THE SECOND STORY | February 7th, 2019

An email to my client…..

In my humble opinion, I think that the pricing (list/sale) issue is generational.

For those who have just come into the market, have kids in school (or no kids at all but may be planning on having a family), Alameda seems very tame and homey. Most newbies aren’t involved in local politics (they’ll find out about that later). Alameda is flat, easy to get around, close to parks and beaches, close to shopping. That why lots of us like it!

This is a photo of the clouds along Shoreline, last year. But I was driving to Pleasanton for a meeting this week, and the hills were full of snow!

However, these folks are bringing a lot of $$$ into this market, whether the prices are shifting or not. As far as detached homes go, what we paid 350K for 20-30 years ago, is now 1M+.  The old 400K is now the new 900K+.

Obviously, this is not a rule, but a shift in how we live.

The newer generations don’t know how to wait in line. They demand instant help via any of the devices we carry around with us including how to buy real estate or carve a turkey.

They share meals at restaurants with long tables full of strangers, with whom they become ‘friends’. They have their groceries delivered to their houses, as well as their meals. They use ride-share vehicles and some don’t even own a car.

The A model townhome (that I have listed and you saw) may not seem the best for baby-boomers BUT it’s a single level, attached on only one side.  But the A model floor plan could be a solution to Gen X&Y and the Millennials.

Several Baby-Boomers have looked at the A model I have listed, but the number of younger generation lookers have out-numbered them. There are parks just outside the door, garages are used for storage (not multiple cars), bus transport is accessible. The last A model I sold, about a year ago, was purchased by the younger generation, and I think we had 7 offers on it.

Any potential buyer, anywhere, is buying a location, that just happens to have a house/home/condo/townhome/ sitting on it.

As you well know, many of the original townhomes on Bay Farm Island were built in the 60’s & early 70’s. Those are mostly row-homes, straight in a line, with garages in the rear, on an alley. The Community of Harbor Bay Isle has several individual smaller townhome communities that have a meandering physical layout, with lots of trees and lagoons, built in the 80’s with garages in the rear, not straight out in front.


Yes, we do have inventory…and it’s increasing. And some of the prices are coming down, either by price reductions (read motivation), or if it’s been on the market 30-60 days with no offers.

Welcome to my world!

Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 11

Pending 5

Sold 7

Total Active 23, including 3 Price Changes, and 1 Active Contingent

Total Pending 31, of which 5 want Backup offers to the pending offer

The Super Bowl survived without me (it’s just too dangerous to spend my time watching it), and Valentine’s Day is almost here, then Presidents Day…and I hear there’s some chatter to make our National Election Day a holiday. Carry on!

PS I did have a former client call me this week, wanting to know if I knew any agent in Huntington Beach.  He was calling on behalf of a friend in Connecticut who has a home to sell in S. CA. I did find a great person (through my Certified Residential Specialist organization) who has interviewed for that job. If you, or a friend, have a need for an agent somewhere in the US, let me know and I might be able to make a connection. It sure beats finding anybody without any credentials! Keep me in mind for those referrals!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 5th, 2019

Your Real Estate Resource

Being a better homeowner is a full-time job. It takes good information to make good decisions not only when you buy and sell but all the years you own a home.

Think of times when you need advice on financing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, finding reasonable and reliable contractors and lots of other things. Imagine how nice it would be to have a real estate information line you could call whenever you have a question.

Our objective is to move from a one-time sale to customers for life; a select group of friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We believe that if we help you and your friends with all your real estate needs, we can earn the privilege to be your real estate professional.

Throughout the year, we’ll send reminders and suggestions by email and social media that enhance your homeowner experience. When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along. You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate. We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future. Please let us know how we can help you.

THE SECOND STORY | January 31st, 2019

Modern Family…Phil Dunphy is my hero.



Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) cracks me up. He’s a Realtor (actually an actor in S. CA). And in this week’s episode, he was very frustrated…showing over 200 houses (high-end ones at that), over the years to a rich guy, who wouldn’t spend his money.

Let’s get real….agents like to eat while on tour. Not they go out to eat….but they like to eat free food:  that they can get and grab while at an open house on the tour (Tuesdays), and while talking to others about issues of the day…like the Super Bowl or the local weather.

Some of the hosts (listing agents) offer food. It’s been a long time since I’ve offered food. It’s the property that should be attractive (in price), or has been completely re-made or reinvented.

