THE SECOND STORY | June 15th, 2018

Agents…it’s all about the company. No, it’s about the culture.

There’s a lot of movement within the ‘real estate agent’ industry these days. Agents are dropping like flies, and then having a rejuvenation if/when they choose another company. It’s not as easy as it looks.

Some agents don’t feel comfortable with a huge company brand name on the ‘For Sale’ sign, with their name appearing in a really small font somewhere on that sign or on the sign riders (the smaller rectangular signs that either hook onto the For Sale sign or finds a home on top of the crossbar of the post planted in the ground).

Sometimes the companies take a percentage of the commission (over and above the designated split), say 6% is taken off the top and goes directly to the company. That would pay for the office, the rent or mortgage, the employees/support staff, the copy machines, the printers, the electricity the heat, and on and on.

Some agents are looking for higher splits (the commission that is earned by an agent in representing the buyer or the seller, or even both parties in one transaction). A certain percentage of the commission goes to the company and the balance goes to the agent.

Sellers can negotiate the commission before they sign the listing agreement.  It can be in fixed dollar amounts, but usually, it’s in the form of a percentage of the sales price.

Normally, agents start at a low commission split, and once they obtain a certain dollar amount in earnings…the split can increase as the agent brings in more dollars. In most cases, there is an upper cap limit that the agent can earn. OF COURSE, if the agent is being sought after, that high split make a difference…but the agent needs to perform to maintain that cap.

Sometimes several agents may be interviewed by a prospect. S(he) may not even know who those agents are. And no, it’s not rude for the agent to ask who the other agents are. And no, it’s not rude for the prospect to decline that info.

Then there are companies that offer incentives: not for listing/selling the property, but for finding other agents to work for the company, and if those agents produce, then the agent who drew them in, gets a portion of the new agent’s split.  I liken this to multi-level marketing. S(he) who is the first draft pick, makes the most bucks, and those below can never reach that pinnacle.

Bottom line is…real estate is not a hobby, it’s a way to make a living. For some ‘making a living’ can be tough. But it’s also a way for that living to turn into knowledge to become a real estate investor, for him/herself, or for his/her clients.

Actually, real estate is a way of life….helping folks find homes and or investments, doing a lot of listening, and asking loads of questions to be able to find out what the customer’s goals are.  And BTW…an agent needs to love that work.

Alameda Real Estate this Week (as of Friday eve)

Broker Tour Tues 10

New listings 10

Pending 17

Sold 10

Total Active listings 41 (including 3 PCH and 4 Active Contingent)

Total Pending listings 72

Please check out my new listing @  912 Del Mar  

and come over on Sunday between 2-4 and say hi!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 12th, 2018

The Tax Difference in Second Homes

A principal residence and a second home have some similar benefits, but they have some key tax differences. A principal residence is the primary home where you live and a second home is used mainly for personal enjoyment while limiting possible rental activity to a maximum of 14 days per year.10213246-250.jpg

Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Mortgage Interest Deduction allows a taxpayer to deduct the qualified interest on a principal residence and a second home. The interest is reduced from a maximum of $1,000,000 combined acquisition debt to a maximum of $750,000 combined acquisition debt for both the first and second homes.

Property taxes on first and second homes are deductible but limited to a combined maximum of $10,000 together with other state and local taxes paid.

The gain on a principal residence retained the exclusion of $250,000/$500,000 for single/married taxpayers meeting the requirements. Unchanged by the new tax law, the gains on second homes must be recognized when sold or disposed.

Tax-deferred exchanges are not allowed for property used for personal purposes such as second homes. Gain on second homes owned for more than 12 months is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate.

This article is intended for informational purposes. Advice from a tax professional for your specific situation should be obtained prior to making a decision that can have tax implications.

THE SECOND STORY | June 7th, 2018

Before & After.

He was a very nice, older man, who delivered news that was old ‘news’ to me. But he was hired to say it that way: very nice, not condescending. Who could get angry at him? But the day of reckoning had arrived.

We bought this (now very old), lovely lady 30 years ago that was built in 1898. I’d been in the real estate biz for about 4 years and one of the first things I learned about Alameda real estate, was that Federal Pacific electrical boxes were a disaster, and loads of properties in A-town had those boxes. Then we bought one of those properties. The good news was that those antique boxes worked way better than was ever expected.

The other good news is that a huge portion of this property was remodeled as soon as we bought it…including adding 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry room…and a new foundation. The original foundation was still in place – bricks. When the 1989 earthquake hit, we had just finished the whole job. Whew!

Back to 2018: those initial notes the ‘nice man’ turned into the insurance company became a ‘do it or we’ll drop you’ notice from the company.

