THE SECOND STORY | October 22nd, 2019

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

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Whether it is a cosmetic or a mechanical reason for upgrading a toilet, you may not know all the choices that are involved to choose the right one for your home. The current toilet may have cracks or leaks in the bowl or tank. It could be the aggravation of constant clogging or inefficient flushing. Maybe there is damage in the porcelain bowl or built-up mineral deposits that are clogging the inlet holes or syphon tube.

If frequent repairs have you on a first name basis with the plumber, it may be time to consider replacing the toilet. There are a lot of things to consider and the following list may help you sort through the choices.

  • Round, oval or compact oval … There are two basic shapes of toilets: round and oval. The round bowl requires less space and are less expensive. The oval or elongated tend to be more comfortable but require more space from the wall than round ones. Most manufacturers produce a compact oval model also.
  • One-piece, two-piece and wall hung … Manufacturers make one-piece models that mold the tank and bowl into one unit. These can be a little more expensive, but they take up less space. The two-piece with separate tank and bowl are more common. The wall hung requires less space and make the room look larger, but installation will be more expensive.
  • Height … Standard toilet height is 15 inches. An alternative to the standard is a comfort height which is more like a chair at 17-19 inches tall. This can be an advantage for older and taller people as well as those with a mobility problem.
  • Trapway – The trapway is a channel from the bottom of the bowl to the drainpipe that also keeps gas entering the home from the sewer. While the trapway shows on the outside of most models, there are skirted or concealed models available for a more aesthetic appearance.
  • Single or dual flush … Single flush toilets use the same volume of water each time it is flushed. Dual flush toilets have two options for flushing liquid or solid waste. This gives the user the ability to conserve water when appropriate.
  • Water per flush … In an effort to save water, in 1995 the Department of Energy required toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush. Since then, California and Georgia, increased the restriction to 1.28 gpf which saves 20% more water.
  • Gravity-feed or pressure assisted – For four hundred years, gravity has been used to move the water through a flushable toilet bowl to eliminate the waste. As water restrictions were added, pressure assisted toilets were introduced to assist the lower volume of water. A sealed cylindrical tank inside the ceramic toilet tank provides the additional pressure. These types of toilets are nosier than conventional flush types.

Once you’ve decided on what features are important, you can shop brands that fit your needs. If you’re curious to what kind of a job it is to install it, there are lots of videos on YouTube that will show you in detail what to expect. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you’ll understand the process more.

THE SECOND STORY | October 18th, 2019

The natives have claimed their land back….

I took a bit of a working vacation….drove to Newport Beach with my bike on the back of my car. I stayed there for 5 nights. Had some lovely bike rides.

Then I drove to San Diego for a 3-day class to prep for renewing my real estate Broker’s License but stayed in SD for 5 nights. Had nice visits and a bike ride in SD with my son, his wife, and my 2 grandkids.

Then I drove from San Diego to Lodi (that’s a long drive)! Stayed there for 2 nights. Got home on Thurs eve..and now am writing my blogs on Friday eve.

 

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller & agent wants backup offers)

Broker Tour Tues 12

Active listings 51 including 1 BOM ad 5 PCH

Pending 9 including 3 PSB

Sold 18

Text, em, call me if you have questions about this market. Note how many Alameda properties have price reductions this week….that alone tells me about the market.

All good! It’s getting so dark so soon!

best, marilyn

check out my “for fun’ blog….Boomer-Chick-Musings.com

THE SECOND STORY | October 15th, 2019

Interior Condensation Solutions

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Condensation occurs when the air has too much moisture in it which is felt as high humidity. The water deposits on various surfaces that are cooler than the air itself. Several things can contribute to the high humidity such as cooking, dishwashers, clothes dryers, bathing and long showers.

If the home has a crawl space under the floor, inadequate ventilation or insulation can cause moisture in the home. There seems to be a difference of opinions about whether to vent or not vent. First, determine if you are having a problem and then, weigh the options available to find the best solution.

Condensation that forms on windows and other surfaces in your home can cause damage to window trim, frames, drywall, floor coverings and sub-floors as well and the interior framing.

To reduce condensation in a home, the moisture saturating the air needs to be reduced. Just as steam from a shower can fog a mirror, warm air holds more moisture. When the air cools, it releases the moisture. There are other things that can be done to reduce the moisture and the condensation.

