THE SECOND STORY | February 15th, 2018

Alameda summer in the winter.


Shoe tree @ Alameda Point, next to the estuary, near the basketball courts and ferry.

Take a look at my ‘for fun’ blog…

Last week my friend, Meredith, and I rode our bikes west on Shoreline, then over the mini bridge at Ballena Bay to the tip of that small peninsula. Then we turned around and biked over to the ‘ready reserve’ fleet, where the aircraft carrier (the Hornet) is based. Called Alameda Point these days (aka Alameda Naval Air Station), we rode around Spirit Alley (I call it alcohol alley), over to the estuary, and then back around the horrible housing (which is scheduled to get rebuilt), if I understand the projected plans.

BUT…I looked up and found this shoe tree where there are basketball courts and pick up games. I’m not sure if these are the shoes that the losers lost or whether the winners lost. The ‘tree’ is a light post.

We got back well after dark, but it was a gorgeous end-of-day-into-night ride.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

I had the opportunity to get outta town for about 5 hours this week…when I visited a couple of homes for sale in San Leandro, after I stopped off at the San Leandro City Hall. I went to the City Hall because I could not find how to get the permit histories online. Turns out nobody can do that.

So, I needed to drive to the San Leandro City Hall (it’s very nice), parked my car (thank goodness it was free), then went in the side door, asked the attendant about how I could get the info online, only for this lovely young woman (who was the BEST multi-tasker EVER) to explain that they don’t have the info online.

I spent over 2 hours in front of the only computer (thank goodness there was no line when I got there, but there was a line when I left), trying to read/interpret/decipher permits for two properties. Then I had to pay $1.15 cash for each page of the 12 pages I printed. REALLY?

Now I really appreciate what A-town has done for its citizens regarding using the tools we now have at our home/office desks. Plus, I think those city employees would rather get their work done than mess with folks like me in person. Thank you, Building Official Greg McFann, and his team in the department.

Broker Tour Tues 8

New 13

Pending 2

Sold 3 

Total active 29

Total pending 43

That does it for this week’s blog. Contact me if you have ???’s!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 13th, 2018

The “Right” Agent and the “Right” Home

Some buyers think that finding the right home is the critical part of the buying process and that is how they determine which agent to use. While it is important, there may be a broader skill set to consider when selecting your real estate professional.what buyers want-2017.png

The most recent NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicate that 52% of buyers do want help in finding the right home to purchase. There was a time when the public did not have access to all the homes on the market, but the Internet has changed that.

Helping to negotiate the price and terms of sale were identified by almost 25% of the buyers. No one wants to pay more than is necessary and the terms of the sale can be as important as the price.

The next largest area of assistance that buyers value has to do with financing and the paperwork. Even if a buyer has been through the process before, it very likely could have been several years and things have probably changed.

Since the cost of housing is dependent on the price paid for the home and the financing, a real estate professional skilled in these specialized areas can be very valuable in finding the “right” home. An agent’s experience and connections to allied professionals and service providers is equally important.

Ask the agent representing you to specifically list the tools and talent they have available to address these areas.

THE SECOND STORY | February 8th, 2018

Microwaves and real estate.

Take a look at my for-fun blog…

If you are familiar with the Herman cartoons by Jim Unger, you will know that the characters are usually fairly gross looking compilations of ignorance. One cartoon, in particular, has been very applicable to numerous situations in which I have been involved. This will seem dated compared to today’s TVs, but the message still rings true.

The cartoon consists of an elderly couple sitting in front of what appears to be a new T.V. A repairman, having analyzed the situation, is behind the set resting his arms on top of it. He states to the owners, (approximate wording here) “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the reception and the picture is no good because you bought yourselves a microwave!”

In a previous career as a commercial pilot and flight instructor, I used this cartoon in presentations to other instructors across the country, on the subject of “Know Thy Equipment.”

While thinking about the tremendous influx of details and material we must absorb and face in real estate these days (state and local laws, city and municipal ordinances, legal and tax consequences – especially in in 2018 with the tax code rewrite), it occurred to me that this same premise exists.

It is virtually impossible for one person to assimilate all that is necessary to put together often what appears to be even a simple straight-forward transaction.

The pilot relies on the plane, the mechanics, air traffic controllers, weather forecasters, and numerous other experts, in order that a flight takes off lands successfully.

A principal, in a real estate transaction, may be dealing with primarily one agent or brokerage, but many other relationships will dictate that a smooth transaction will come to a successful close.

