THE SECOND STORY | October 18th, 2018

“I don’t know what you need to know….”


Scarry Alameda! It’s amazing how this town gets so wrapped up with ghosts and goblins and dead people!

During a listing presentation, I’m often asked. “Why so many questions?” My questions can certainly seem to be intrusive to new potential clients…because this is probably the first time I’ve ever sat down at a table with them. My goal is to find out if we are on the same page, or not. Often it’s a book of pages.

This afternoon I attended one of our Bay East Association of Realtors meetings regarding Alameda (city) transportation issues. It was fascinating, with speakers from the city, the County, a rep from one of the local biz associations, and a rep from WETA (San Francisco Water Emergency Transporation Authority). Per usual, it takes a vote to move anything up the hill (or through the water because by most everybody’s standards we don’t have hills in A-town but we are surrounded by H2O).

But we did get to ask questions!

Then I flashed back to earlier this month..when I was taking a quick vaca in Newport Beach. At this time of year, the natives have claimed their land back…no crowds, minimal tourists, and pretty good (read excellent) weather and some body-whomping surf.

I’ll usually park my car on Balboa Island, unload my bike, and take the ferry over to the peninsula and I start riding, up to Huntington Beach and/or down to the Wedge.

I think that our employees who represent A-town, do a fantastic job, either sitting at a table or standing up presenting something to the public. Thus the title of this blog post….”I don’t know what you need to know.” Most of us in attendance didn’t know too much…but they gave us lots to think about.

As potential Sellers and Buyers, IMHO you need to use a local agent, who focuses on Alameda (94501, 94502), otherwise it’s up to you…to get info, and that leads me back to the question, “I don’t know what you need to know, but if you have the time we can find out together.”

Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 11

AC, 2 BOM, 10 PCH – active contingent, back on market, price changes mostly downward

Pending 7

Sold 14

Total active 73

Total pending 53

Gads…it gets so dark, so early these days!

Let me know if you have questions about this shifting market….

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | October 16th, 2018

HELOCs Becoming More Expensive

In September, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the third time in 2018 and they’re expected to go up one more time this year and three times next year. If you have a Home Equity Line of Credit, HELOC, you’re paying more to use that money and it is going to become more expensive.

It may make sense to refinance your home and consolidate the balance of your HELOC to lock in a lower mortgage rate. Most lenders require that the combination of these loans should not exceed 80% of the home’s fair market value and that you have good credit and adequate income to support the payment.

A HELOC is a first or second mortgage that allows the borrower to withdraw money as needed, up to the line of credit provided by the lender. A draw period is established where the borrower is only required to pay interest.

Since all HELOC loans are variable rate mortgages, during periods of rising rates, the cost of the funds increase. However, unlike adjustable rate mortgages that have specified adjustment periods and caps, a HELOC adjusts when the prime interest changes.

The formula for determining available funds on a refinance are to take 80% of the fair market value, which will probably have to be verified by appraisal, less the existing first mortgage and the costs to refinance. The balance would need to cover the cost of replacing the HELOC. Any remaining balance may be available for cash to be taken out.

Now is a great time for a mortgage review.In many cases, the equity you have in your home may allow you to eliminate mortgage insurance and substantially lower your monthly payment.As with all tax matters, always consult with a tax professional before making any decisions.Call us at (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

THE SECOND STORY | October 11th, 2018

What makes a GREAT agent?

I get some very good articles via email. This is one that showed up this week. Although I don’t know the writer, I’m helping him spread the word.

This commentary is by John Wendorff (John Wendorff is chief encouragement officer with The Personal Marketing Company. For more information, please visit

“G” Is for Gratitude
Long-term success requires the ability to be grateful. Gratitude is key to success, not only for the real estate business,  but any business. Ideally, you’re working with people you enjoy, and you believe your work makes a difference in other people’s lives.

Remind yourself that what you do isn’t just about money; you’re helping people solve housing challenges. Be grateful for your skillset and your abilities.

“R” Is for Responsiveness
The responsive agent gets referrals and repeat business. It isn’t enough to just return the call, email or text. It’s about responding in a timely and relevant manner. Is this client anxious? Do they need a lot of hand-holding?

Generally speaking, prospective clients spend about three days deciding which agent to use. Strive to follow up with every email, text and phone call within one hour. It’s a discipline, and while difficult, the more you do it, the more you’ll set yourself apart in the marketplace.

“E” Is for Enthusiastic
You’re excited about your opportunities and your solutions. Being excited about a transaction means that you enjoy working with these individuals, they’re ready to buy and you have solutions to fit them exactly.

If you’re not excited, ask yourself whether you’re the right person for that opportunity. Sometimes, my lack of enthusiasm is a sign that it belongs in somebody else’s hands. Stay focused on helping people solve their problems in the very best way you know how.

