THE SECOND STORY | October 4th, 2019

More meetings…..

I don’t know what planet we can see in the night sky…but it’s really close to the moon. This was taken on my cell phone last night..and it turned out better than I thought it would.


I’ve been to 4 meetings between yesterday and today. And they’re all important, at least to me.

Wednesday’s morning meeting was titled “Better Together” and it’s true…we are all better if we work together and share a bit of our real lives. I find that doing so, will open up doors to us, because we’re being truthful and vulnerable. This was at our Alameda  Chapter of the Bay East Assoc. of Realtors.

Then yesterday evening I went to our (every) Wed evening meeting at our church.  I was an usher, and I ushered folks in through the front door. This is always very calming to me because we have a great organist that plays on our huge pipe organ. There are hymns that we sing.  We listen to our First Reader read selections from the Bible and our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and there’s some testimony time. These calm moments are more heavenly than earth-bound.

Today, I went out to the BayEast Association of Realtors, in Pleasanton, to hear our Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Gov (yep, that’s his first name) Hutchinson. I’ve been listening to him for years, going way back to the Harbor Bay Realty days.

Gosh, between his knowledge of rent control for the state of CA and our local rent control in Alameda (local city ordinances do supersede the state laws), I’m slowly, but surely, starting to get a handle on the specifics of our Alameda-style of rent control.

Then I finished up this evening with a group of housing experts from various agencies/companies at Independence Plaza (which is one of the City’s senior apartment/housing facilities, AND our Housing Authority office). This was sponsored by our local League of Women Voters. It was all about adding affordable housing and who/how/why we need it. We had experts there. Our Mayor was there, as well. I’m not sure this issue will be resolved, in my lifetime.

I ask myself…why do I do this? Then I answer myself: I want to hear it coming from the horse’s (person’s) mouth.  Attendance (or watching on Alameda cable 3) beats rumors. I do it for myself, and to keep apprised of what folks are thinking about. And maybe I can contribute something logical to the conversation: either with my clients or with neighbors & friends.

Alameda Real Estate this Week


MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 11

Active listings 64 (including 1 AC & 3 PSB)

Pending listings 11 (including 4 PSB)

Sold 10

That’s a wrap!

Have a good weekend!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 1st, 2019

Price It Right the First Time


The Internet has empowered all buyers with information and home buyers are no exception. The amount of information available to public includes details on size, condition, sales history, current inventory, recent sales, photographs, videos, school info, drive-times, entertainment and much more.

When a seller realizes that buyers are educated with facts, it becomes unlikely that they will pay more than a home is worth.

If a home is priced too high in the beginning, it may stay on the market longer than normal which could adversely affect the ultimate sales price. It is a natural reaction from people, personally or professionally, to assume that something must be wrong with a home that doesn’t sell in a reasonable time for that market.

The seller is entitled to maximize the equity in their home and pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to achieve that. Overpricing can reduce buyers activity because they assume that the best homes are purchased soon after they are offered for sale and if one has been on the market longer than normal, there must be a problem with it. Similarly, sales associates may come to the same conclusion.

After buyers have seen a few homes in a certain price range, they begin to expect similar amenities in each home they look at. If a home is overpriced, it will not compare favorably with the other homes that are being viewed. Sometimes, the buyer may even think that another home could be a bargain because it offers much more for the same price as the overpriced listing.

Shopping the market means looking at the homes that meet a buyers’ wants and needs and selecting the one that gives them the most, whether it is in price or amenities. The overpriced listing doesn’t compete well, and it extends the market time. There is a documented study that shows that the longer a home stays on the market, the lower the price will be.

It is essential that a seller receive factual information to price their home to compete favorably in the current market. Some of the obstacles can include:

  • Failure to objectively compare the current and sold homes with theirs
  • Neighbors who mislead the seller as to how much they got for their home
  • Fear of making a mistake and thinking they can start high and always lower the price
  • Loss of perspective because the seller is emotionally involved
  • Expecting the home to sell for more than fair market value because they need the money
  • Agents who will accept a listing at any price in order to tie up the property until the seller realizes the price is too high

What a seller paid for the home or the cost to rebuild it today do not affect market value. Neither does the amount spent by sellers on certain improvements that were made for their own pleasure and enjoyment.