  • Adjust humidifier
  • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
  • Circulate the air; ceiling fans can help with this
  • Open windows to release warm air
  • Raise temperature
  • Add weather stripping
  • Window insulation kits
  • Storm windows
  • Move plants that release moisture in the air

The average life of a bathroom exhaust fan is about ten years with kitchen fans lasting about fifteen years. Regular cleaning can increase the life of the fans. Bathroom exhaust fans should be vented to the outside and should be run for 15-20 minutes after using the bath or shower to remove the moisture that causes mold and mildew.

Regulating the humidity in a home can protect against damage but it also promotes comfort in the form of breathing, relieving dry skin, sinus problems and sickness in general. Breathing is easier and the air feels more pleasant.

THE SECOND STORY | October 8th, 2019

Selecting an agent

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When a whole lobster was presented at the table of a restaurant, the customer noticed there was only one claw on it. He asked what happened to the lobster and the waiter said, maybe he lost a fight with another lobster. The customer replied to the explanation by saying “then, bring me the winner.”

There are approximately 1.3 million REALTORS® in the U.S. The July 2019 Existing Home Sales annualized about 5.4 million units with a listing side and a selling side that totals 10.8 million transactions. That means that the average number of units sold per agent is 8.

In any given market, 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes. 260,000 agents are selling 8,480,000 or an average of 32 transactions sides. Some markets are dominated by 10% of these successful agents selling 90% of the market. If that were the case, 130,000 agents are selling 9,720,000 or an average of 75 transactions sides.

The question you should ask yourself is who do you want representing you in the purchase or sale of the largest asset that most people have? Do you want an average agent, or do you want a powerhouse agent who can provide you the best advice, avoid issues that can cost time, and maximize the results that you expect and deserve?

Finding the right property is listed as the most difficult experienced by buyers (56%), according to the Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, together with the paperwork (20%) and understanding the process and steps (16%) makes these the most important areas of expertise needed when evaluating your agent.

An agent provides valuable services for buyers and sellers during the transaction that can make a difference in finding the “right” home or buyer, negotiating the best terms, and closing on time. The answers to the following questions can help you decide who to work with in your next purchase or sale.

  • Describe your experience in real estate?
  • What are your personal sales stats compared to the market? (For sellers, list price to sales price ratio, days on market; for buyers, average # of houses shown and closure rate)
  • Describe your strategy to accomplish my needs?
  • Do you have references and/or reviews?
  • What makes you different than your competition?
  • Can you help me find the other professionals and vendors?
  • What is your fee and who pays it?

For more information, download the Sellers Guide and Buyers Guide.

THE SECOND STORY | October 4th, 2019

More meetings…..

I don’t know what planet we can see in the night sky…but it’s really close to the moon. This was taken on my cell phone last night..and it turned out better than I thought it would. 

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/@11887772

 

I’ve been to 4 meetings between yesterday and today. And they’re all important, at least to me.

Wednesday’s morning meeting was titled “Better Together” and it’s true…we are all better if we work together and share a bit of our real lives. I find that doing so, will open up doors to us, because we’re being truthful and vulnerable. This was at our Alameda  Chapter of the Bay East Assoc. of Realtors.

Then yesterday evening I went to our (every) Wed evening meeting at our church.  I was an usher, and I ushered folks in through the front door. This is always very calming to me because we have a great organist that plays on our huge pipe organ. There are hymns that we sing.  We listen to our First Reader read selections from the Bible and our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and there’s some testimony time. These calm moments are more heavenly than earth-bound.

Today, I went out to the BayEast Association of Realtors, in Pleasanton, to hear our Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Gov (yep, that’s his first name) Hutchinson. I’ve been listening to him for years, going way back to the Harbor Bay Realty days.

Gosh, between his knowledge of rent control for the state of CA and our local rent control in Alameda (local city ordinances do supersede the state laws), I’m slowly, but surely, starting to get a handle on the specifics of our Alameda-style of rent control.

Then I finished up this evening with a group of housing experts from various agencies/companies at Independence Plaza (which is one of the City’s senior apartment/housing facilities, AND our Housing Authority office). This was sponsored by our local League of Women Voters. It was all about adding affordable housing and who/how/why we need it. We had experts there. Our Mayor was there, as well. I’m not sure this issue will be resolved, in my lifetime.

