Keeping Current Matters | Feb 26, 2024

If you’re planning to buy your first home, saving up for all the costs involved can feel daunting, especially when it comes to the down payment. That might be because you’ve heard you need to save 20% of the home’s price to put down. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. That means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.

As The Mortgage Reports says:

“Although putting down 20% to avoid mortgage insurance is wise if affordable, it’s a myth that this is always necessary. In fact, most people opt for a much lower down payment.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, for all homebuyers today it’s only 15%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 8% (see graph below):

a graph of a number of blue squares

The big takeaway? You may not need to save as much as you originally thought.

Learn About Resources That Can Help You Toward Your Goal

According to Down Payment Resource, there are also over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and many of them are intended to help with down payments.

Plus, there are loan options that can help too. For example, FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5%, while VA and USDA loans have no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

With so many resources available to help with your down payment, the best way to find what you qualify for is by consulting with your loan officer or broker. They know about local grants and loan programs that may help you out.

Don’t let the misconception that you have to have 20% saved up hold you back. If you’re ready to become a homeowner, lean on the professionals to find resources that can help you make your dreams a reality. If you put your plans on hold until you’ve saved up 20%, it may actually cost you in the long run. According to U.S. Bank:

“. . . there are plenty of reasons why it might not be possible. For some, waiting to save up 20% for a down payment may “cost” too much time. While you’re saving for your down payment and paying rent, the price of your future home may go up.”

Home prices are expected to keep appreciating over the next 5 years – meaning your future home will likely go up in price the longer you wait. If you’re able to use these resources to buy now, that future price growth will help you build equity, rather than cost you more.

Bottom Line

Keep in mind that you don’t always need a 20% down payment to buy a home. If you’re looking to make a move this year, reach out to a trusted real estate professional to start the conversation about your homebuying goals.

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Keeping Current Matters | Feb 8, 2024

Are you on the fence about selling your house? While affordability is improving this year, it’s still tight. And that may be on your mind. But understanding your home equity could be the key to making your decision easier. An article from Bankrate explains:

Home equity is the difference between your home’s value and the amount you still owe on your mortgage. It represents the paid-off portion of your home.

You’ll start off with a certain level of equity when you make your down payment to buy the home, then continue to build equity as you pay down your mortgage. You’ll also build equity over time as your home’s value increases.”

Think of equity as a simple math equation. It’s the value of your home now minus what you owe on your mortgage. And guess what? Recently, your equity has probably grown more than you think.

In the past few years, home prices skyrocketed, which means your home’s value – and your equity – likely shot up, too. So, you may have more equity than you realize.

How To Make the Most of Your Home Equity Right Now

If you’re thinking about moving, the equity you have in your home could be a big help. According to CoreLogic:

“. . . the average U.S. homeowner with a mortgage still has more than $300,000 in equity . . .”

Clearly, homeowners have a lot of equity right now. And the latest data from the Census and ATTOM shows over two-thirds of homeowners have either completely paid off their mortgages (shown in green in the chart below) or have at least 50% equity (shown in blue in the chart below):

That means roughly 70% have a tremendous amount of equity right now.

After you sell your house, you can use your equity to help you buy your next home. Here’s how:

“You may want to pay cash for your home if you’re shopping in a competitive housing market, or if you’d like to save money on mortgage interest. It could help you close a deal and beat out other buyers.

Borrowers who put down more money typically receive better interest rates from lenders. This is due to the fact that a larger down payment lowers the lender’s risk because the borrower has more equity in the home from the beginning.”

The Easy Way To Find Out How Much Equity You Have

To find out how much equity you have in your home, ask a real estate agent you trust for a Professional Equity Assessment Report (PEAR).

Bottom Line

Planning a move? Your home equity can really help you out. Let’s connect to see how much equity you have and how it can help with your next home.

👩🏻 Christine Almarines @carealestategroup
Realtor DRE# 01412944 | 714-476-4637
Tagalog speaking

👩🏻 Anaid Bautista @singlemomrealtor
Realtor DRE# 02179675 | 949-391-8266
Spanish speaking


Choice Home Warranty | Jan 15, 2016

Valentine’s Day is a great day to show your appreciation for the one you love. Often, it’s through greeting cards, romantic dates, flowers, and gifts. But for some couples, the key to a loved one’s heart just might be in a few framed wedding photos around your home or a new fireplace for a cozy night. And better yet, your Valentine home improvement projects can be enjoyed for years rather than just a few moments or days. Start now on these home improvement projects to show you care for Valentine’s Day.

