deductible you want to miss out on since the first several years of mortgage payments usually pay off more interest than principal.  That can add up to thousands of dollars per year for many homeowners.
  2. Property Taxes. Oops! Sometimes homeowners are so excited about deducting their mortgage interest payments that they forget their property taxes are a write-off as well.  Don't make that mistake and you will see a little more on your refund, or a little less in your "Taxes Owed" column.
  3. Energy Efficiency Tax Credits.  These tax credits are usually for homeowners who have made upgrades to their home to improve energy efficiency. Landlords also benefit if they make the upgrades to a rental property.  Unfortunately, the Feds have tightened up the "credit belt" a bit, but homeowners can still benefit from the following upgrades:
    • Geothermal heat pumps
    • Small wind Turbines
    • Solar energy systems
    • Fuel cells (residential fuel cell and micro turbine systems)
    You can read more about Federal Consumer Tax Credits here.
  4. Private Mortgage Insurance Premiums (PMI).  If you owe more than 20% of your total mortgage, you probably pay some sort of mortgage insurance to cover the bank's risk.  You may also have PMI if you owned your home prior to the decline in the real estate market because your home value may be less than the amount you owe.  Depending on your income bracket, you may be entitled to a deduction.
  5. Points for Your Points.  If you paid for points to secure a lower interest rate, you may be entitled to write these off in the same tax year.  If the points were purchased for refinancing your home, you will have to figure out how to legally disburse the credit for the length of the loan term.
  6. Settlement Costs.  If you paid taxes on real estate you purchased this year, you are probably entitled to write-off the taxes reflected in your settlement costs.  There may be other settlement costs that can be deducted but you need to consult with the IRS or a professional CPA for verification.
  7. Landlord Write-offs:  If you own investment properties, lucky you! You qualify for several write-offs that most homeowners don't.  Some of these include:
    • Depreciation of the property
    • Maintenance and repairs
    • Management fees/costs
    • Hazard insurance
    • Legal bills, including the costs of landlord forms (although usually eviction processes can't be written off)
    • Costs of advertising and tenant screening for a vacant property
These tax credits and write-offs offer incentive to save up for a down payment, take advantage of the current low interest rates, and become a bona fide homeowner.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Are Your Mortgage Options?

It's no wonder that many home buyers are gun shy these days. The thought of signing on the dotted line for a home loan can bring the words "subprime" and "foreclosure" into the conscious swirl.  However, if there is a positive side to everything, then the thing we have all learned from the 2008 real estate debacle is that the best buyers are educated buyers

What Are My Mortgage Options?

There are basically two different types of mortgages: Fixed-rate and Adjustable Rate.  While there are exceptions to the rule, in an economy like ours - where interest rates are still low - fixed rate mortgages are usually the best option for anyone applying for a home loan. 

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A fixed-rate mortgage is just that - fixed.  Whether you have a 15-, 20-, or 30-year loan, your interest rate will never change.  This was a risky enterprise back in the 1980s when interest rates were well into the double digits.  Fortunately, most people who purchased a home back then refinanced along the way when interest rates came back down.

Currently, a fixed-interest rate for a 30-year loan, assuming you have good credit, is sitting around 3.75%. That's pretty low.  If you are currently in the market, you'll probably want to opt for a fixed-rate mortgage.  However, if the Feds were to adjust the rate next year to 2.75%, you would lose out on a 1% savings, which would cost thousands of dollars over the course of a 30-year loan.

Things to keep in mind: The shorter the mortgage term, the lower the interest rate. On average, a 15-year mortgage will have an interest rate that is about 1.25-1.5% lower than its 30-year counterpart.  However, the monthly payment will be higher, since the loan amount is divided by a shorter term.  Depending on your income and job stability, a 15-year mortgage can be a great way to pay your house off faster, and save thousands.  For those who want a smaller monthly payment, a 30-year mortgage is the way to go.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

These were the villains of the recent real estate crisis. People with poor credit, or no credit, signed up for amazingly affordable Adjustable Rate Mortgages - and then, when the rate adjusted, they were stuck with mortgage payments they couldn't afford.  Unfortunately, many of these buyers were hoping to refinance their homes into lower fixed-interest rates along the way.  Declining home values made that option impossible.