I had contacted numerous contractors. Then out of the clear blue, I decided to ask a friend/agent (who had done a complete remodel of their ‘new-to them’ 1950-60’s house) if she knew an electrician who may be interested in updating our outdated electrical system.  She suggested George and did so with raves! She and her husband used him to rewire the 1950-60’s house that they had just bought, helping them turn it into their dream home, with a water view.

After about 12 weeks, with me giving weekly email updates to my insurance agent about how I was going to get this done (calling contractors, calling agents who may know contractors, talking to contractors, getting bids from 5K-45K), I settled on one of them.

George and I decided that we needed to go the Alameda Municipal Power office to meet with the head honcho. We couldn’t make an appointment because they don’t work on that type of time schedule. They work on their own time. Maybe it’s their way of finding out if somebody has a real reason to want to wait for them. We waited.

Because I’m pretty good w/ asking questions, I started asking the man in charge questions. Then he agreed to meet us between 12-1pm that afternoon so he could to see what we were talking about (even though we had photos). Hey, that guy’s coming over to my house…yes! He was here, with a younger guy, who was shadowing him, for about 60-90 minutes. 

Turns out that George, my contractor, had a way of doing the upgrade without having it run under the house to the other side of the house. After explaining what the process would be, and how it would look, the main-man said..yes, that would work!

An ‘A plus’ for A-town having its own power company!  Plus nobody needs to get on freeways to see Alameda properties.

George started ordering parts about 30 days ago, and toward the end of the first week, they were really into it. During that week he and his associate were working every day to see what/where/how things worked in/out/about the property.

This lovely lady (aka beast) was built in 1898. It was converted into 5 units in the 1940’s, during WWII, and that’s when Alameda Naval Air Station was going full blast.

Bottom line, we passed the final inspection with no hassle from the inspector, just a week ago.

Everything seems to work just the way it should be. New wires, new hook-ups, new boxes.  The funky wires/cables that we had just gotten used to for many decades, will be discarded or will find new places to hide. Geroge will be back next week to clean up the phone/internet mess of cables. That’s a cosmetic job. The the major overhaul has been completed. Yay for all of us!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues

One of the properties I saw via bike this week, was at 2146 Clinton. As I was talking with the listing agent we agreed at one time, this was a huge lot..and over the years it was cut and chopped (like the cooking competition) up into different parcels. This is one of those parcels: a nice small house that has a lagoon view, but it also has a not-so-good view of the one of apartment buildings that were constructed the 1950/60’s. That was the beginning of the landfill portion, now known as South Shore.

New 16

Pending 15

PCH (price change) 1

Sold 16

W/C withdrawn canceled 1

Total active listings 44

Total pending listings 66

That’s a wrap! Call/email/text if you have questions about the Alameda market! I may be able to help! Have a fun weekend!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 5th, 2018

When Neighbors Don’t Seem to Care

A home that isn’t being maintained like others in the neighborhood can negatively affect your visual sense of appeal and in some extreme cases, even affect property values. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, excessive noise, unruly pets, paint peeling on the home or even a car or boat parked in front of the home that hasn’t moved in weeks.2676519-250.jpg

Most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct an issue once it is brought to their attention. A practical, but possibly confrontational, solution is to contact the responsible person and describe your perception of the issue. However, they may not always agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.

An owner-occupant may be more sympathetic to the neighbors and willing to correct the issue. If you think the home might be a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and welcome the notification to protect their investment.

Another alternative might be to notify the homeowner’s association, if there is one. One of the benefits of a HOA is to enforce community appearance standards as set in the covenants or bylaws that specify how properties must be maintained. This could be a less personal method of reaching a beneficial outcome.

If the source of the problem is a code or housing violation, the city may be the ultimate authority. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance.

THE SECOND STORY | May 31st, 2018

Movin’ & gettin’ around A-town…

In A-town it doesn’t take long to get a weather report and the traffic report. The subject deals with traffic.

Many of you have seen it…and I’m planning to try it! It’s been in place since Oct 17, 2017.

Image result for hitchhiker's thumbFrom the city website:

“The two buses run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. There are three shuttle routes that provide access to major shopping destinations and medical facilities, including:

·         Tuesdays: West Loop (between Alameda Landing and downtown Alameda), leaving the Anne B. Diament Senior Plaza at 920 Park Street and the Target Store on the hour and half past the hour

·         Wednesdays: East Loop (between Bay Farm Island, downtown Alameda and Mastick Senior Center), leaving the Waters Edge Lodge at 801 Island Drive on the hour and half past the hour

·         Thursdays: Central Loop (between downtown Alameda, Shore Line Drive and Bridgeside Center), leaving the Anne B. Diament Senior Plaza at 920 Park Street on the hour and half past the hour.