It is unrealistic to expect a buyer to pay more than market value for a home. The seller sets the price of a home but the buyer determines the value. If the home is priced properly in the beginning, it is more likely to sell for a higher price, in a shorter period and with less problems.

THE SECOND STORY | September 26th, 2019

Lunch on the HORNET

A week ago, some local Realtors were invited to have lunch on the USS Hornet, along with a huge group of local biz owners and local citizens, who were there to hear our new City Manager tell us about Alameda and his plans for The Island City.

The Hornet is truly a veritable floating history museum:

The bow (front end) of the Hornet
Rescue helicopter…for the Apollo spacecraft
This says it all….you never know what you’ll                    bring back to the earth!

Apollo Command Module – the real deal!

Last year the annual lunch was held at the Rock Wall Winery, which is also on the former Alameda Naval Air Station property.

Besides being very cold inside the winery, both locations were loud and echo-y and we could barely hear either of those main-event-speakers over the constant chatter of voices and plates.

These lunches were sponsored by the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. It’s always interesting to hear diverse opinions on the status/state of the city.

In my opinion, they are terrific and it allows some time to talk about biz in Alameda (or other subjects like local politics, gossip, or where people are going or have gone on vaca).


MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent (the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. This could be when another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the deadlines, the back-up moves into the primary position and it’s bye-bye to the first buyer). If the second buyer finds a property that s(he) likes…then they can drop out of the 1st property and write on the second property. One thing is for sure…you do NOT want to buy both properties at the same time.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Tues tour 13

Active listings 65 including: 1 AC, 2 BOM, 3 PCH, 3 PSB

Pending 13 including: 3 PSB

Sold 8

Sold stats for this week…

Days on Market:

51 (high)

9 Low

Average 18

Median 13

All done for now!  Enjoy the weekend…contact me if you have questions about the market, where it’s going, where it’s been, etc. I’ll admit I don’t know all of the answers….

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 24th, 2019

What every homeowner should know about their property insurance


Insurance is required on a home by the mortgage company, but homeowners rely on it for peace of mind also. Unfortunately, people may not take the time to investigate their policy and what it covers until they need to file a claim, which could be too late.

While it may not seem like the best use of your time, an in-depth visit with your property insurance agent once a year could be valuable to you if you have losses and could increase your peace of mind.

The following are some questions you can ask your insurance agent:

  • What is the insured value of the policy and the replacement cost of your home? Insured value is the amount that would be paid for a total loss but replacing the home could cost more than that amount.
  • What is the deductible? Higher deductibles on the first amount of the loss are one way to lower the cost of the premium. It may sound good when you’re having to pay for the policy but feel very different at the time you file a claim.
  • What does the policy cover? Typical policies cover fire, theft, vandalism and storms. Homeowner policies bundle personal belongings and some liability coverage. They can differ not only from company to company but from policy to policy. Be clear on what is covered.
  • What does it not cover? … Some perils are usually not covered by policies like hurricane, flooding, power outage, rising water and earthquake. It can be confusing because a broken pipe might be covered but rising water from backed up sewer is not.
  • What is your anniversary date? … Policies are usually written for one-year and should be renewed before they expire. Mortgage companies like to renew them a month before they expire so there will not be a lapse in coverage. That is why borrowers with escrow accounts for taxes and insurance must fund them accordingly.
  • Is it paid by an escrow account with the mortgage? New homeowners should verify that their house payment includes 1/12th the annual taxes and insurance so they will not be surprised with a large bill when they become due.
  • Does your policy include liability coverage? … This covers claims made by third parties of bodily or property damage done by the insured. It could be as simple as a guest slips and injures themselves in your home. It is important to know the limits of liability and consider larger amounts especially, if you have a higher net worth or risk profile.
  • What is an umbrella policy? – This is a separate policy that increases the liability coverage above the limits of the homeowner’s policy. It can be a relatively inexpensive coverage.
  • Are personal belongings included? … Most homeowners policies include an amount toward personal belongings like furniture, rugs, housewares, and clothes. It may be expressed as a percentage of the overall policy. The question is: will it cover your belongings or does it need to be increased?
  • What is the process to file a claim? … Most claims require proof of purchase or a current inventory of the home. Since most people don’t have receipts except for big ticket items at best, the inventory becomes important. Videos, still pictures or a detailed list can help to satisfy this need. Click here for a digital Home Inventory.
  • Are there additional living expenses included? … Some policies include temporary living expenses if you are displaced from your home.
  • Does a home office require additional insurance? … Many homeowners work from their home and have special equipment that may not be covered normally. If you “meet and greet” people at home, ask about additional liability coverage.
  • Ask about floater policies on big-ticket items? … Some items like jewelry, furs or collectibles need to be scheduled or covered on a separate policy.