I was alone this week, for almost an hour…hosting a home on the Broker Tour. Then 18 agents showed up during the last hour. Maybe they’d been fed by other agents. But they were very kind about what they saw at the property. “Hey, Mikey, they like it!”

I have enough to do, so I don’t feed the agents…for like decades. Besides, who wants to clean up after those agents? Not me. It takes weeks and/or months, to get a property ready for the market. Let’s keep it that way.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour 9

New 9 (See the Content Box to the right of this that features my new listing @ 1151 Admiralty Lane. Single level, 2bd, 2bath, patio, townhome, w/ 2 car garage.

Total Active 41, including 2 AC (active contingent), and 5 PCH (price changes)

Total Pending 35

Sold 9

I’ll be at 1151 Admiralty Lane (Bay Farm Island, Islandia townhomes) on Sunday 2-4pm for an open house. Come on by…..rain or shine!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 29th, 2019

Is a Home Equity Loan an Option?

Here’s the scenario: you have a project and need to borrow some money, but you want to do it in the most economic manner. You’ve got a low rate on your existing first mortgage and don’t want to do a cash-out refinance and pay a higher rate. Is a home equity loan an option?

Prior to 2018, homeowners could have up to $100,000 of home equity debt and deduct the interest on their personal tax return. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the home equity deduction unless the money is used for capital improvements.

Regardless of the deductibility, lenders will still loan money to owners who have equity in their home and good credit. The most common reasons people borrow against their home equity are:

  • Consolidate debt with higher interest rates
  • Make improvements on their home
  • Refinance an existing home equity line of credit
  • Down payment for another home or rental investment
  • Creating reserves or available access for potential needs

One available loan is a fixed-rate home equity loan, commonly referred to as a second mortgage. It is usually funded at one time, with amortized payments for terms that could range from five to fifteen years.

Another option is a home equity line of credit or HELOC, where a homeowner is approved for up to a certain amount at a floating-rate over a ten-year period. The borrower can draw against the amount as needed and would pay interest every month and eventually, pay down the principal.

The amount of money that can be borrowed is determined by the equity. Lenders generally will not exceed 80% of the value of the home. If a home was worth $400,000, the 80% ceiling would be $320,000. If the homeowner had an unpaid balance on their first loan of $240,000, an amount up to $80,000 would be possible.

The next variable is the borrowers’ credit score which will determine the rate of interest that will be charged. The higher the score, the lower the rate the borrower will pay. And the converse is true, the lower the score, the higher the rate.

Another common variable considered is the borrowers’ total debt to income ratio. Ideally, the combination of regular monthly debt payments should not exceed 43% of their monthly gross income.

If you have good credit and an adequate amount of equity, your home could be the source of the funds you need. There is a lot of competition among lenders and shopping around can make a difference.

Call us at (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional. If you have questions about whether the interest on the loan will be deductible, talk to your tax professional.

THE SECOND STORY | January 24th, 2019

Welcome to Home-Ownership…classes are ever-continuing…


There’s a lot to be said for homeownership.

  1. You think you own it..(actually you own when you pay all cash, otherwise the bank owns it).
  2. You think it’s perfect (and it very well may be) but then you want to change something.
  3. Or you think everything is all right…until these items (or something like them) happen:

Now I’m speaking for myself (and these items took place within the last 4 months).

  • My dishwasher won’t drain.
  • My washing machine drains onto the laundry room floor.
  • The handyperson, who was referred to me, said he fixed the dishwasher. Not so much.
  • The guy (an appliance pro that I’ve used before) who installed my new dishwasher, pulled out the old one, and it weighed so much he could hardly move it. Turns out it was holding a bunch of water..and that’s why it didn’t drain. And he picked up the new one, too! We have a winner!
  • The guy who was supposed to fix the handle on my escape ladder, said he’d come back to install the new handle..and he never showed up. I guess the 300 bucks I paid him was enough to make him disappear.
  • The same guy who did a great job and replaced my dishwasher, added a new gasket to the washing machine. No more leakage, seepage.
  • My roofer (who also did my solar installation) always comes by once per year, after the first rain. The carriage house definitely needed a new roof..and I noticed some of the granules flaking off. His crew came over and it was done in 3 days..and he checked all the gutters and the house roof. He no longer takes new business, but I’m so glad he was referred to me by a neighbor, who also used to work with me at Harbor Bay Realty, when it existed.
  • I decided to get an excellent company,  NBI (National Building Inspections), to do a pest and property inspection on this old beast of a house. Results? No too bad, especially since the last time I did these inspections was about 30 years ago when we bought this place. I recommend them to my clients, as well.

