THE SECOND STORY | December 12th, 2017

Eleventh Hour Gifts Without Shopping

If you’re beginning to feel the pressure of running out of time to find the perfect gift, here are a few suggestions that may not be on their “list” but will certainly be appreciated.The perfect gift-300.png

The gift of really listening without interrupting, daydreaming or planning your response can be exactly what people want when they have something important to say.

The gift of affection with appropriate hugs, kisses and pats on the back can demonstrate your love for family and friends better than words.

The gift of laughter by sharing articles, cartoons and funny stories will say “I love to laugh with you.”

The gift of a simple, written note shows sincerity and real heartfelt sentiment that may be remembered for a lifetime and could even change a life.

The gift of a sincere compliment supports a person’s need to be accepted and appreciated. “You look great in that color”, “That was outstanding” or “I really enjoyed that” can make someone’s day.

The gift of random kindness or good deeds like holding a door or allowing someone to move ahead of you in a checkout lane shows respect for others.

Your smile, however, may be your most rewarding gift. Invariably, the person receiving the smile will in turn, smile back. The gift you gave will now be given back to you. It will be the right size and you can always use one more smile.

THE SECOND STORY | December 5th, 2017

Don’t Pat Yourself on the Back Just Yet

You’ve got $500,000 in liquid assets for your retirement and you’re still 15 years away. All your bills are paid; you have a small mortgage on your home; cars are paid for and great credit. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back yet.31001231_s.jpg

People think more about what they’re going to do when they retire than whether they’ll have the funds to do them. Ask anyone who has retired, it takes more money than you thought it did. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation.

To retire with $125,000 income in today’s dollars with a life expectancy of 25 years after retirement, you’ll need to have a net worth of $1.5 million at retirement including what Social Security may provide. Your $500,000 will grow to $1,045,420 in 15 years which will leave you about a half million short. You’ll need to save $24,149 each year for the next 15 years to reach your goal.

Retirement Projection3.png

Is this surprising? Did you imagine that this example would be that far from its goal? It might seem staggering to save $24,000 each year but there is another way…investing in rentals.

Real estate over the long term has proven to be a solid, predictable investment. Cash flows, appreciation, equity buildup and tax advantages are the components that contribute to the rate of return. Increasing rents, available financing and solid appreciation make rentals particularly attractive in today’s environment.

Call me at (510) 908-9021 to find out more about how rental homes can help you reach your retirement goals.

THE SECOND STORY | November 28th, 2017

FHA is a Good Option

FHA insured mortgages serve a sector of the market that is not necessarily being met by other loan programs.

Securing an 80% conventional mortgage that doesn’t require mortgage insurance may be the lowest cost of financing but if the buyer doesn’t have 20% down payment, it isn’t really an option.42257772-250.jpg

Securing a 100% VA loan doesn’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance but if the buyer isn’t a veteran with his/her eligibility intact, it isn’t an option either.

There are conventional loan programs with as little as 3% down payment but they not only require mortgage insurance, they also require a credit score of 740 or above which may eliminate some buyers.

For these reasons, FHA is a viable alternative to about 20% of new and existing home sales. The Federal backing of these mortgages makes it easier for first-time and low-income buyers to qualify because the requirements are not as demanding. They’re even more lenient towards buyers who have previously experienced bankruptcy, foreclosure or a short sale.

Finding the right mortgage for the right home is a team effort where both mortgage and real estate professionals work in harmony to get a buyer into their own home. Call us at (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

General FHA loan requirements include:

  • The loan is for primary residences only but can include two, three or four units.
  • The property must be appraised by an FHA-approved appraiser.
  • The property must be safe, sound and secure, in compliance with minimum property standards as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • The borrower must be a legal resident of the U.S. and have a valid Social Security number.
  • The minimum credit score of 580 with a down payment of at least 3.5 percent, or a minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of at least 10 percent.
  • The borrower may not have delinquent federal debt or judgments, or debt associated with past FHA loans.
  • The borrower must have steady employment history.
  • Documentation is required if the down payment was gifted by a family member.
  • The borrower must have a debt-to-income not exceed limits of 31% for front-end and 43% back-end ratio (some exceptions may apply).
  • Any judgments or collections on the credit report must be resolved or satisfactorily explained.

