Ramesh Rao Blog November 29, 2023

Learn the 10 steps to being Safer from Wildfires

Every action under Safer from Wildfires will qualify you for an insurance discount. By doing more, you can save more. Read the full text of the new Safer from Wildfires insurance regulation.

  • Class-A fire rated roof – Most roofs qualify including asphalt shingles, concrete, brick, or masonry tiles, and metal shingles or sheets. Wood shake shingles are not Class A fire-resistant rated.The Office of the State Fire Marshal maintains a list of tested and approved materials.
  • 5 foot ember resistant zone, including fencing – Removing greenery and replacing wood chips with stone or decomposed granite 5 feet around your home prevents fire from getting a foot in the door. Replacing wood fencing connecting to your home with metal is critical because it can act like a candle wick leading fire straight to your home.
  • Ember- and fire-resistant vents – Installing 1/16 to 1/8 inch noncombustible, corrosion-resistant metal mesh screens over exterior vents can keep wind-blown embers out of your house.
  • Non-combustible 6 inches at the bottom of exterior walls – Having a minimum of 6 vertical inches measured from the ground up and from any attached horizontal surface like a deck can stop embers from accumulating and igniting your walls. Noncombustible materials include brick, stone, fiber-cement siding or concrete.
  • Enclosed eaves – Installing soffits under your eaves can prevent heat and embers from getting trapped and igniting. When enclosing eaves, non-combustible or ignition resistant materials are recommended.
  • Upgraded windows – Multi-paned windows are more resistant to breaking during a wildfire, which helps keep flames from entering. Multi-paned glass or added shutters all qualify.
  • Cleared vegetation, weeds and debris from under decks – Noncombustible materials like concrete, gravel, or bare soil are permitted.
  • Removal of combustible sheds and other outbuildings to at least a distance of 30 feet – These include sheds, gazebos, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), open covered structures with a solid roof, dog houses and playhouses.
  • Defensible space compliance – following state and local laws requiring defensible space including trimming trees and removal of brush and debris from yard. See CAL FIRE’s defensible space page and your local city or county for details.
  • Being safer together – Safer from Wildfires recognizes two community-wide programs, Firewise USA and Fire Risk Reduction Communities as small as 8 dwelling units or as big as 2,500 can create an action plan and start being safer together. Firewise USA is a nationally recognized program with proven results, sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association.
  • Learn how to Start a Firewise Community
Ramesh Rao Blog November 28, 2023

2024 Hot Color Picks for a Seasonal Refresh

Every year, color forecasters and paint companies bring a burst of fun to the industry when they release their color of the year. Another perk is their creative language to describe the colors and the mood they’re trying to evoke.

Companies have started rolling out their 2024 color picks, and sharing the news can be an opportunity to reconnect with clients who may be ready for a fall or early winter refresh of their homes.

There are options for clients willing to embrace trendy, bold colors and hues for those who prefer more subtle changes and a timeless feel.

Evoking Emotion

In picking colors and names, the companies have drawn on consumers’ current mood and desire for tranquility, calm, and a break from the stresses of daily life.

For example, Renew Blue , Valspar’s 2024 pick, is “a nourishing, green-influenced blue that creates a sense of peace wherever you place it.”

“Most of us are seeking an end to feeling overwhelmed – less stress, less information, less technology, fewer choices. Simplicity. Here, we can slow down and create the peaceful place we seek,” notes Valspar when discussing its choice.

Sherwin Williams took a new direction with its Anthology: Volume One, choosing four color groups: blues and greens, reds and purples (colors include Rhapsody Lilac, Fireweed, and Dragon Fruit), deeps and darks (Mossy Gold, Roycroft Bronze Green, and Gale Force are among the colors), and delicate tints.

“In an era where well-being is increasingly important, dark colors can offer solace and soothe anxieties. Since 2020, deep-value tones have become synonymous with sanctuary, nurturing, and artisanal touches,” says Sue Wadden, Sherwin-Williams’ director of color marketing.