Who might be on this ‘team’? Even in the most basic ‘deal,’ title and escrow specialists become members of the team. How about legal counsel, that could be called on? Real estate attorneys and tax advisors (not the run of the mill folks) but those who are familiar with real estate AND Internal Revenue (not yet tested or ruled on) Code changes? How about a defensible paper trail to document a transaction?

What about inspectors and contractors (are they really licensed), and do they stand behind their reports? Are they insured? And lastly, who is the agent, the company, and the track record of both of those? How about the marketing resources? Are they reliable, accountable?

As consumers principals have a right to know with whom they are dealing and ask for references. It may be tempting to hit the best pitch without asking for supporting evidence as to the effectiveness of those on the team.

Don’t get pulled into a situation, like our cartoon friends, who bought into something that looked like one item, and found out, to their dismay, it was something else. Taking the time to verify working relationships will often save the seller(s) or buyer(s), and/or exchangors in the transactions, not only time but many thousands of dollars.

Now sit down enjoy that popcorn in front of your new TV.

Alameda Real Estate This Week

Broker Tour Tues 9

New 9

PCH price change 1

Pending 8

Sold 6

Total active 28

Total pending 38

That’s a wrap! Call me to see if we may have a mutually acceptable basis upon which to do business. best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 6th, 2018

Convincing Advantages with Standard Deduction

The new tax law doubles the standard deduction and it is estimated that over 90% of taxpayers will elect to use it. However, even without considering tax benefits, homeownership has convincing advantages.26694742-250.jpg

Besides the personal and social reasons for owning a home, one of the most compelling is that it is cheaper. Principal reduction and appreciation are powerful dynamics that reduce the effective cost of housing.

Amortized loans apply a specific amount of each payment to the principal amount owed to retire the loan over the term. Some people consider it a forced savings account; when the payment is made, the unpaid balance is reduced.

The price of homes going up over time is appreciation. While there are lots of variables and it is not guaranteed, it is easy to research the history of an area and make predictions based on supply and demand.

Interest rates are still low and can be locked-in for 30 years. Without considering the tax benefits at all, the appreciation and the amortization dramatically affect the “real” cost of owning a home.

Consider a $250,000 that appreciates at 2% a year for the next seven years instead of paying $2,000 a month in rent. In the example, the payment is less than the rent being paid even including the property tax and insurance.

rent vs own 020518.png

When you factor in the monthly principal reduction and appreciation and consider additional owner expenses like maintenance and possible homeowners association, the net cost of housing is considerably lower than the rent. In this example, reduced cost in the first year alone is more than the down payment required on a FHA loan.

Based on the assumptions stated, the down payment of $8,750 could grow to $73,546 in equity in seven years. Can you name another investment with this kind of potential that also provides you a place to live, enjoy, raise your family and share with your friends?

Use this Rent vs. Own to make projections using your own numbers and price range. We’re available to answer any questions you have and to find out what it will take to own your own home.

THE SECOND STORY | February 1st, 2018

Assume…nothing. Get the credit.

Take a look at my for-fun blog…

One would assume (and we know what assume means – ass out of u and me), that  agents would know how the game of real estate is played. When 100’s of thousands of $$$, sometimes 1,000,000’s of $$$, are at risk, the agents should know what to expect.

After 3 or 4 offers, and getting beaten up by the market, my clients were one of 10 offers on house that had just been put on the market. The Sellers countered back 6 of those offers. My clients were the ones who got the house.

Because the Sellers did not want to pay for any inspections before the property came on the market, I told my Buyers to put an inspection contingency into the contract. And because the agent/Sellers didn’t get the HOA documents in a timely manner, I told my clients that they also needed to have that contingency in the contract as well.

Time of year to get out my tool bucket!

Bottom line…and I tell this to all my Sellers….in this market (actually in most up or down markets), the last thing you need is to have your house BOM (back on market). The rush of Buyers have already been in the house, and no doubt, the price will be comin’ down. Now the Sellers need to start over again? Not so much.

I told my clients that this was the perfect time to have the Sellers pay for the damage (not necessarily viewable by the untrained eye) that was discovered by the inspections. Over $15,000 worth of damage; add to that the HOA violation which would cost my buyers over $1500.

That approximate dollar amount was what the Buyer’s closing costs were. So they asked for, and received, a credit from the Sellers toward their closing costs.

When a house goes on the market, and the Sellers are literally moving on…the last thing any Buyers would want is to have the Sellers correct anything! Mentally, the Sellers have been gone for a long time!

This is one of several scenarios, of what went wrong for these particular Sellers. Not my problem. I was representing the Buyers. Happy clients!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour 8

New 8

Pending 12

Sold 2

Total Active properties on the market 26

Total Pending properties on the market 35

Questions about the local market? Ask me! I may not have the answer right away, but I’ll find somebody who may!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! uh, who’s playing?

