THE SECOND STORY | July 29th, 2010

Thanks Tommy Bahama! This chair rocks! Well, not really…

Blog photo AND Post: A couple of months ago, an Alameda high-end contractor told me about these beach chairs while we were standing in line at the butcher’s at Chestnut Encinal Market. This guy and his wife have more timeshares at the same place I go on Maui (Westin Ocean Resorts), than I think I do altogether (yep, that would be another story…suffice it to say, quality does matter).

My normal MO is to buy a cheap beach chair at one of the ABC Stores for $15 and then give it to someone before I leave, who can use it, and who also might pay it forward too. Well my friend said get to Costco on Maui. A more convenient Costco there there could not be since it’s right next to the airport. So on my 3rd run to the airport to pick up the next guests, E&E and I stopped at Costco (my 2nd trip in less that 24 hours) and bought 4 chairs along with a few more things.

Allow me to give you a tour of the chair. For about $27 each, here’s what you get.

-A lightweight but solid chair, that sits higher off the sand than most.
-A detachable, small pillow (note the black straps at the top of the back).
-It fully reclines to a flat position, controlled by lifting the armrests.
-The frame below the upper back pocket is the pull out support for that end of the reclined chair.
-The upper zippered pocket is for your stuff (read sunglasses, a huge biography about John Adams, sunscreen, and hat).
-The lower zippered and insulated pocket is for your cold stuff.
-A cloth cup holder (w/netting on the bottom to let condensation drip out) is attached to a device holder that hangs off the right armrest. (Yep, a LOT of people have their phones with them.)
-AND there are backpack straps so you can tote it and still carry more of your stuff with your free hands.

The bad news? It was better to leave them there and pay it forward than to pay to have them forwarded to home. But they were a piece of heaven on the beach.

Good and bad news? The San Leandro Costco had them a couple of months ago and completely sold out in one weekend. So close and now so far away…

When I was there today ordering the annual cake and buying bottled water for our Neighborhood Watch National Night Out next Tuesday, I was told I might be able to get them online. And I will try.

And the best news? Someone in Maui won’t have to buy them since we left them with the Bell Desk at the Westin and they loan them out, asking that they be returned! And the sweet news? The Bell guys saying they would have one for me when I come back in a few months.

Quick glimpses:
-Keeping score and re-scoring (credit score legit twists)
-Welcome to the world of financing condos (or not) w/ FHA

Alameda real estate this week….

My clients closed on 319 Laguna Vista yesterday….ON TIME when it looked like it was impossible, BIG thanks to our ever-excellent escrow officer, Debbie Calvo at Placer Title! She pulled out all the stops to make it happen so our Buyers could start their move as they had planned. She rocks even more than the Tommy Bahama chairs!

Unfortunately the out of area loan officer (with a huge national company that features horses) had a bit of trouble communicating with us and a call to her manager two days ago seemed to have helped the AWOL agent get with the program. Thank goodness an awesome local loan officer and her assistant with the same company were able to give us some tips on what to do about the situation both at the beginning and end of a transaction they didn’t even get paid for (thanks Nina and Matt)!

Which brings me to my next beef du jour….folks the lending environment is tough. The new rules and the ever-changing rules are bad enough. But in this day and time, we need aggressive, in-the-know loan officers and mortgage brokers with solid relationships with the people they work with on the other side who I don’t get to see or know. Granted they don’t get to talk to the appraisers. But they need to understand the ins and outs of the game so they can prep the borrowers UPFRONT about what to expect: the massive amount of documentation, re-documentation, re-verifications, and who knows what else.

The lenders need to keep our clients informed. I let buyers know that I’ll be asking to see a fair amount of the documentation the lender gives them so it has a second set of eyes on it, and to advise the buyer(s) to ask questions if something looks wonky. And that includes telling the buyers what questions to ask. We’ve seen some pretty whacked out charges on the Good Faith Estimates and HUDS recently even after they’ve been pointed out to the lender previously.

I’ve always asked my buyer clients that if I don’t know the lender and/or escrow officer they wish to use, may I please speak to that/those person/persons so I can lay out my expectations and find out from them what their expectations are of me: what can I do to make their job easier? But if they sound like wingnuts….I tell the Buyer(s) to consider making a change, for their own sanity, to minimize surprises especially at the last minute, and for the successful close of their transaction.