While each day’s route covers a different area of Alameda, all routes stop at these common destinations: Alameda Hospital, Alameda Main Library, Alameda Theater, Kaiser Permanente, Mastick Senior Center, and South Shore Center at Trader Joe’s / Safeway.

The service is open to all, and provides preferential seating for seniors and people with disabilities. Riders are encouraged to board the shuttles at the designated shuttle stops and to explore Alameda. Shuttle drivers can assist riders with boarding and exiting the shuttle, securing wheelchairs, and carrying up to five bags of groceries or a folding shopping cart.

These shuttle services are funded by Measures B and BB transportation sales tax dollars, which are administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission.  For shuttle schedules and for more information on this free shuttle service, please refer to the web page: 

The goal is to keep cars off the streets and folks on their feet…(or bikes)!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Tour 10

New 22

Pending 14

BOM (back on market) 1

WT withdrawn temp 2

Sold 9

Total Active 45

Total Pending 45

Want to know if we could work together, for Selling or Buying  Alameda real estate? Give a call…the worst that can happen is either of us says….uh, not so much!

It’s about finding the right person (agent or client). And it may be worth 40-60 minutes of our time to decide if we have a mutually acceptable basis upon which to do business!

Have a great weekend! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 29th, 2018

Flag Protocol

The American flag is obviously a symbol of our country but it has come to remind us of every man and woman who has fought for the freedom that we enjoy. The emotions that are stirred by images of our flag can run from happiness to sadness to trust and everything in between.flag2.png

Most of us learned American flag etiquette or the Flag Code when we were young but occasionally, it is a good idea to review the guidelines so that the flag is treated with the respect it deserves.

  • The U.S. flag should not be flown at night unless a light is shown on it.
  • The U.S. flag should not be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
  • The flag should never touch the ground.
  • A U.S. flag should be displayed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff in mourning.
  • When displaying multiple flags of a state, community or society on the same flagpole, the U.S. flag must always be on top.
  • When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor – to its own right. No flag should be higher or larger than the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
  • When the U.S. flag is flown with those of other countries, each flag should be the same size and must be on separate poles of the same height. Ideally, the flags should be raised and lowered simultaneously.

More information on flag etiquette can be found at the Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

THE SECOND STORY | May 24th, 2018

A bunch of initials…

If you see any agent’s card, it may often look like alphabet soup.

No worries….here’s what some of those letters mean:

-REALTOR: If an agent hasn’t joined NAR (National Association of Realtors) and for Californians, the CAR (CA Association of Realtors), s(he) can only be called an agent or Broker. There are numerous courses that must be updated periodically to maintain the REALTOR designation. Plus it’s a lobbying group which focuses on home ownership. I’m a REALTOR.

-CRS: ‘Certified Residential Specialist’ member of RES (Residential Real Estate Specialist). They went through a big name change last year. It used to be CRS. A Realtor needs to pass several courses to maintain that membership. I’ve got this set of initials. I’m a CRS.

-e-Pro: another version of the above. This involves technology. I’ve got this set of initials. I’m an e-PRO.

-CCIM: this is specifically directed to commercial agents (apartment buildings, shopping centers, commercial leases, etc). 3 of us took this multi-week course around the US, and it was tough. The best of the best have CCIM designations: ‘Certified Commercial Investment Member.’ But we wanted to get some knowledge, and this makes everything else out there look like chump change. I passed each test the first time. But because I didn’t have a book of business meeting their requirements, I settled on the knowledge, not the initials.

So if you are interviewing agents, ask to see their biz card. It may help you gain some confidence in their brain power, but most of it is ‘learned by doing.”

OH…best of all! You can look on the California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) aka California Department of Real Estate (DRE), to see if those agents have any bad marks against their names. Ethics is one you want to look out for. If there is anything that is wrong, you should find it on the state website.

Alameda Real Estate this week

New 13

PCH price change 1

Pending 15

Sold 22

Total active listings 45

Total pending listings 47

Memorial Day is now upon us and Monday is a holiday. Despite the rhetoric, despite the aggravation of war…we owe so much to those who gave so much so we still have our freedom.


In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Carry on. marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 22nd, 2018

Second Guessing Price

Imagine a homeowner consulting with their agent about the price to place on their home. The agent suggests that the market data indicates that $200,000 to 210,000 would produce a quick sale by pricing it properly. The owner puts a $210,000 price on the home.76605908-250.jpg

The first person who looks at the home offers $205,000. When the seller receives the offer, he comments that he thinks he priced the home too low and counters for full price. The counter-offer is rejected, the home stays on the market and at the end of the first month when based on market conditions, the home should be sold, no other offers have been made.

