Riverside Realtor Blog - Alma Dizon

Alma shares her experiences and observations as a Realtor in Riverside California.

Friday, September 28, 2007


When my husband and I moved to Riverside from Santa Monica, what we probably most regretted leaving behind was the fabulous array of flavors to be found in restaurants in the L.A. area. We have found some places we like a lot and visit often, but the truth is, we've gotten into a rut. And we certainly never could find anything on a par with what we've had in the Bay Area or on an incredible food trip we took through Italy (shockingly expensive, but we'll reminisce about it until our dying days). But now we've had an amazing dining experience that I must put in the top 5 of my entire life, and that place is Omakase, where chef Brein Clements creates memorable food.

Omakase is not for the faint of tastebuds. If you really think one clove of garlic is sufficient, you will find this restaurant overwhelming. For me, each mouthful was a stunning revelation of intense flavors that woke up different spots on the tongue. I truly understood for the first time just which tastebuds sense sweet, which ones salt, and which ones savory. It was like seeing a fauve painting after going through a museum of well-varnished masters, the flavors contrasting boldly and with stunning clarity, yet still harmonizing into a complete work. Each mouthful of each course was a stunning discovery with one taste standing out here, another there.

I highly recommend going with the chef's tasting menu (they will ask you for specific food allergies to make necessary adjustments). You can also get a glass of perfectly matched wine with each course, but I'm going to have to forego that option next time because I almost had to be carried home after 5 glasses. The portions are small and exquisite, so 5 courses are just right and won't make you a glutton.

To eat at Omakase is to experience something that you will not be able to find in other cities as the dishes bring together Japanese, French, Italian, Indian, American, and who knows how many other traditions together into a new marvel. Moreover, the food there brings together an individual chef's artwork and also locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, so you will only find this in Riverside and nowhere else.

To read up on the restaurant and to see how what new wonders the season has brought to their current menu, click on the following link:


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just how thirsty is your lawn?

It should come to no surprise that the biggest use of water in the California is to keep our lawns green. But just how much water we're spraying out there might surprise you. It turns out that the average daily use for yards and gardens statewide is 185 gallons. Doubtless, if we had to haul that water from a well, most of us would settle for hard-packed dirt, and only the extremely wealthy would have that lush, green look. But water has been cheap, and so the desert has been settled with scores of tract homes, all vying for that illusion of living in a rainy area.

But you don't have to settle for dust and prickly pear. There are many lovely low-water plants that you can cover the front lawn with. Most people don't actually play football on the green expanses in front of their homes. A wide variety of plants, both native and imported from other dry climates, can provide plenty of coverage and color while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. I find these plants much easier to maintain than a lawn (ours is mostly in back, where the dogs get to enjoy it, and it looks truly pathetic). Sure, have some grass if someone actually runs around on it, and you can plant trees strategically to provide shade for some lawn. But according to a survey, the biggest reason for lawns is appearance, and that's a sad reason to be using up water during a drought.

According to the Western Municipal Water District, the annual rainfall necessary to sustain various plants is as follows:
Grass: 45.1 inches
Medium water-use plants: 33.8 inches
Low water-use plants: 16.9 inches
California native plants: 11.3 inches

In an average year (which we haven't had for a while), Riverside gets about 10 inches of rain. So even a yard of only native plants would need extra water. From 7/1/05 to 6/30/06, the total rainfall in Jurupa Hills was a little over 7 inches. Think about that versus the 45 or so inches you sprinkled onto that grass.

PE article on watering

County Records News data on rainfall in Western Riverside

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Love and Distrust

People have always told me that it was a good thing that my daughter was shy and clingy almost from birth. They told me no one would be able to steal her. And yes, she was better than a car alarm, wailing if someone even walked into the room. With my husband and me, she was and continues to be wonderfully affectionate. It was truly gratifying when, as a toddler, she finally learned to kiss me and proceeded to kiss me softly 18 times on the nose. But this doesn't mean that she trusts us absolutely, and it's simply her nature to question our opinions and actions.