Insurance is meant to give you peace of mind against possible losses that could financially harm you without it. Because insurance is very specific about what it does and does not cover, it is important that you have a good understanding of your policy. A policy is a contract between you and the insurance company, and it deserves due consideration.

THE SECOND STORY | September 19th, 2019

Where ya gonna go…in a tsunami?

I attended a city meeting this evening….about tsunamis. We haven’t felt the effect of one of these for a long time, but the members of the not-crowded City Council chamber was mostly boat owners/dwellers.

I think that the city has records that I own a boat(s). We did own 2 boats and a canoe at one time.

The canoe is now hanging from the rafters in the carriage house (i.e. Carl’s former workshop). The canoe was one way that Carl taught Evan how to build stuff.

I got rid of the 26′ 1966 Chris Craft Hubba Hubba (a twin-engine gas guzzler) years ago. Sold it for $1. Yep…one buck. (see a previous post on

As I was looking at the map on the screen this evening, I realized I’d seen the effects of a tsunami…where was I? Oh yeah. I was in 5th or 6th grade and we lived in San Rafael, in 1964.

That was the first time I’d seen the tide come in and go out within 15 minutes? Usually, the tides run between 6-7 hrs each. The Alaska earthquake hit and we felt the effects: 15 minutes for high tide and immediately 15 minutes for low tide.


My dad took me and my brother to the harbor where he kept his sailboat. It was a 24′ Columbia Challenger. San Francisco Bay is a much larger body of water than Newport Harbor, thus the larger boat.

The upshot of the meeting this evening is this: If we have a tsunami: go to Buena Vista Ave. and wait it out there, per the map that the presenters had. And BTW, Clinton Ave is considered high ground. Maybe we can have a bar-b-que.

Bay Farm Island, South Shore, and Eastshore….umm, not so much. They’ll be swamped (literally).

(BTW…Evan built a fence with some of his friends around the front of their’s the type that is now “in” – the boards lay laterally rather than vertically. It looks good because it matches the vintage of the home – circa 1960s.)

Alameda Real Estate this Week


MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent (the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. This could be when another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the deadlines, the back-up moves into the primary position and it’s bye-bye to the first buyer). If the second buyer finds a property that s(he) likes…then they can drop out of the 1st property and write on the second property. One thing is for sure…you do NOT want to buy both properties at the same time.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller wants backup offers)

Tuesday Tour 14

Active Listings (including 1 AC, 1 BOM, 4 PCH)

Pending Listings 12 (including 5 PSB)

Sold Listings 12

That’s a wrap! Contact me if you have questions (or if you have the answers) about this market!

best, marilyn

See my for fun blog

THE SECOND STORY | September 17th, 2019

Want to be a Landlord?


Real estate has consistently been one of the highest rated investments available to individuals. TV shows certainly make rentals look easy and you may even know someone who has made a lot of money with them. Possibly, the thought has crossed your mind that if they can do it, you can too.

Before you contract for your first investment, ask yourself some questions that could save you time and energy. Not all people have the time, the inclination or even the skill to manage property. Landlords need to be good business people who can maximize revenue and minimize expenses. If investors don’t have the skills and talent to handle some of the repairs, they at least need to know reputable and reasonable service professionals.