Behr’s pick, Cracked Pepper, is described as a versatile soft black that accentuates the spaces you create life moments in, while Dutch Boy’s Ironside is “a deep, comforting green that is a richly dimensional hue that soothes and reassures.” Dutch Boy developed three palette categories—Embrace, Retreat, and Inspire—that pair well with Ironside. They include Strawberry Shake, Whale’s Tail, and Pineapple Flan.  

If you know clients are looking for a reset, they might be receptive to chatting with you about color trends. Others could be contemplating a vacation property or new home to find a change of scenery, a retreat, and less stress.

Ramesh Rao Blog November 28, 2023

Homebuilders Embrace Age-Friendly Design, Deliver Comfort for All

house partially framed

Many homeowners consider making age-friendly home upgrades only after they face a challenging situation like a fall.

By regularly talking with clients about aging-in-place modifications and sharing tips and trends, you can prepare them for aging at home. Such routine conversations can also position you as a trusted advisor when your clients need to make decisions about home improvements or if they decide it’s time for them to move.

A Builder Magazine story worth sharing with clients looks at what’s trending among home builders and how newly constructed homes are evolving to be more age friendly.

For instance, builders are incorporating age-friendly features in new single-family homes to make them comfortable and accessible for people of all ages. This is important because most U.S. housing stock isn’t ready to accommodate an aging population, according to a 2020 U.S. Census report that found only one in 10 homes is equipped for aging residents. In addition, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, come 2034, there will be more adults aged 65 and older than children.

While many are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Universal Design principles, there’s another concept gaining traction called “Visitability.” Advocates from www.Visitability.org suggest that homes have three features: entrances with level thresholds, ground-floor doorways and hallways wide enough for wheelchairs, and a wheelchair-accessible powder room on the ground floor. Such features eliminate barriers for both residents and visitors to a home.

Builder Magazine notes that Pima County, Arizona, and the state of Vermont have incorporated Visitability principles into their building codes.

Some builders have started embracing the concept of age-friendly design in their housing projects by making such accessibility features standard or optional upgrades.

For instance, Tri Pointe Homes introduced its LiveAbility program, offering standard features like open floor plans and adjustable height closet rods. Optional amenities include microwaves in lower cabinets and sit-down showers.

Another, Epcon Communities, in its 55-plus communities, offers a universal design upgrade that includes wider doorways and hallways and a curbless shower, and nearly 75% of buyers have chosen the upgrade. This option has become popular even in Epcon’s all-age developments, with over one-third of buyers selecting such features.

Regal Builders takes a similar approach by making universal design elements, such as first-floor primary bedrooms and step-free entrances, standard in their homes for its Noble’s Pond 55-plus community.

Furthermore, builders recognize the importance of creating age-friendly communities beyond individual homes. As such, they incorporate features like community gardens, walkable pathways, golf cart routes, and convenient access to dining, shopping, and healthcare services to enhance residents’ overall quality of life.

Ramesh Rao Blog November 28, 2023

Make Informed Remodeling Decisions, Maximize ROI

Business people working together on a building project, desktop top view with tools, wood swatches, mobile phone and blueprint

Given the changing real estate market, clients may wonder whether or not to renovate and question which projects should take priority. They also may be interested in which upgrades provide the best return on investment (ROI).

A recent Fixr report, Home Remodeling Statistics and Trends of 2023, sheds light on remodeling trends, homeowners’ spending habits, and interior design preferences.

You can share the following data, statistics, and insight with clients to guide them towards the best decisions and incorporate the information in your newsletters and marketing materials.

Here are some Fixr facts:

  • Spending on homeowner improvements and repairs grew by 78% from 2014 to 2022, with an increase of $65B between 2021 and 2022 — the highest increase in the past ten years.
  • The median annual spending per household on home improvements is $22,000 — 69% higher than the 2019 median spending ($13,000).
  • Homeowners invest the most money in HVAC ($56.6 billion) and roofing ($72 billion) projects.


For clients focused on maximizing their return on investment, point them to this chart.