“A” Is for Awareness
Put people first and the transaction second. One of the hardest things about real estate is staying aware of all the different pieces—regulatory, financial and marketing. We forget that this business is about people and our ability to read them. Are they defensive? Are they indecisive? The ability to understand people and respond appropriately makes all the difference. Without awareness, you might come to the end of the transaction only to find that you lost the people halfway through.

Every time you meet with people, fully engage them. Be aware of where they are mentally and emotionally so that you can empathize and help make their dream a reality.

“T” Is for Targeted
Focus on a specific area of the marketplace. Many agents believe that any listing is better than no listing—but without a target, you’ll deplete your energy so rapidly that you’ll never be able to manage everything.

Pick an area, a type of home or a type of client. Handoff other prospects to other agents. Be the agent who knows more about a specific neighborhood or a particular kind of client than anybody else. You cannot be a great agent without some type of targeting.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 18

Pending 15

Sold 14

Total Active (incl 3 active/contingent) 59

Have a great weekend! My phone tells me it should be warming up!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | October 9th, 2018

Fast Track Rental Property

FHA allows owner-occupants to purchase up to a four-unit property with a minimum 3.5% down payment. The rent collected on three units could be used to make the payment and the owners’ pro-rata share would be less than ¼ of the payment itself.

The owner-occupied unit would be considered their principal residence. The other three units are treated as rental property and eligible for cost recovery, a non-cash deduction plus all the normal business expenses. The rental income of the three remaining units is calculated as income and assists the buyer in qualifying.

A homeowner could buy a four-unit, live in one for two years, buy another four-unit with a minimum down payment, move into one unit, rent the other three as well as the previous unit in the first property. Then, after another two years, repeat the same process over again.

The fifth year, the homeowner/investor would have a total of 11 rental units plus the one that they are occupying. An acquisition strategy like this might be difficult for a family with children and a single person or couple might find it easier to move more frequently.

As the equity increases in these properties, due to appreciation and amortization, the money could be pulled out through refinancing to purchase additional income properties. Another objective might be to pay the mortgage off as soon as possible and any cash flow after tax could be applied directly to the principal.

FHA has a nationwide mortgage limit for a four-unit of $521,250 but some high-cost areas have been designated with increased limits. There are also loan programs for two and three-unit properties with limits of $347,000 and $419,425 with similar exceptions for high-cost areas.

The low mortgage rate and minimal down payments for owner-occupied FHA mortgages makes this strategy attractive because it gives investors an opportunity to highly leverage their investment. Most non-owner-occupied (investor) mortgages would require 20-25% down payment and have a slightly higher interest rate than for an owner-occupant.

To learn more about this opportunity, call (510) 908-9021 and we can give you information on specifics in a variety of areas.

THE SECOND STORY | October 4th, 2018

CTA (cover their ‘ass–‘)

Mortgage brokers and traditional banks are in the biz of making $$$. And no wonder the complaints above exist. These days most everybody wants everything quicker and with less paperwork, BUT they also want folks to explain what they are signing. That’s when an excellent escrow officer has a place in this lineup. But good escrow officers have a stack of docs for every client(s).

The above complaints have been around since I’ve been in the biz. In that period we’ve seen ups, downs, huge interest rates (coming through 18% when I first started the biz) and market crashes.

When interest rates were too high….we structured the contract that might have had some of the following: 2nd loans carried by the sellers, wrap-around loans, short-term financing carried by the sellers.

One time I had a contract that wanted the seller to replace the brick foundation…and he did! Took a couple of months but we got the place sold, otherwise he wouldn’t have sold it because lenders weren’t lending on brick foundations.

Now that rates are inching up…we hear complaints from those who are new to the market. It’s life…I usually tell them what real high rates mean (give them those examples). Agents and lenders work within whatever parameters we can to legally make the transaction flow: jump over the bumps in the road, and ‘close the deal.’

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Broker Tour  14

New 12

Pending 3

Sold 10

Price change 5

BOM (back on market) 3

Total Active 58 incl 2 AC

Total Pending 17

That’s a wrap! Have a nice autumn-y weekend! Let me know if you have questions about the market. You can see by the stats above…DOM is getting longer, BOMs are happening, and the sales have really slowed down.

And based on my conversations with SF agents, local agents, and agents up and down CA….this is slow down is the real deal. I’ll say it once again. If the Seller sets the price too high, Buyer’s will laugh and walk away. The Buyers actually set the price. Get it?

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 2nd, 2018

Mortgage Free

It may be an all too common belief that a person will have a house payment and a car payment for the rest of their lives. However, with a plan and some determination, you can be mortgage free.

Planning for retirement is obviously important and many times, an activity plagued by procrastination. Some homeowners’ goal is to have their home paid for by retirement, so they won’t have payments. It makes sense to eliminate a sizable recurring expense before they quit working.

By making regular principal contributions in addition to the payments, the debt can be eliminated by the target retirement date.

Assume a homeowner refinanced their $300,000 mortgage at 4% last year for 30 years with the first payment due on May 1, 2017. With normal amortization, the home will be paid for at the end of the term.