Another important element is to be familiar with the state and local landlord tenant laws. You’ll need to know what are allowable security deposits and where the money can be held. Knowing how long you have to return it to a tenant is important and what to do if you plan to keep all or part of it for damages done. It is important to know about the eviction process and how fair housing applies.

If you decide that you may not be cut out for being a landlord, it won’t eliminate investing in rentals. It does mean that you will need to engage a property management company who is capable of dealing with all aspects of the process. The peace of mind and convenience will cost you a fee, usually a percentage of the rent collected. They can handle finding a tenant, doing the background check and writing the lease but there will be an additional fee for that service.

Even though your expenses will be higher with a property manager, with their experience, they should be able to help you lease the property for more money than you can get and will probably have service providers to do the work needed for less.

Occasionally, rental property requires out of pocket expenses for repairs and improvements which is like making another capital contribution. As equity builds in a rental property due to appreciation and principal reduction, the owner does have the option to take cash out of the investment either to pay additional expenses or to use any way the owner wants. Pulling equity out of a rental doesn’t even trigger a taxable event.

Single-family homes and up to four-unit buildings offer an investor the opportunity to get a high loan-to-value mortgage at a fixed interest rate for 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control compared to other alternative investments.

Many investors like the fact that you can borrow to purchase a rental investment where many other investments require cash. The use of borrowed funds can create an advantage called leverage. Assume you paid cash for a $100,000 home that generated $7,000 income after the rent was collected and expenses were paid. Divide the value of the home into the income and it would earn 7%.

If you decided to put an $80,000 mortgage on it at 5% interest, the interest expense would be $4,000 leaving only $3,000 income. However, at that point, you’d only have $20,000 invested in the property. Divide the cash invested into the income and the rate of return would increase to 15%.

This is a simple example of leverage showing that borrowed funds can increase an investor’s yield on a property.

Rental property can be an excellent investment when it is treated like the business that it is. Knowledge of the investment will reduce the risk and enhance the opportunity to make a profit. Some investors consider their rental income as “mailbox money” because each month, they go to their mailbox and they have money being sent to them by their tenants. The benefits of rental property can easily outweigh risk involved.

Contact me for more information on rental properties and the option to be the landlord or to delegate it to a property manager.

THE SECOND STORY | September 13th, 2019

Watching the ships roll in…

Action on the Alameda estuary.

I took this photo a couple of days ago. Sometimes I take a drive beyond where folks catch the west-end Alameda ferry over to San Francisco. While the city says there are 700-800 cars creating their own parking lots at ferry, I’ve never seen more than 10 cars in this ‘parking lot.’

It’s a change of scenery for me and I love it: tugboats, container ships (2 at this time: one was off-loading containers onto trucks, the other was full of containers), the ferrys, sailboats, small harbor/police boats, and usually a few guys throwing lines out to catch some fish, and lots of seagulls looking for food.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Our Fire Chief, Edmund Rodriguez, graced us with his presence at the Alameda Inforum Marketing Meeting (aka AIMM) this past Tuesday @ 8:30am.

The Alameda Chapter of the Bay East Association of Realtors meets at the Grandview Pavillion for breakfast once a month to catch up with city officials, Association leadership, other Realtors/lenders/title company reps, friends,  meet other members, and to have a lovely buffet breakfast, then head out on the Tuesday tour.

The Chief was letting us know what it’s been like to be the Head Honcho in A-town, the shifts that the firefighters have, what’s required of them (all types of issues show up: drug overdoses, illnesses, obviously fires, the training, what they wear and how much it weighs, and what the demands are for finding and retaining good men and women).

I think he said the city still had 8 firefighter positions open. Gosh, if you know somebody who is physically fit, is smart, likes variety, this could be a job s(he) could interview for!  (just sayin’.)

Broker Tour Tues 9

Active 52, (including 1 BOM, 4 PCH)

Pending 55 (including 10 PSB)

Sold 10

Sold stats for this week…

Days on Market:

63 (high)

0 Low

Average 19

Median 14


check out my for fun blog…


best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | September 10th, 2019

Money You Saved for a Down Payment


Occasionally, buyers who can qualify to purchase a home decide to “take a break” and wait to purchase a home. When the focus of buying a home is relaxed, other uses for the money that was going to be used for the home are considered.