  1. Add a couple rocking chairs to your porch: Whether you have space on your front porch or out back, make your outdoor areas more couple friendly with a pair of chairs you can enjoy together.
  2. Update your lighting: Swap out harsh lighting for something softer and more flattering. Install dimmer switches to set the mood, update outdated fixtures with a new, more romantic design, and put in new bulbs with softer light.
  3. Install a wine fridge: Love to share wine together? Enjoy an even better experience with a new wine fridge for your kitchen.
  4. Hang an outdoor swing: Get ready for the spring and summer seasons with a cozy outdoor swing or hammock that you can enjoy together.
  5. Frame your bathroom mirror: Update the look of your bathroom quickly — and remind your loved one of your hard work and caring in completing this projct every morning when they look in the mirror. Reveal your finished project with a love note on the mirror.
  6. Organize kitchen cabinets: It hardly sounds romantic, but ask any harried home chef with messy cabinets, and they’ll tell you this gesture would win their hearts over. Invest in organizational tools such as divided storage, hangers, and even drawers for cabinets, and wow your loved one with kitchen storage they’ll enjoy using.
  7. Build a piece of furniture: Nothing says love more than spending the time to create a quality handcrafted piece of furniture made with the recipient in mind. Build a bookshelf for a book lover, a jewelry hanger, or even a practical storage solution for your entryway.
  8. Hang photos on your walls: Chances are, you have plenty of photos of you and your significant other together. But do you have them framed and hung in a place of honor? Show your loved one that you care and cherish your relationship by taking the time to print, frame, and hang photos of them or the both of you together on your walls at home. Need ideas? Look for photos from your wedding day, honeymoon, favorite vacation, or early days in your relationship to make them (and you) feel nostalgic.
  9. Upgrade bath fixtures: Turn your master bathroom into a more romantic haven with updated fixtures. Add a new fixture for faucets and put in new fixtures in your shower and tub for a new, more inviting look. Then plan a big reveal with a bubble bath.
  10. Plant a flower garden: Cut flowers are a nice gesture, but in the right climate, a garden of flowers that will last for weeks or months is a more enduring reminder of your love. Or, plant rose bushes for something more permanent. Plus, you can select flowers from your garden or rose bush for a home made bouquet.
  11. Buy new bedding: Refresh your bedroom and make your bed more enticing with fresh, new sheets. Take it a step further with a new bedspread or even a new headboard.
  12. Put in a fireplace: Nothing says cozy and romantic like a fireplace at home. But even if your home doesn’t already have one, it is possible to get one installed. Freestanding units can be purchased and enjoyed within moments, and local installers can add one to your home as well. Rather take it outside? An outdoor fire pit is romantic, too.
  13. Carve out a ladies’ retreat or man cave: Have a space in your home that you’re not really using? Clear out the junk and make it a place for your loved one to enjoy instead. Add furniture and touches that you know they’ll enjoy, such as wall paint in their favorite color, or the perfect storage solution for their favorite collection.
  14. Just fix it: Practically every couple has a project or two on their honey do list that gets overlooked. Think about the project that your loved one has been wanting to see done and make it happen.

You can throw a legendary Super Bowl party—even when you’re only watching for the commercials. Here’s what to do!

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

It seems that the best parties in the winter all revolve around football. Even if you don’t love sports, fear not. Throwing a Super Bowl party can be just as fun for the host as it is for sports fans. Stock up on tailgate snacks and slammin’ Super Bowl cocktails and let’s get going!


Bring on the Drinks

Football wouldn’t be a great American sport without a great American beverage. Before the party, snag a local beer from the cities of the teams competing or pick up one of our favorite cheap beer brands for your shindig. If they’re not into beer, pick a signature cocktail for each team based on their city, mascot or team colors. Mix up a pitcher of each drink ahead of time with a little splash of food coloring to match each team’s jerseys.

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Do a Dip

Cheesy dips are a staple of any legendary tailgate, and a Super Bowl party is no different. Look for a few creative recipes and choose one that is cheesy, one that is meaty, one that is spicy and one that is vegan to appease all the different taste preferences of your group. Look to these dip recipes for inspiration.


Play Some Games

Keep the competition alive with adult party games, like team and city trivia or football bingo. If your guests are more into the ads than the game, this Super Bowl commercial bingo will be sure to bring on some fun. Bake some football-shaped cookies to hand out as prizes.

Super bowl snack stadium TASTE OF HOME

Build a Snack Stadium

To be the envy of all your friends (and the star of their Instagram stories) build yourself a snack stadium. Fill a few cardboard boxes or aluminum pans with all your favorite snacks (including some of these healthy Super Bowl recipes, for a well-balanced selection). Make a field out of a frosted cake and place it in the center. Learn how to build a snack stadium with our step-by-step guide.