I’ve got one going now (on the Seller side) and the Buyer’s lender hasn’t been able to figure out what happened to the appraisal, much less the appraiser! Now I know better than many that pooh happens. But if it does, then we need to expect that our professional partners in the transaction have a plan B and a plan C and the guts to fire non-performing lenders and get a move on with companies that can deliver!

On the Seller side, I find I need to temper frustrations about why the financing is grinding away so slowly. Along with that I find some of the larger condo Homeowner Associations are managed by companies that hide behind their voice mail systems and will not and do not respond to inquiries about why the docs they send out (and for which the owner pays hundreds of dollars for) are incorrect, lacking, and incomplete. Now that’s a rip off.

And I can’t say enough about how important it is to have an excellent escrow officer: one who has amazing detail orientation as the lender, empathy with the clients as issues arise, and who loves facing a challenge and getting the right result, and who communicates well and judiciously with all the parties in some of the most stressful situations people encounter.

Active listings this week 176, 189 last report
Pending listings this week 83, 79 last report

Tuesday Broker Tour 10 w/ 3 repeats


BOM 1 (back on market)

Price changes 11 (quite a few)

Pending 19 (6 of which are subject to lender approval)

Sold 11 (end of month…quite a few)

Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 5 (note that the reindeer house at the intersection of Gibbons, Northwood, and Cambridge is canceled. hhmmm. What up with that?)

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!
Cute, Charming – tie!
Not quite ‘Get me to rehab’…but more than ‘Get me a facelift’

About the town…
Tonight my dear friend Colette Collester (past life as a college professor with a PhD I believe in Art History) gave a fabulous talk/presentation at the Alameda Museum about Vincent Van Gogh (one of my favorites!). This was her fourth annual talk covering a wide variety of wonderful art subjects. Hugely engaging and enlightening!

If you haven’t tried Burger Wednesday at The Little House Cafe and you are a carnivore….check it out. My friend Jill and I went on…oh yeah, that’s right – this past Wed – and I now know why I’ve heard the raves.

August is now upon us and this summer weather sucks. I hope my gorgeous green tomatoes-in-a-pot turn red someday!

To those of you who have shared my name with friends, family, co-workers, associates, and neighbors I am most grateful…thank you so much.

Have a great weekend! Smile…the person who catches it may just pass it along!

Make it work, that’s a wrap, carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 22nd, 2010

Maui memories are made of these….

Blog photos: The last night with a roaring sunset, S&S, and E&E, viewed from the Lahaina Yacht Club during our wait for a delicious dinner. Lanai is on the left of the horizon and Molokai is on the right edge.

Gang photo before my brother and his family headed back to Florida: from left: me, Sean, Teddy, Sutter, Delaney, Tim (my brother), Kim, Evan (Mr. tall guy), and Erin.

Here are some clues that might give you a sense of what took place the past week and a half:

10 days
9 friends
8 (ate) a lot
7 in the water-carved rock pool at the blowhole
6 runs to the airport
5 wahines
4 ocean FRONT condos
3 points of origin (CA, Florida, New Zealand)
2 heavy duty West Maui Mountain road cyclists

And how cool is it to be able to say my family members are all my friends? It’s very, very cool.

Quick glimpses
Data mining and your take-out orders
-Keep an eye out for attractive, good jumbo loans
-Who’s jumping into the real estate buying pool?

Alameda real estate the past two weeks…
One set of my clients had a listing go pending and another set of clients got an accepted offer all within 3 days of when I left town. So it was busy just before departure! I am so blessed to be able to do work while I’m gone…but I couldn’t keep on pace without my wonderful real estate partner Coly Young, giving me backup support here in Alameda. And I do the same for Coly and her husband Tom, when they head out for time away. Thank goodness for the tools we have now to be able to service clients long distance, especially when I’m in Alameda and they may be around the world!

Here’s a back story:
3030 Thompson sold in 1997 for 307K, then in 2003 for 685K, then in 2007 for 840K. Then 9 months later it was on the market for 839K. It didn’t sell. Now it’s on the market as a short sale for 689.5K

When you see the links below, they are recaps of the past two weeks. Some new listings may have gone pending, expired listings may be showing up as new, and the like.