THE SECOND STORY | November 21st, 2017

Lighting Conversion Plan

In 2007, Congress passed an energy act that required new energy-efficient standards for basic light bulbs. Standard incandescent bulbs are being phased out and eventually will be unavailable.41630011-250.jpg

The alternative bulbs differ considerably in price. LED bulbs are the most efficient but they also cost the most. CFLs are a less expensive alternative. Interestingly, the more expensive replacements offer lower operating costs and longer economic life.

One approach will be to inventory the different types and quantities of light bulbs you need in your home. Then, research either online or a big box store to find out what each type of bulb costs. This information will give you a total budget for converting your lighting.

It could be a significant expense to replace all the bulbs in a home at one time, especially when most of the bulbs still work. That’s where a plan might make sense.

Replace the bulbs in the rooms where the lights are used the most such as kitchen, family rooms and bathrooms. There may be other “rooms” where the lights are used frequently like certain hallways or stairs. Outside flood lights for security purposes may be a large energy consumption.

Bulbs can vary in light output measured in lumens as well as color of light from warm white to bright white and daylight. The lighting label required by the Federal Trade Commission on all packaging will help you determine which will give you the most bang for your buck.

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THE SECOND STORY | November 17th, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stacked like pancakes, lenticular clouds,           Nov 4, 2017 taken in Alameda!

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I had the opportunity to put on the market, a new listing last Friday….. It’s a small home, 1 bedroom & 1 bath, but the lot is deep and has a detached garage and plus room, separated by a large deck and pavers in the backyard. The Seller gave me 26 pages of finaled permits on this home, and he’s been working on it for the past 6 months.  Top of the line appliances, finishes, paint, floors, crown molding, double-paned windows, and single level. NO HOA FEES! Will be open this Sunday 2-4pm. You may be able to put an ADU Accessory Dwelling Unit on the property. See the City of Alameda website below for info.

Here’s the drone shoot below of my most recent listing.

I also wrote an offer for some clients last week and they got the house, despite the competition!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Didn’t get out on the tour…had my own brokers’ open.

Tues tour 10.

New 9

Price change 3

BOM back on market 1

Pending 13

Sold 11

Withdrawn/canceled 3


Total active on the market 53

Total Pending on the market 74

I typically go into hibernation (along with my blogs) from Thanksgiving through the end of December. This year is no different! However, feel free to get in touch with me…text, email, phone, just to say ‘hi’ or if you have questions about the Alameda Real Estate market. I’ll be around!

Will be working on the 2 pending sales I have in escrow, and hope to get the small house into escrow, as well.

Have a wonderful holiday season, full of peace, calm, quiet joy, and wonderment. 

Best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | November 14th, 2017

Holiday Travels

The last thing you want if you’re traveling these holidays is to worry about someone burglarizing your home. Use this check list to add some peace of mind while you’re out of town.15632491-250.jpg

  • Ask a trusted friend – to pick up mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of being empty.
  • Consider discontinuing your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service)
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return – some burglars actually look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home – use several sets for different times to better simulate someone being at home.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TV, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don’t hide a key – burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.

These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

THE SECOND STORY | November 9th, 2017

Real estate rush to close transactions….

(follow me on my ‘for fun’ blog…  )

—before the end of the year!


Marriage Equality OCT

Here’s a new listing I just put on the market tonight.

2047 Lincoln Ave.  It’s small (1/1) but everything has been redone, upgraded at the property. NO HOA fees, dues!

Come see the open house (and me) this Sunday 2-4!

This is the beautiful palm tree in the backyard! It had a haircut and trim around the trunk..after years of neglect, this past spring.