Top 11 projects with the highest ROI in 2023

Project ROI 2022 ROI 2023 Change from 2022
HVAC Conversion | Electrification 103.50%
Garage Door Replacement 93% 102.70% 9.70%
Manufactured Stone Veneer 91% 102.30% 11.30%
Entry Door Replacement | Steel 64% 100.90% 36.90%
Siding Replacement | Vinyl 67% 94.70% 27.70%
Siding Replacement | Fiber-Cement 68% 88.50% 20.50%
Minor Kitchen Remodel | Midrange 71% 85.70% 14.70%
Window Replacement | Vinyl 68% 68.50% 0.50%
Bath Remodel | Midrange 59% 66.70% 7.80%
Window Replacement | Wood 66% 61.20% -4.80%
Roofing Replacement | Asphalt Shingles 60% 61.10% 1.50%


Fixr also offers insight into design features like the popularity of wallpaper, mixing materials and textures, and combining neutrals with vibrant colors.

Additional resources to keep you up to date include:

Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


Choosing the best feng shui plants is only part of maximizing the energy flow in your space. It’s also crucial to place the plants in the correct areas or “zones” to promote wellness, both for yourself and the plants. Here is a simple guide to the best places to put your houseplants according to feng shui principles.


The core of the feng shui philosophy is based on the idea of Bagua, a balance of eight different types of energy in a space. The eight energies are tied to different zones of the house or a specific room and determine the ideal placement for furniture, plants, and more. These different energies are tied to various parts of life like wealth, family, and career, but are also associated with different elements.

The best feng shui space will have a perfect balance of these elements and furnishings placed in the corresponding energy section. Therefore, we can use this map to find the best places for houseplants in any given indoor space.


In feng shui, plants are associated with the wood element. This element is found in the east, southeast, and south corners of the Bagua energy map. As a general interpretation, houseplants are best placed on the east, southeast, or south sides of a room. Conveniently, this tends to be where plants will get the most natural light, depending on window size and placement.
For perfect feng shui, it’s also important to understand how different plants can provide different types of energy. Experts recommend mixing and balancing these energies by combining different types of plants. For example, the soft, flowing energy of an areca palm contrasts with the strength and sharpness of a snake plant.
Experiment with what feels best in your space to find your own personal perfect feng shui plant arrangement.
Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


While many think of “modern” interiors as cold and uncomfortable, the contemporary design style provides a more comfortable version of the modern aesthetic. Contemporary design is an excellent place to begin if you’re interested in finding inspiration for a minimalist but welcoming décor. To use this design style in your own home, here are some ideas to help.


Color is key to achieving contemporary design in your own space. The main colors used in contemporary design are white, black, and neutral. However, it’s important to add bolder colors through details like accessories, wall décor, and textiles. Paint your walls in a basic neutral to give you the freedom of a comfortable but open canvas. Black accents can ground the space and give it depth while maintaining the balance between neutrals and brighter colors lets you stretch your creativity.


Contemporary furniture is bold but simple. Opt for pieces lacking decoration and embellishment. Choose angular lines and edges rather than curves for your furniture, and be careful not to clutter a space. Less is more in modern interiors, and contemporary design is no exception. This concept applies to patterns and décor as well as your furniture: avoid florals and fringe and stick to structural, basic silhouettes.


Track and recessed lighting are excellent ways to light a contemporary space. Consider installing indirect lighting in these or other methods to bathe the space in light without glare. You can use spotlights to highlight specific art pieces or another wall décor if you want to encourage focus. However, keeping your light bright but indirect will keep the more contemporary feeling of open simplicity. For finishes and materials, choose natural wood, matte black, or metal. If framing art, keep the frames subtle so as to not overshadow the art itself.
These are just a few ways to bring contemporary design into your own home. Use them as a starting point and create a contemporary space unique to your taste and needs.
Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


Buy on the Bad News and Sell on the Good News

This is a perfect time to invest in real estate as a way for wealth creation.  Being a Contrarian is a perfect strategy at this time.  Although the inventory of homes in the Bay Area is low, the sellers are willing to negotiate as the lower competition among the buyers reduces the offer prices.  If you have been waiting to buy a home, this IS your time.  Act now and not when every other buyer is also making an attempt to buy next year.  Call me for your free consultation.  I am at 408-806-6496.