Active listings 185, 189 last report
Pending listings 77, 79 last report

Tuesday Broker Tour – 10 with 5 repeats. No awards this week…I was following fish, and admiring sunsets, and sharing time with family.

Highest and lowest priced NEW listings

New 16

BOM (Back on Market) 0

Price changes 10

Pending 21

Sold 21

Expired 6

Withdrawn/canceled 11

Next week I’ll be more up to date….maybe we’ll have some awards to share!

All the best, Mahalo and much Aloha from San Francisco Bay’s best island – Alameda!


THE SECOND STORY | July 17th, 2010

Catching a second wind….

The Second Story is catching a second wind and will catch up on Alameda real estate next week!

THE SECOND STORY | July 8th, 2010

I love an Alameda parade…

Blog photo: Though not the July 4th Parade, for years Encinal High School has hosted a mega spring event that resembles a parade. The battle of the bands includes marching bands and drum and bugle corps from all over Northern CA. The talent and dedication is impressive! Over the years thousands of kids have come with their high school bands, buses, rental trucks, uniforms, coaches, teachers, parents, and instruments to compete. The competitors take to the streets and march through the neighborhoods. We locals love it! And they show their appreciation with awe, respect, and applause! I took this shot a couple of years ago.

The bottom line is I missed the 4th of July parade this year….it was kind of a hassle when my church commitments conflicted the event. I guess I missed the battle of the mayoral candidates as they attempted to end-run the City Attorney’s ruling that they could not shamelessly self-promote their desires to run this town!

Nonetheless, it was a lovely day, ending up with 8 friends sharing dinner here, and testing the useful life of 25+ year old sparklers. Turns out there is a short remaining useful life. Very short.

Blog post: Some observations about the market-
1. It’s alive and not dead.
2. The short sale inventory is reduced.
3. REOs (real estate owned by lenders) are still out there but not priced at rock bottom.
4. Prices seem to be stabilizing for the detached single family home section, with record highs for exceptional properties, and major lows for some of the townhomes and condos.
5. Rents are coming down.
6. Commercial properties (5+ more units) have taken a big hit (financing is tough, rents down).
7. Renters are room-sharing larger homes/apartments reducing the monthly costs.
8. There seems to be a trend for the properties that are tract homes and townhomes (those that are relatively easy to comp). If you know what prices were in 2002, before the big run up that topped out in 2007, the value today just might be close to the value back then. Condos don’t fit this profile. They are the hardest hit. Of course location and condition are big factors.

For the 91 Active residential single family, detached listings the average DOM (days on market) is 60. Remember that can be skewed by properties being removed from the market for 30 days, and then put back on. When that happens the number count starts over at zero.

For the 47 pending residential single family, detached listings the average DOM (days on market) is 31.

hhmm, should we be paying attention?

The property at 1533 Morton, hyped for it’s green features, came on the market 4/8/09 for 969K. It has not sold and today it is priced for 759K. So what’s with the green not selling? It is actually quite lovely inside.

However, in order to get it built behind the older home in front, the owners had to go condo with it, eliminate most of any type of front yard which is parking for the front house, back yard is minimal, three living levels means a fair number of stairs. And similar quality properties to both the front and back homes are a bit tough to find close by.

So I hope an appreciative, urban-type buyer will step up to the plate and make an offer! No, it’s not my listing, it’s just that it’s not about the green. It’s actually about knowing the neighborhood and the clientele.

What looked terrible then…looks pretty good now. 3306 Fir a Bay Farm Island single level 2/2 townhome just closed for 409K.

Back in 2006 I had the same model on the same street 3201 Fir listed for 569K having advised the clients that 539K was the proper price. We dropped it to 539K after about 210 days on the market. Then we pulled it off the market to re-group with painting and staging and a price change to 529K. It went pending right away and closed after a total of 251 DOM for 529K. These floor plans, with good upgrades, sold at the top of the market for over 575K.

What’s the phrase? If we don’t learn from history we are bound to repeat it. We need to pay attention to where our properties fit into the market not just for today but in a larger perspective including broader past trends. There are few more discouraging situations when an owner finds him/herself following the market downward….ugh, ugly, and tough.

