New Year's Resolutions

It may be time before New Year's to make financial resolutions. 
Call me to discuss a lower payment. 
Together we can come up with a plan to save more money.
perhaps your insurance needs a tune up or there is deffered maintenance on the house that needs some attention?


Sell Your House

How to prepare your house to sell

Tips for preparing your house to sell

  1. De-clutter: Donate it, dump it, or store it. 
  2. De-personalize: Remove family photos, personal memorabilia, keepsakes, etc. 
  3. Remove furniture: Create the feeling of space, especially if square footage is limited. 
  4. Clean your house: A clean home tells buyers that it is well-maintained. 
  5. Paint the walls: Keep the walls neutral to appeal to more buyers. 
  6. Bring in the light: Take down heavy window treatments, clean the windows, bring in lamps. Buyers like bright homes. 
  7. Do the minor repairs: Replace light bulbs, fix leaky faucets, make sure closet doors are on track, etc. 
  8. Add curb appeal: Clean the yard, trim shrubs, add a nice doormat to welcome visitors. 
  9. Update kitchen: Buyers place a huge value on updated kitchens. This is where you should make big improvements. Now that we've entered into a 'buyer's market', creating a positive first impression and showcasing the best attributes of your home are essential in today's real estate market.




Orange County bathrooms to die for
white soaking tub

vanity and cut mirror

marble tub
Solid Carrera marble tub

beach glass shower

mermaid bath

Tub for a mermaid at the  "Rock House" in Laguna Beach now for sale for only fifteen million dollars

black marble counter with pea green glass tile shower no seams


Spagetti Squash Recipe

Squash boats in the oven before baking
spaghetti squash vegan gluten free PASTA recipe

Cut the squash in half. Save the seeds to grow more in your garden


1 whole spaghetti squash

1 large onion ( I prefer maui or sweet) chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium tomato chopped rough in 6 pieces

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

¼ cup fresh snipped basil

2 cloves garlic minced or garlic powder 1 teaspoon if you are in a hurry

¾ teaspoon rough sea salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

¼ cup grated Parmesan or romano cheese, optional

Small jar marinara sauce


1.      Do not bother to Pre-heat oven – this is a side dish added to your oven temperature for whatever else you are baking. Tonight I’m baking a salmon in lime and dill on top shelf, and whole sweet potatoes (ingredients for something tomorrow) Line a baking pan with foil, makes easy clean up. I like to use my iphone timer to help remind me to multi task. Prepare salmon and sweet potatoes on baking dish on top shelf.

2.      Using the tip of a sharp knife cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Save seeds for your garden. This squash is easy to grow. Place on foil lined baking pan with cup upright. Fill with olive oil, tomato, thyme, garlic salt and pepper. Allow the foil to curl around the two halves. Bake for around 1.25 hours at 350 or 1 hour at 375 just check is roasted and tender.

3.      Meanwhile cook the onions in olive oil until tender (3 minutes) add sauce.  Bring to a bubble, turn heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring

4.      Remove squash from oven, scoop out the contents of the two halves and add to the sauce pot. You are only mixing the squash and sauce together. Add basil, taste and check the sauce. My son like’s hot sauce, perhaps it needs a dash of soy sauce. Using the same baking sheet and new piece of foil return the “noodles” with the sauce back into the halves and warm in the oven. You can add cheese on top (perhaps only on one half as in my household one doesn’t eat cheese)

5. To serve: Place the spaghetti squash on a serving platter with some fresh herbs around. Allow everyone to scoop their own portion.

Makes 8 servings. Preparation time: 3 minutes. Bake time 1 hour. Serve on table in 1 hour 20 minutes.

Without the cheese this is vegan. With the cheese the recipe is vegetarian. I grow my own herbs, tomatoes, garlic and squash organic in my little yard in Laguna Niguel California ( Orange County ).  I like to use the oven for several dishes. This saves energy and time. Start the squash when you get home from work. Cheap as I only purchased the jar of organic sauce at Trader Joe's. Both my children love this, it is gluten free alternative to pasta. 

I line a cookie tray with foil and then curl it around. The top will roast but there is no cleanup. Dice one red bell pepper, chop a whole tomato in 5- 6 pieces, tablespoon of cheap not virgin olive oil, smashed garlic clove or if you are in a hurry- sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper

Preparation time: 8 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes less if the squash are small in size
Serving Size 1 half the squash
Calories: 100
Cuisine: Easy Italian Vegan
Nutrition Facts:

Calcium, Vitamin C and K, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium
Author: Caroline Gerardo


Avoid Payment Shock

I saw this advertisement in the Eagle Home Mortgage soaring to success choices and am posting for a smile. The image of the woman's hair flying when she opens her mortgage payment or bill is funny. Lower your mortgage payment, call and ask me how for free


Simple Christmas Tree

Christmas Ornaments left: Blair holding an ornament over Carson's head 1997, Right Carson and Blair snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 2003
Little Tree

“Time to get in the car to buy the tree!”

