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Monday, January 19, 2015

Home Seller's Checklist

When selling your home, its helpful to have a handy checklist so you'll remember what items should be repaired in advance or maintained while your home is being viewed by potential buyers.


Keep yourself organized with the following checklist.

Clean and Maintain

  • Windows, sills, and screens
  • Walls and floor
  • Tile
  • Ceilings
  • Cupboards and drawers
  • Kitchen
  • Bathrooms
  • Light fixtures
  • Ceiling fans
  • Carpet and rugs
  • Mirrors
  • Garage
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Laundry room
  • Yard
  • Gutters
  • Replace furnace filter
  • Dust furniture, TV and computer screens
  • Closets
  • Remove clutter
  • Pack personal items

Repair

  • Leaky faucets and plumbing
  • Torn screens
  • Slow drains
  • Gutters
  • Loose doorknobs
  • Deck boards
  • Broken windows
  • Electrical fixtures
  • Water stain damage
  • Broken appliances
  • Damaged walls and ceilings
  • Worn carpet and rugs
  • Damaged sidewalks and steps

Improvements

  • Stain or paint deck
  • Store tools
  • Roll up garden hose
  • Paint or stain exterior
  • Prune bushes and hedges
  • Trim trees
  • Mow lawn, fertilize, edge, and trim
  • Weed gardens, plant flowers
  • Shovel driveways, de-ice
  • Stack firewood
  • Clean out birdbaths
  • Caulk windows and doors
  • Repair and paint fences
  • Seal asphalt driveway
  • Make sure doors close properly
  • Enhance entryway
  • Replace welcome mat 

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services. 


  www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026

Monday, January 5, 2015

Selling Your Home-Where to Begin


First Impressions

Remember what first attracted you to your house when you bought it? What excited you about its most appealing features? Now that you're selling your home, you'll need to look at it as if you were buying it all over again.


A spruced up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive property grabs their attention and makes them excited about finding a house that looks and feels well-cared for. Because buyers know they’ll encounter fewer problems if they buy it, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. So if you prepare your home correctly, you’ll save time selling it when it’s on the market.


A good first impression makes an impact on a number of levels. It’s not just the way your house looks to potential buyers, but how it feels and smells to them, how their friends and family will react, how they imagine it would be to live there.


With simple improvements throughout your house, you can grab the attention of potential buyers and help them see why your house is right for them.


Plan Ahead

Create a plan to enhance your property. Keep a notebook for your selling project, and as you stroll through your yard, make a list of what needs to be done. Consider what your property looks like to people driving by or walking through your door. What will they like or dislike? What needs fixing, painting, cleaning? What can you improve? Whether you paint your house or fix up the yard, your efforts don’t need to be costly; even inexpensive improvements and minor repairs go far toward attracting serious buyers. But remember, those seemingly insignificant problems you’ve learned to live with can actually discourage potential buyers. Here are ideas for increasing your home’s appeal in order to sell it quickly at the best price.



Interior


Clean Everything

Buyers expect a spotless house, inside and out. So clean everything, especially your windows and window sills. Scrub walls and floors, tile and ceilings, cupboards and drawers, kitchen and bathrooms. Wash scuff marks from doors and entryways, clean light fixtures and the fireplace. Don’t forget the laundry room. And put away your clothes.


Cut the Clutter

People are turned off by rooms that look and feel cluttered. Remember, potential buyers are buying your house, not your furniture, so help them picture themselves and their possessions in your home by making your rooms feel large, light, and airy. As you clean, pack away your personal items, such as pictures, valuables, and collectibles, and store or get rid of surplus books, magazines, videotapes, extra furniture, rugs, blankets, etc. Consider renting a storage unit to eliminate clutter in your garage and attic.


It’s hard to get rid of possessions, but cleaning and clearing out the clutter can really pay off in the end. Packing away your clutter also gets you started packing for your next move. Make your garage and basement as tidy as the rest of your house. Simple little tasks such as storing your tools and neatly rolling up your garden hose suggest that you take good care of your house. Don’t let anything detract from making your best first impression.