I ask myself…why do I do this? Then I answer myself: I want to hear it coming from the horse’s (person’s) mouth.  Attendance (or watching on Alameda cable 3) beats rumors. I do it for myself, and to keep apprised of what folks are thinking about. And maybe I can contribute something logical to the conversation: either with my clients or with neighbors & friends.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 11

Active listings 64 (including 1 AC & 3 PSB)

Pending listings 11 (including 4 PSB)

Sold 10

That’s a wrap!

Have a good weekend!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 1st, 2019

Price It Right the First Time

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The Internet has empowered all buyers with information and home buyers are no exception. The amount of information available to public includes details on size, condition, sales history, current inventory, recent sales, photographs, videos, school info, drive-times, entertainment and much more.

When a seller realizes that buyers are educated with facts, it becomes unlikely that they will pay more than a home is worth.

If a home is priced too high in the beginning, it may stay on the market longer than normal which could adversely affect the ultimate sales price. It is a natural reaction from people, personally or professionally, to assume that something must be wrong with a home that doesn’t sell in a reasonable time for that market.

The seller is entitled to maximize the equity in their home and pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to achieve that. Overpricing can reduce buyers activity because they assume that the best homes are purchased soon after they are offered for sale and if one has been on the market longer than normal, there must be a problem with it. Similarly, sales associates may come to the same conclusion.

After buyers have seen a few homes in a certain price range, they begin to expect similar amenities in each home they look at. If a home is overpriced, it will not compare favorably with the other homes that are being viewed. Sometimes, the buyer may even think that another home could be a bargain because it offers much more for the same price as the overpriced listing.

Shopping the market means looking at the homes that meet a buyers’ wants and needs and selecting the one that gives them the most, whether it is in price or amenities. The overpriced listing doesn’t compete well, and it extends the market time. There is a documented study that shows that the longer a home stays on the market, the lower the price will be.

It is essential that a seller receive factual information to price their home to compete favorably in the current market. Some of the obstacles can include:

  • Failure to objectively compare the current and sold homes with theirs
  • Neighbors who mislead the seller as to how much they got for their home
  • Fear of making a mistake and thinking they can start high and always lower the price
  • Loss of perspective because the seller is emotionally involved
  • Expecting the home to sell for more than fair market value because they need the money
  • Agents who will accept a listing at any price in order to tie up the property until the seller realizes the price is too high

What a seller paid for the home or the cost to rebuild it today do not affect market value. Neither does the amount spent by sellers on certain improvements that were made for their own pleasure and enjoyment.

It is unrealistic to expect a buyer to pay more than market value for a home. The seller sets the price of a home but the buyer determines the value. If the home is priced properly in the beginning, it is more likely to sell for a higher price, in a shorter period and with less problems.

THE SECOND STORY | September 26th, 2019

Lunch on the HORNET

A week ago, some local Realtors were invited to have lunch on the USS Hornet, along with a huge group of local biz owners and local citizens, who were there to hear our new City Manager tell us about Alameda and his plans for The Island City.

The Hornet is truly a veritable floating history museum:

The bow (front end) of the Hornet
Rescue helicopter…for the Apollo spacecraft
This says it all….you never know what you’ll                    bring back to the earth!

Apollo Command Module – the real deal!

Last year the annual lunch was held at the Rock Wall Winery, which is also on the former Alameda Naval Air Station property.

Besides being very cold inside the winery, both locations were loud and echo-y and we could barely hear either of those main-event-speakers over the constant chatter of voices and plates.

These lunches were sponsored by the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. It’s always interesting to hear diverse opinions on the status/state of the city.

In my opinion, they are terrific and it allows some time to talk about biz in Alameda (or other subjects like local politics, gossip, or where people are going or have gone on vaca).

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent (the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. This could be when another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the deadlines, the back-up moves into the primary position and it’s bye-bye to the first buyer). If the second buyer finds a property that s(he) likes…then they can drop out of the 1st property and write on the second property. One thing is for sure…you do NOT want to buy both properties at the same time.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Tues tour 13

Active listings 65 including: 1 AC, 2 BOM, 3 PCH, 3 PSB

Pending 13 including: 3 PSB

Sold 8

Sold stats for this week…

Days on Market:

51 (high)

9 Low

Average 18

Median 13

All done for now!  Enjoy the weekend…contact me if you have questions about the market, where it’s going, where it’s been, etc. I’ll admit I don’t know all of the answers….