Maybe they think how much fun it would be to have a Sea Doo or a motorcycle or a new car. It is amazing how many people would like to buy a home but either don’t have the down payment, the income or the good credit to make it possible.

Instead of spending the money, consider investing the money for two years until the time is right to buy a home. Let’s look at putting the money in a certificate of deposit that earns 2% or in the stock market that could average a 5% return.

Assume you were purchasing a $295,000 home on a FHA loan with 3.5% down payment. The $10,325 would grow to $10,742 in the CD which isn’t a big increase but at least it is safe and secure, and it will be available when you’re ready.

If the same amount were invested in a safe stock or mutual fund that earned 5%, it would grow to $11,383 in the same two-year period. It earns more but there is more risk involved.

Your Best Investment
CD Stock Market Home
Cash to Invest $10,325 $10,325 $10,325
Wealth Position $10,742 $11,383 $38,871
Profit Taxed as Ordinary Income Long-term capital gains §121 exclusion applies

Alternatively, if you invest the same amount in purchasing a home that appreciates at 3% a year, the equity would be $38,871 two years from now. The dramatic increase is due to leverage, being able to control a large asset with a small amount of cash. The appreciation is based on the purchase price not the down payment.

Another factor is that there is principal reduction with each payment that is made.

Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.

THE SECOND STORY | September 5th, 2019

Too many devices, too few outlets.

I went to the City Council meeting this week.  I rode my bike there. I didn’t speak at all this time. But I was watching and listening. It definitely wasn’t a packed house. Loads of seats were available. I saw several folks that I knew, and came across some long lost friends, as well.

After public remarks, when the city council was discussing the rent control issues, I think some of the council members actually went against what the city employees had recommended.

But I won’t trust what I heard until I see it in writing. Those changes have yet to be published. But I believe the council was attempting to make it a bit fairer towards the owners of rental property.

I went outside to ride my bike home, and I realized I left my helmet behind in the chambers. argh. I went up to the 3rd floor find it..a woman was waving to me. She had seen the helmet on the floor.

Too many items to keep track off: my turn indicator that fits on the handlebars…and the helmet lights up when I press either the left or right button; my speedometer/clock (all in one) that fits on my handlebars; my water bottle; my light that fits on the handlebar (has various settings from dull and steady to bright, brighter, and flashing; the bell on my handlebars (it’s quite loud); my life vest (no it doesn’t blow up) but cars/folks/pedestrians can see the bright orange color and the reflective tape.

Despite the hassle of these safety devices, I’m always glad when I get outside and ride my bike back home. It’s very quiet and still and dark.

And I have yet to figure out what the green-rimmed device is, in the middle of the photo. I think it was one of the folks who has recently worked on the house.

As I rode home, I realized it was one of the calmest council meetings I’ve attended in a while.


Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour Tues 5

Active listings 50 including 2 PCH

Pending sales 13 including 1 PSB

Sold 10

For this week’s Sold properties:

DOM (days on market) 

High 10, Low 5, Average 12, Median 12

If you have ??? I may have some answers…but let me know what you’re thinking about, in this market. Have a fun weekend!

best, marilyn


THE SECOND STORY | September 3rd, 2019

Downsizing is an Alternative


It is estimated that over 15% of the population in the U.S. are over 65 years of age. With one of the most common fears of seniors being their money will run out early, it is understandable that downsizing may be strategy to meet their goals.

Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find they may not need their “big” home like they did before. In other situations, their lifestyle might have changed, and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

The benefits of a smaller home can include the following:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that a person should take their time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes. Are they going to stay in the same area? What type of property would suit their needs for the future?

The tax-free exclusion allows a homeowner to take up to $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers. Part or all of this could be used to generate income for retirement. Other uses for the equity could include paying off other debt, taking the trip of a lifetime or making a special gift.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home. These will lower the amount of net proceeds you’ll have to invest in the new home.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this applies to their situation. Please contact me at (510) 908-9021 or marilynschu if you have any questions about what your home is worth or how long it might take to sell it. Other things that could be of value are our Homeowners Tax Guide or Sellers Guide.