I have a pending sale this week as well….325 Sand Beach Road. My buyer-clients are thrilled! Doesn’t look like the listing agent has marked it as pending…but it is!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker tour Tues 14 didn’t get out and see any on the tour. It was a busy week ….wrote 2 offers (1 was accepted), and was working on my new listing, took a client to lunch, and met a friend at a property on Tues Tour Day!

New 14

BOM back on market 3

PCH price change 3

Pending 13

Sold 14  

WT withdrawn temporarily 1

WC withdrawn/cancelled 1

No awards this week! Missed the tour!

Stay dry this week! My phone says it should rain tomorrow, Fri, Mon, and Wed. We’ll see how accurate the forecasters are!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | November 7th, 2017

Cash-In Refinance

Would someone really refinance their home and not take money out of it? Certainly, if they could get a lower rate, build equity faster and pay off the home sooner.65125303-250.jpg

For people with extra cash available, this can be very attractive compared to the low savings rates being paid by banks.

In the example below, the current mortgage is 5% for 30 years after 48 payments of $1,342.05. The owner can refinance for 15 years at 3.37%. If they put $36,000 into the refinance, their payments will be slightly more but the mortgage will be paid off in 15 years. At that same point, if they keep the current mortgage, their unpaid balance will be $136,049.03.

If you have a goal to get your home paid off and have the available funds, a Cash-In Refinance may be just the strategy for you.

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THE SECOND STORY | November 2nd, 2017

Halloween in Alameda

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This may not be in Alameda, but it was in New Zealand! (courtesy of daughter, Sutter, and her husband, Sean)

The A-town locals know how to ‘do’ Halloween. Most every block is filled with costumed kids, and sometimes costumed parents!

I usually sit on my front porch. While I didn’t plan on having a Halloween costume, it turns out I was dressed as a San Francisco Giants fan…bundled up in my oversized Giants fleece jacket, and wrapped up in my Giants blanket…just like I was at Candlestick Park.

Because I think that Halloween is more for the smaller kids, and then the big kids show up…I’ve started telling the big kids I’ll give them a treat, only if they perform a trick for me. Almost every kid is there for the candy…and I give them two choices…5 high leg-kicks or 10 jumping jacks. Less than a handful of kids turned and walked away. Their loss.

The others embraced the challenge…most going for the jumping jacks. We had all kinds of folks cheering the tricksters on and counting each jumping jack. Those who even barely performed got some treats. In fact, one guy remembered me from last year! And he chose the jumping jacks. You go, guy!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 9 (1 was a high-priced repeat)

New 15

Pending 19

Sold 14

WC withdrawn/canceled 2

Expired 1

Total active on the market this week 59

Total pending on the market this week 73

Alameda Real Estate Awards this week (IMHO)


Get me to rehab

Alrighty! That’s a wrap! Contact me if you have questions….or even the answers!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 31st, 2017

Up-front Points to Lower the Rate

When loans are quoted by lenders, most buyers pay attention to the interest rate but not so much to the points that may be charged along with the rate.19269905-250.jpg

A point is one-percent of the mortgage amount and considered pre-paid interest that affects the yield on the loan. Buyers or sellers can pay points but there can be limits based on underwriting guidelines for different types of loans.

A lower note-rate would obviously make the payments less. However, with a little analysis, you can determine how much points paid up-front can save a borrower or whether you’ll recapture the additional costs in the anticipated time in the home.

In the example below, two choices are compared; a 4.25% loan with no points vs. a 4.00% loan with one point. If the buyer stays in the home at least 69 months, he will recover the $2,700 cost for the point on the lower interest rate.

If the purchaser stays ten years, he’ll save two thousand dollars over the cost of the point. A less obvious advantage will be realized because the unpaid balance on the lower interest rate loan will results in an additional $1,780 savings.

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This is an example of a permanent buy-down but temporary buy-downs are also available. A trusted mortgage advisor can help you determine alternatives.