Take last night, for example. When we got home, she told me that she hadn't been able to eat her spaghetti at kindergarten because the container slipped out of her hands when she was trying to open it, dumping her lunch on the cafeteria floor. She really likes spaghetti, so she asked me to make more for dinner. While I was making dinner, I cleaned out her lunchbox and, sure enough, found the spaghetti container. It was full and looked untouched. I opened it, examined it for signs of floor and found none. I was puzzled. I'd assumed that she would just have thrown it out. On the other hand, I've worked very hard to train her to bring everything home, so that we can recycle properly instead of just tossing it all into the trash the way they do at school. Plus, I know how much she loves spaghetti and in fact had asked for it again. So I tossed it into the green recycling (it was meatless), and started anew. When we sat at the dinner table, my daughter plunged her fork into her pasta and began to eat voraciously. Then she paused, slowly looked up at me, and asked, "These are the same noodles that fell on the floor?" "No," I told her, "those are in the laundry room, in the green bin." "Really?" she asked. "Go and look," I told her, "It's in there." She thought a moment and then continued to eat without checking the bin.

I had two reactions. One was, "I'm your mother. How could you even think that I would reheat those noodles?" My second was, "Nobody is going to con this child into buying a shoddily built house or a bad refi." Of course, one could say that she knows me well enough to have figured that I would examine her lunch and not just immediately believe that they'd fallen on the floor. She may also have picked up my tendency to question what I'm told, no matter who is talking.

But she's much more distrustful than I was at age 5. I gradually became distrustful in my teen years, after discovering with much horror that my parents weren't always right or logical. And a close relative conned me out of $100 when I was 16. I had always been an unquestioning and fairly obedient child, so learning distrust was rather traumatic. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have it hardwired into her. Why else would she even think I would try to feed her spaghetti that had fallen on the cafeteria floor?

Then there are the cousins of mine whose mother was infamous for her inability to smell and taste rotting food. She sporadically poisoned the extended family at holiday gatherings, and we all became wary of anything she had to offer. My cousins, from a young age, began throwing their food onto the roof when their mother wasn't looking. Years later, she surprised them by leaving the same house to them all. They were estatic. It was full of rot and had unpermitted additions, but it was in Hawaii and worth a lot of money on paper. Then, these close-knit siblings, who had always supported each other against their mom, began to fight with the one who'd actually stayed home and taken care of their mother. So she took out a huge loan on this unsellable house and split the money with the others, who promptly got hit with taxes on it. Hmm, so maybe they should have continued to be suspicious of their mother despite her last act of love for them...

So beware and ask questions, even if (and especially if) family is involved. Get an appraisal that truly reflects the actual physical condition of a property and the costs to make it sellable. Seek tax information. Have agreements written down and get copies of everything, even receipts. It doesn't mean that you love them less, but it does lessen the amount of pain you'll feel, realizing later that a loved one didn't live up to your expectations.

Of course, my child didn't actually go look at the green bin. But I was ready, and I will be the next time she questions me. I hope she doesn't stop doing so.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pending Sales Down Most in the West

The numbers are out for this past July, and they support what we've been seeing here in Riverside. There's been a tremendous decline in houses going into escrow, and then some of these are falling out as buyers fail to get loans. Overall, pending sales of existing homes fell just over 12% from June, while in the West, the decline hit nearly 21%. Furthermore, the figures fell almost 22% in the Western states from a year earlier.

These percentages translate into unsold houses in many places, leaving buyers overwhelmed by choice. In general, shoppers tend to feel paralyzed in the face of too many options (which is why agents shouldn't show too many properties!) to the point where none of them seems like a good buy.

This situation means that people who do buy now have an unsual combination of the following 1) good credit, 2) some savings to put down, and 3) the ability to move against the herd. I keep running into people who wished that they'd bought up property during the 90's. All I can say is, the ones who did then were rare and strong individuals. Of course, prices are much higher now, but it's still workable for those willing to reside in a home (and not just pretend to!) for a couple of years.

An agent I know was telling me that several of his middle range and higher end homes have come down a lot. The 2 middle range ones had dropped about 100k each, coming down to the low 600's, while one for over a million had dropped 200k. And I'm seeing starter houses that have dropped 50k. So for those who are ready and can still think clearly, it's actually a sensible time to fight the mass hysteria and pick up a good place to live.

Article on Drop in Pending Sales