Closets

They’re an important consideration to many buyers. By storing clothing you won’t use soon, you’ll make closets look spacious.


Paint

A new coat of paint cleans up your living space and makes it look bright and new. To make rooms look larger, choose light, neutral colors that appeal to the most people, such as beige or white.


Carpet

Check its condition. If it’s worn, consider replacing it. It’s an easy and affordable way to help sell your home faster. Again, light, neutral colors, such as beige, are best. If you don’t replace it, you can suggest to potential buyers that they could select new carpet and you’ll reduce your price; buyers like to hear they’re getting a deal. At the very least, have your carpet cleaned.

Repairs and Renovations

It’s best to avoid making major renovations just to sell the house since you’re unlikely to recoup those costs from your selling price. Make minor repairs to items such as leaky faucets, slow drains, torn screens, gutters, loose doorknobs, and broken windows. Make sure repairs are well done; buyers won’t take you seriously if your home-improvement efforts look messy, shoddy, or amateurish.


Leaks and Moisture

Water stains on ceilings or in the basement alert buyers to potential problems. Don’t try to cosmetically cover up stains caused by leaks. If you’ve fixed the water problem, repair the damage and disclose in writing to the buyer what repairs were made.


Exterior

Curb Appeal

The "Wow" factor — that first visual, high-impact impression your home makes on potential buyers — can turn a looker into a buyer. To determine your property’s curb appeal, drive through your neighborhood and note other properties; then approach your own house as if you were a potential buyer. How does it look? Does it "wow" you? Will its curb appeal attract buyers? Note what needs improving, such as trimming trees, planting shrubs, or painting gutters. Little things convey that you’ve cared for your home, and this is your opportunity to sell that important message to buyers who are shopping from the street, simply cruising neighborhoods just looking for houses for sale. To get them through your door, do what you can to make your property look like someone’s dream home.


Paint/Stain

If it’s peeling or blistering and you can’t remember the last time you painted it, your house needs some attention. That also goes for stain that is significantly faded. A newly painted or stained exterior will help sell your house faster. And whether you do it yourself or hire someone, you’ll also increase your home’s value.


In the Yard

Grab people’s attention by enhancing your yard and landscaping. If your house looks inviting and well-maintained from the street, people will imagine that it’s attractive on the inside, too.


  • Prune bushes and hedges; trim trees.
  • Keep your lawn looking healthy and green by mowing it often, fertilizing it, and keeping it edged and trimmed.
  • Clean up and dispose of pet mess.
  • Weed your gardens; add fertilizer and mulch; then plant colorful flowers.
  • In winter, keep your driveway and sidewalks shoveled, de-iced, and well-lit.
  • Stack firewood, clean out birdbaths, repair and paint fences.

The Front Door

An attractive entry catches a buyer’s eye and says, "Welcome," so highlight this area of your house with decorative touches, such as a wreath on the door or new shrubs and flowers around the steps. For an even grander entry, clean and paint your front door, or replace it with a new one for a few hundred dollars. Don’t forget to fix and polish doorknobs, repair torn screens, and then put out that new welcome mat. 


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


  www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026

Monday, December 22, 2014

Common Myths About Working With Real Estate Agents

It is important to understand the buyer-agent relationship.  Get started by avoiding these common myths about working with a Real Estate agent.

Home Buying Myth Number 1
I'll get the best deal on the house if I call the agent listed on the For Sale sign.

Maybe, maybe not. That agent represents the seller and is contractually bound to get the best deal for the seller. That doesn't mean the agent can't work with you in a fair and professional manner as a dual agent, but it does mean you should not disclose confidential details to the agent, until you are assured that the agent will keep your information confidential.

Bottom Line
If you tell a seller's agent the top dollar you will pay for a house, the agent must pass that on to the seller.

A dual agent cannot do that. Agency laws differ in every state, so take time to learn about agent duties and loyalties before you enter the home buying market.

