THE SECOND STORY | August 14th, 2018

What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home

It’s understandable; you’re excited; you’ve found the right home, negotiated a contract, made a loan application and inspections. Closing is not that far away, and you are making plans to move and put personal touches on your new home.

Even if you have an initial approval on your mortgage, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.

Most lending and real estate professionals recommend NOT to:

  • Make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
  • Buy things for your new home until after you close
  • Apply, co-sign or add any new credit
  • Close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
  • Quit your job or change jobs
  • Change banks
  • Talk to the seller without your agent

The lender and I are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited and feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is fine but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

THE SECOND STORY | August 9th, 2018

What the hoa!

Sunset this evening, through the smoke-filled skies. Sun breaks through the smoke and appears to sit on the fog in San Francisco.

Homeowners Associations…..definitely have a place in real estate. Whether it’s a master HOA governing a bunch of smaller HOAs in one large community…(like Alameda’s Harbor Bay Isle has), or a small group (like 4 units), maintenance still needs to get done. And that’s what you’re paying for…the maintenance: to keep things going instead of letting them go!

One lesson that I learned last year: if I were a developer and I needed to put an HOA in place….I would develop an odd number of units: like 5, or 49, or 199! That way you won’t have much of a chance to get a tie vote (assuming all of the residents’ vote) to approve any needed maintenance/corrections that need to be done, in a timely manner.

That is what an HOA does….govern, and hopefully, those on the HOA Board get enough bids to make a decision and then move forward!

And if you don’t fall into the above category…please make a fix-it or repair/replace list and post it on the refrigerator so you can see it, and knock those items off one at a time..and if you can afford it, do several maintenance jobs in a row! Believe me, you will sleep better every night!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Tour 10

New 17 

Pend 8

Sold 7

Total active 38 

(including 2 Active Contingent, and 2 Price Changes)

Total pending 53

Contact me if you need info about what’s going on out there. I’m no fortune teller…I just call it like I see it, and that’s based on recent history, time of year, and interest rates.

Have a fun weekend, and please keep a good thought for those who are involved with the fires, up and down the state. This may be the perfect time to pay it forward to those who are affected…just saying.

best, marilyn

check out my ‘for fun’ blog… 

THE SECOND STORY | August 7th, 2018

Rising Rates Affect the Cost Too

Mortgage rates have risen 0.5% in 2018 on 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and experts expect them to continue to increase. Buyers paying attention to the market understand the relationship that inventory has on pricing; when the supply is low, the price usually goes up. Rising interest rates can affect the cost of homes also.

When interest rates go up, fewer people can afford homes. Lower numbers of buyers can affect the demand, which could cause prices of homes to come down. The question is how much do the interest rates have to go up to affect demand?

As the rates gradually go up, the affect may not be noticeable at all except for the fact that the payments for the buyer have increased.

A ½% change in interest is approximately equal to a 5% change in price. A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for a 30-year term will have a $1,520.06 principal and interest payment. If the mortgage rate goes up 0.5%, it would affect the payment the same as if the price had gone up 5%. The difference in payments for the full term of the loan would be $32,547.

There are some things beyond buyers’ control, but indecision isn’t one of them. If they haven’t found the “right” home yet, it is understandable. However, when that home does present itself, the buyer needs to be ready to make a decision. If they are preapproved and have done their due diligence in the market, they should be able to contract before significant changes occur in the mortgage rates.

THE SECOND STORY | August 2nd, 2018

Stuck on off.

You never know when you’re going to get those calls. Usually not late at night, but often out of the blue.

Over the years I’ve been very privileged to offer my clients pretty good referrals: plumbers, contractors, handy people (yes, many years ago I was able to recommend a woman, who really knew her stuff) but she moved away. Sue was remarkable!

Corner of Encinal and Union!

Within the last few months, I’ve been able to update those lists: plumbers, handymen, roofers, cleaners…and on and on. Many of those folks have retired and moved on…further out , where it’s often cheaper to live.

Sun flowers as big as trees!

I decided I needed to update my roofer and plumber lists. So I started with the roofers and put calls into them one evening. I left messages for them, saying who I was, and I wanted to know if they were still in biz.