Set the Scene

Make your guests feel like they’re watching the game from the sidelines with plenty of creative decorations. From AstroTurf coasters to football drink stirrers to a festive concession stand sign, decorating for your party can be just as fun as the party itself. Decorate one half of the living room with one team’s colors, and the other half of the living room with the other team’s colors. Your guests can choose where they want to sit and cheer on their favorite team.

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Wing It

The staple of any great sports viewing party is a tray of sticky, sweet and tangy chicken wings. Prepare a range of flavors from extra spicy to sweet and mild and have a few dipping sauces (like ranch or blue cheese dressing) on the side. Wings are the perfect finger food, but be sure to have plenty of cocktail napkins ready for these fall off the bone, finger-licking goods!

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Show Your Spirit

Throw a competition to see who has the most (and most creative) team spirit in the group. Have a face painting kit at the ready with some colorful streamers and spray on hair dye. Challenge your friends to create the craziest costumes and have a makeshift catwalk for them to show off their team spirit.

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Pick a Winning Dessert

What better way to wash down all those wings and beers than with sweet and decadent Super Bowl desserts! Help ease the pain for the losing team with a crowd-pleasing classic like caramel brownies or ice cream and cookie pie. Even if their team lost the game, we bet your guests will leave with a full belly and happy heart.


Hand Out Swag Bags

To help your guests feel extra special, prepare swag bags as a parting gift. Fill your football treat bags with a few festive football cookies, candies, Gatorade, funny sweatshirt and a custom Super Bowl ’22 pint glass. They’ll be tickled you went the extra mile for them.

Laura is a New York-based freelance food writer with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and a degree in Journalism from Penn State. Her work has appeared in Taste of Home, Chowhound, the Culture Trip and Patch.
Dustin Hadley @that40yearguy is floored that this common household item (not baking soda) can erase fridge stink! You need to try this!! Check out the comments at what others are sharing! 🤯 WATCH HERE


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Show the love with Cupid-inspired, romantic dinners, heart-shaped pizzas, pies, doughnuts & more V-Day specials throughout Orange County.

ORANGE COUNTY, CA — Valentine’s Day this year falls smack in the middle of the week — Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Whether your celebrations are swanky or low-key, reservations are imperative.

So check out our annual, V-Day dining guide for some of the sweetest offers — for all tastes and budgets —at restaurants, bakeries and pizzerias throughout Orange County.

Find what appeals, scroll through the photo show above for visual inspiration, then get to booking.

And XOXO, from Patch!


ACAPULCO: Celebrate V-Day Feb. 14-17 with three-course, “Sweetheart Menu for Two” ($55). Begin with tortilla soup or Caesar salad, then choose entrée of chicken, shrimp or steak fajitas, a fajitas duo, crab & shrimp enchiladas, or Muy Grande Platter (chicken, carnitas, enchilada, vegetables, refried beans & rice). Shareable desserts selections: Mrs. Field’s Sizzling Cookie; Oreo cookie ice cream torta; flan; or caramelo cheesecake. Info/bookings. Find restaurant here in Costa Mesa.

BAYSIDE RESTAURANT: Wow your sweetheart Valentine’s Day at this harbor-front spot with three-course dinner. Selections for lobster bisque, beef tartare, filet mignon, mushroom-crusted seabass & flourless chocolate tarte or crowd-favorite, lemon meringue tart. Live music, too. Plus seating options for inside dining room or covered & heated open-air terrace. $125 per person. Reservations. At 900 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach.


BISTANGO: Cue the romance on V-Day with this eatery’s art gallery walls & live music, plus a chef-curated, three-course dinner with surf-n-turf focus. Served Feb. 14 from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. $125/person. Seatings either under palms on open-air, heated patio, or in dining room’s private booth. Reservations. At 19100 Von Karman Ave., Irvine.


BLACK ANGUS STEAKHOUSE: Choices here! Valentine’s Day options include “Campfire Feast Dinner for Two”($68), with starter, two entrees including prime rib & salmon, two sidekicks, broccoli & mashed potatoes, plus dessert. For couples wanting a little more “Surf ‘n’ Turf Dinner for Two” ($115), with two filet mignons, two lobster tails, starter, four sides, molasses bread, dessert & two prosecco splits. BookingsFind locales in Buena Park, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana.


