THE SECOND STORY | August 8th, 2019

And this is why we like Alameda….


Photo of SF, was taken this week from the Alameda coastline!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

I had the opportunity to close a sale for some lovely Buyers, this week. They were up against 6 offers. They wrote such a clean offer (no contingencies – including no loan/appraisal). It’s such an honor to work folks like these.

Total active listings: 51, including 1 AC (active contingent), 1 BOM (back on the market), 4 PCH (price changes)

Total pending listings: 64, including 16 pending sales – backup offers wanted

Total sold 12

You may notice that one of the price changes was from $26,000,000 down to $2,600,000. It was clearly an error…but….we sometimes make them when inputting listings into the MLS.

I thought the following might give you an idea of DOM (days on market), per the MLS, as of tonight:

This doesn’t include commercial (storefront) properties…of which some have been on the market for well over a year.

DOM (days on market)

High 135 days

Low 7 days

Average 33 days

Median 24 days 

Have a great weekend! Call me, text, leave an email for me if you have questions about the Alameda market. I’m not a genie so I don’t have all of the answers, but I might be able to give you an idea of what’s going on.

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | August 6th, 2019

Determining Property Type


The Internal Revenue Service considers four different types of real estate. Specific types of properties have benefits based on their classification. The determination does not depend on the property itself as much as it depends on how the property is used and what the owner’s intentions are.

Principal Residence … a principal residence is the place a person lives or expects to return if they are temporarily away from it. It could be a single family, detached home or condominium or a duplex, tri-plex or four-unit. The owner(s) can deduct the qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on the schedule A of their tax return. There is a capital gains exclusion on profit of up to $250,000 for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married taxpayer.

Income Property – is improved property that is rented or leased to tenants as opposed to using it personally. It can include houses and condos, apartment buildings, office complexes, shopping centers, warehouses and other commercial buildings. Depreciation is allowed on the improvements. For property held more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates. This type of property is eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Investment Property … can be raw land or improved property that is not rented or leased. This property is not subject to depreciation. If the property is held for more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates. It is also eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Dealer Property … this type of property is primarily considered inventory because the intention is to sell it without intentionally holding it for more than a year. It could be new construction such as a home builder. It could be an investor who buys a property and expects to sell it for more. There is not a requirement to make improvements. The profits on dealer property are taxed as ordinary, “sweat of the brow” income. Dealer properties cannot be exchanged.

A second home is like a principal residence in that you can deduct the interest and property taxes on your Schedule A, up to the limits. A second home, as well as a principal residence, can be rented out up to 14-days a year without threatening the status of the property. Seconds homes are not eligible for exchange because personal use properties are not allowed. A second home is not a principal residence and profits are taxed like an investment property. If you own it for more than a year, it is taxed at long-term capital gains rates.

Vacation homes are rented for more than 14 days a year and are like income property but with some additional rules that apply. If your personal use is 14 days or less or 10% of the time it is rented, your expenses can be deducted in excess of income. If you use it for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days it is rented, it is considered personal use and your expenses are limited to the amount of income collected with no losses being deductible.

Taxpayers can strategically change the property type based on their intentions. A principal residence can be converted to income property. Dealer property could become a principal residence. A rental property could become a principal residence.

Professional tax advice is always recommended to be able to understand the information and how it applies to your specific situation.

THE SECOND STORY | August 1st, 2019

Winner of the week, Get me to rehab…..

I’m not sure when or where I took this photo..but it was recently. I’m sure I was somewhere on the island and the sun was filtering through the leaves on the tree, over a brick patio! Amazing what I see when I look down! I think I was riding my bike and stopped somewhere. I do NOT take photos while I’m actually riding my bike.

Way back in the day, maybe 3-4 years ago, I used to give names to properties that were on the Broker Tour: Winner of the Week, Get me to Rehab, etc.

I decided that it was too personal for me to give names to the properties. Every motivated Seller would like to have a motivated Buyer whether it’s a palace or a dump. Plus, it’s not my job to say what I think…it’s always about the people, not just about me.


Broker tour Tues 11

Active listings 49 including 1 AC (Active-Contingent, on selling another property),  1 BOM (Back on the  Market), and 1 PCH (Price Change)

Pending 23

Sold 20

Short, sweet!