Home Buying Myth Number 2
The agent told me I had to sign a Buyer Agency agreement before he would work with me, so I did, and now I'm unhappy with the relationship.

You might know you are a good match with an agent on the very first day you meet, but what if you aren't sure? If an agent asks you to sign an agency agreement before you feel comfortable about it, try one of these alternatives:

·  Ask the agent to work under a verbal buyer agency agreement for a short time. Some states allow this, giving you time to become familiar with the agent before you sign a formal agreement.
·  Ask the agent to write a buyer agency agreement that covers a very short period, a day or a week.
·  Find out if the agent can offer a non-exclusive buyer agency agreement. The agent would be your buyer's agent, but you would not be tied exclusively to her.
·  Let the agent continue to be a seller's agent--just don't disclose confidential information.

Bottom Line
If the agent will only work with you if you immediately sign a lengthy buyer agency agreement, you might be better off seeking another agent.

Home Buying Myth Number 3
I can find more homes for sale by calling lots of agents.

Maybe--but maybe not. If you are home shopping in a specific area, and the agencies belong to Multiple Listing Services, it means they all have access to the same properties.

Ask agents what areas they cover. Small-town agents might work a multi-county area. Agents in a city might restrict themselves to certain neighborhoods or subdivisions.

If you sign agreements with more than one buyer's agent, make sure the contracts are worded so that areas and duties do not overlap. For instance, Agent X works for you only in County A. Agent Y works for you only in County B.

Bottom Line
Researching and showing properties is time-consuming, so you'll get better service if you find an agent you like (within a given area) and stick with that agent.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


         408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com

Monday, December 8, 2014

Are You Really Pre-Approved for a Mortgage?

Most home buyers will hear these terms during their search for a home:
  • Pre-Qualified
  • Pre-Approved
  • Loan Commitment
Sometimes even real estate agents are confused by the terms, so it's no wonder that home buyers and sellers are, too. Although related, the three terms each signify a different level of approval from a lender.

Pre-Qualified
You can be pre-qualified by a lender, by an agent, by yourself. The term means that someone has taken a general look at your income and expenses and plugged them in to a debt-to-income ratio formula. Loan pre-qualification does not include an analysis of your credit report or an in-depth look at your potential to buy a home.

Bottom Line: Pre-qualifying yourself before you start looking for a home will give you a general idea of the price range you can afford.

Pre-Approval
When you are pre-approved, it means a lender has looked closely at both your credit report and your income. The lender will tell you the maximum amount of loan they will offer, and which loan programs you qualify for. You'll also have a better idea about your interest rate, or you might lock-in a specific rate.

Bottom Line: Now you can go shopping for a home with confidence about your buying power--but it still doesn't mean the bank will approve the loan. Your income and credit report will be checked again before closing, and the home itself must be approved.

Loan Commitment
The bank will not issue a loan commitment until it has approved both the house and you. The home appraisal must meet the lender's guidelines--usually meaning the home must appraise at or higher than the sales price.

The bank may require more information if the appraiser mentions anything the bank feels should be checked.

A comment such as "observed a crack in the foundation and basement appears wet," will raise a red flag to the lender--and likely generate a structural inspection (which you must pay for unless the seller agrees to share or absorb the expense).

If the bank reads "home accessible only with a 4-wheel drive vehicle," you can be sure they'll want to know more about ongoing road maintenance. Where I work, we have thousands of mountain roads that are maintained by groups of home owners. Many lenders verify that there's a written road maintenance agreement before they will lend. Other banks don't seem to care as long as no derogatory comments are made about the road.Other things that affect a loan commitment:
The home's title must be cloud-free, meaning there are no problems associated with it (no outstanding liens that can't be paid at closing; no right-of-way problems; no litigation in progress, etc.).

Your credit profile will be checked again to make sure it hasn't changed in a negative way.Bottom Line: The loan commitment letter is issued only when the bank is sure it will lend, so the commitment date on your contract to purchase should normally be closer to closing than to the date you make the offer. The home seller can demand to see that letter as soon as the date has passed, so question anyone who tries to insert an early commitment date in your contract.