Carson doesn’t look up from playing Grand Theft Auto. The sound of it is like a cheese grater on my nerves. I take a breath with my mouth closed. Christmas season is something I love.  Hearing: “Like it says in the book... We are both blessed and cursed” from his game  console one more time is not going to rattle me.

“I put your jacket in the car, your sister is waiting.”

“I don’t want to go. Pick what you and Blair like Mom.”


He doesn’t answer. My son is a teenager. He’s an excellent student and amazing athlete but "pouty" seems to be a family pattern at this age. Rather than force him, I exit.

“O. K.” I quote from his game, “see ya 'round, like a doughnut, Carson.”

He nods.

Once I am in the car, Blair decides she will return into the house and convince Carson to join us. The radio is playing Bing Crosby.

"I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams..."

To my surprise, my son walks with his toes lifted. He’s joining us.

“Shot gun.” He shouts to his sister behind. She allows the one time pass.

“You can change the radio station Carson. Thank you, for coming.” I say.

“Blair said I can pick the tree.”

“Well- O. K.”

“No. Mom. You and Blair always pick your tree. I never even get to have my ornaments where I like them.”

Blair interrupts from the rear seat, “That’s because you put that giant ugly mafia mouse on the front of the tree.”

Carson spins around in anger, “you never let me do-” His voice cracks. He is about to cry.

“You can choose the tree. This year - do it your way.” I try to make peace.

He’s quiet looking out the passenger window so we won’t see his face.

“I’m sorry Carson but you have to admit that Star Wars figurines and a  mouse in a blue top hat don’t  belong on the front and center.” Sister negotiates from the back seat as I drive.

“Blair we are going to do it Carson’s way this year.”  I put my hand up in a traffic cop gesture to stop her.

He’s silent.

It’s my fault.

 I obsess about making our house into winter amazement for Christmas. I have more than two thousand tree ornaments. I create homemade gifts from plants, trees, and organic delicacies from my garden.  

I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. My children are my greatest treasure.

We arrive at the tree lot. A mix of teenagers and Carney lumberjacks work the lot. Local teens get Christmas jobs at night helping people tie off their cars. The guys who cut the timber and unload the container resemble the characters on my son’s game. Rough on the edges with a tender heart, we would like to think. I’m still fantasizing about wishes for Christmas.

My son grins.

Daughter and I go and inspect the Noble Firs, and a specimen Red Cedar. The smell of an open fire in a red metal trash barrel fills the sky. I struggle to hold the heavy trunk straight so daughter can see the back.

Carson arrives with a Balsam fir in his hands. It is about three feet tall. Balsams are also called blister pine for the cancers on the trunk that exude sappy tar. A Charlie Brown tree, you might recall.

“I’ve picked the perfect tree.” Carson smiles.

“Oh no Mom, you can’t let him get that ugly thing?”

“You made the bargain.”

I think he is pulling my piƱata and will back out of the joke when I go to pay. Twenty four dollars for the puny thing, the cost is about eighty percent of a nine foot tree. Carson doesn’t back down.  Daughter argues with him. I leave it alone. We made our deal. The tree doesn’t require tying it off on top of the car.

Driving home it starts to rain, just a sprinkle enough to make the windshield dirty. It may as well be tears. The radio is tuned to some rock station.

I choose not to be moody about it. The little tree is fragrant when we bring it inside. Carson places it in the stand that I have prepared in the living room. The stand is wider than the tree is tall. I let him figure out the logistics of the lights. In the past, Blair fussed over lights vertical on the trunk, then winding spirals around each branch. She might spend three days on the lights alone. I begin unpacking the boxes and trunks of glass ornaments. As I carefully remove the tissue wrapping, each one unfolds a vision of the past. I realize that daughter has gone upstairs and her bedroom door is shut.

“Blair come down, I made vegan chili for you.”

I go into the kitchen and turn on the two pots, one with meat sauce and the other without. In the refrigerator are a couple bowls of "Fixings" I chopped  earlier that they can choose as toppings. Grated cheddar, chopped sweet onion, parsley and cilantro from our garden. The aroma of roasting brings her down the stairs.

Her cheeks have those mascara streaks. I wipe them off her face with my hand.

“Come just enjoy being together.”

“O.K. Mom but it was mean.”

“No, I don’t think he meant to be – he wanted to be in charge this one time.”

“It’s not fair.”

I hug her, “it is fine, let it go.”

