THE SECOND STORY | May 16th, 2019

“As Is” does not mean….

…” in ignorance.”

This applies to both Buyers and Sellers.


Buyers are sometimes willing to overlook what they don’t read or what they don’t see because they’re so excited about getting a property.

Sellers are sometimes willing to overlook the obvious because they’re used to whatever it is (dangling electrical outlets, deep scratches on the hardwood floors, carpets/rugs covering up what they don’t want to see, water stains under sinks, on the ceilings, roofs that need patching or a new layer, or items that require permits but they don’t have them (it was a do-it-yourself job, or I didn’t know that, or whatever).

This is why we get inspections upfront these days by proven professionals (sometimes they may have a current General Contractors license). Many inspectors don’t have a GC (like most of them).

-These inspections allow the Sellers to be informed about what is happening currently in their property (before they put it on the market, even though they’re “used to it” and want to sell it ‘as is’).

-These inspections allow the Buyers to be informed about what is happening in places they won’t necessarily go…like the crawl space, like looking up the chimney, climbing on the roof (let the experts do this stuff).

I think I mentioned that I had both pest and property inspections done on this old beast of a house within the last year. And then things happened that I couldn’t easily see, much less anticipate, in the crawlspace (the cast iron sewer pipes – very, very old- were dripping), the sump pump (was pumping in what should have been pumped outside) and more.

And this is where I remind you, that you need to plan on spending 1% per year, of the current market value (not what you paid for it when you first bought it). It’s a job, not a hobby,  to get things fixed, repaired, replaced. Hire known professionals.

To that end…I’ve been keeping a list of my clients who have contacted me regarding vendor recommendations since October of 2018. And at the same time, before I let them know who to call…I’ll pick up the phone and call them myself, (after normal biz hours), and leave a message to see if they’re still in biz. And some of those vendors pick the phone up during the off-hours! Now that’s dedication! And the stories…are quite amazing that they share with me in those off-hours.

I know you’re thinking, ‘Marilyn, get a life.’ Yep, and I think the life I have is quite decent, even sometimes, I think it’s the best!

(BTW, I’ve given out over 40 vendor names to clients and to those who aren’t clients but are referred to me.)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 16

New 17

Total Active 33 including 1 PCH

Total Pending 50

Sold 7

The rain! Enough! The plants are now growing and flowers are blooming!

Enjoy your weekend!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | May 14th, 2019

Comfort Systems

Heating and air-conditioning are frequently referred to as the “comfort systems.” If one has gone out in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort becomes a primary concern. Regular maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that homeowners can do themselves to ensure that the units operate properly.


  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annually, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

While using this list will prevent some things that may impede the comfort system’s proper performance, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor. Furnaces should also be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks. Preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.

THE SECOND STORY | May 9th, 2019


Crime Scene Investigation…like the TV show. NOPE!

It’s Customer Service Improvement.

Many years ago, a couple of local Realtors started talking to our Alameda Building Official (that’s the one who runs the Planning and Building Depts, aka Community Development Dept, these days).

We had so many questions that weren’t getting answered: when were permits required; what happens if an owner did work without permits: what happens when we walk into a house and it has units in it but the public records say it’s a single-family residence – can those be legalized; what happens when somebody turns an attic or a basement into living space?

The Building Official took us very seriously…enough so, that we started having meetings once per month. “We” were made up of contractors, a designer, an engineer, an Alameda historian, an architect, and 2-3 Realtors.

And we had Greg McFann (Building Official) come to some of our monthly Realtor meetings, so folks could ask questions of him.

This was a huge step for our city….it’s called communication. The old folks were retiring, and the newbies were communicating.

The permit office was made much more accessible, with staff that either knew what they were doing OR they could turn to an expert who could guide us through the issue.

These days we meet once per quarter! We catch up on what’s going on in A-town, new laws that could apply to us, we make time to ask questions.

Often these days the subject of ADU’s comes up (Accessory Dwelling Units). Lots of permits have been pulled, but not too many have been completed…due to the expense. And Alameda, as well as the state, is in a “we need more housing” crunch.

And we still meet (only once per quarter). It’s such a privilege to be part of this working group, and we can get out there and spread the word amongst our peers.

Our local Alameda Realtors don’t profess to know it all and especially in this environment where agents are coming into town from all over the county or even from other counties, but those of us who have been here and focus on Alameda, know that we’ve got resources that others do not…especially if you, the customers, don’t want to get involved in a lawsuit. We know the rules and we have folks who can explain them to us, in case we have some questions.

It continues to be a learning process. And I’m glad to be a small part of it.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Tour 11

New 11

Total Active 30 including 1 AC and 3 PCH

Total Pending 49

Total Sold this week 11

Notice I have a new listing, a triplex, at 1726-1728-1728 1/2 Central Ave. There will be no open houses and if a customer shows up during the designated times s(he) needs to have an agent with him/her and (s)he needs to give me a card with his biz info, before I’ll let them in. Tough chick here, eh?