CAFE SEVILLA: Spanish-inspired menu, Latin music & flamenco entertainment are planned Valentine’s Day. Choose from four-course, prix-fixe special, with warm goat cheese dip & Spanish charcuterie to start, followed by lobster cake & citrus salad, pan-seared duck with Spanish beer glaze or lobster paella, and orange tart dessert with raspberry meringue. ($150/couple with live music 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) Evening options include dazzling, flamenco show & dinner with three-course, lobster paella feast. ($119/person.) Plus, all Feb. 14 diners receive complimentary entry to Sevilla Ultra Lounge with live DJ & dancing. Details/reservations. At 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa.


CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN: Specials, including heart-shaped pizzas with crispy, thin crust, are back Feb. 9 to Feb. 14, for Valentine’s week. “Sweet Deal for Two” offers one appetizer, two entrees & one dessert for $50 (classic) or $60 for “Adventure Package.” Sweet Deal diners also score BOGO-offer bounceback card, redeemable Feb. 15 to Feb. 22. Details. Find locations here.


EDDIE V’S PRIME SEAFOOD: Dine in style Valentine’s Day with such menu options as oysters, crab cakes, lobster, steaks, scallops, sea bass & more. And don’t miss new V-Day cocktail: “With Love, Eddie,” a bourbon indulgence. ReservationsLocation in Newport Beach.

EL TORITO: Treat your sweetheart Feb. 14-17 to three-course, Valentine special for two ($55), featuring options for tortilla soup, Caesar salad, entrées of fajitas, salmon or Macho Combo (pasilla chile relleno, chicken & sour cream enchilada, beef barbacoa taco & chicken tamale). Finish with shareable dessert of mudd pie, deep fried ice cream or cinnamon-crisp cheesecake. Website. See locales.

FARMER BOYS: Award-winning burger chain plays Cupid this Valentine’s Day with debut of “Burger Bouquet.” As alternative to roses & chocolates, this “bouquet” ($30) is five Big Cheese burgers in special box with V-Day card. Sold via drive-thru, dine-in or phone-ahead, while supplies last. WebsiteFind restaurants in Orange County.

FLEMING’S PRIME STEAKHOUSE & WINE BAR: Three-course, V-Day menu for two — starring Prime Surf & Turf — will be served Feb. 8-19. Included: oysters Rockefeller & shrimp cocktail starters; bone-in NY strip; filet mignon; two crab-stuffed lobster tails; & dark chocolate torte dessert. ($230 for two.) Specialty cocktail: the Berry Basil Bliss, with gin, sherry, lemon juice & strawberry ($17). Per-guest menu options for filet mignon with crab-stuffed shrimp or Chilean sea bass available. Eateries open early at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14. Details. Locations here in Anaheim, Newport Beach.


GELSON’S MARKETS: Create romantic V-Day celebration at home with to-go dinners for two. Options: steak & lobster; salmon & lobster tail; or cordon bleu with lobster tail. Sides include pomegranate apple salad & roasted garlic asparagus. Floral arrangements & chocolate-dipped strawberries also available for a finishing touch. Place orders online for pick-up Feb. 13-14. See info here. Find stores near you.


KHAN SAAB DESI CRAFT KITCHEN: This twice Michelin-recognized, 100% Halal restaurant is prepping a five-course, Valentine’s Day prix-fixe feast, for Feb. 14 from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. $80 per person. Among highlights: sweet & sour potato chaat; Bazaar Salad of tomatoes, charred watermelon & cucumber; roast mashed eggplant bharta; such entrees as Manchigo corn kofta; lemon chili shrimp; chopal kabob & malai chicken tikka masala; plus banana crème brulee dessert. V-Day mocktail special is Chocolate Martini with Ghirardelli chocolate, caramel, cream & Seedlip Spice 94. Reservations. At 229 East Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton.


KING’S FISH HOUSE: Celebrate Valentine’s Day at the “House that Seafood Built” with three-course menu starring steak & seafood specials. Among menu selections: eight-ounce filet mignon; South African lobster tail; plus appetizer, choice of sides & dessert. $80 per person. Regular menu, including Chilean sea bass, wild California spiny lobster & more, also available. ReservationsLocations here in Huntington Beach, Laguna Hills & Orange.

KRISPY KREME: Sweeten V-Day with heart-shaped doughnuts in “Dough-Notes” box with your heart-felt sentiments. This year’s four, new flavors: You Color My World (cake batter filling, red icing & rainbow heart sprinkles); I Love You A Choco-Lot (chocolate filling & icing with rose piping); You’re Berry Sweet (white Kreme filling, strawberry icing & sprinkles); & Without You I’d Crumble (cookie dough filling, chocolate icing & cookie crumble). The Dough-Notes dozens box includes space for handwritten notes from giver to receiver. Available through Feb. 14. DetailsShop finder.