Waiting on her, I fill a Santa bowl with steamy beans. Sometimes hot food and a piece of cornbread can turn things around. She smiles that she gets the good bowl. We once had three, but the others were cracked and gone.

Going back into the living room, Carson has progressed quickly and now has picked only the handmade ornaments. Bless those teachers who convinced their class to finish a Christmas ornament for their parents tonight. He has also included some toy cars from his bedroom. A red Hot Wheels Camaro and a green muscle car hang in the front. The two are tied with the twine from the tree. It’s not our usual showy silver and gold design, but his delight.

When Carson was finished we stoked the fire and streached out on the floor in front of his modest tree. Happiness came over each of us. Carson got to do it his way, Blair will have more time to study and I won't have to clean up much.

May you appreciate things simple. I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Blair's handmade ornament with puzzle pieces and her hand print. The teacher who did this with her class was so loving. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Antique ornaments: the turquoise ones with star shaped centers were ones I found in the basement of my Gerardo Grandparent's house nine years after the Holyoke Massachusetts house was sold. They were in a little cardboard box in between the studs. My grandfather once had an elaborate train set that wound around the whole basement. I think my cousin Butch got the set.  The bells on the far right were a present from my neighbor at 6th Helena Drive. She had Alzheimer's. She often wandered to my house to sit in my studio or pretend to play the piano. Sometimes she only wore a bra. Her husband gave these after her funeral.
"She loved when you made her tea. I'll be damned how she could remember your name and not even know her own." He said when he gave me those wrapped in tissue at Christmas.
I once had almost twenty glass snowmen. They symbolize a fleeting fun of winter. Below the feet of the center chubby glass guy are two shell ornaments. Those are the first ones I bought with babysitting money in the 1970's. The silver bell was given to me by Aunt Brandy when Blair was born 1991, it needs some polishing every year.

The pear is one of Blair's favorites. I bought that at Macy's in New York 1988.

Hand prints I get out for Christmas
I have three wooden Pinocchio's but there is one pointing his nose at and ornament Carson made in 5th grade. Also above right corner one with a grape wreath around Carson at his first Christmas 1996.

Chandelier crystals from the light fixture that was once in the Alta Vista house in Bakersfield. Funny how they have come full circle and that fixture would demand a pretty penny today as shabby chic. The yellow crystals are from the Pomona Building, on Holt. I think it is mostly torn down.
Top right those gold fiberglass balls were the only decoration your Great Grandmother Rufener owned. She had a gentleman who owned the florist on Chester Avenue come and bring decorations every Christmas. He would box and take them after New Years. Something strange about that memory of Ann Rufener not actually touching and my joy of unwrapping each surprise old friend.

The giant iridescent bubbles were from a glass blower in Laguna. I bought those in 1989.

There in the bottom right corner is the mouse man that Carson picked at Roger's Gardens with Tony Smith, Ali and Boo. Tony told all three they could pick any ornament they wanted.

Hand painted rose clear one top left I made for Noni then years later she gave it to me. Noni had a zest for life. She loved to decorate for every holiday. Do you recall her costumes for Snoopy? He had a Valentines outfit and would have red hearts everywhere, then March everything would be green for St Patrick's Day... The mouse ornament is bottom center. Every Christmas Carson would put him in the front and Blair would move him to the rear.

Actions are signs ~ tea leaves reveal hearts in wind ~ dancing wash for all.

A haiku to end my little story. Copyright 2013 Caroline Gerardo

Shop the MLS Free

Would you like real time free  access to the multiple listing service? Shopping for a home in California and have grown tired of Zillow, Trulia and Redfin showing photographs of homes that already closed?

Contact Caroline Gerardo with Eagle Home Mortgage ( a Lennar company) for a free trial. Look all night long on the MLS during your free time. When you are ready, get preapproval and then make your best offer.

Go ahead shop until you drop or find that perfect home online direct on the MLS. Do your shopping from home and then have your Realtor get you into your top picks.

(949) 637-8190 cell


Frequency in Real Estate Marketing

ABC of Mortgage

From: Caroline Gerardo                        
Reach Marketing Tips for Realtors
   Frequency not Reach
Studies show that 81 percent of sales take place after seven or more exposures to the marketing message. One big ad in a magazine makes little or no impact. Frequency is the key to create recognition in a potential client's mind. If you're attempting to build up a geographical farm area, commit to weekly mailings for three months. After that, you can mail less frequently. The most common mistake agents make is not continuing a mailing campaign long enough. Commit to mailing to your geographical farm for a year and the repetition will instill a remembrance of you in the prospects' minds.

You would like to grow your farming area to Southern California?
OR is it just Orange County?