Best, marliyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 7th, 2019

A Home Warranty Can Save Money

Your income tax is probably filed for last year by now and you’ve been through your expenses for the year. Money spent on repairs to your home is not deductible but being aware of how much you spent last year may help you make a decision that could save you money this year.

Sellers, often, provide a home warranty to buyers to give them peace of mind by limiting some of the out-of-pocket money spent on unexpected repairs for one year. Home warranties can be renewed by the buyer by paying the annual fee and any homeowner can purchase one for their home whether they had one when they bought it or not.

A home service contract typically covers mechanical systems and built-in appliances in the home. Many times, these items are not covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. They can also include other things such as pool and spa equipment, and free-standing appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers.

The process is simple. It doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. Once a plan is in effect, you call to report a claim. The company will assign a local profession to assess the problem and if covered, they will repair or replace the item. You will only pay a service fee.

Home protection plans can range in prices depending on area and coverages. Most start around $400-500 a year which could easily cover the cost for one claim alone.

For more information on home warranties in general, you can go to which is an association representing some of the premier home service contract providers. If you’d like to have a recommendation based on companies we work with in our area, give me a call at (510) 908-9021.

THE SECOND STORY | May 2nd, 2019

On the road to Sacto….for Legislation Day

A lot of Realtors (members of the leadership team, and members of our Local Government Relations committee) showed up yesterday for Legislation Day in Sacto. We had our state annual meeting close to the Capitol, and in the afternoon, we all tromped over to meet with our Legislators…in our case, it was Rob Bonta. We showed up to be sure that our electeds know that we stand for personal property rights.

Governor Gavin Newsom as he walked by….

It was a very long Wednesday, for most of us…I got up @ 5:15am, got to the coach (bus) @ 6:15am and arrived in Sacot @ 8:10? am. But what a lovely way to travel…no driving, some lovely breakfast bites, some laughs, and some good conversation.

The excitement was over as soon as we got on the coach to return to A-town, most of us napped or just zoned out by looking at the landscape.

I still needed to do flowers for our Wed eve church service which is always calming and inspirational.

This evening, about 6 pm I rode my bike up to the base where City Hall West is located. I attended a community ‘open house’ sponsored by the city, regarding our local rent control ordinance. It was quite good, we had the opportunity to talk with city officials and heads of departments, and chatted with others whom I hadn’t seen in a long time! Got back at just before 9pm.

Life is definitely not boring! And riding my bike back home from the base at night, was a first for me. Thank goodness I had my helmet with lights built into it, my bike light flashing, and there wasn’t too much traffic. Listening to the shipping containers being banged around on the Oakland side of the estuary, loading off and on those ships, was rather amazing.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 10

New 12

Active (total) 28 and 1 AC

Pending (total) 46

Sold 17

That’s a wrap! Enjoy this sunshine. If you are wondering about what the market is like…let me know…and we can have an honest discussion about it! Remember, I don’t have a crystal ball!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 30th, 2019

iBuyers – Convenient at a Price

There are an increasing number of real estate companies, termed iBuyers, like Open Door, Offerpad, Zillow, Knock and others that market a service that has an appeal to homeowners. The pitch for these quick cash offer companies will include some variation of “let us buy your home in days without the normal hassles of listing.”

This approach attempts to provide an alternative to selling a home in a normal manner at the expense of not realizing the full equity a homeowner is entitled. There is no fiduciary relationship requiring the broker to put a seller’s best interest above their own interest. An iBuyer does not represent a seller and does not owe client-level services like loyalty, obedience disclosure among other things required by most state license laws.

The offer is based on an automated valuation model, many times, without a physical inspection of the home. In some cases, a contract is written but there are provisions that allow iBuyers time to possibly “flip” the property to an investor or use an “out” in the contract to void the sale.

The reality is that a company cannot stay in business if they pay too much for the property. The iBuyer becomes the Seller who now must be concerned with pricing the home properly to cover the normal selling expenses as well as repairs, improvements, and holding costs that will be incurred until the property sells.

There could be circumstances that make it necessary for a homeowner to sell their home at a discount. The seller could be in a distressed situation needing immediate cash. They might need a quick sale and don’t want to be bothered with repairs or marketing efforts. Or possibly, they may have found their next home and need to act quickly. The instant liquidity comes at a cost to the seller in lower proceeds from the sale.

To realize the maximum possible equity, a real estate professional in your area can advise you about the fair market value of your home, a reasonably expected sales price, the costs involved and how long it will take. Before accepting a price to sell your home to a wholesaler, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what you can expect if you take a conventional sales route.

THE SECOND STORY | April 25th, 2019

A-Town event……Thursday, May 2 6:30-8:30

I’ll be attending this Community Open House. Details below! 

No photo description available.