LAS BRISAS: Enjoy romantic, waterfront setting, plus special five-course, prix-fixe dinner from 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 18. $140/person. Menu highlights include lamb chops, filet of beef & butternut squash tamale. Or select $325 per couple option, with tomahawk steak or lobster. Champagne upgrades available for all window tables, starting at $350 per person, on Valentine’s Day. Details/bookings. At 361 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.


LUCIANA’S RISTORANTE: Indulge in romantic ambiance & Italian cuisine with four-course, prix-fixe, Valentine’s Day dinner in historic Lantern District. ($85/person.) Begin with crostini flight. Then select from options as: Insalata di Barbabietole (red & yellow beets, baby greens, balsamic reduction, whipped honey goat cheese); Zuppa di Aragosta with crème fraiche & lobster; filet mignon with porcini sauce, broccolini & Luciana’s famous butter beans; osso buco; braised chicken; salmon; Ravioli di Aragosta (homemade lobster ravioli); squid ink pasta with shrimp, scallops & crab; plus exotic desserts. MenuReservations. At 24312 Del Prado Ave., Dana Point.


MARUFUKU RAMEN: This eatery is V-Day, date-night ready with menu featuring such dishes as: appetizers of pork cha-shu in Japanese steamed buns; pan-fried pot stickers; fried shishito peppers; authentic Hakata-style Tonkatsu ramen with ultra thin noodle, broth & pork & more. Night cap options include sake, imported beer & craft cocktails. Website. Location here at 8543 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.


MIX RESTAURANT AT HILTON ANAHEIM: Win your Valentine’s heart with deluxe, Feb. 14 dinner for two, served 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. & crafted by Executive Chef Juan Lopez & team. Menu highlights: lobster seafood bisque; beet salad; pan-seared “Naked Scallops” with saffron cauliflower puree; seafood ravioli; salmon; chicken; herb-crusted steak; plus “Amore” dessert of strawberry & chocolate. Reservations via OpenTable. At 777 W. Convention Way, Anaheim.


MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE: Treat your Valentine to romantic dinner for two, served Feb. 9-17. Included are starters & sides, with entree choices of bone-in New York strip and twin, lobster tails. $169 for two. Dine-in only. Details/reservations. Find locations in Anaheim & Santa Ana.

MOUNTAIN MIKE’S PIZZA: For entire month of February, heart-shaped pizzas are available for dine-in, takeout & delivery — with toppings of choice, like the chain’s signature crispy, curly pepperoni. To sweeten the deal, bite-sized Mini Churrs are $2.99 with purchase of any heart-shaped pizza. Details. Find stores.


OJI SUSHI & SAKE BAR: Treat your sushi-loving sweetheart to luxury, all-you-can-eat Valentine’s Day dinner Feb. 14, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Adults/$38.99; kids, 8-13/$19.99; kids, 4-7/$14.99; & 3 and under free. For reservations, call 949-515-7400. At 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa.


PIEOLOGY PIZZERIA: V-Day special, Red Velvet Cookies, are back for limited time beginning Feb. 13. Freshly baked with white chocolate chips, Hershey’s milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate chunks & milk chocolate chunks, they are available for purchase & also as free “perk” option for “Pies and Perks” members. Find locations statewide.


POLLY’S PIES: Add a delicious twist to Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped, hand pies — in boysenberry, apple & cherry — from family-owned legacy business, founded in 1968 in Fullerton. $7.99 each. Pre-order for pick-up, or schedule a delivery/shipment of four for $35.99. Details. With 13 SoCal locations in Los Angeles, Orange & Riverside counties.


POSTINO WINE CAFE: Make V-Day a date night to remember with “Takeout & Makeout” & “Snacks in The City” to-go packs available through Feb. 18. Or book reservation for parties up to eight from Feb. 10-18. “Takeout & Makeout” ($55) includes one “snacky thing,” bruschetta, board & salad and feeds two. “Snacks in The City” feeds four to six ($80) with three “snacky things,” one bruschetta, board & salad. Reservations/order info. At 2981 Michelson Drive, Irvine.


ROUND TABLE PIZZA: Heart-shaped pizzas are on the menu for Valentine’s Day, plus get $5 off a large, heart-shaped pizza OR regular XL pizza with code HEART5 at checkout. Find locales statewide.


RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE: Treat your Valentine to “Porterhouse Dinner for Two” or “T-Bone with Horseradish Crust.” Porterhouse is paired with lobster tails & offered only Wednesday, Feb. 14. T-bone special is served Feb.9-18. DetailsSee sites in Anaheim, Irvine.


SEASONS 52: Celebrate V-Day with elegant, on-site dining of seasonal favorites & rotating wine flights, or plan romantic, at-home dinner for two with takeout option. To-go meal offers filet mignon, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, broccolini, salad, two Mini Indulgence desserts & bottle of wine for $115. Pre-order takeout 24 hours in advance for Feb. 10-18 pickup. Reservations/ordering detailsLocation in Costa Mesa.

SKÅL PIZZA: “Pizza My Heart: Valentine’s Day Specials” planned Feb. 9 through Feb. 14 (closed Feb. 13) at the health-conscious, stylishly casual eatery, AKA Malibu Farm’s cool “little sister” restaurant along Lido Marina Village boardwalk. Enjoy chef/restaurateur Helene Henderson’s offerings, including two heart-shaped pizzas: Everything Crust & Lox Pizza: white sauce, smoked salmon, tomatoes, cucumber, dill, caper berries & pickled onions; and Tomato & Spanish Chorizo: tomato sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, chorizo & oregano. Half-off bottles of wine, too. Website. At 3400 Via Oporto, Newport Beach.


SNOOZE A.M. EATERY: Celebrate your Valentine with limited-time, sweet treat — Double Chocolate Brownie Pancakes. Offered Feb. 8 through V-Day, Feb. 14, this decadent dish features brownie buttermilk pancake topped with chocolate ganache, strawberries, blueberries & powdered sugar. Find locations in Huntington Beach, Laguna Niguel, Orange, Tustin.


SUSIECAKES: Keep it sweet & bring home cookies, cupcakes, mini-cupcakes & cakes decorated with Valentine’s Day themes. A super cute, bakery highlight is 4-inch, “Sweetheart Cake,” perfect for two with vanilla buttercream & red and pink hearts. ($42.99.) Order infoFind shops statewide in Costa Mesa, Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach.


TAVERN + BOWL: For a fun, V-Day with friends & family, book a lane & enjoy dinner & bowling. Menu offerings range from steak & burgers to pizza & vegetarian options. Open Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call 949-438-2320. OC reservations. At 1875 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa.


TENDER GREENS: Sweet, V-Day freebie! Diners at the chef-drive, healthy living, sustainable-focused eateries score free dessert of choice with any entree purchase on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. WebsiteLocations at UC Irvine & Irvine Spectrum.

THE CAPITAL GRILLE: Valentine’s Day dining promises a chef-prepared, dining experience, featuring variety of wine & champagne selections, dry-aged steaks & complimentary, chocolate-covered strawberries, prepared by in-house pastry chef. Bookings. Location here in Costa Mesa.

URBAN PLATES: Three-course, Valentine’s special ($55) will be served Feb. 9-19 for dine-in or takeout. Selections include: tomato basil soup, house or Caesar salad; char-grilled steak; chimichurri steak; salmon; two sides; rustic bread; & dessert of cookies, cakes or mango tarts. In-house diners get half-off bottles of wine, too. Find locales statewide in Aliso Viejo, Brea, Fountain Valley, Irvine, Tustin.


WATER GRILL: Book a Valentine’s date night with chef-curated, four-course menu, along with interactive photo booth & commemorative hand-poured candle ($135/person). Dinner highlights: oyster sampler or jumbo lump crab cake; clam chowder & roasted beet salad; plus such surf n’ turf entrées as filet mignon or lobster. Dessert array offered, too, including New York cheesecake & caramel bread pudding. Optional wine pairing: $50. Reservations. At 3300 Bristol St., Costa Mesa.


WATERTABLE AT HYATT REGENCY HUNTINGTON BEACH: Cue the romance with three-course, Valentine’s Day dinner, featuring such options as hamachi crudo, pan-seared scallops, lamb chops, tiger prawns, elk loin, NY steak, tofu, fennel & squash, plus dessert selections of orange almond cake, Six Degrees of Chocolate Cake, berry torte & more. Reservations. At Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, 21500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach.


It’s never too early to start planning for Valentine’s Day or just having a handy list of ideas for a romantic date with your sweetheart!  We’ve gathered ideas with the help of an old OC Register post.  We hope you’ll enjoy this list!  Though we’ve taken steps to ensure these places are still operating, definitely do your due diligence before heading out!  🙂

1. Find a lookout point: There are plenty of romantic views around the region, from cliffs that overlook the glistening Pacific Ocean to quiet places where you can park your car and gaze over shining city lights.