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | January 30th, 2018

Lower Your Expenses without PMI

Mortgage loans for more than 80% loan-to-value typically require private mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance reimburses the lender if a borrower defaults on a loan. PMI is expensive, and homeowners should be aware of how to remove it when certain conditions have been met.31001236-250.jpg

A borrower can request in writing for the lender to cancel the PMI when the mortgage balance has reached 80% of the home’s original appraised value. However, they are required to eliminate it when the balance reaches 78%. It is a good idea to monitor this, especially if additional principal contributions are being made to pay off the loan early.

Other methods to eliminate PMI sooner than through normal amortization include the following:

  • If the value of the home has increased, the owner may consider refinancing with a loan that does not require PMI. There will be refinancing charges involved but you can determine how long it will take to recapture those costs from the monthly savings.
  • Some lenders will consider using a new appraisal to verify that the home’s mortgage is below the 80% requirement. Find out in advance from your lender if they will accept this procedure and get the names of approved appraisers they will recognize. The cost of an appraisal could range between $450 to $600.
  • Another strategy is to make additional principal contributions on a regular basis to reduce your mortgage balance to 78-80% level that would allow the lender to eliminate the PMI.

Mortgage insurance is not required on VA loans regardless of the loan-to-value. FHA mortgages made after June 3, 2013 are required to have Mortgage Insurance Premium for the life of the loan. For FHA loans made prior to that date, the MIP should automatically cancel when the loan-to-value ratio reaches 78% and has been in effect for a minimum of five years.

To obtain additional information specific to cancelling your mortgage insurance, contact info can usually be found on the annual statement provided by your mortgage servicer.

THE SECOND STORY | January 25th, 2018

Alameda real estate is always enlightening.

Take a look at my for fun blog…

Out of the clear blue, I thought about a listing that I had when I first started real estate. I worked with ERA (Electronic Realty Associates) which was a new company in town. I had an offer from an established firm in town, but I turned that broker’s offer down, because I didn’t want to be old school. And I knew for sure that Alameda real estate was run by an insulated group of agents.

I knew this because I had direct experience with “the old school.” My mother-in-law (who didn’t live here) decided to purchase a duplex in town so she could have us live in one of the units (she was watching out for her new granddaughter), and we could manage the other unit, and one of those old-school brokers/agents represented her.

First, it wasn’t on the mls. Actually, Alameda didn’t have an mls. We only had a market sheet that was updated once per week, by John Crittenden who became the publisher of the Alameda Journal. Second, the agent ‘double-ended the deal’, which meant that she repped the buyer and the seller. No disclosures at that time…it’s what ‘the old school’ just did. No lockboxes. You had to run around to each office to get the keys..and somehow, sometimes, they couldn’t find them. hhmm.

My mother-in-law’s property was a pretty simple transaction. She had a duplex in Pismo Beach and sold it, and put the proceeds into an Alameda property. BUT the agent never even thought to ask if there was an IRC 1031 Exchange involved. Bottom line, that non-question for both for the listing agent in Pacific Beach, and the purchase of the Alameda duplex, cost (way back then) $6000 to my mother-in-law and that went to the IRS. Totally unnecessary and such a waste of money. 

My dad is the one who encouraged me to get a real estate license. I think my parents thought selling the ground in Alameda would be better for all of us, rather than for me flying around the US as a commercial pilot, piling up flight hours. He had retired from a job that he had for decades (that he hated) at the ripe old age of 49. My folks already had an excellent agent. He used her services to buy the single-family homes that he rented and managed in Costa Mesa. He had a good biz and it beat driving to LA back and forth each day. He decided to get his broker’s license to be sure he was doing everything properly.

Back to the story of that listing….it was in the 700 block of Buena Vista. I had a booklet that described what I would do the market the house. (None of the ‘old school’ agents had any booklet). These owners were lovely folks and they were Asian. They would speak English to me, and I would speak English back to them, and then they would translate what I said in their language back to the family.

At one point I asked to be shown around the house. Then they lifted up a piece of the floor and there were a few stairs leading down to the sub-area (not a full basement). And there was a sleeping area down there. Ut-oh. I explained to them that the area they showed me couldn’t be used/shown as a bedroom. It could be storage, but not the bedroom that they used it for.

Bottom line…we sold the property for them, and I think the folks who bought it are still living there.