The City of Alameda invites you to attend an open house to provide input on the City’s policies and proposed changes to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance

WHO: Anyone interested in Alameda’s Rent Stabilization program

WHAT: An open house for community members to review information about the existing law, potential changes, and provide input

WHERE: City Hall West, 950 West Mall Square, Room 201, Alameda Point

WHEN: Thursday, May 2, 2019, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

This event is the first of several outreach opportunities for the public to provide input to inform the City’s next steps regarding potential changes to the City’s Rent Stabilization program regulations.

Community members can drop in at any time. All ideas are welcome.

For questions and more information please contact Sarah Henry at 510-747-4714 or


Now on to this week’s business:

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Broker Tour 8

Total active listings 34 (including 1 AC, 1 BOM, 2 PCH)

Total pending listings 46

Total sold 16

That’s a wrap! Enjoy your weekend…contact me if you have ???? about the A-town real estate market!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | April 23rd, 2019

One Loan for Purchase & Renovations

The FNMA HomeStyle conventional mortgage allows a buyer to purchase a home that needs renovations and include them in the financing. This facilitates the purchase of the home and the renovations in one loan rather than getting a separate second mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The combination of these loans should save closing costs as well as interest rates which would typically be higher on a home improvement loan.

The borrower will need to have an itemized, written bid from a contractor covering the scope of the improvements. Any type of renovation or repair is eligible if it is a permanent part of the property. Improvements must be completed within 12 months from the date the mortgage loan is delivered.

  • 15 and 30-year fixed rate and eligible adjustable rate loans are available.
  • Typical FNMA down payments are available starting as low as 3% for a one-unit principal residence to 25% for three and four-unit principal residence and one-unit investment properties.
  • Borrower must choose his or her own contractor to perform the renovation.
  • Lender must review the contractor hired by the borrower to determine if they are adequately qualified and experienced for the work being performed. The Contractor Profile Report (Form 1202) can be used to assist the lender in making this determination.
  • Borrowers must have a construction contract with their contractor. Fannie Mae has a model Construction Contract (Form 3734) that may be used to document the construction contract between the borrower and the contractor.
  • Plans and specifications must be prepared by a registered, licensed, or certified general contractor, renovation consultant, or architect. The plans and specifications should fully describe all work to be done and provide an indication of when various jobs or stages of completion will be scheduled (including both the start and job completion dates)

Up to 50% of the renovation funds may be advanced for the cost of materials after the closing of the loan.

This mortgage does have a provision for the borrower to do a portion of the work themselves if it doesn’t exceed 10% of the total project and it must pass inspection on completion just as the contractor’s work.

It is recommended that borrowers thoroughly research this program before they commit to a loan. For detailed information, see FNMA HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage and Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2017-02. It is important to work with a mortgage officer who is familiar with these loans who can guide you through the process.

THE SECOND STORY | April 18th, 2019

Perfect weather in A-town today!

Fog off-sets the skyline of The City, today.

While I was hosting a broker tour this past Tuesday, a group of us (agents)    had some time to chat, and chat we did!

We had the opportunity to ask a lovely Redfin agent about the company’s business model.

Like most of us who are involved with real estate, there’s a bunch of flexibility. That’s why we like it: independent contractors, and ‘nobody being the boss of me’, (yet there is a chain of command, otherwise you’ll fail miserably or be sued).

And the stories can be amazing, hilarious, sad, or depressing. In this fast-paced world, it’s kind of unusual to take time to understand the other person’s point of view: no judgment, just listening. And then we keep on keeping on.

What I’ve come to learn over the decades is that people need to know you care…about them, their stories, their background, their money, their dreams, and their goals. And for the most part, if that doesn’t work for them, then I wish them good luck and best wishes in the future.

There’s plenty of room for everybody if you expand your fences OR just focus on what you know best. That’s pretty much how I run my biz.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

I did put a new listing on the market a week ago, and it will be open this Sunday, then offers, if any will be entertained this next Tuesday.  See the link to the right…a virtual tour, and you can see the ‘doll-house’ style, looking done on the floorplan. 1726 Lafayette St., Alameda!

New 14

Active (28 incl 1 active contingent)

Pending 48

Sold 13

WC (withdrawn, canceled) 1

That’s a wrap! Come on by Lafayette on Sunday…no, I won’t have bunnies playing in the front or back yard, and for sure I won’t give out candy to the kids! I’m sure they’ve had plenty!

best, marilyn

check out my ‘for fun blog’

THE SECOND STORY | April 16th, 2019

Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need

Periodically, you need to rid yourself of things that are taking up you time and space to make room for more of what you like and want.

There’s a frequently quoted suggestion that if you haven’t used something for two years, maybe it isn’t essential in your life.

If you have books you’ll never read again, give them to someone who will. If you have a deviled egg plate that hasn’t been used since the year your Aunt Phoebe gave it to you, it’s out of there. Periodically, go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, room and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item receives the decision to keep or get rid of. Consider these questions as you judge each item:

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Do you believe you’ll use it again?
  • Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep.

  1. Give it to someone who needs it or will appreciate it
  2. Sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.
  3. Donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction
  4. Discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet. If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it. Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet. If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud. There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox, to get the additional space you need. It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.