Trails that sit above the ocean, such as Point Vicente in Palos Verdes, Corona del Mar’s Inspiration Point, Crystal Cove State Beach’s cliffside trails or the Dana Point Headlands, offer ocean vistas for light daytime strolls. Hilltop Park in Signal Hill is known for its epic city views above the twinkling lights. Further inland, check out the Mt. Rubidoux Trail just west of downtown Riverside, which showcases mountain ranges and the city below, but note that parking and the trial close at dusk.

Several boat charters will offer sunset rides in the Dana Point Harbor this weekend for Valentine's Day weekend. (File photo by Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register)
Several boat charters will offer sunset rides in the Dana Point Harbor this weekend for Valentine’s Day weekend. (File photo by Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register)

2. Take a mini cruise: Southern California has several harbors and a vast coastline for special trips out on the water.

In Long Beach, check out Harbor Breeze Cruises’ historical tour of the Los Angeles Harbor, a 45-minute narrated cruise that includes the Long Beach skyline, the Queen Mary and wildlife hanging out in the harbor like sea lions or, if you’re lucky, gray whales.

In Newport Beach, you can charter your own Duffy boat for a more intimate cruise, packing wine and cheese or grabbing a meal from a dockside restaurant at Lido Marina Village.

In Dana Point, stop by the harbor’s  “Love Wall” mural for a photo op with your own love before heading out on a cocktail cruise on Saturday or Sunday with Aventura Sailing. Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari will host sunset safaris for sweethearts and also offers romantic private charters, or join Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching all weekend for cruises at sunset with a complimentary drink and treats.

Picturesque views of Avalon are among the amenities of staying or dining at Mt Ada, formerly known as the Wrigley Mansion. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Picturesque views of Avalon. (Photo by David Dickstein)

3. Catalina Express now boarding: If you want a longer excursion, Catalina Express has charters from San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point. Cruise around the island on a golf cart to take in the sights, or take some hiking shoes to traverse the scenic trails.

A gondola cruises through the Naples Island canals on an excursion booked through Gondola Getaway, which offer couples romantic gondolier boat rides through the canals in Naples. Other gondolas offer rides in Redondo, Newport and Huntington Harbour, but space is limited on Valentine's Day weekend. (File photo by Bill Alkofer, Contributing Photographer)
A gondola cruises through the Naples Island canals on an excursion booked through Gondola Getaway, which offer couples romantic gondolier boat rides through the canals in Naples. Other gondolas offer rides in Redondo, Newport and Huntington Harbour, but space is limited on Valentine’s Day weekend. (File photo by Bill Alkofer, Contributing Photographer)

4. Romantic gondola ride: Taking a romantic trip to Italy might not be in the cards this year, but you can enjoy a gondola ride around Naples in Long Beach, Huntington Harbor, or Newport Beach in Orange County. Most companies offer Valentine’s Day specials, though some are already sold out, so you may need to be flexible and book an excursion on a different day.

The UCR Botanical Gardens can be a great, scenic way to enjoy an afternoon with a loved one. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
The UCR Botanical Gardens can be a great, scenic way to enjoy an afternoon with a loved one. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

5. Visit a lush garden: Botanical gardens can be beautiful places to explore, filled with flora and fauna of the region. Check out UC Riverside’s impressive garden located in the foothills of the Box Springs Mountains. The 40 acres on the east side of the campus feature four miles of trails, or just soak in the beauty of its 3,500 plant species from one of the benches.

Smaller botanical gardens can be found throughout the region, such as the Niguel Botanical Garden in Laguna Niguel. In the South Bay, check out the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden in Polliwog Park or South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes.

6. Movie under the stars: Southern California is home to a handful of still operating drive-ins, including in the City of Industry, Montclair, Paramount and Riverside, that are easily found with an internet search and there are pop-ups that bring outdoor screens to even more communities.  Or watch a romantic movie from the comfort of your own car at The Roadium in Torrance!

A bundled up couple takes a walk on the trail by the Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes Saturday November 7, 2020. Walking trails near the ocean can be a great place for a romantic stroll. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)
A bundled up couple takes a walk on the trail by the Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes. Walking trails near the ocean can be a great place for a romantic stroll. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

7. Soak in the beach scenes: There’s nothing more simple or romantic than a leisurely stroll on one of the region’s idyllic piers. Grab a meal from a local restaurant and head to the Malibu, Huntington Beach or San Clemente piers and find a spot to sit while watching surfers ride waves. The region’s other piers – from Hermosa Beach to Newport Beach and beyond – have eateries with a view or that can pack up food to go for a picnic in the sand.