Call for free tools
Caroline Gerardo
Mortgage Loan Officer NMLS #324982
Cell 949-637-8190 Office 949-784-9699 eFax 855-883-4303
Eagle Home Mortgage 8105 Irvine Center Drive #500 Irvine CA 92618 NMLS #849059 CA #813I609 Universal American Mortgage Company of California, dba Eagle Home Mortgage of California. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. RMLA #4130383, NMLS #252392. 
copyright  Caroline Gerardo | 8105 Irvine Center Drive #500, Irvine, CA 92618  


Real Estate Scams

Investing in Real Estate is not easy. IF recent history were to indicate, you don't need to read media- ask a family member or neighbor who has gone through a short sale, foreclosure or bad real estate deal in the past six years and testimonials are readily available.

But still I see:

Guru's and seminars flooding the market with get rich on buying American Real Estate.

All you have to do is turn on the seminar ( for a cost of five hundred to two thousand dollars) and
you can find deals on Real Estate in all the distressed markets of United States. Then next all you have to do is buy their books, C.D.'s, and legal fees to set up your LLC's and riches will be yours.

In 2013 I have been contacted by nearly a thousand investors from Canada, the UK, Australia, China, even Germany to buy properties valued under $80000 in the US.  The risk seems small from far away but what is not delivered in the advice is:

how to manage good tenants in depressed markets
how to maintain property with an honest manager
how to know when to sell
how to find financing with a sea of paperwork

These "how too's" seem to be the things I would like would be investors to have a plan for when their investment goes wrong.

My top advice to avoid scams:

Buy the best quality property in the best location (close to your home or someone you trust with cash).
Mortgage loans in the United States are full recourse.  Home loans in America will show on your
credit report. Investment real estate in the U. S. is taxable here in the U. S. Ninety-nine percent of lenders will not loan to a LLC or Corporation.  Research before you buy. Get American credit references and an American bank account before you shop. Get more insurance than you think you need.

My list of buzz words and phrases to run from if someone is selling you get rich in real estate:

  anyone can make a killing
  asset protection
  boot camp
  cookie cutter
  co-op or cooperative
  deep discount
  Don’t work for money. Make money work for you  
  dream stealer
  easy money
  get rich-quick scheme
  gold mine
  judgment proof
  land bank
  lazy way
  LDS         (wonderful loving people who seem to  get looped into these)
  money machine
  No money down
  nothing down
  Real estate
  remove doubt
  removes guesswork
  removes risk
  take the fear out
  Tax free
  U.S. or United States or American


High Balance Loan Limit One More Year

Maximum Conforming and High Balance Loan Limits Remain the swame for HERA Loan Limits for 2014: Summary of High-Cost Areas

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced today the extension of High Balance Mortgage Loan Limits. Frankly we are fortunate as our government seems to be backing out of the loan business.
Metropolitan Statistical Areas: 

Statistical Areas and Rural Counties where Maximum HERA Conforming Loan for 2013

Limits for Mortgages Acquired in 2014 exceed $417,000 in Contiguous U.S. or $625,500 for locations in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands

Published November 27, 2013
ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA Most zip codes $ 625500. High Balance Mortgage Loan remains available

VA Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (Metropolitan Area)

Component Counties (VA): Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier,

Loudon, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren

Component Cities (VA): Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg,

Manassas, Manassas Park

$ 625,500 $ 8 00,775 $ 967,950 $ 1,202,925

VA Cumberland $ 535,900 $ 6 86,050 $ 829,250 $ 1,030,600

VA King and Queen $ 535,900 $ 6 86,050 $ 829,250 $ 1,030,600

VA Lancaster $ 442,750 $ 5 66,800 $ 685,100 $ 851,450

VA Louisa $ 535,900 $ 6 86,050 $ 829,250 $ 1,030,600

VA Surry $ 458,850 $ 5 87,400 $ 710,050 $ 882,400

WA Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (Metropolitan Area)

Component Counties: King, Pierce, Snohomish

$ 506,000 $ 6 47,750 $ 783,000 $ 973,100

WA San Juan $ 483,000 $ 6 18,300 $ 747,400 $ 928,850

WV Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (Metropolitan Area)

Component County (WV): Jefferson

$ 625,500 $ 8 00,775 $ 967,950 $ 1,202,925

WY Jackson, WY-ID (Micropolitan Area)

Component County (WY): Teton

$ 625,500 $ 8 00,775 $ 967,950 $ 1,202,925

MP Northern Islands $ 524,400 $ 6 71,300 $ 811,450 $ 1,008,450

MP Saipan Municipality $ 529,000 $ 6 77,200 $ 818,600 $ 1,017,300

MP Tinian Municipality $ 532,450 $ 6 81,650 $ 823,950 $ 1,023,950


rain chain