I wanted to replace 5 toilets in this building, and one of the furnaces went dead. The NBI inspector recommended these folks:  Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Mr. Sparky (electrical), and One Hour Heat and AC. These companies are great! They showed up within their window of time, they had uniforms on, their trucks explained who they were, and because I joined their Home Protection Club, they waive the service call ($59 but that doesn’t include any labor or materials).

The good news is that I’ll never refer a person who doesn’t do at least a good job, for my clients! I don’t want them to experience what I’ve been through. And it’s worth every penny to pay to fix these items so my clients/friends won’t need the ‘sinking heart and empty wallet’ feeling.

Back in the day, I used to send out a vendor referral list. Too many things have changed too quickly to do that these days. We’re all in this together. IF you have a recommendation for a vendor, who does good work, let me know! And let me know of those disasters you may have faced.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Tues tour 5

New 5

Pending 7

Sold 3

Total active 42

(includes 4 active contingent and 1 price change)

Total pending 34

I’m done!

Call, text, em me if you have comments or questions!

All good, all of the time!

best, m

THE SECOND STORY | January 22nd, 2019

Home Inventory

Generally speaking, when you need an inventory of your personal belongings, it is too late to make one. Sure, you can reconstruct it but undoubtedly, you’ll forget things and that can cost you money when filing your insurance claim.

Most homeowner’s policies have a certain amount of coverage for personal items that can be 40-60% of the value of the home.

Homeowners who have a loss are usually asked by the insurance company for proof of purchase which can come in the form of a receipt or current inventory of their personal belongings.

The most organized people might find it difficult, if not impossible, to find receipts for the valuable things in their home. Think about when you’re rummaging around a drawer or closet looking for something else and you discover something that you had totally forgotten that you had.

An inventory is like insurance for your insurance policy to be certain that you list everything possible if you need to make a claim. Systematically, make a list of the items by going through the rooms, along with the drawers and closets. In a clothes closet, you can list the number of shirts, pants, dresses and pairs of shoes but higher cost items should be listed separately.

Photographs and videos can be adequate proof that the items belonged to the insured. A series of pictures of the different rooms, closets, cabinets and drawers can be very helpful. When video is used, consider narrating as it is shot and be sure to go slow enough and close enough to see the things clearly.

For more suggestions and an easy to use, interactive form, download a Home Inventory, complete it, and save a copy off premise, either in a safety deposit box or digitally in the cloud if you have server-based storage available like Dropbox.

home inventory 001.png

THE SECOND STORY | January 17th, 2019

Yeah, this is what it looks like when a sump pump (or 2) fails….


3 pumps: a back up for the main pump and a back up for the backup. 2 failed (what are those odds?), and with a lot of folks’ help and effort, no flooding! I had enough plumbers here I called it a Plumbing Party! Plus, we had 2 sharp 3.4 earthshakes in the last 2 nights!


Alameda Real Estate this Week

New 9

Pending 5

Sold 4

Total active 44, including 5 contingent and 2 price changes

Total pending 30

My listing at 2515 Central #103 has had a lot of private showings and 7 of those agents have asked for the disclosures. It’s as large as a 2 bedroom house (over 1200 sf), all on one level, and has a deeded/dedicated parking space in the common garage. AND if/when it stops raining, the sewer test for the building will be performed! There are only 16 units in the complex!

After last Sunday’s open house, per the mls, my Seller is ready to look at offers! As I’ve said in the marketing material…what a great location, so close to transport (all kinds), Park Street is 1.5 blocks away, close to parks, schools, library, and the Alameda Theatre! You may even think about getting rid of your car!

OK..that’s a wrap. Call, text, em, if you have questions about A-town’s market!

Stay dry!

best, marilyn

check out my ‘for fun’ blog…

THE SECOND STORY | January 15th, 2019

Standard or Itemized Deductions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 increased the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples. There will be some instances that homeowners may be better off taking the standard deduction than itemizing their deductions. In the past, homeowners would most likely be better off itemizing but the $10,000 limit of state and local taxes (SALT) adds one more issue to consider.