Despite welcome news to the Fed that consumer prices eased more than expected in October, inflation remains a threat to the economy as it continues to erode Americans’ purchasing power. Housing affordability in Q322, for example, dipped again from last year, despite inching up slightly from Q222. Meanwhile, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) jumped back over 7%, depressing refinance activity to a 22-year low. Purchase applications, on the other hand, made a modest improvement for the first time in six weeks, but still remained well below the level observed at the same time last year. With mortgage rates hovering near the 20-year high, consumer’s confidence in the housing market dipped further in October as affordability remains the top challenge for homebuyers.

Housing affordability in California inched up in Q322: The statewide housing affordability index (HAI) for existing single-family home sales increased to 18%, after hitting a 15-year low of 16% in Q222. Despite an improvement on a quarter-to-quarter basis, the state housing affordability index (HAI) dipped again year-over-year by 6 percentage points from Q321. The monthly mortgage payment for a median-priced home (including taxes and insurance) decreased 3.2% from Q222, as the statewide median price dipped 6.1% from the previous quarter but jumped 29.9% from Q321. With interest rates remaining near the 20-year high, housing affordability will continue to be a challenge for many homebuyers in the coming quarters.

Consumer confidence in housing hits new all-time low: According to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), consumers sentiment dipped to the lowest level since the inception of their survey in 2011, as persistently high home prices and unfavorable mortgage rates continue to fuel consumers’ housing affordability concerns. The index declined 4.1 points in October to 56.7, marking its eighth consecutive monthly decline. Compared to October of last year the index is down 18.8 points. Only 16% of respondents indicated now is a good time to buy a home, a new survey low, while the share of those who believe now is a good time to sell a home declined sharply from 59% to 51%.

Mortgage rates rise above 7% again, flattening mortgage demand: With the Fed tightening its monetary policy once again in the November meeting to fight against inflation, rates climbed back over 7%. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, 30-year FRM averaged 7.08% as of November 10. This was up from 6.95% the week prior. With higher mortgage rates, total mortgage applications decreased 0.1% from one week earlier for the week ending November 4, 2022, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) weekly survey. Refinance demand fell another 4% pushing refinance applications 87% behind last year’s level. Meanwhile, purchase applications increased 1% and marked its first gain in six weeks. Purchase demand was still down 41% from a year ago and dropped to a near seven-year low.

Consumer prices inch up slightly, but the inflation downshift continues in the right direction: The index measuring the typical basket of goods and services, also known as CPI rose in October by 0.4% from the month prior. Price pressures signaled signs of cooling off as the index grew at the smallest clip year-over-year since January, registering a 7.7% growth from the same time a year ago. While October’s moderation in inflation is good news, the Core CPI, which excludes more volatile food and energy prices, still rose 0.3% and kept the annualized rate of core inflation at 6.3% – well above the Fed’s 2% target. Shelter costs also posted their highest monthly gain since 1990. Based on this report, the Fed will likely raise the rate again in December.

More prospective buyers are actively searching for a home: Despite higher interest rates negatively impacting housing affordability and demand for homes, not all buyers have been sidelined. According to the latest Housing Trends report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in Q322 59% of prospective buyers had moved beyond the planning phase and had become fully engaged in the buying process. This was up from 46% in Q122 and 49% in Q222. The share of prospective buyers actively searching for a home rose in every region between the second and third quarter of 2022, with the West having the largest share at 68%. Less competition and more inventory were the driving force for the sharp increase in the recent quarter. (Courtesy of California Association of Realtors).

Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


Whether you believe it’s a resurgence of health-consciousness among homebuyers of all income levels, a return to a more “continental lifestyle” that values sidewalk cafes and leisurely strolls along grande metropolitan avenues, or a post-pandemic appreciation of fresh air and freedom from restrictions, there is no doubt that Americans today increasingly embrace neighborhood walkability as a popular trend, particularly when making decisions about luxury real estate purchases.


Some European capitals never gave up the tradition; cities like Amsterdam now favor the bicycle over motorized vehicles, and residents of cities throughout the Mediterranean region prize their city squares and plazas for their people-friendly ambience. Others are creating new pedestrian-only zones to reclaim their former “small-town” feel.




While many suburban communities still require long commutes to places of employment, newer development places a priority on neighborhood amenities that offer the chance for homeowners to enjoy parks and natural areas close to their homes. The desire for additional walkability has been growing in recent decades, and today’s buyers, it seems, are more than willing to pay for the privilege of having their favorite destinations close at hand.


A survey of “flagship” developments in some unlikely places illustrates this new trend. From Boca Raton in Florida, to a community in the heart of West Hollywood, California, today’s buyers appear ready to park their vehicles and don their walking shoes — for shopping, dining out and recreation, maybe even for commuting to work.


A June 21, 2022 Forbes article mentions Bloom on Forty Fifth, a 92-unit upscale condominium development in historical Hell’s Kitchen, New York, that is as close to offices as it is to luxury shopping and running paths. A luxury Manhattan rental development puts residents in close proximity to notable eateries and entertainment, and these are not isolated examples.




While many planned communities have designated walking paths, sports courts, pools, golf courses, playgrounds, picnic areas, and dog parks for resident enjoyment, and downtown high-rises provide abundant features that focus on comfort and convenience, luxury real estate professionals have not often listed walkability scores as a desirable amenity. Times, however, are changing. Savvy buyers today are willing to pay for the privilege of having their favorite destinations close at hand!


Walkscore.com, a site that rates nearly every zip code in the United States based on specific walkability guidelines, began to rate neighborhoods in 2007. Research confirms that a single point difference in walkability score can represent a value difference of $3,250.


Walkability scores — ranging from 0 to 100 — are broken down in the following ways:


  • Car-Dependent: Typically suburbs far from a city core, or rural areas. Even simple errands are likely to require a vehicle.
  • Mostly Car-Dependent: This category includes homes and apartments on the fringes of a metropolitan area. Residents in this category may be able to walk to public transportation stops or to walk or ride a bike to a park or other leisure-time activity, but are not generally able to walk to school, to work, or to shop.
  • Moderately Walkable: Access to recreational facilities in this category may be feasible via bicycle or by walking, especially in higher price categories, but the distances required to walk to shops, businesses, or restaurants may make them accessible only to highly-motivated, fit residents.
  • Mostly Walkable: Homes within this scoring range are almost always located within a mile of most facilities, including grocery and other retail stores, conveniences such as laundry or dry cleaners, repair shops, eateries, neighborhood entertainment, parks and recreational facilities, gas stations and repair shops, walk-in clinics, and the like.
  • No Car Necessary: Markets, restaurants and bars, a variety of shops, doctors, dentists, office buildings and recreational opportunities such as parks and movie theaters, libraries, museums, and galleries, will be located within a reasonable and easily-accessible perimeter. This score typically applies to select neighborhoods in large cities and to smaller towns throughout the country.


Walkscore.com scores can be supplemented by the National Walkability Index (NWI), created by the EPA to highlight the proximity of borderline areas to “very walkable” zones.


Today’s buyers, it seems, are willing to pay for the privilege of having favorite destinations close at hand. Whether walkable destinations include schools, shops, restaurants, parks, golf courses and recreational venues, or offices, museums, theaters, and galleries, is an individual choice, but it is apparent that today’s buyers are willing to pay a premium for higher walkability scores.


It’s something to consider — for a wide variety of reasons, and planned communities in both cities and suburbs are likely to include walking and jogging trails, landscaped gardens and play areas, fishing ponds and putting greens to improve walkability scores.

Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


If a home sale is pending and then the house goes back on the market, people often assume that the prospective buyer backed out after discovering a major problem with the property. That’s not necessarily true. If you see a house that has been relisted, don’t assume that there is something wrong with it. There are several other reasons why a deal can fall through.  I will do the research to find out why a transaction fell through. If the transaction fell through unrelated to the condition of the property, it is an excellent buying opportunity.  Feel free to consult me if you have questions.  Call/text me at 408-806-6496.

A Buyer May Be Unable to Get Financing

Most buyers get preapproved for a mortgage before they start looking for a new home, but preapproval is no guarantee that a buyer will get a loan. If a buyer’s financial circumstances change, a lender may refuse to approve a mortgage application. A job loss, a pay cut, a new car loan, and an increase in credit card debt are all possible reasons why a buyer may be unable to qualify for a mortgage.

A deal can also fall through if a house appraises for less than the agreed-upon sale price. If the loan-to-value ratio is too high, the buyer may not meet the lender’s requirements. In that situation, the buyer can pay the difference in cash, or the seller can reduce the price. If neither of those things happens, a potential sale can fall apart.

A Buyer and Seller Might Be Unable to Reach an Agreement on Repairs

Buyers usually have a house inspected before they move ahead with a purchase. It’s common for a home inspector to identify a long list of defects, which can range from minor to major.

A buyer can ask the seller to repair any serious problems, and the seller can agree or refuse. If the seller can’t afford to make repairs now or doesn’t want to go through a hassle and delay the transaction, the seller can offer a repair credit.

Sometimes a buyer requests a long list of repairs or a large credit that the seller considers unreasonable. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the deal can fall through, and the house can go back on the market.

A Deal Can Fall Apart Because of a Contingency

Often, a potential buyer wants to sell a property before purchasing a new one to avoid getting stuck with two mortgage payments at the same time. A buyer in that situation might include a contingency in the contract that states that the deal will only move forward if the buyer’s current home is sold by a specific date. If that doesn’t happen, the house that the buyer wanted to purchase can get relisted.

A Buyer Might Have a Change of Heart

Sometimes a buyer makes an offer on one property, then finds another that’s less expensive, that’s in a better location, or that has more bedrooms or a more desirable layout. A sudden change in personal circumstances, such as an illness in the family, can make a buyer decide not to go ahead with a home purchase.

Ramesh Rao Blog September 27, 2023


Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature can improve your physical and mental health in a variety of ways. Bringing nature inside can also be beneficial. Here are several reasons why you might want to add some plants to your home.

Plants Can Improve Indoor Air Quality

Pet dander, cleaning products, and other contaminants can create poor indoor air quality that can aggravate allergies, trigger asthma attacks, and have other negative impacts on your family’s health. You might not be able to eliminate all the things that are polluting the air inside your home, but houseplants, plus the soil they grow in and microorganisms in the soil, can help filter the air so you can breathe easier.

Houseplants Can Improve Your Mental Health 

Stress is a fact of life, but raising plants can make it easier for you to cope with daily ups and downs. Studies have found that people who care for plants tend to experience declines in blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and lower levels of stress hormones.

Taking care of plants can help you temporarily forget about whatever challenges you’re facing. Watching plants grow and thrive can give you a sense of accomplishment that can spill over and positively impact other aspects of your life.

Simply being around plants can be beneficial. A home filled with beautiful houseplants feels calm and relaxing. Being in that type of environment can help you unwind and recharge after a stressful day.

Plants Can Help You Focus and Be More Productive and Creative

Being in a room with plants can provide several cognitive benefits. Studies have found that just having a plant nearby can help people focus on work and other tasks and get things done faster and with less stress. The presence of plants has also been linked to increased creativity.

Do Some Research before You Get a Houseplant

It’s important to choose a houseplant carefully. Figure out how much time you can devote to raising a plant and find a species that you know you will be able to care for properly. Think about how much sunlight your house gets and select a species that will be able to thrive in that amount of light.

If you have kids or pets, be particularly diligent when selecting houseplants. Some common species can be poisonous to children, dogs, and cats.

You can find a lot of helpful information related to houseplants online. If you need help selecting a species or advice on how to care for it, you can visit a local nursery or garden center and speak with an employee.