Let me know if you have questions….!

Best, marilyn

Have a fun weekend!

THE SECOND STORY | July 30th, 2019

Get Leverage Working for You

Leverage is an investment term that describes the use of borrowed funds to control an asset; sometimes referred to as using other people’s money. Borrowed funds can affect the investment in your home positively.

For instance, if you had a $100,000 rental property, collected the rents and paid the expenses and had $10,000 left, you would earn a 10% return (divide the $10,000 by the $100,000.) With no loan on the property, there is no leverage.

If you decided to get an 80% mortgage at 8%, you would owe an additional $6,400 in expenses leaving you only $3,600 net. However, your return would grow to 18% because your investment is now $20,000 in cash (divide the $3,600 by $20,000.)

Leverage, the use of borrowed funds, causes the return to increase in this example. While, most people associate leverage with rental properties, it also applies to a home. The larger the mortgage, the more leverage you have. A FHA mortgage with a 3.5% down payment has more leverage than an 80% loan.

Assume we’re looking at a $295,000 purchase price with 3% closing costs and a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years with a five-year holding period. The following table shows the return based on different down payments and appreciation rates. The initial investment is the down payment plus closing costs. The equity build-up at end of year five is the result of normal principal reduction and appreciation.

Down Payment 1% Appreciation 2% Appreciation 3% Appreciation
3.5% 21% 28% 34%
10% 12% 17% 21%
20% 7% 10% 13%

Another way to look at the 3.5% down payment example with 3% appreciation would be to say that a $10,325 down payment plus $8,850 in closing costs could grow into $82,482 of equity in a five-year period producing a 34% rate of return on the initial investment.

Estimate what your initial investment could grow to using this marilynschu

THE SECOND STORY | July 25th, 2019

Traffic jam…bridges up!

I happened to be at Bay Farm Island on a workday. It was about 5pm and a sailboat (under power, no sails) came motoring through. It’d been a while since I’ve seen these bridges up.

I usually try to avoid the bridges at certain hours: like early morning and late afternoon rush hours. The blessing is that I do have some flexibility, living and working here.

But when I travel out to Pleasanton, for some Realtor meetings or classes…whoa! That’s a whole new ball game. I just pray that nobody gets into an accident and that the drivers will settle down and move slowly, should there be an accident. Slowly beats totally stopped.

Oh, and I’ve learned to take the side streets coming back from Pleasanton. They’re much better than the freeways.  And then I can go to Costco in San Leandro! And I’ll finish my adventure by going over the BFI bridge, back home to A-town.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tuesday tour 14

Active listings 50, including 1 AC (active/contingent), 2 BOM (back on market), 4 PCH (price changes)

Pending 69

Sold 20

That’s a wrap…slow down, smell the flowers, get rejuvenated. The one thing that I’d like to do is to wash my car. It’s disgusting. And while the folks at the South Shore Car Wash do a good job ($30+ bucks), the CADEAU is a mess again with bird poop, and who knows what else in less than 1 day. Oh well.

If you have ??? about this market, so do I. The good news is that my Buyers purchased a lovely townhome on the lagoon, this past Tuesday. There were 7 offers. It should close within the next 2 weeks or less. It’s so nice to be referred to lovely people, by a lovely ‘used-to-be agent.’

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 23rd, 2019

Delay Will Usually Cost More

Two things can happen when the mortgage rates go up before you’ve found a home or locked-in your mortgage. You’ll either pay the current mortgage rate which means a higher payment, or you’ll have to increase your down payment to keep the monthly payment at the same level.

If the rate were to go up by ½%, the payment on a $275,000 mortgage would increase by $82.87 per month for the entire 30-year term. That would increase the cost of the home by $29,835.

Some people are purchasing the maximum home that they can qualify for. In that case, they cannot qualify for a higher payment and the only way to buy the same price home is to put more money down which may not be a possibility. The other alternative is to buy a lower price home which may not be in the same area or size which will involve some compromises.

The rate is not the only dynamic that affects buyers waiting to purchase. The home they want could sell to someone else. Prices could increase as new homes come on the market. The question that many buyers ask themselves when they become a victim of the consequences of delay is “What could we have spent the money on if we didn’t have to make a higher payment?”