Another beach-themed idea? Snuggle up with your loved one at a fire ring with the flames keeping you warm. Grab some S’mores fixings, a few hot dogs and watch the sun go down at any Huntington Beach stretch, Bolsa Chica or Aliso Beach in South Laguna, which have rows of fire rings available. Another popular place is Corona del Mar, but make sure you bring charcoal to burn, wood is not allowed.

Tides will be low at around sunset this weekend, making for great exploration at areas like Royal Palms Beach in San Pedro. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)
Tides will be low at around sunset this weekend, making for great exploration at areas like Royal Palms Beach in San Pedro. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

8. Explore tidepools: Plan a great sunset stroll to explore sea creatures at local tidepools in Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach and Dana Point.  You can look up the tide report at U.S. Harbors.

9. Shop an open-air market: Been limiting your time shopping inside? There are a few open air markets where you can stroll with your loved one to pick up something special, while at the same time supporting small businesses.  Check out our Farmer’s Market post or our Shopping Center Guide to get ideas!

Snowplay at Alpine Slide At Magic Mountain recreation park is one way to enjoy the Southern California mountain town. (File photo by Rachel Luna, San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)
Snowplay at Alpine Slide At Magic Mountain recreation park is one way to enjoy the Southern California mountain town. (File photo by Rachel Luna, San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)

10. Snuggle in the snow: Get cozy with your loved one on a ski lift or maybe take a scenic chair lift ride, but make sure to bundle up.  If you want a snowboard or ski getaway, be warned…with President’s Day the following Monday, it’ll be busy.  Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley are the local ski resorts.

Enjoy a day of snow play at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain recreation park in Big Bear Lake if you want to avoid the resort crowds, but still want a thrill. There is a bobsled experience and snow play areas where you can tube down the hill.

If you’re not into playing in the snow, but want to enjoy the mountain views, check out Mount Baldy’s scenic lift rides, which take people to the Top of the Notch Recreation Area. It’s a 20-minute ride to 7,800 feet that has views all the way to the Pacific Ocean.


Keeping Current Matters | Jan 17, 2024

If you’ve been holding off on selling your house to make a move because you felt mortgage rates were too high, their recent downward trend is exciting news for you. Mortgage rates have descended since last October when they hit 7.79%. In fact, they’ve been below 7% for over a month now (see graph below):

And while they’re not going back to the 3% we saw during the ‘unicorn’ years, they are expected to continue to go down from where they are now in the near future. As Dean Baker, Senior Economist at the Center for Economic Researchexplains:

“It also appears that mortgage rates are now falling again. They will almost certainly not fall to pandemic lows, although we may soon see rates under 6.0 percent, which would be low by pre-Great Recession standards.”

Here are two reasons why this recent trend, and the expectation it’ll continue, is such good news for you.

You May Not Feel as Locked-In to Your Current Mortgage Rate

With mortgage rates already significantly lower than they were just a few months ago, you may feel less locked-in to the current mortgage rate you have on your house. When mortgage rates were higher, moving to a new home meant possibly trading in a low rate for one up near 8%.

However, with rates dropping, the difference between your current mortgage rate and the new rate you’d be taking on isn’t as big as it was. That makes moving more affordable than it was just a few months ago. As Lance Lambert, Founder of ResiClubexplains:

We might be at peak “lock-in effect.” Some move-up or lifestyle sellers might be coming to terms with the fact 3% and 4% mortgage rates aren’t returning anytime soon.”

More Buyers Will Be Coming to the Market

According to data from Bright MLS, the top reason buyers have been waiting to take the plunge into homeownership is high mortgage rates (see graph below):

Lower mortgage rates mean buyers can potentially save money on their home loans, making the prospect of purchasing a home more attractive and affordable. Now that rates are easing, more buyers are likely to feel they’re ready to jump back into the market and make their move. And more buyers mean more demand for your house.

Bottom Line

If you’ve been waiting to sell because you didn’t want to take on a larger mortgage rate or you thought buyers weren’t out there, the recent decline in mortgage rates may be your sign it’s time to move. When you’re ready, let’s connect.

👩🏻 Christine Almarines @christine_almarines
Realtor DRE# 01412944 | 714-476-4637
Tagalog speaking

👩🏻 Michelle Kim @michellejeankim_homes
Realtor DRE# 01885912 | 714-253-7531
Korean speaking

👩🏻 Anaid Bautista @singlemomrealtor
Realtor DRE# 02179675 | 949-391-8266
Spanish speaking


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