Since terminology sometimes differs in different regions, ask your lender to explain all of the terms associated with their approval process.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Six Simple Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase


Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. There are a few things that you can do to help make the process go as smooth as possible:

1.) Check your credit.
Before you apply for a home loan, regardless of your credit, it's a smart idea to obtain a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus and review the information. If there are errors or things that need to be addressed, it's easier to address them before you have found a house, than after you have found a house and are trying to close your loan.

If you know that there are a few blemishes on your credit, let your lender know what they are, why they are there, and why you are a still good credit risk. Lenders look at your credit to determine how likely you will pay back the loan. If you had extenuating circumstances - like a loss of a job or medical bills - let them know so that they understand that it is not likely to happen again in the future.

2.) Get approved before you buy.
An approval means that a lender has reviewed your credit history, verified your assets and employment, and has approved your loan before you have found a home to purchase. As long as the home appraises for at least the purchase price, the loan should close.

Getting approved also gives you an advantage over other buyers. Your firm approval makes it easier for you to negotiate on the price of a home, than a person who is not approved or is pre-qualified.

While getting pre-qualified may sound official, it is really just getting an idea of what you can afford. Its having a person plug in a few numbers that you give them - your monthly income and your monthly debt - and getting an approximate payment calculated. From the payment, the calculator can approximate the house price range that you can afford. No information is verified. Because your assets, income or credit is not verified, a pre-qualification has little value when purchasing a home.

3.) Find a great buyer's agent.
Traditionally real estate agents represent the sellers in a transaction. When you are not working with a buyer's agent, they are less likely to negotiate the best price or contingencies for you.

A buyer's agent's job and fiduciary responsibility (meaning legal duty) is to you, the buyer. Before working with an agent, establish if they are a buyer's agent or a seller's agent. After spending a lot of time with a Realtor, it's natural to feel like you're a team. But if they are not negotiating for you, then they are not on your team.

4.) Learn about the neighborhood.
Often times the house you find may be in a neighborhood that you're not familiar with, which is ok. It just means that you'll have to do a little more research. If you find a house that you like, ask for a list of the neighborhood properties that sold in the last year. How does your home rank? Is it at the top of the price range? If so, it might be hard to resell. Is it average or on the low end? If so, great - as the other home prices go up in value, they will pull your home's value up as well.

Check out the schools - are they sought after? A good school district means your neighborhood will always be valued by families which is a great reassurance to purchase, not to mention the value-add if you have school-age children.

Next, contact the police station and obtain crime statistics? Are they acceptable to you? Sometimes, if they won't give them to you, it could be a cause for alarm.

Talk to the neighbors. The more people you talk to, the better sense you will get of who makes up the neighborhood and how they will effect your time spent in it.

Check out the location of the shopping, police and fire stations, schools, and air traffic overhead. These are all things that might affect your property value or quality of your life.

5.) Protect Yourself.
Ask your Realtor for a copy of the documents you will be asked to sign if you decide to buy the house. Read them ahead of time so that you'll understand the questions that you will be asked, the things you need to know, and the decisions you will need to make.

6.) Have reasonable expectations.
There is a lot of money at stake. No house is perfect. Understanding and remembering these two statements will help diffuse the negotiation stage, the inspection stage and the closing stage.

Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. - The seller may have loving memories and years of sweat equity in the house. Maybe they are being relocated and don't want to go. Understanding their motivations for selling will help you appreciate their situation and predicament during these emotional times.

There is a lot of money at stake for all the parties involved (and that includes the realtors) - Just remember that market value (the value of a home) is the price that a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree to. If you can not agree on a price, ask yourself: Is there something you missed? Are there comparables that support the price that they want? Are there motivations that might factor into the price they are demanding? In the end, does it matter? What is the house worth to you today and what do you think you can reasonably sell it for based on the amount of time you plan to spend in it? Think about the answers to those questions before you make your move.