This week we saw 1047 Melrose, the same floor plan I’ve been writing about. Price is 398K and it is rough…tenant occupied and needs work. It didn’t look like the MLS photos when we went in.

SUCCESS STORIES! I suggested in a recent post that consumers may want to check out I submitted my most recent ATT bill and Comcast bills to them immediately after I heard about the company on the late news about a month ago.

For the next 12 months, my ATT bill, has been reduced by $10 per month. I contacted ATT to review the changes and my service and program is not change…just the price!

And based on what I see for my Comcast bill, it looks like that is coming down at least $30 per month! Now that’s super great! Same service, not the same price. CHECK IT OUT!

Alameda real estate this week…

I put a new listing on the market on Tuesday. Check out 1001 Shoreline #406 It’s a top floor 2/2 condo with full bay views not to be confused with my listing that was a 3rd floor unit that got rented for a year.

Active listings 189, 173 last report
Pending listings 79, 77 last report

Tuesday Broker Tour 7 with 2 repeats.

Highest and lowest priced NEW listings

New 17

BOM Back on Market 1

Price changes

Pending 5

Sold 4


Withdrawn/canceled 2

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

Winner of the Week This is a beautifully re-done, compact bunalow…every aspect.

Bang for the Buck Goes to my new listing – bay views, in unit full-sized laundry, detached single car garage!

That’s a wrap! Carry on!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | July 1st, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Blog photo: This was on the way to the Giants game last Monday evening via the Alameda ferry. We were at the back of the boat. I needed a new flag photo. And there it was. Even if one hated baseball it would be hard to dislike the ferry trip to and from, and the setting of that ballpark…especially the 2nd level seats that look out to the bay…..who needs baseball? View, fun, food, ferry. Sweet!

Blog post: A day in the life of this real estate broker associate:
-10am – my favorite structural engineer came by and installed some drain pipes into some brick.
-10:30 am – Met with a client and started the listing process. (It is on MLS Waiver)
-12:20 – Late for my golf lesson – my teacher is saying really good things about my swing. Now I need to translate that from the practice mat out to the course.
1:40 -Rode my bike to City Hall for one reason and ended up taking care of about four items!
3:10 -Rode my bike to the west end and completed listing and disclosure paperwork with another client. The property isn’t ready to go to market yet. (It is on MLS Waiver)
-5:30 -Rode my bike to meet up with clients on the east end and showed 3 properties.
-7:30 -Rode my bike to the new Paganos Hardware at Towne Centre – they are open until 8pm! It was my second time there this week. Love it!
-7:55- Rode back around to Panera to pick up some bread (love that place, too).
-Rode home and have been trying not to fall asleep after fixing dinner!

Quick glimpses:
-Tax credit deadline (for those in contract by last April 30, they must now close by Sept. 30.
This will be a big help for those buyers wading through the deep, slow waters of short sale contracts.
Fannie Mae may not be your friend if you give back your house
Sinking or swimming – when do owners throw in the towel?
-What’s a Deed in Lieu (of foreclosure)

Alameda real estate this week….
Active listings 173, 169 last report
Pending listings 77, 80 last report

Tuesday broker tour
– 14 with 2 repeats There were some NICE properties this week!

If you’d like to get the email blast I send out on Tuesdays with a link and spreadsheet of what is on tour, let me know. It’s all done BCC so your email address is not out there for everyone to see.

Highest and Lowest priced NEW listings

New 13

BOM Back on Market 2

Price changes 13

Pending 11

Sold 8

Expired 11 some of these show back up as NEW

Withdrawn/canceled 1

Alameda real estate awards this week… remember,
this is only my perspective!

Winner of the Week – tie!

Get me a facelift!

Get me to Rehab!

I’m out of Rehab! This is the two houses on one lot, on Bay across from Mastick Senior Center. It was sold as junk, had major work done on it, caught on fire, then sold again…and voila. The owners seem to have done a marvelous job and the styling and finishes are gorgeous.

Have a fun holiday. Be safe. Enjoy the weather, family, friends, and the Sunday Alameda parade!

Carry on! That’s a wrap! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 24th, 2010

Alameda’s show and tell time! We’re on the TV location map again!