Let’s look at a hypothetical homeowner to see how a strategy that has been around for years could benefit them now even though they haven’t used it in the past. The strategy is called bunching; by timing the payments in a tax year so that they can be combined to make a larger deduction.

Let’s say that the married couple filing jointly has a $285,000 mortgage at 5% for 30 years that has about $14,000 in interest being paid. The property taxes are $6,000 and they have $4,000 a year in charitable contributions for a total of $24,000 of allowable itemized deductions on Schedule A.

Standard Itemized.jpg

Since that deduction amount is the same as the Standard Deduction, there is no monetary advantage one way or the other. However, if the taxpayers were to pay their interest because they must make timely house payments but only pay $2,000 of the 2018 property taxes in December of 2018 and the balance of the $4,000 in January, they transfer part of the deduction into 2019.

Additionally, if they make their intended charitable contribution for 2018 in January of 2019, it makes that deductible on the 2019 return.

Since the total deductible amounts paid out in 2018 was $16,000, the taxpayers would have an $8,000 benefit that year from taking the Standard Deduction.

Assuming they made the same $4,000 charitable contribution in 2019 during the year and paid the house payment and property taxes on time, their total deductions for 2019 would be $32,000 which is $8,000 more than the Standard Deduction.

In this example, the taxpayers in 2018 and 2019, would benefit a total of $16,000 in tax deductions by bunching and electing to take the standard deduction one year and itemizing the next.

This is only an example but if your situation is similar, it might benefit you to consider an alternative when to take the standard deduction and when to itemize. This is a conversation you need to have with your tax professional to see if it would work for you.

THE SECOND STORY | January 10th, 2019

Sellers: you’re moving on….Buyers: you’re moving in….

Biking w/ my grandson in A-town! Photo by                     my son, on his bike.

Amazing how many folks go out in the driving rain to see open houses. That tells me they are a bit serious! I was holding 2515 Central Ave #103 open! Offers will be entertained anytime after this Sunday’s open house. And we’ve had quite a few private showings as well!

I received a couple of questions today from the husband of a couple I’m working with. He wanted to know what work should be done before they put the house on the market. We had the inspections and they turned out quite well.

Here was my response:

Most houses are sold ‘as is’ unless there’s an issue that Buyers want fixed….BUT if that’s the case, then I’d suggest you offer a credit ($) to the Buyers, against their closing costs, and then they can be in charge of correcting the issue. You’re moving on…they are moving in. You (mostly) don’t care, they do. 

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Broker Tour 8

New 13

Active/contingent 4

Back on market BOM 1

Sold 4

Total active 31

Total pending 27

Do you have questions? I may have some answers for you.  IMHO. 

Come by and see/meet me Sunday 2-4 2515 Central Ave #103!

best, marilyn

Check out my ‘for fun’ blog

THE SECOND STORY | January 8th, 2019

Eliminate FHA Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance premium can add almost $200 to the payment on a $265,000 FHA mortgage. The decision to get an FHA loan may have been the lower down payment requirement or the lower credit score levels, but now that you have the loan, is it possible to eliminate it?

Mortgage Insurance Premium protects lenders in case of a borrower’s default and is required on FHA loans. The Up-Front MIP is currently 1.75% of the base loan amount and paid at the time of closing. Annual MIP for loans with greater than 95% loan-to-value is .85% per year.

For loans with FHA case numbers assigned before June 3, 2013, when the loan is paid down to 78% of the original loan amount, the MIP can be cancelled. The borrower may need to contact the current servicer.

However, for loans greater than 90% with FHA case numbers assigned on or after that date, the MIP is required for the term of the loan.

Most homeowners with FHA mortgages are not eligible to cancel the MIP because they either originated their loan after June 3, 2013, put less than 10% down payment and/or got a 30-year loan. If they have at least 20% equity in the home, they can refinance the home with an 80% conventional loan which in most cases, does not require mortgage insurance.

With normal amortization on a 30-year loan, it takes approximately 11-years to reduce the original loan to the 78-80% requirement based on normal amortization. There is another dynamic involved which is the appreciation on the home. As the home goes up in value and the unpaid balance goes down, the equity increases.

If the homeowners believe that they have enough equity that would eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, they can investigate refinancing with a conventional loan. Borrowers refinancing will incur expenses in starting a new mortgage and the interest rate may be higher than the existing rate. Analysis will determine how long it will take to recapture the cost of refinancing.

Call me as (510) 908-9021 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.