If they didn’t call me back…they were off my list. But I made a note in my database, next to their company name or their own name, letting myself know when I called them OR if that number was no longer used. That way I had a system of YES they were in biz, or NO, they weren’t.

And several of them returned the call the next morning. But one called me back shortly after I left a message for him that night! We had a good conversation about what he really loved to do and it just wasn’t about roofs…it was about making large art pieces.

We often forget that the vendors we use and refer to others, often have other diverse interests.

Often, I’ve been the one who has been called when there’s an emergency…like earlier this evening. The water at the 3 units had been turned off by EBMUD. Long story made short…the one in charge had forgotten to pay the bill. So I offloaded most of my tool bucket contents onto my bed, and jumped into the car along with the 3-foot-tall-thingy on my front porch that supposedly allows you to turn the water off and on at the curb.

One of the tenants came outside and he really worked at twisting that shut-off to ‘on,’  but to no avail. Then I got a call from the one in charge, letting him know we were stuck on off.  He had found a local plumber and he was ready to come over. I got the plumber’s number and then texted him where we were. A-town to A-town, that’s how it’s done.

Bottom line…Todd , the plumber, got it done. We swapped cards and I’ll be calling him to get those gas shut-off valves installed, and for test/repairs for the private sewer laterals.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

The house I listed at 912 Del Mar closed today! The Sellers are ready to move on and the Buyers are excited.

New 8

Sold 8

Total Active Llstings 37 incl 1 BOM, 2 Contingent (selling another property), and 2 Price Changes

Total Pending Listings 51

Come by and see me at the lovely Crown Harbor condo…Sunday 2-4pm!  We thought we had a couple of interested buyers….but they both had their lives changed by other circumstances. Still available!

Text, call, yell, whatever…if you have questions!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 31st, 2018

Replace It Anyway

If it’s not broken, why would a homeowner consider replacing something as expensive as a toilet when there may be other things in the home to replace that provide more aesthetic appeal. Don’t be too quick to ignore the functionality and the reliability of this basic convenience.toilet.jpg

The first rationalization might take place at the economic level. A water-saving model could easily pay for itself in a few years and then, there is the good feeling of participating in the conservation of our natural resources.

Having to plunge a toilet more than once a week could motivate a homeowner to spend money on a replacement especially, if having made repairs to the flapper and fill valve didn’t solve the issue.

Maybe your existing toilet has ugly scratches that make it difficult to clean. Maybe there are cracks in the tank or bowl that you’re concerned will develop into a leak at the worst possible time.

The average cost to replace a toilet is around $400 with models ranging more and less based on the features and brands. Round toilet bowls tend to take up less room, are less expensive and better suited for children. Elongated bowls generally take more room, have more powerful flushing action, more comfortable, more stylish and cost more.

Replacing the shut-off valve for the toilet could be a good thing to do while you’re replacing the toilet. Generally, it is as old as the toilet and having a reliable valve that works could be very convenient in a future repair or emergency.

There are a variety of videos on YouTube that could give you the confidence to do it yourself or simply, to have a better understanding of the scope of the project

THE SECOND STORY | July 26th, 2018

What’s on your list?

Alrighty, here’s my short, generic list…

Close to everything (shops, stores, schools, parks, bikeable, walkable, parking onsite, flat, property styles of all ages, nothing isolated, public transport).

What do you want?


Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 11

New 13

Pending 15

Sold 15

Total active (including 2 active/contingent, 2 BOMs)

Total pending 50


1367 Crown Drive is still available!  

Drone video

3D virtual tour

???’s  Let me know. Most of us Realtors who work the Alameda market are seeing it take a bit longer to get an accepted offer on a property. I did a search of the pending sales for a client this week…and gave her the report. And we actually see a few price reductions.

Best, marilyn

See my ‘for fun’ blog… 

THE SECOND STORY | July 24th, 2018

Before You Leave Town…

Along with all the planning of what you’re going to do and where you’re going to stay, consider this checklist to make you feel more comfortable while you’re away from home.