No house is perfect - Always get an inspection. It might be a few hundred dollars, but it's worth it. It's the inspector's job to find any problems with the house that could cost you thousands to repair down the road. Some inspectors have a tendency to over play the importance of their role and the items that they find. Get objective opinions that you trust before making a decision on an inspection report. Likewise, if an inspector says a foundation is cracked but its nothing to worry about - get a second opinion. Ask a handyman for an idea of how much repairs will cost and how complicated they are. The home buying process is an emotional, complex and time-consuming process, but it is worth it. Nothing compares to owning your own home in a neighborhood that you chose.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.

www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687-2026

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thinking About Buying Your First Home?

Many renters are starting to think about purchasing a home of their own. Several factors should be considered when purchasing a home:

How long you plan to live in the home.
If you purchase a home and get a job transfer or decide to move after only a short time, you may end up paying money in order to sell it. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy the home and the costs that it would take you to sell your home.

The length of time that it will take to cover those costs depends on various economic factors in the area of the home. Most parts of the country have an average of 5% appreciation per year. In this case, you should plan to stay in your home at least 3-4 years to cover buying and selling costs. If the area you buy your home in experiences an economic up turn, the length of the time to cover these costs could be shortened, and the opposite is also true.

How long the home will meet your needs.
What features do you require in a home to satisfy your lifestyle now? Five years from now? Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, you'll need to ensure that the home has the amenities that you'll need. For example, a two-bedroom dwelling may be perfect for a young couple with no children. However, if they start a family, they could quickly outgrow the space. Therefore, they should consider a home with room to grow. Could the basement be turned into a den and extra bedrooms? Could the attic be turned into a master suite? Having an idea of what you'll need will help you find a home that will satisfy you for years to come.

Your financial health - your credit and home affordability.
Is now the right time financially for you to buy a home? Would you rate your financial picture as healthy? Is your credit good? While you can always find a lender to lend you money, solid lenders are more skeptical if your credit history is not good. Generally, a couple of blemishes on a credit report will make you a good credit risk and could qualify you for the lowest interest rates. If you have more than a couple of blemishes on your report, lenders like Quicken Loans may still provide you with a loan, but you may just have to pay a higher interest rate and fees.

Some say that you should refrain from borrowing as much as you qualify for because it is wiser not to stretch your financial boundaries. The other school of thought says you should stretch to buy as much home as you can afford, because with regular pay raises and increased earning potential, the big payment today will seem like less of a payment tomorrow. This is a decision only you can make. Are you in a position where you expect to make more money soon? Would you rather be conservative and fairly certain that you can make your payment without stretching financially? Make sure that whatever you do, it's within your comfort zone.

To determine how much home you can afford, talk to a lender or go online and use a "home affordability" calculator. Good calculators will give you a range of what you may qualify for. Then call a lender. While some may say that the "28/36" rule applies, in today's home mortgage market, lenders are making loans customized to a particular person's situation. The "28/36" rule means that your monthly housing costs can't exceed 28 percent of your income and your total debt load can't exceed 36 percent of your total monthly income. Depending on your assets, credit history, job potential and other factors, lenders can push the ratios up to 40-60% or higher. While we're not advocating you purchase a home utilizing the higher ratios, its important for you to know your options.

Where the money for the transaction will come from.
Typically homebuyers will need some money for a down payment and closing costs. However, with today's broad range of loan options, having a lot of money saved for a down payment is not always necessary - if you can prove that you are a good financial risk to a lender. If your credit isn't stellar but you have managed to save 10-20% for a down payment, you will still appear to be a very good financial risk to a lender.

The ongoing costs of home ownership.
Maintenance, improvements, taxes and insurance are all costs that are added to a monthly house payment. If you buy a condominium, townhouse or in certain communities, a monthly homeowner's association fee might be required. If these additional costs are a concern, you can make choices to lower or avoid these fees. Be sure to make your realtor and your lender aware of your desire to limit these costs.