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 24th, 2019

What every homeowner should know about their property insurance

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Insurance is required on a home by the mortgage company, but homeowners rely on it for peace of mind also. Unfortunately, people may not take the time to investigate their policy and what it covers until they need to file a claim, which could be too late.

While it may not seem like the best use of your time, an in-depth visit with your property insurance agent once a year could be valuable to you if you have losses and could increase your peace of mind.

The following are some questions you can ask your insurance agent:

  • What is the insured value of the policy and the replacement cost of your home? Insured value is the amount that would be paid for a total loss but replacing the home could cost more than that amount.
  • What is the deductible? Higher deductibles on the first amount of the loss are one way to lower the cost of the premium. It may sound good when you’re having to pay for the policy but feel very different at the time you file a claim.
  • What does the policy cover? Typical policies cover fire, theft, vandalism and storms. Homeowner policies bundle personal belongings and some liability coverage. They can differ not only from company to company but from policy to policy. Be clear on what is covered.
  • What does it not cover? … Some perils are usually not covered by policies like hurricane, flooding, power outage, rising water and earthquake. It can be confusing because a broken pipe might be covered but rising water from backed up sewer is not.
  • What is your anniversary date? … Policies are usually written for one-year and should be renewed before they expire. Mortgage companies like to renew them a month before they expire so there will not be a lapse in coverage. That is why borrowers with escrow accounts for taxes and insurance must fund them accordingly.
  • Is it paid by an escrow account with the mortgage? New homeowners should verify that their house payment includes 1/12th the annual taxes and insurance so they will not be surprised with a large bill when they become due.
  • Does your policy include liability coverage? … This covers claims made by third parties of bodily or property damage done by the insured. It could be as simple as a guest slips and injures themselves in your home. It is important to know the limits of liability and consider larger amounts especially, if you have a higher net worth or risk profile.
  • What is an umbrella policy? – This is a separate policy that increases the liability coverage above the limits of the homeowner’s policy. It can be a relatively inexpensive coverage.
  • Are personal belongings included? … Most homeowners policies include an amount toward personal belongings like furniture, rugs, housewares, and clothes. It may be expressed as a percentage of the overall policy. The question is: will it cover your belongings or does it need to be increased?
  • What is the process to file a claim? … Most claims require proof of purchase or a current inventory of the home. Since most people don’t have receipts except for big ticket items at best, the inventory becomes important. Videos, still pictures or a detailed list can help to satisfy this need. Click here for a digital Home Inventory.
  • Are there additional living expenses included? … Some policies include temporary living expenses if you are displaced from your home.
  • Does a home office require additional insurance? … Many homeowners work from their home and have special equipment that may not be covered normally. If you “meet and greet” people at home, ask about additional liability coverage.
  • Ask about floater policies on big-ticket items? … Some items like jewelry, furs or collectibles need to be scheduled or covered on a separate policy.

Insurance is meant to give you peace of mind against possible losses that could financially harm you without it. Because insurance is very specific about what it does and does not cover, it is important that you have a good understanding of your policy. A policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, and it deserves due consideration.

THE SECOND STORY | September 19th, 2019

Where ya gonna go…in a tsunami?

I attended a city meeting this evening….about tsunamis. We haven’t felt the effect of one of these for a long time, but the members of the not-crowded City Council chamber was mostly boat owners/dwellers.

I think that the city has records that I own a boat(s). We did own 2 boats and a canoe at one time.

The canoe is now hanging from the rafters in the carriage house (i.e. Carl’s former workshop). The canoe was one way that Carl taught Evan how to build stuff.

I got rid of the 26′ 1966 Chris Craft Hubba Hubba (a twin-engine gas guzzler) years ago. Sold it for $1. Yep…one buck. (see a previous post on Boomer-Chick-Musings.com)

As I was looking at the map on the screen this evening, I realized I’d seen the effects of a tsunami…where was I? Oh yeah. I was in 5th or 6th grade and we lived in San Rafael, in 1964.