It may be human nature that when an offer is received so quickly, the first thought to come to mind is that it was priced too low. A more appropriate thought might be that it was priced correctly. In some cases, when a home comes on the market, there is increased competition (real or perceived) among the buyers waiting for the “right” home to come on the market. The home can sell for a higher price than if it sits on the market for several months.

There may be stories of sellers who turned down the first offer and ended up receiving a better offer that would net more money. However, real estate professionals say the first scenario occurs frequently.

The wisdom of experience advises owners to find a real estate professional that they trust and have confidence. Allow that professional to become familiar with your home and compare it to similar homes in the market that have sold recently and ones currently on the market. Determine the demand for homes in the area compared to the inventory. Decide on a price that will allow the home to sell within a relatively short period of time. And lastly, be satisfied if your home sells quickly near the price you put on it.

THE SECOND STORY | May 17th, 2018

Mouth shut & eyes wide open…

San Francisco from Alameda Point

I often wonder why some agents can’t just keep their mouths shut. This market is so hot, that some agents will often brag about the selling price, the moment a property is in escrow.

That’s a very bad habit to get into. The actual price is determined by a buyer. Even though, in this hot market, most, if not all offers have no contingencies (like financing, the appraisal, inspections, etc), what happens if the unexpected happens (like a buyer finds out s(he)’s being transferred by the company, or s(he) is laid off, or the loan isn’t approved, or one of the buyers dies?)

From the Sellers’ point of view…that Buyers’ disaster is also a disaster for the Seller, who has to put the property back on the market (BOM). And if the listing agent has gone around and told other agents what the property sold for ….you can bet that price on the accepted-offer-contract, most likely will be lower …how much? I’m not sure. I’m not the buyer!

Agents are so blatant these days, that in the last few weeks I’ve attended a broker’s open house, and the hosting agent wanted me to tell him what my listing sold for. I looked at him like he was crazy and said something like ‘you’ll find out when it closes.’ Then he proceeded to tell me that he heard it sold for ‘north of $740,000.’ I said ‘you’ll just need to wait until it closes.’

And if all goes well tomorrow, it should close. And then you can check back here, or see it all over the real estate portion of the internet.

Moral of the story? It pays to keep my mouth shut and my eyes wide open. And if you are thinking about hiring an agent…why not toss some of the disasters you can think of his/her way, when you are interviewing that potential agent, and see what his/her answers are. And I’m hoping I’ll be on that list of agents you’ll be interviewing.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues Broker Tour 11

New 18

Pending 14 

Sold 11  2 sold for less than the list price

Total active on the market 43 including 2 Active Contingent & 1 Price Change

Have a wonderful weekend…and contact me if you have questions about the market.

best, marilyn

Maybe you’d be entertained (or not) by my ‘for fun’ blog...Boomer-chick-musings.

THE SECOND STORY | May 15th, 2018

A Home for Tomorrow

As people near or enter retirement, one of the decisions that typically comes up is whether to sell their “big” home and buy a smaller one. If you know anyone who has been faced with that situation, selling one home and buying a smaller one may not save enough money to make it worthwhile.79996505-250.jpg

There are sales expenses on the property being sold and acquisition costs on the replacement home. Generally speaking, homeowners may not mind a home with less square footage, but they usually don’t want to give up amenities or locations that they’ve become accustomed.

After a little number crunching, the move may not make enough difference in savings and they end up staying in their current home even if it doesn’t fit their needs anymore.

What if while this couple were still in their peak earning years, they acquired a home in an area where they would consider retiring and rent it during the interim. They could put it on a 15-year mortgage and possibly, even accelerate the principal payments to have it paid off by their anticipated move.

In the meantime, they could continue living in the “big” home until it is time to make the transition. Sell the “big” home that may be paid for by then and avoid up to $500,000 of capital gain. Take part of the proceeds and remodel the rental/transitional home and invest the proceeds for retirement income.

Ideally, the former rental would be mortgage free by this point, so the retirees would not have a house payment. Even if at this point, they changed their mind about retiring to this particular home, they still have a property that acted as a hedge against rising prices and have sufficient equity to purchase something else without using the proceeds from the “big” home.

It is difficult to know what the situation will be years from now when a person retires. It is clearly advantageous to have a plan that allows for options and choices. To find out more about purchasing your retirement home today, give me a call at (510) 908-9021.