If you are still unsure if you should buy a home after making these considerations, you may want to consult with an accountant or financial planner to help you assess how a home purchase fits into your overall financial goals.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.

  www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Things You Shouldn't Do When You're Buying A Home

Your home buying process is well underway. The sellers accepted your offer to purchase. The home is officially under contract and you're counting down the days to closing. The lender pre-approved you, so buying the house is a sure thing, right?

Not quite. Nothing is certain until the keys are in your hands. There are still major hurdles to get past before you close, and your actions between now and closing can create headaches, slowdowns, and even stop the transaction.
 
1. Don't Make a Major Purchase
You've just found out your credit is A+. That's great news, because a new car would look fantastic in the driveway of your new home. But hang on--if you are depending on a mortgage to move in, you'd best wait until after closing to buy the car.

An increase in your debt to income ratio reduces the amount of monthly income available for your mortgage payment.

If you tack on a higher car payment, the bank might decide you cannot afford the home.
Using cash to purchase the car could also create a problem, since banks consider cash reserves when approving your mortgage. If you must make a major purchase before closing, talk to your loan officer before you do it.

2. Don't Change Jobs Unless It's Necessary
Lenders like to see a consistent job history. They aren't usually as nervous if you change jobs within the same field, but it's better to stay put until the keys to the house are in your hand.

3. Don't Give an Earnest Money Deposit Directly to a 'For Sale By Owner' Seller
Your good faith deposit should go into a trust account. Some for sale by owner sellers don't understand that funds are to be applied to your expenses at closing.

I've heard many stories about sellers who spent the deposit money prior to closing. When the transactions didn't take place for valid reasons--such as financing or repair issues, the buyers had to fight for a refund.

Find an attorney or other neutral party who will hold the deposit for you until closing day and make sure your contract dictates what happens to the funds if the transaction doesn't close.

4. Don't Let Your Emotions Take Over

Keep a cool head during the entire home buying process, especially during and after an inspection. Be realistic. No home is perfect, especially older homes. It's not unusual for new owners to take care of some repairs themselves. Don't let the seller's refusal to do a small repair kill the deal on a home you truly love.

On the other hand, don't fall so much in love with the house that you'll buy it no matter what needs to be done--unless you're absolutely sure you can handle it emotionally and financially. Decide what type of repairs you can realistically tackle, and then stick with the decision.

5. Don't Forget to Switch Utilities

That sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how many people forget to apply for utility service at their new home. Call the utility companies as soon as you have a contract. Find out how many days lead time they need to switch the service, and then get back with them when you have a firm closing date. Don't forget to discontinue services at your old home.

6. Don't Wait to Line Up Your Hazard Insurance

A no-brainer, right? But it's another often-forgotten task that buyers scramble to take care of at the last minute. Before closing, your lender will want to see an insurance binder showing you have coverage for the new home. Get it as early as possible so that closing isn't delayed.

In some locations, additional types of insurance coverage might be necessary. Talk to your lender about insurance requirements well before the closing date.

7. Don't Become Best Friends with the Seller
I'll get some flack on this one. It's great to be friendly, but don't get into too many long discussions with the sellers, because personality conflicts often cloud judgments.

Remember, this is their home. You're no doubt excited about moving in, and if you didn't like the house you wouldn't have offered to buy it. But you'll make changes--everyone does. A casual statement about "ripping up that ugly carpet" might be hurtful enough to keep the seller from negotiating with you about repairs or other issues that crop up.

8. Don't Panic if the Appraisal Comes in Low
At least not at first. There are some things you (and your agent) can do to correct the problem. Study your options.

9. Don't Go It Alone
If you're working with an agent, it's the agent's duty to track many of the day to day details that involve the lender, the seller, or the seller's agent.

10. Don't Ignore Lender Requirements
Know what is expected of you and take care of it. For instance, a Certificate of Eligibility is required to move forward on a VA loan. That's something you must handle yourself. Answer lender questions and provide required paperwork as quickly as possible--your closing depends on it.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


www.JulieWyss.com   |  Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026