Welcome to 2018 – full of disclosures, doubling ending the ‘deals’ is still in vogue, but I won’t do represent both sides. Somebody is going to get pissed off..and it’s just not worth it.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 5

New 7

Pending 2

Total Active this week 28

Total Pending this week 31

Contact me if you have questions about the local market!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | January 23rd, 2018

Ready for Retirement

It can be shocking to hear how many people spend more time planning their vacation or next mobile phone purchase than planning for retirement. It is hard to imagine that they are expecting Social Security will take them through their golden years. A person who has paid in the maximum each year to social security can assume to receive about $30,000 a year.investable assets.png

Every adult in the work force, should go to to find out what they can expect based on their planned retirement age. Since it probably won’t be the amount you need to retire comfortably, at least you’ll know how much you’ll be short so that you can devise an investment plan.

There’s an easy rule of thumb used to estimate the investable assets needed by the time they retire to generate a certain income. The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed.

A person who wants $80,000 annual income generated from a 4% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000. If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire. They would need to save about $100,000 a year to be ready for retirement in 15 years.

If saving that amount does seem possible, an IDEAL alternative could be to invest in rental homes. The familiarity of rental homes like owning a personal residence can reduce some of the risk. Rentals also enjoy other characteristics like income from the operation, depreciation in the form of tax shelter, equity buildup from the amortization of the loan, appreciation and leverage from the borrowed funds controlling a larger asset.

Some investors explain the strategy by buying good rentals with mortgages and having the tenant to retire the debt for you. Single family homes offer the investor an opportunity to meet their retirement and financial goals with an investment that is easily understood and controlled.

A Retirement Projection calculator can give you an idea of how many rental homes you’ll need to supplement your social security and other investments.

THE SECOND STORY | January 18th, 2018

Does the STATE have YOUR unclaimed property, cash, inheritances, etc?

Debbie Calvo, one of the BEST E.O.E. (escrow officer ever) turned me onto the CA State website, specifically to the unclaimed (property, cash, inheritances, etc) portion of that website. Debbie had a client (whose mother was deceased), who was able to claim 25K, because the state couldn’t trace it to her daughter. She had another client who was able to claim 72K!

Here’s the link:  https://UCPI.SCO.CA.Gov

The CA state website has become an amazing resource for the people! Check it out!

You may want to check out the National Registry as well, to see if you may have had a retired (and deceased) US employee who left you some $$$.


I had a former client call me this week about a condo she owns in Palm Springs. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve talked.  I was thinking, while I waved good-bye to her, about the adventures she would have, as she drove off into the sunset towards new life events. She stills owns a condo in town, and seems so satisfied with how life is treating her…even with family challenges. She’s the cream rising to the top. But I really loved that she not only had called me, but she called me about her particular real estate situation.

I’ve also have made some other good friends over the past few months. They just closed on their purchase this week. They were referred to me by some of their dear friends, and I sold those friends a house.  I think I’ll write about that adventure next week. Real estate is never dull! See the column to the right for my first closing in 2018.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Property is starting to spring up, even though it’s still winter!

Tues Tour 6

New 8

AC 1 contingent

ACTR 1 repo

BOM back on market 1

Sold 7



Total Active 31

Total Pending 26


Took a lovely bike ride with a friend, at dusk, up to Crown Harbor and then back over  BFI bridge, and a dark, cold ride home last Tuesday. REFRESHING! And now it’s raining! YAY!

Contact me if you have questions about this market!

best, marilyn



THE SECOND STORY | January 16th, 2018

Balancing Risk and Deductibles

The benefit of insurance is to transfer the risk of loss to a company in exchange for a premium. The deductible is an amount the insured pays out of pocket before the insurance starts covering the cost of the loss. The challenge is to balance the risk an insured can accept with the premium being charged.28227782-250.jpg

To manage insurance premiums, policy holders often consider adjusting their deductibles. Lower deductibles result in less money out of pocket if a loss occurs in return for higher premiums. Higher deductibles will lower premiums but require that the insured bear a larger amount of the first part of the loss.

Insurance companies offer deductibles as a specific dollar amount or as a percentage of the total amount of insurance policy. The amount is usually shown on the declaration page of homeowner and auto policies.

A small fire in a $300,000 home that resulted in $5,000 of damage might not be covered because it is less than the 2% deductible which would be $6,000. If the homeowner can afford the cost of repairs in exchange for lower premiums, it might be worth it. On the other hand, if that loss would be difficult for the homeowner, a change in the deductible for higher premiums could be considered.

Raising deductibles can save money in the present when paying the premium but could cause problems later if a claim occurs. Homeowners should review deductibles with their property insurance agent to be familiar with the amounts and make any changes that would be appropriate.