Blog photo: If you get a ticket here, I hope at least you get a smile too. Somebody has trained a glorious bougainvillea to wrap around the signpost. Again, one of the advantages of riding my bike on the broker tour is seeing so much more of our Alameda details! I had just passed by and the blast of color caught my eye. A quick turnaround, a quick picture on the iPhone, a quick upload to the blog. This was taken two weeks ago. And the weather that day was a far cry from the cold and gloom of today! But it is supposed to be fabulous this weekend!

Blog post: Alameda been used as a location for numerous TV shows, movies, and commercials. Most recently was the airing of Dinner Impossible (Food Network) last night (and seen as re-runs now). Peet’s Coffee and Tea out at the Harbor Bay Biz Park was featured.

And we can’t forget that the TV show hosts of MythBusters love to use the former Alameda Naval Air Station for quite a few of their dramatic experiments. Since I feel a sense of obligation to relate something here to real estate, here’s the video of them showing what happens when water heaters blow up! Let this be a lesson to you and maybe you’ll pay attention to those seemingly small items noted in property inspections!

And from Sutter, in New Zealand, here’s a bike she thought was pretty cool and I agree! She said she got word of it from a friend/co-worker here in Tiburon! And Sean says he’s seen these bikes around their town. Who will be the first in Alameda to get one of these? That would get the cameras clicking! Check out Christchurch, NZ, and the demo of the YIKE BIKE!

Alameda Market Graphs

Quick glimpses:
Mortgage fraud insights
The commercial side of real estate

Alameda real estate this week…
Active listings this week 169, 166
Pending listings this week 80, 86

Tuesday Broker Tour 13 with 6 repeats.

Highest and Lowest priced NEW listings

New 14

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes

Pending 17

Sold 15

Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 4

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

Winner of the week

Bang for the Buck

Enjoy the summer weather this weekend!

That’s a wrap! Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 17th, 2010

Rockin’ at the Cove (aka Crowd Cove!)

Blog photos: Last Friday evening was a blast from the past at the second concert of four this summer, sponsored by the West Alameda Business Association, featuring a tribute band for Michael Jackson. Hundreds and hundreds of folks, all ages, showed up on the most perfect evening imaginable: temps in the mid 70’s, perfectly clear skies, no wind, no fog, and fabulous music! Everybody was bustin’ moves of some kind!

Want more free concerts? Thursdays and Saturdays all summer at Alameda Towne Center. This link has the line up!

Blog post: Consumer items!

-The word on the street! THE FLATS ARE HOT AND THE HILLS ARE NOT! Alameda is flat and people want it. One of my dear Realtor friends who works the Berkeley and Oakland hills said places that have high walkability ratings have now trumped isolation and estates! Hit the link above and plug in your address to get a rating! And lucky for us almost all of Alameda has very good ratings! Getting around here without a car can be done, and done very pleasantly in many cases!

-You may know this….most Bay Area real estate consumers do. Redfin has by far the best website for drilling down info on listings and is super quick to post new properties. Some of you beat me to the punch because they post quicker than the round-about way some of the MLSs use. It’s so good, I’ve now included it on the links to the right of the blog. I don’t know why I waited so long….

Redfin is a discount real estate brokerage company. They give rebates back to their clients when they close a transaction. While I’ve not had any direct experience with one of their agents in a transaction, I do know buyers who have started with them and then moved on due to lack of knowledge about areas they are interested in. Consumers search, then contact them and someone is assigned to meet up with the buyer. Sellers…they swing a discount too, but I’ve also heard that local expertise is sometimes lacking. But it’s all about choices…and they’ve got a terrific website for property searches and info.

-Want to save some bucks every month? Check out Bill Tiger A couple of weeks ago while working on the blog, a blurb came on the Channel 3 (NBC) 11pm news about BillTiger. Immediately I zapped them my most recent Comcast (cable and internet) bill and ATT phone (wireless and landline) bill. Last week I got word that they could save me $28 per month and it had been set up for the next year. Yesterday I got word that they saved me $10 per month for the next year. I pay them $49 for the service only after the first changed billing cycle takes place. The guy behind this is amazing and that news bit had quite an effect and the guy who emailed me my results (yes, it was a real person!) apologized for it taking a bit longer, due to demand. I need to find out just what my new phone details are and ATT has sent me a couple of messages so I will do that checking. What have you got to lose? Oh,that’s right – nothing! You gain a few bucks!