That was the first time I’d seen the tide come in and go out within 15 minutes? Usually, the tides run between 6-7 hrs each. The Alaska earthquake hit and we felt the effects: 15 minutes for high tide and immediately 15 minutes for low tide.

COLUMBIA 24 CHALLENGER photo

My dad took me and my brother to the harbor where he kept his sailboat. It was a 24′ Columbia Challenger. San Francisco Bay is a much larger body of water than Newport Harbor, thus the larger boat.

The upshot of the meeting this evening is this: If we have a tsunami: go to Buena Vista Ave. and wait it out there, per the map that the presenters had. And BTW, Clinton Ave is considered high ground. Maybe we can have a bar-b-que.

Bay Farm Island, South Shore, and Eastshore….umm, not so much. They’ll be swamped (literally).

(BTW…Evan built a fence with some of his friends around the front of their house..it’s the type that is now “in” – the boards lay laterally rather than vertically. It looks good because it matches the vintage of the home – circa 1960s.)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent (the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. This could be when another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the deadlines, the back-up moves into the primary position and it’s bye-bye to the first buyer). If the second buyer finds a property that s(he) likes…then they can drop out of the 1st property and write on the second property. One thing is for sure…you do NOT want to buy both properties at the same time.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Tuesday Tour 14

Active Listings (including 1 AC, 1 BOM, 4 PCH)

Pending Listings 12 (including 5 PSB)

Sold Listings 12

That’s a wrap! Contact me if you have questions (or if you have the answers) about this market!

best, marilyn

See my for fun blog Boomer-Chick-Musings.com

THE SECOND STORY | September 17th, 2019

Want to be a Landlord?

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Real estate has consistently been one of the highest rated investments available to individuals. TV shows certainly make rentals look easy and you may even know someone who has made a lot of money with them. Possibly, the thought has crossed your mind that if they can do it, you can too.

Before you contract for your first investment, ask yourself some questions that could save you time and energy. Not all people have the time, the inclination or even the skill to manage property. Landlords need to be good business people who can maximize revenue and minimize expenses. If investors don’t have the skills and talent to handle some of the repairs, they at least need to know reputable and reasonable service professionals.

Another important element is to be familiar with the state and local landlord tenant laws. You’ll need to know what are allowable security deposits and where the money can be held. Knowing how long you have to return it to a tenant is important and what to do if you plan to keep all or part of it for damages done. It is important to know about the eviction process and how fair housing applies.

If you decide that you may not be cut out for being a landlord, it won’t eliminate investing in rentals. It does mean that you will need to engage a property management company who is capable of dealing with all aspects of the process. The peace of mind and convenience will cost you a fee, usually a percentage of the rent collected. They can handle finding a tenant, doing the background check and writing the lease but there will be an additional fee for that service.

Even though your expenses will be higher with a property manager, with their experience, they should be able to help you lease the property for more money than you can get and will probably have service providers to do the work needed for less.

Occasionally, rental property requires out of pocket expenses for repairs and improvements which is like making another capital contribution. As equity builds in a rental property due to appreciation and principal reduction, the owner does have the option to take cash out of the investment either to pay additional expenses or to use any way the owner wants. Pulling equity out of a rental doesn’t even trigger a taxable event.

Single-family homes and up to four-unit buildings offer an investor the opportunity to get a high loan-to-value mortgage at a fixed interest rate for 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control compared to other alternative investments.

Many investors like the fact that you can borrow to purchase a rental investment where many other investments require cash. The use of borrowed funds can create an advantage called leverage. Assume you paid cash for a $100,000 home that generated $7,000 income after the rent was collected and expenses were paid. Divide the value of the home into the income and it would earn 7%.

If you decided to put an $80,000 mortgage on it at 5% interest, the interest expense would be $4,000 leaving only $3,000 income. However, at that point, you’d only have $20,000 invested in the property. Divide the cash invested into the income and the rate of return would increase to 15%.

This is a simple example of leverage showing that borrowed funds can increase an investor’s yield on a property.

Rental property can be an excellent investment when it is treated like the business that it is. Knowledge of the investment will reduce the risk and enhance the opportunity to make a profit. Some investors consider their rental income as “mailbox money” because each month, they go to their mailbox and they have money being sent to them by their tenants. The benefits of rental property can easily outweigh risk involved.

Contact me for more information on rental properties and the option to be the landlord or to delegate it to a property manager.