  • Ask a trusted friend to pick up your mail, newspaper and keep yard picked up to avoid an appearance of not being at home.
  • Stop your mail (USPS Hold Mail Service) and your newspaper.29938746-250.jpg
  • Don’t post about your trip on Facebook and other social media until you return; some burglars look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police or neighborhood watch – especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you’ll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home. Set multiple timers for various times to better simulate someone at home. There are plug-in modules for lights and appliances that would allow you to control them from your phone while your out of town.
  • Do unplug certain appliances – TV, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they’re off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don’t hide a key; burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.

These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

THE SECOND STORY | July 19th, 2018

Clean it up…

The title of this post is not a housekeeping command.

But it does make sense, when we live so close to each other, NOT to have anybody’s home (house, condo, apartment, multi-family residence, co-op) burn down.

When I ride my bike around town, I see the electrical wires swinging in the wind and through the trees. And so many trees are dying or are just waiting to fall over. I’m no arborist, but it looks a bit dangerous to me, especially when the wind/rain made a tree fall on top of a house across the street from my friend’s home, in the Gold Coast about 2-3 months ago. YIKES!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Tour 17!

I guess it’s the middle of summer….can’t remember when there were 17 properties on the tour!

New 12 

‘New’ includes my new listing, a condo, single level, with great water views,  an attached (via the storage space) single car garage, at Crown Harbor! Crown Drive is the entry to the 76 unit complex, right off Central Ave, between 5th and 6th streets.  Come see this view-oriented home on Sunday, July 22, 2-4pm! I’m having a friend work the automatic gate so you can just drive in! You can see the photos, the drone shoot, and the matterport virtual tour on the column to the right of this post. Or click on the ‘new listing’ above and you can see the flight of the drone!

Pending 11


Sold 19

Total Active Listings 39

Total Pending Listings 56

OK. That’s a wrap! Come see me at the condo @ 1367 Crown Drive, Sunday, 2-4!

Questions about the market? Maybe we can talk about it. Give a call, email, or text.

best, m

Thoughts, stories, gratitude can be found on my ‘for fun’ blog…. 

THE SECOND STORY | July 17th, 2018

Owning Makes More Sense

When comparing the cost of owning a home to renting, there is more than the difference in house payment against the rent currently being paid. It very well could be lower than the rent but when you consider the other benefits, owning could be much lower than renting.31066694-250.jpg

Each mortgage payment has an amount that is used to pay down the principal which is building equity for the owner. Similarly, the home appreciates over time which also benefits the owner by increasing their equity.

There are additional expenses for owning a home that renters don’t have like repairs and possibly, a homeowner’s association. To get a clear picture, look at the following example of a $300,000 home with a 3.5% down payment on a 4.5%, 30-year mortgage.

net cost of housing.jpg

The total payment is $2,264 including principal, interest, property taxes, property and mortgage insurance. However, when you consider the monthly principal reduction, appreciation, maintenance and HOA, the net cost of housing is $1,218. It costs $1,282 more to rent at $2,500 a month than to own. In a year’s time, it would cost $15,000 more to rent than to own which is more than the down payment and closing costs to buy the home.

With normal amortization and 3% annual appreciation, the $10,500 down payment in this example turns into $112,00 in equity in seven years. Check out your own numbers using the Rent vs. Own or call me at (510) 908-9021. Owning a home makes sense and can be one of the best investments a person will ever make.

THE SECOND STORY | July 12th, 2018

Apples for sale…nope!

One thing that I don’t miss is our apple tree….
 I wish our real estate inventory was as plentiful as this apple tree was. I took it down last fall because it was falling into the carriage house, since it was giving up on surviving!

But things seem to be shifting…as I speak with other agents in town, out of town.

I was reading a quarterly report today that comes from a friend (real estate agent) who works for a company called Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco. We go back for maybe 20 years. But these numbers stop me from breathing! Check this out this link!

I guess lil’ ol Alameda real estate looks like chump change to those who come here from out of town…but we’ll muddle through it..because the market will change. I’ve recently told folks that the top of our market is beginning to come down in price…WHILE the lower price properties are still climbing. It’s been this pattern since I started…a long time ago. But we work off of history, not forecasts. And we work within the market, do not control the market, whatever it may offering. There are more BOMs (back on market) and PCH (price changes).

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 10

New 16 

Sold 16

Total active 32

Total pending 62

Here’s the opposite of what I have (no connections) except for Sonos:

Call should you have questions..and maybe you could answer my own!

best, marilyn