Mortgage rates are very attractive currently and within ½% of the all time low of 3.35% in December 2012. The highest rate was 18.45% in October 1981. Whether you’re purchasing or refinancing, it may not be this low again.

To see how it will affect the payment, plug your numbers into this Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator or call me at (510) 908-9021 and I’ll help you with it.

THE SECOND STORY | July 18th, 2019


-Berkeley/Albany Buyer Needs a Place to Cook with Lot for Days

-Oakland/Berkeley Buyer Needs Public Transport or High Cool

-Oakland/Berkeley Buyer Needs Yard and 1.5 miles to BART

These are three samples of many emails I get each week (actually each day). These are from a group that is known as Total Agent Network and some agent needs to recommend another agent so she/he can be part of it.

For the most part, many agents get that some these agents look like idiots. (IMHO).

-Look at what they wrote…

-“Buyer needs a place to cook with Lot (from the Bible?), or a large lot for days at a time?”

-“Buyer needs public transport or High Cool?” Is cool missing an ‘s’ at the beginning of the word ‘cool?’

-“Buyer needs yard and 1.5 miles to BART. ” No house, just a lot with a yard, and it needs to be 1.5 miles from BART?

I encourage all of my clients to NOT have me list their property on this site. I’d rather we use the MLS so the world (as necessary) is told that their property is on the market.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Alameda is a small town. If you whisper a secret on Park Street, in 10 minutes the secret will be on Webster.

Same with selling a house…somebody, either on Park St. or Webster, will say they would have paid a lot more than the Buyers did. And then the Sellers will feel ripped off, because the property wasn’t fully exposed to the market.


Roses from my front yard.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 17

New 17

Total active 64 (including 1 Active-Contingent and 3 Price Changes)

Total pending 65

Sold 13

OK…have a nice weekend. You deserve it!

Best, marilyn



THE SECOND STORY | July 16th, 2019

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer’s needs. The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes. They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls. Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry. The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area. Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages. Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms. Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness. If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate. This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.

THE SECOND STORY | July 11th, 2019

Random summer A-town thoughts…..


+I was fast asleep (well, I thought I was), and I heard the garbage trucks coming up and/or down the street.

Usually, I put the green, blue, and gray bins out on a Wed. night, for an early Thursday pickup. But last Thursday was Independence Day. Nah, they’d take the day off.

OMG! I felt like I was back in 3rd grade. Hauling the cans out (that’s what they were back then), chasing the truck down the street because my oldest brother and I didn’t put them out the night before.

I got up…hauled the bins out…just in case. I went back to bed.

It wasn’t a dream. The ACI folks had emptied them! And they came back the next morning…knowing that lots of the bins weren’t out the evening before. One big hurrah for ACI (Alameda County Industries).

+And speaking of bins….I cleared out my car trunk this week. Threw a bunch of stuff away…and then I came across 2 mini fire extinguishers. The indicator said they were nearly empty.

I called the folks @ Alameda Fire Extinguishers (the company that recharges the 7 extinguishers this building)…and found out that the Kidde’s were recalled maybe 10 years ago. How long had I had them? Where did I even get them?

So I got a lesson on how to use the new one…and it will work. I Hope I never need it.

+Hot fun in the summertime! BTW…the Safeway @ South Shore, had a gas leak? or a fire? Everybody was evacuated and the AFD was crawling all over the roof. Good thing they didn’t have those Kidde’s.

+Oh, and if you went to the Jamestown (who owns South Shore Center) presentation Tues between 5-7pm, or Wed between 7-9am, let me know what you thought of it.

This is where they were supposed to make a good impression of their projected changes. It was held in a clear tent-like thing, close to McDonalds. There were no seats. (I thought it was a presentation.) There was nobody from Jamestown presenting their ideas to the whole group.  They had some light snacks, and some wine (I don’t drink alcohol). And their flyers looked like blown-up website photos. And BTW….this project is supposed to include 1215 multi-family housing units. How are they supposed to get these folks off and on this island, and on landfill? One representative told my friend, that liquefaction wasn’t a problem.

Just some random thoughts…

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 8

New this week 24

Total Pending 67

Sold this week 11

That’s a wrap! 

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 9th, 2019

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill. Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve. Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently. If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool. If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you’ll need to turn it off. Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down. There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate. Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner. There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause. Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.