THE SECOND STORY | September 13th, 2019

Watching the ships roll in…

Action on the Alameda estuary.

I took this photo a couple of days ago. Sometimes I take a drive beyond where folks catch the west-end Alameda ferry over to San Francisco. While the city says there are 700-800 cars creating their own parking lots at ferry, I’ve never seen more than 10 cars in this ‘parking lot.’

It’s a change of scenery for me and I love it: tugboats, container ships (2 at this time: one was off-loading containers onto trucks, the other was full of containers), the ferrys, sailboats, small harbor/police boats, and usually a few guys throwing lines out to catch some fish, and lots of seagulls looking for food.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Our Fire Chief, Edmund Rodriguez, graced us with his presence at the Alameda Inforum Marketing Meeting (aka AIMM) this past Tuesday @ 8:30am.

The Alameda Chapter of the Bay East Association of Realtors meets at the Grandview Pavillion for breakfast once a month to catch up with city officials, Association leadership, other Realtors/lenders/title company reps, friends,  meet other members, and to have a lovely buffet breakfast, then head out on the Tuesday tour.

The Chief was letting us know what it’s been like to be the Head Honcho in A-town, the shifts that the firefighters have, what’s required of them (all types of issues show up: drug overdoses, illnesses, obviously fires, the training, what they wear and how much it weighs, and what the demands are for finding and retaining good men and women).

I think he said the city still had 8 firefighter positions open. Gosh, if you know somebody who is physically fit, is smart, likes variety, this could be a job s(he) could interview for!  (just sayin’.)

Broker Tour Tues 9

Active 52, (including 1 BOM, 4 PCH)

Pending 55 (including 10 PSB)

Sold 10

Sold stats for this week…

Days on Market:

63 (high)

0 Low

Average 19

Median 14


check out my for fun blog…


best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 10th, 2019

Money You Saved for a Down Payment


Occasionally, buyers who can qualify to purchase a home decide to “take a break” and wait to purchase a home. When the focus of buying a home is relaxed, other uses for the money that was going to be used for the home are considered.

Maybe they think how much fun it would be to have a Sea Doo or a motorcycle or a new car. It is amazing how many people would like to buy a home but either don’t have the down payment, the income or the good credit to make it possible.

Instead of spending the money, consider investing the money for two years until the time is right to buy a home. Let’s look at putting the money in a certificate of deposit that earns 2% or in the stock market that could average a 5% return.

Assume you were purchasing a $295,000 home on a FHA loan with 3.5% down payment. The $10,325 would grow to $10,742 in the CD which isn’t a big increase but at least it is safe and secure, and it will be available when you’re ready.

If the same amount were invested in a safe stock or mutual fund that earned 5%, it would grow to $11,383 in the same two-year period. It earns more but there is more risk involved.

Your Best Investment
CD Stock Market Home
Cash to Invest $10,325 $10,325 $10,325
Wealth Position $10,742 $11,383 $38,871
Profit Taxed as Ordinary Income Long-term capital gains §121 exclusion applies

Alternatively, if you invest the same amount in purchasing a home that appreciates at 3% a year, the equity would be $38,871 two years from now. The dramatic increase is due to leverage, being able to control a large asset with a small amount of cash. The appreciation is based on the purchase price not the down payment.

Another factor is that there is principal reduction with each payment that is made.

Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.

THE SECOND STORY | September 5th, 2019

Too many devices, too few outlets.

I went to the City Council meeting this week.  I rode my bike there. I didn’t speak at all this time. But I was watching and listening. It definitely wasn’t a packed house. Loads of seats were available. I saw several folks that I knew, and came across some long lost friends, as well.

After public remarks, when the city council was discussing the rent control issues, I think some of the council members actually went against what the city employees had recommended.

But I won’t trust what I heard until I see it in writing. Those changes have yet to be published. But I believe the council was attempting to make it a bit fairer towards the owners of rental property.

I went outside to ride my bike home, and I realized I left my helmet behind in the chambers. argh. I went up to the 3rd floor find it..a woman was waving to me. She had seen the helmet on the floor.

Too many items to keep track off: my turn indicator that fits on the handlebars…and the helmet lights up when I press either the left or right button; my speedometer/clock (all in one) that fits on my handlebars; my water bottle; my light that fits on the handlebar (has various settings from dull and steady to bright, brighter, and flashing; the bell on my handlebars (it’s quite loud); my life vest (no it doesn’t blow up) but cars/folks/pedestrians can see the bright orange color and the reflective tape.

Despite the hassle of these safety devices, I’m always glad when I get outside and ride my bike back home. It’s very quiet and still and dark.

And I have yet to figure out what the green-rimmed device is, in the middle of the photo. I think it was one of the folks who has recently worked on the house.

As I rode home, I realized it was one of the calmest council meetings I’ve attended in a while.


Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 5

Active listings 50 including 2 PCH

Pending sales 13 including 1 PSB

Sold 10

For this week’s Sold properties:

DOM (days on market) 

High 10, Low 5, Average 12, Median 12

If you have ??? I may have some answers…but let me know what you’re thinking about, in this market. Have a fun weekend!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | September 3rd, 2019

Downsizing is an Alternative


It is estimated that over 15% of the population in the U.S. are over 65 years of age. With one of the most common fears of seniors being their money will run out early, it is understandable that downsizing may be strategy to meet their goals.

Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find they may not need their “big” home like they did before. In other situations, their lifestyle might have changed, and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

The benefits of a smaller home can include the following:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that a person should take their time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes. Are they going to stay in the same area? What type of property would suit their needs for the future?

The tax-free exclusion allows a homeowner to take up to $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers. Part or all of this could be used to generate income for retirement. Other uses for the equity could include paying off other debt, taking the trip of a lifetime or making a special gift.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home. These will lower the amount of net proceeds you’ll have to invest in the new home.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this applies to their situation. Please contact me at (510) 908-9021 or marilynschu if you have any questions about what your home is worth or how long it might take to sell it. Other things that could be of value are our Homeowners Tax Guide or Sellers Guide.

THE SECOND STORY | August 29th, 2019

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.


This will be brief!  I rode my bike to a meeting this evening at the main city library, that was about our city rent control ordinance and the changes that the city council will be making, and confirming, next week.  I obviously rode my bike back…letting the wind hit my face, hoping I’d wake up from this dream/nightmare.

It’s exhausting…so many legit questions!

I’m certainly confused (and admit it).  More questions than answers.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 11 

Active listings 47 (including 1 BOM – back on market, 6 PCH price changes, 1 W/C withdrawn/canceled).

Pending 47 (including 11 PSB – pending sale want back-ups)

Sold 14

For this week’s Sold properties:

DOM (days on market)

High 60, Low 5, Average 16, Median 12

The market is changing…..

Enjoy the weekend! I know you deserve it!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | August 27th, 2019

Steps in Home Buying Process


The process of buying a home can be different based on the price range and whether a mortgage is needed. While some things are different, others are similar regardless of price, financing or local customs.

Each year, the National Association of REALTORS® surveys buyers and sellers who have purchased or sold in the previous twelve months in order to identify the process and steps taken. It provides a lot of information for the people who will be going through the process now and in the near future.

44% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale. This might be considered a logical first step to determine the prices of homes in certain areas and what features they offered.

17% of all buyers stated that their next step was to contact a real estate agent. In another REALTOR study, it is reported that 87% of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. Buyers identify a wide range of services the agents offer that is considered valuable in the purchase of a home.

The next step identified by most buyers is to look online for information about the home buying process. In many cases, agents share this information in their first substantial meeting but since it is identified as the third highest steps taken by buyers, some people may not be getting adequate information from their agents or they are verifying the process as explained to them.

The fourth step identified by buyers is to contact a bank or mortgage lender. The position this step takes place is interesting because many real estate professionals suggest that it be one of the first things buyers should do. The reason is to find out how much mortgage they can qualify for, so they are looking for homes in the right price range. This can save a lot of time and frustration.

The three next highest steps included driving by homes and neighborhoods, talking with a friend or relative about the home buying process and visiting open houses.

The buyers in this study mentioned that they depended on several sources for information during the home search. The most frequently used were online website, their real estate agent, mobile search device, open houses and yard signs.

The three most difficult steps listed were finding the right property, the paperwork and understanding the process and steps.

You can download a Buyers Guide that has a lot of interesting information. We have an array of Financial Apps that can provide insight on things like Rent vs. Own, Mortgage Payment and Your Best Investment. And of course, I’d be happy to schedule an appointment with you to go over all these things and talk to you about finding your next home. Call me at (510) 908-9021.

THE SECOND STORY | August 22nd, 2019


I like trees. I like older trees. But I don’t like trees that are located close to or over a property line (owned by other folks), or trees that have gotten so huge that they become a danger to people or to property.

As I’ve said before, the good news is that with the heavy rains this past winter, the drought is over! The bad news is, that the drought is over.

That means it’s time to assess what’s growing where. Or what trees are dead but nobody is around to care.

Recently, I’ve seen two examples of where a tree on one lot has done damage to a sewer line running through another lot. And the other is an overgrown tree  undermining other folks’ pavement and even undermining the tree owner’s garage.  However, both of these owners own units, live out of town, and seem to subscribe to the saying ‘If I don’t see it then I don’t know about it.’

I asked permission to go over to one owner’s property with a Certified Arborist and we were shocked at what we saw: 2 super tall dead trees and the yard was a mess. Garbage bins were strewed all over. Obviously, the property manager never looked at it. And the tree that started this, was outgrowing the dirt around it, crammed next to the garage, with branches hanging well into 3 neighbor’s yards.

Enough complaining. On to the next item.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tuesday 11

Active listings 55 (including 1 Back on Market, 2 Active Contingent, 9 Price Changes)

 Pending 12 (including 2 Pending Sale want Backup Offers)

 Sold 12

For this week’s sold properties:

DOM 37   Low 1  Average 14  Median 13

Have a fun weekend! Feel free to contact me if you have questions about the Alameda market!

best, marilyn

my ‘for fun’ blog… 

THE SECOND STORY | August 20th, 2019

Invest in Equity Build-up


Equity build-up could be one of the biggest advantages to buying a home. There are two distinct dynamics that take place to make this happen: each house payment applies an amount to reduce the mortgage owed and appreciation causes the value of the home to go up.

It is easy to make a projection based on the type of mortgage you get and your estimation of appreciation over the time you expect to own the home. Even conservative estimates can produce impressive results.

Let’s look at an example of a home with a $270,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years and a total payment of $2,047.55 payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The average monthly principal reduction for the first year is $362.98. If you assume a 3% appreciation on the $300,000 home, the average monthly appreciation is $750 a month.

The total payment of $2,047.55 less $1,112.98 for principal reduction and appreciation makes the net monthly cost of housing, excluding tax benefits, $934.57. If this hypothetical person was paying $2,500 in rent, it would cost them $1,565.43 more to rent than to own. In the first year, it would cost them over $18,000 more to rent.

Together, the items in this example contribute over $1,100 to the equity in the home . This is one of the reasons a home is considered forced savings. By making your house payments and enjoying increases in value, the equity grows and the net cost of housing decreases by the same amount.

In this same example, the $30,000 down payment grows to $133,991 in equity in seven years. While this is equity build-up, the extraordinary growth is attributed to leverage. Leverage is an investment principle involving the use of borrowed funds to control an asset.

To see what your net cost of housing and the effect of leverage will have on a home in your price range, see the Rent vs. Own. If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at (510) 908-9021.

THE SECOND STORY | August 15th, 2019

Warrior time….(not quite yet)

Somebody’s getting ready for basketball season! 








I  think it stands for ‘no whiners.’

Regarding my “local knowledge quiz” about bridges (3 weeks ago?) I realized that the Fruitvale Bridge has a Railroad Bridge as well.

  • Image



Let’s get down to biz.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 8

Total active listings 55 (including Active/Contingent 1), and 1 BOM (back on the market) 

Total pending 49 (including 13 pending sales – want backup offers)

Total sold 18

DOM (average days on market)

High  143

Low 7

Average 39

Median 29

Have a fun weekend!  We are weather wimps here, in A-town. Too hot, we complain. Too cold, we complain. We want it ‘just right.’

This evening was just right!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | August 13th, 2019

America Still Considers Real Estate the Best


35% of respondents, in a recent annual Gallup poll that dates back to 2002, identified real estate as the best long-term investment option compared to 27% who identified stocks.

The top choices included real estate, stocks, savings accounts and gold. Even with the remarkable prices of the different U.S. stock indices recorded in 2019 through April and May, homes have the highest confidence in the minds of the respondents.

This seems to be based on the stability of the housing market and the expectation that home prices will continue to rise. Homeowners build equity from both appreciation as well as reducing principal with each payment made. These same factors exist for investors of rental homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Real estate has another dynamic working to produce favorable investment results due to leverage. Leverage occurs when borrowed funds are used to control an asset. When the borrowed funds are at a lower rate than the overall investment results, positive leverage occurs which can increase the yield from an all cash investment.

Gold and savings accounts must be funded with cash. The maximum borrowed funds allowed for stocks is 50% and generally, at a rate higher than typical mortgage rates.

Homes are a particularly attractive investment because you can enjoy them personally by living in them. The interest and property taxes are deductible and gains on the profit are excluded up $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

Many people consider an investment in a home for a rental property an IDEAL investment: Income, Depreciation, Equity Build-up & Leverage.

If you have questions or are curious about the process, contact me at marilynschu or (510) 908-9021.