The above scenario describes the problem with an ARM.  They can help people with a low credit score buy a home, but the buyer has to realize that depending on the term of the loan, the rate will adjust in 3 or 5 years, and if the interest rates are higher, the buyer is stuck with an increased mortgage payment.

When are ARM's good?

An ARM can be good if you only plan on owning a home for a few years and then plan to sell.  You can get a lower-than-normal rate for 3 years and, if the real estate market is still in your favor, you can sell your home and break even, or make some extra cash.  It's still a gamble.

Obtaining a mortgage can be a confusing process, and goodness knows its the rare individual who takes the time to read - and understand - every word in the loan documents. But it is important to have a very clear understanding of your mortgage options and what they mean to you in the long term.  

Are You Ready?

If you are thinking about purchasing a home, you need to make sure you feel comfortable with every step of the financing process before signing any documentation. Pacific Place of Redwood City has gathered a short list of trusted financial and mortgage advisers you can speak with to decide the best way to move forward. See more info at

Monday, August 6, 2012

Making the Transition From Renting to Buying

There has never been a better time to make the transition from renting to buying.  It is a big step, and it can be a scary transition for many - especially first time home buyers.  However, once you make the leap from "Home Renter" to "Real Estate Aficionado" you will be glad you did. 

If you need a little extra inspiration to take that next big step towards home ownership, here are a few exciting facts to help light your fire:

5 Reasons to Make the Transition from Renter to Buyer
  1. The Infamous Tax Write-Off.  When it comes to tax time, there are two major write-offs: kids and real estate.  Whether or not you have the former, the latter will help you increase your refund at tax time, or help you to pay a little less.  An added bonus to home ownership is that your house won't keep you up at night, it will never steal the keys to the car, and a new roof every 10 - 15 years is still significantly more affordable than 4 - 8 years of university tuition. You can (usually) deduct the following items:
    • The interest you paid on your mortgage (you cannot write off any money paid towards your principal loan amount)
    • Property taxes
    • If you purchased a home this year you can probably write off the any sales taxes and/or settlement fees
    Talk to your tax accountant, or give the IRS a call, to find out exactly what is and isn't allowed to be claimed on this year's taxes.
  2. The Super Low Interest Rates.  There is no denying that these past four to five years haven't been the best: foreclosure rates, job reports, budget cuts, and the list goes on.  They say that every cloud has as silver lining and one recent silver lining is current interest rates.  In an effort to help our economy recover, and boost real estate sales, the Feds have continued to keep interest rates down.  This is great news for home buyers who are ready to take the plunge. Secure a mortgage payment with a low fixed-interest rate and you will have a low reliable monthly mortgage to add to your budget.
  3. Median Home Prices are Low.  For many renters, especially those in high dollar areas, paying rent can be more expensive than acquiring a mortgage.  All those home foreclosures meant a flooded rental market.  A flooded market means inflated rental prices.  And that means there has never been a better time to buy. Why throw rent money down the drain when you can be making equal (or even lower) monthly payments for something you own...and can write off on your taxes? (Please see #1)
  4. Equity Is Possible Again. Buying a home when prices are low means you have a much better chance of building equity. Hurray!  Equity is important for anyone who has a stable financial plan and is looking forward to a healthy retirement. Once real estate prices begin to inflate again, you don't want to be watching all of that "could-have-been" equity pass you by.  You want to be sitting comfortably on the inside of the equity train.
  5. New Home Builders are Offering Killer Discounts.  Things were shaky for a while in the new home sector. Now that the new residential construction is bouncing back, it's a buyer's market.  Not only will you be able to take advantage of builder discounts, you will probably have more bargaining room to negotiate a price you feel comfortable with.  An added incentive - new homes equal long-term savings due to stricter energy efficient building codes.
The time for you to transition from Renter to Owner might just be now! If you're ready to make the jump into home-ownership, consider Pacific Place in Redwood City!