Additional principal contributions with each payment will save interest, build equity and of course, accelerate the payoff on the home. An extra $250.00 a month would pay off the mortgage 7.5 years sooner. $786.81 extra with each payment would pay off the loan in 15 years.

Having a home paid for at retirement has the apparent benefit of no house payment. A debt-free home is also a substantial asset that could be borrowed against or sold if unanticipated events should occur.

To make some projections to pay off your own mortgage, use this use the Equity Accelerator calculator.

THE SECOND STORY | September 27th, 2018

Ride the wave or wait for another set…

I took this photo

12-9-2009 while watching the surfers at Jaws, Maui.


Below is a (slightly modified) excerpt that I wrote to a client, who recently sold her house.

“I think the market may be going the way you want it to go. You were able to ride the wave and kick out of it nearly at the top. You may be able to paddle into a wave that won’t be so big, with lower prices rolling in. With some foresight and with the hindsight you have, it should work perfectly for all of you.”  

This is my way of comparing real estate to surfing.


Tonight I had the privilege of joining a local mortgage broker, and one of the best-ever escrow officers, for dinner! It was a thoughtful, positive, hysterical (at times) conversation.

As we were comparing notes about our businesses, we all came to the same conclusion…no thing is ever simple in real estate..always twisting and turning… and some shouting. And when it is simple….be grateful.

We need to be ready to expect the unexpected, and be able to tap into our resources for solutions…or consider anything that may be a solution. I guess that’s why I like it so much….

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Lots of new listings (the rush before the holidays), plus longer  days on the market, and more withdrawals and cancelations of the listings.

New 18

Pending 10

Sold 6

Total Active 64 (including 4 A/C, 1 BOM, 5 PCH)

Total Pending 55

Contact me if you have real estate market questions….or even if you have some comments about where the market is heading!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 25th, 2018

How to Clean Gutters

The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation. When they’re blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.

Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year. More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.

If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider. If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters. Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you’re on the ladder.

Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.

· Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned.

· Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.

· When you’re at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.

· If the water doesn’t drain easily, the downspout could be blocked. Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber’s snake, try to dislodge the blockage.

· Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.

· Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.

There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier. Check out their websites and search for “gutter cleaning”.

THE SECOND STORY | September 20th, 2018

Shopping A-town

I’m pretty predictable and not too fancy. I love the shopping bags that I’m able to stuff inside my numerous backpacks (which is what I do  splurge on). But I only wear 1 purse/backpack at a time.

Here’s an example of the giveaways from the various business districts within our town. (No, TJ’s is not giving anything away and you can see where I shop – whether on my bike or in my car.)

You know when summer is over and when fall is right around the corner…because the Alameda real estate market has been getting new listings all over this island (relatively speaking).

Buyers want to move into a new (to them) property before the holidays set in. And the Sellers are thinking…get me outta here!

Once again…motivation is the rule for both buyers and sellers. And seller’s (5 of them) have contingent sales on their property.

That means the Buyer(s) won’t close until their own property  closes first, and then they’ve got the cash, loan, and whatever to move forward on their new (to them) purchase. If either party is too stuck on their list/buy price…that property won’t sell. And it’s off to the races for the sellers and back to the grind for the buyers.

Alameda Real Estate this Week!

New 18

Pending 2

Sold 10

Total Active 56 including 5 Active Contingent and 1 BOM

Total pending 53 including 1 court confirmation, and 1 subject to lender approval

OK! That’s a wrap!

Enjoy the weekend….days are getting shorter!

Please contact me if you have questions (or if you have the answers) about the A-town marketplace!

best, marilyn

check out my ‘for fun” blog… 

THE SECOND STORY | September 18th, 2018

Consumer Protection from Irresponsible Mortgage Practices

Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 in response to the mortgage crisis that led to America’s Great Recession. The two parts that apply closely to homebuyers are the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) and Qualified Mortgages (QM).

A Qualified Mortgage is a category of loans that have certain, more stable features that help make it more likely that borrowers will be able to afford their loan. These loans do not allow certain risky features like an interest-only period when no money is applied to reduce the principal; negative amortization that would allow the mortgage balance to increase; and, “balloon payments” at the end of the loan that are larger than the normal periodic payments.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than or equal to 43% has been established to provide a limit on how much of a borrower’s income can go toward total debt including the mortgage and all other monthly debt payments. However, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau believes these loans should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and in some cases, can exceed 43%.

There is a limit for up-front points and fees the lender can charge.

By showing that the lender made an effort to be certain that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, the lender in turn, receives certain legal protections. Underwriting factors considered by the lender include:

  1. current or reasonably expected income or assets
  2. current employment status
  3. the monthly payment on the covered transaction
  4. the monthly payment on any simultaneous loan
  5. the monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations
  6. current debt obligations, alimony, and child support
  7. the monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income
  8. credit history

For more information, see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fact sheet … protecting consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending.