THE SECOND STORY | February 19th, 2019

Do You Know the Way?

Fear of the unknown is common among all ages. Kids, at night, imagine monsters in their closets or under their beds and adults are unsure of what the future might bring.

It may be natural for first-time buyers to be unsure of the process because they haven’t been through it before but even repeat buyers need to know changes that have taken place since the financial housing crisis.

The steps in the home buying process are very predictable and generally follow the same pattern every time. It certainly makes the move stay on schedule when you know all the different things that must be done to get to the closing.

  • In the initial interview with your real estate professional, you share the things you want and need in a home, discuss available financing and learn how your agent can represent you in the transaction.
  • The pre-approval step is essential for anyone using a mortgage to purchase a home to assure that they’re looking at the right price of homes and so they’ll know what they can qualify for and what the interest will be.
  • Even with lower than normal inventory, it is difficult to stay up-to-date with the homes currently for sale and the new one just coming on the market. Technology has simplified this process, but the buyer needs to implement them.
  • Showings can be accommodated online through virtual tours, drive-bys and finally, a personal tour through the home. Your real estate professional can work with you to see all the homes in the market through REALTORS®, builders or for sale by owners.
  • When a home has been identified, an offer is written and negotiation over price, condition and terms takes place.
  • A contract is a fully negotiated, written agreement.
  • Escrow is opened to deposit the earnest money from the buyer as a sign they’re acting in good faith. The title search is also started so that clear title can be conveyed from the seller to the buyer and that the lender will have a valid lien on the property.
  • 88% of home sales involve a mortgage. The lender will require an appraisal to be sure that the home can serve as partial collateral for the loan. If the buyer has been pre-approved, the verifications will be updated to be certain that they’re still valid. The entire loan package when completed, is sent to underwriting for final approval.
  • When the contract is completed, at the same time the title search and mortgage approval are being worked on, the buyer will arrange for any inspections that were called for in the contract.
  • After all contingencies have been completed, the transaction goes to settlement where all the necessary papers are signed, and the balance of the buyer’s money is paid. This is where title transfers from the seller to the buyer.
  • Possession occurs according to the sales contract.

One of the responsibilities of your real estate professional is to make sure that things are done in a timely manner so that the transaction will close according to the agreement on time and without unforeseen or unnecessary problems.

Even if you’re not ready to buy or start looking yet, you need to be assembling your team of professionals. Let us know and we’ll send you our recommendations, so you can read about them on their websites.

If you have any questions, download this Buyers Guide and call us at (510) 908-9021; we’re happy to help. Informed buyers lead to satisfied homeowners and that is better for everyone involved.

THE SECOND STORY | February 14th, 2019

I guess the drought is over….

It’s been raining a lot. This afternoon it was hailing. But when the clouds show up, after the rain, it can be pretty spectacular.

When I was driving home from Pleasanton about 10 days ago (no, I don’t do real estate out there, but I do attend meetings at the Bay East Association of Realtors…and I’m on a committee for the Alameda Chapter of Bay East…the LGR…Local Government Relations for A-town).  I was looking up and it reminded me of when I used to fly gliders and airplanes out of Fremont (at Sky Sailing Airport).

Clouds streets…that’s when the puffy clouds (cumulus) line up, along or on top of the hills, mountains (ridge lines), and glider flying becomes… SOARING!

You can make a few turns under a cloud and then straighten out, put the nose of the plane down (to gain speed) and get to the next cloud street, and do it again. And again. And again. Maybe you’ll have a destination, like Vacaville: you’ll take a photo of the airport there, (no cell phones in that era) and head back. Or you may run out of lift, and you might land in a field (not too many of those around the East Bay these days).

I was flying gliders out of Minden, Nv. and Carl, my husband, was crewing for me. And I landed on top of a small flat cliff in the middle of nowhere (the Carson Valley). We had radios, but nothing like today.

And I actually saw him drive by me about 2 miles away, on the road, below me. I started to figure out how I could camp out in the glider. I would be a long, cold night…but doable. Most pilots have a backup plan when they’re flying anything with wings. And I did have a plan (which included food, water, and warm clothes). But maybe he’d have a towplane get in the air and find me on the plateau before darkness arrived. But somehow he found me…and we de-rigged the glider and headed back to Minden.

What’s this got to do with real estate? Maybe more than you might think. What if…this happens…what if an earthquake hits when you’re selling or buying? What if? What if?

Often folks need to quiet their thoughts…but they can’t ignore them.

A good real estate agent can calm them down…or even say…”it’s okay to walk away” (when a deposit is not at risk). Every transaction, every showing is different. And that’s why great agents could be like pilots…overcoming obstacles…to get just the right property for their clients.

OMG…a woman doing a survey for the FAA just called me. She wanted to know what I thought about the FSS (flight service station) at OAKLAND airport. I told her I hadn’t flown in years…so I wouldn’t be the best person to answer her questions! What a coincidence!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

I have a pending sale on my listing @ 1151 Admiralty Lane, that happened 2 nights ago. We had 3 offers.

Broker Tour Tues  10

New 16

Pending 11 including 3 PBO (want backups), 1 PSLA (needs lender approval – short sale/foreclosure)

BOM (back on market) 1

PCH (price change) 1

Sold 9

Total Active 38

That’s a wrap…carry on! Let me know if you have ???s about the market. I’ll try to answer them..

best, marilyn

Shredding Party is Saturday, March 23 9-noon!

It’s free to all and if you’re so inclined, donations to Alameda Meals on Wheels will be accepted and I’ll match what you give to AMOW!

2 postcards will be going out via snail mail!

THE SECOND STORY | February 12th, 2019

When It’s Important…Find the Facts

Most parents don’t put a lot of credence in the statements “Everyone is doing it” and “No one does that anymore.” They’ll dig a little deeper and get the facts of the situation. Interestingly, when it comes to buying a home, similar common myths continue to prevail surrounding what it takes to buy a home.

One of the most common myths is that it takes 20% down payment to get into a home. Certainly, an 80% mortgage might have the most favorable interest rate. It won’t require mortgage insurance and qualifying requirements might be a little less but there are alternatives.

“88% of all buyers financed their homes last year and consistent with previous years, younger buyers were more likely to finance their home purchase. In 2018, the median down payment was 13% for all buyers, 7% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers.” Stated by the 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers.

  • Qualified Veterans are eligible for zero down payment, 100% mortgage loans without mortgage insurance.
  • Conventional loans are available with as little as 3-5% down payments.
  • FHA mortgages have a 3.5% down payment.
  • USDA mortgages for rural housing have two major products: one does not require a down payment and the other has a 3% down payment. Maps, based on population numbers, are available to determine if the area you’re interested in purchasing in is eligible for a USDA mortgage.

We’ve come to believe that facts can be instantly verified by searching on the Internet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things on the Internet that are questionable and certainly, that includes some information on mortgages. Specifically, some loans are not available in certain areas and to a particular persons based on their income and credit history.

The best approach, when it comes to buying a home, is to get the facts from a knowledgeable and trusted loan professional before you begin the home search process. Contact me at (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation.

A website may not provide relevant information for your individual situation. Purchasing a home is a large investment and taking the time to find out the facts is worth the effort.

THE SECOND STORY | February 7th, 2019

An email to my client…..

In my humble opinion, I think that the pricing (list/sale) issue is generational.

For those who have just come into the market, have kids in school (or no kids at all but may be planning on having a family), Alameda seems very tame and homey. Most newbies aren’t involved in local politics (they’ll find out about that later). Alameda is flat, easy to get around, close to parks and beaches, close to shopping. That why lots of us like it!

This is a photo of the clouds along Shoreline, last year. But I was driving to Pleasanton for a meeting this week, and the hills were full of snow!

However, these folks are bringing a lot of $$$ into this market, whether the prices are shifting or not. As far as detached homes go, what we paid 350K for 20-30 years ago, is now 1M+.  The old 400K is now the new 900K+.

Obviously, this is not a rule, but a shift in how we live.

The newer generations don’t know how to wait in line. They demand instant help via any of the devices we carry around with us including how to buy real estate or carve a turkey.

They share meals at restaurants with long tables full of strangers, with whom they become ‘friends’. They have their groceries delivered to their houses, as well as their meals. They use ride-share vehicles and some don’t even own a car.

The A model townhome (that I have listed and you saw) may not seem the best for baby-boomers BUT it’s a single level, attached on only one side.  But the A model floor plan could be a solution to Gen X&Y and the Millennials.

Several Baby-Boomers have looked at the A model I have listed, but the number of younger generation lookers have out-numbered them. There are parks just outside the door, garages are used for storage (not multiple cars), bus transport is accessible. The last A model I sold, about a year ago, was purchased by the younger generation, and I think we had 7 offers on it.

Any potential buyer, anywhere, is buying a location, that just happens to have a house/home/condo/townhome/ sitting on it.

As you well know, many of the original townhomes on Bay Farm Island were built in the 60’s & early 70’s. Those are mostly row-homes, straight in a line, with garages in the rear, on an alley. The Community of Harbor Bay Isle has several individual smaller townhome communities that have a meandering physical layout, with lots of trees and lagoons, built in the 80’s with garages in the rear, not straight out in front.


Yes, we do have inventory…and it’s increasing. And some of the prices are coming down, either by price reductions (read motivation), or if it’s been on the market 30-60 days with no offers.

Welcome to my world!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 11

Pending 5

Sold 7

Total Active 23, including 3 Price Changes, and 1 Active Contingent

Total Pending 31, of which 5 want Backup offers to the pending offer

The Super Bowl survived without me (it’s just too dangerous to spend my time watching it), and Valentine’s Day is almost here, then Presidents Day…and I hear there’s some chatter to make our National Election Day a holiday. Carry on!

PS I did have a former client call me this week, wanting to know if I knew any agent in Huntington Beach.  He was calling on behalf of a friend in Connecticut who has a home to sell in S. CA. I did find a great person (through my Certified Residential Specialist organization) who has interviewed for that job. If you, or a friend, have a need for an agent somewhere in the US, let me know and I might be able to make a connection. It sure beats finding anybody without any credentials! Keep me in mind for those referrals!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 5th, 2019

Your Real Estate Resource

Being a better homeowner is a full-time job. It takes good information to make good decisions not only when you buy and sell but all the years you own a home.

Think of times when you need advice on financing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, finding reasonable and reliable contractors and lots of other things. Imagine how nice it would be to have a real estate information line you could call whenever you have a question.

Our objective is to move from a one-time sale to customers for life; a select group of friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We believe that if we help you and your friends with all your real estate needs, we can earn the privilege to be your real estate professional.

Throughout the year, we’ll send reminders and suggestions by email and social media that enhance your homeowner experience. When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along. You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate. We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future. Please let us know how we can help you.

THE SECOND STORY | January 31st, 2019

Modern Family…Phil Dunphy is my hero.



Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) cracks me up. He’s a Realtor (actually an actor in S. CA). And in this week’s episode, he was very frustrated…showing over 200 houses (high-end ones at that), over the years to a rich guy, who wouldn’t spend his money.

Let’s get real….agents like to eat while on tour. Not they go out to eat….but they like to eat free food:  that they can get and grab while at an open house on the tour (Tuesdays), and while talking to others about issues of the day…like the Super Bowl or the local weather.

Some of the hosts (listing agents) offer food. It’s been a long time since I’ve offered food. It’s the property that should be attractive (in price), or has been completely re-made or reinvented.

I was alone this week, for almost an hour…hosting a home on the Broker Tour. Then 18 agents showed up during the last hour. Maybe they’d been fed by other agents. But they were very kind about what they saw at the property. “Hey, Mikey, they like it!”

I have enough to do, so I don’t feed the agents…for like decades. Besides, who wants to clean up after those agents? Not me. It takes weeks and/or months, to get a property ready for the market. Let’s keep it that way.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour 9

New 9 (See the Content Box to the right of this that features my new listing @ 1151 Admiralty Lane. Single level, 2bd, 2bath, patio, townhome, w/ 2 car garage.

Total Active 41, including 2 AC (active contingent), and 5 PCH (price changes)

Total Pending 35

Sold 9

I’ll be at 1151 Admiralty Lane (Bay Farm Island, Islandia townhomes) on Sunday 2-4pm for an open house. Come on by…..rain or shine!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 29th, 2019

Is a Home Equity Loan an Option?

Here’s the scenario: you have a project and need to borrow some money, but you want to do it in the most economic manner. You’ve got a low rate on your existing first mortgage and don’t want to do a cash-out refinance and pay a higher rate. Is a home equity loan an option?

Prior to 2018, homeowners could have up to $100,000 of home equity debt and deduct the interest on their personal tax return. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the home equity deduction unless the money is used for capital improvements.

Regardless of the deductibility, lenders will still loan money to owners who have equity in their home and good credit. The most common reasons people borrow against their home equity are:

  • Consolidate debt with higher interest rates
  • Make improvements on their home
  • Refinance an existing home equity line of credit
  • Down payment for another home or rental investment
  • Creating reserves or available access for potential needs

One available loan is a fixed-rate home equity loan, commonly referred to as a second mortgage. It is usually funded at one time, with amortized payments for terms that could range from five to fifteen years.

Another option is a home equity line of credit or HELOC, where a homeowner is approved for up to a certain amount at a floating-rate over a ten-year period. The borrower can draw against the amount as needed and would pay interest every month and eventually, pay down the principal.

The amount of money that can be borrowed is determined by the equity. Lenders generally will not exceed 80% of the value of the home. If a home was worth $400,000, the 80% ceiling would be $320,000. If the homeowner had an unpaid balance on their first loan of $240,000, an amount up to $80,000 would be possible.

The next variable is the borrowers’ credit score which will determine the rate of interest that will be charged. The higher the score, the lower the rate the borrower will pay. And the converse is true, the lower the score, the higher the rate.

Another common variable considered is the borrowers’ total debt to income ratio. Ideally, the combination of regular monthly debt payments should not exceed 43% of their monthly gross income.

If you have good credit and an adequate amount of equity, your home could be the source of the funds you need. There is a lot of competition among lenders and shopping around can make a difference.

Call us at (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional. If you have questions about whether the interest on the loan will be deductible, talk to your tax professional.

THE SECOND STORY | January 24th, 2019

Welcome to Home-Ownership…classes are ever-continuing…


There’s a lot to be said for homeownership.

  1. You think you own it..(actually you own when you pay all cash, otherwise the bank owns it).
  2. You think it’s perfect (and it very well may be) but then you want to change something.
  3. Or you think everything is all right…until these items (or something like them) happen:

Now I’m speaking for myself (and these items took place within the last 4 months).

  • My dishwasher won’t drain.
  • My washing machine drains onto the laundry room floor.
  • The handyperson, who was referred to me, said he fixed the dishwasher. Not so much.
  • The guy (an appliance pro that I’ve used before) who installed my new dishwasher, pulled out the old one, and it weighed so much he could hardly move it. Turns out it was holding a bunch of water..and that’s why it didn’t drain. And he picked up the new one, too! We have a winner!
  • The guy who was supposed to fix the handle on my escape ladder, said he’d come back to install the new handle..and he never showed up. I guess the 300 bucks I paid him was enough to make him disappear.
  • The same guy who did a great job and replaced my dishwasher, added a new gasket to the washing machine. No more leakage, seepage.
  • My roofer (who also did my solar installation) always comes by once per year, after the first rain. The carriage house definitely needed a new roof..and I noticed some of the granules flaking off. His crew came over and it was done in 3 days..and he checked all the gutters and the house roof. He no longer takes new business, but I’m so glad he was referred to me by a neighbor, who also used to work with me at Harbor Bay Realty, when it existed.
  • I decided to get an excellent company,  NBI (National Building Inspections), to do a pest and property inspection on this old beast of a house. Results? No too bad, especially since the last time I did these inspections was about 30 years ago when we bought this place. I recommend them to my clients, as well.

I wanted to replace 5 toilets in this building, and one of the furnaces went dead. The NBI inspector recommended these folks:  Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Mr. Sparky (electrical), and One Hour Heat and AC. These companies are great! They showed up within their window of time, they had uniforms on, their trucks explained who they were, and because I joined their Home Protection Club, they waive the service call ($59 but that doesn’t include any labor or materials).

The good news is that I’ll never refer a person who doesn’t do at least a good job, for my clients! I don’t want them to experience what I’ve been through. And it’s worth every penny to pay to fix these items so my clients/friends won’t need the ‘sinking heart and empty wallet’ feeling.

Back in the day, I used to send out a vendor referral list. Too many things have changed too quickly to do that these days. We’re all in this together. IF you have a recommendation for a vendor, who does good work, let me know! And let me know of those disasters you may have faced.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 5

New 5

Pending 7

Sold 3

Total active 42

(includes 4 active contingent and 1 price change)

Total pending 34

I’m done!

Call, text, em me if you have comments or questions!

All good, all of the time!

best, m

THE SECOND STORY | January 22nd, 2019

Home Inventory

Generally speaking, when you need an inventory of your personal belongings, it is too late to make one. Sure, you can reconstruct it but undoubtedly, you’ll forget things and that can cost you money when filing your insurance claim.

Most homeowner’s policies have a certain amount of coverage for personal items that can be 40-60% of the value of the home.

Homeowners who have a loss are usually asked by the insurance company for proof of purchase which can come in the form of a receipt or current inventory of their personal belongings.

The most organized people might find it difficult, if not impossible, to find receipts for the valuable things in their home. Think about when you’re rummaging around a drawer or closet looking for something else and you discover something that you had totally forgotten that you had.

An inventory is like insurance for your insurance policy to be certain that you list everything possible if you need to make a claim. Systematically, make a list of the items by going through the rooms, along with the drawers and closets. In a clothes closet, you can list the number of shirts, pants, dresses and pairs of shoes but higher cost items should be listed separately.

Photographs and videos can be adequate proof that the items belonged to the insured. A series of pictures of the different rooms, closets, cabinets and drawers can be very helpful. When video is used, consider narrating as it is shot and be sure to go slow enough and close enough to see the things clearly.

For more suggestions and an easy to use, interactive form, download a Home Inventory, complete it, and save a copy off premise, either in a safety deposit box or digitally in the cloud if you have server-based storage available like Dropbox.

home inventory 001.png

THE SECOND STORY | January 17th, 2019

Yeah, this is what it looks like when a sump pump (or 2) fails….


3 pumps: a back up for the main pump and a back up for the backup. 2 failed (what are those odds?), and with a lot of folks’ help and effort, no flooding! I had enough plumbers here I called it a Plumbing Party! Plus, we had 2 sharp 3.4 earthshakes in the last 2 nights!


Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 9

Pending 5

Sold 4

Total active 44, including 5 contingent and 2 price changes

Total pending 30

My listing at 2515 Central #103 has had a lot of private showings and 7 of those agents have asked for the disclosures. It’s as large as a 2 bedroom house (over 1200 sf), all on one level, and has a deeded/dedicated parking space in the common garage. AND if/when it stops raining, the sewer test for the building will be performed! There are only 16 units in the complex!

After last Sunday’s open house, per the mls, my Seller is ready to look at offers! As I’ve said in the marketing material…what a great location, so close to transport (all kinds), Park Street is 1.5 blocks away, close to parks, schools, library, and the Alameda Theatre! You may even think about getting rid of your car!

OK..that’s a wrap. Call, text, em, if you have questions about A-town’s market!

Stay dry!

best, marilyn

check out my ‘for fun’ blog…