Customer service gripe– I had a terrible experience with Adobe when I ordered an updated Acrobat product that I use for pdf work, workovers, and management for my business. Their trial download link didn’t work so that took a call to India. Then the product finally came and after about 3 hours of phone calls and numerous case numbers, again with some of my new best friends in India (I couldn’t understand several of them!) we discovered that they sent me all the right packaging but with the wrong CD but it too was labeled as the product I ordered. No wonder the serial number wouldn’t work! After another hour this past Monday, with more new best friends they finally figured out how to give me a new serial number to match the product they sent me. I got a refund for the one they messed up, decided to spend an extra $60 for the next higher mystery upgrade they’d sent by mistake, and then downloaded that which took about 45 minutes. Off-shoring and out-sourcing sucks.

-Customer service kudos! – I love my computer service support (Lenovo, aka IBM), Apple, Agency Logic (my website template provider – the president of the company has called me back personally twice from New York – he so gets it), and Docusign (the electronic signature company I use and I paid more for a higher level of service and it has been worth every cent!

I buy extended warranties for electronics these days. I figure I get a useful life of 3 years out of my laptop and then the world has changed enough that I have to change too. So every year for the past 3 years, I’ve needed to have the fan in my laptop replaced (thank goodness before it went out). Someone comes over in 1 day, to my house, no charge. AND when I was in Maui 18 months ago, they sent someone over to me at the condo from Oahu the next day. That guy had to get a flight over, rent a car, and start his day with me first, 45 minutes from the airport. The last thing I needed was a broken computer so when that fan makes noise I really listen. That’s priceless service.

Each of these companies represents added value to me because it creates added value to my clients, which they have come to expect. They don’t care how it gets there, they just know they get it and I know they deserve it! And that’s priceless too!

Quick Glimpses:
CA owners who refinanced loans may be getting deficiency relief
-Know about flipping? How about flopping?
-US Senate takes steps to extend tax credit deadline to Sept 30

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings this week 166, 173 last report
Pending listings this week 86, 82 last report

Tuesday Broker Tour 14 with 3 repeats

Highest and Lowest priced NEW listings

New 12

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes

Pending 19

Sold 15

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled 2

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!

Get me to rehab

Out of rehab 2 links here, one is from 2007 before, the other now. Many of you know this house as an ignored junker for decades, corner of Encinal and Fountain.

Rerun, deja vu, etc We have a new award! It could also be called the ‘ How stupid do they think we are’ award. 4 links are here. This just closed last week for $320,310 on a list of 440K after many, many months. The new owner apparently bought a bundle of repos throughout the state and this was one of them. Now it’s listed for430K and to my knowledge nothing about this funky place has much changed.

So that about does it! Have a great weekend!

Carry on! Make it work!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 10th, 2010

My first time….

Blog photo: I took this a week ago about 8:30pm out at Alameda Point. It was cool, windy, and the sky looked a bit promising. So I turned off the barbecue and headed west. What I didn’t expect was being able to see the low fog pattern that had been prevalent the better part of the week, day after day. Check out the photo and see the super low fog under and behind the Bay Bridge. It was classic finger fog stretching just beyond Angel Island during the day and then dissipating as it got closer to the East Bay shore.

Blog post: I’m going to talk about my first time. My first time was Wednesday evening. That’s a hook, isn’t it? Gotcha. I mean my first time in the new(ish) Alameda Free Library main branch as a patron, user, observer, rather than a book-donor running in to make a drop and grab a donation slip on my way out. I actually went in to find some books. And I got a library card. The last time I used one was probably over 25 years ago, at the Carnegie Library site (Oak and Santa Clara). That building has been vacant for years, waiting for money and purpose to bring it alive again.

It was just before 7pm. It was quiet (duh), really quiet, sans small kids. Many adults were using many of the 70 computers that are available to patrons. I found only one of the six books I was looking for on the shelf so took it to a table/desk and started to read. Then I’d look up to see what everybody else was doing. They were reading, too. Or reading online. And they weren’t looking around. It was comfortable. And a big improvement over the Carnegie.

Then I checked my book out. There is no more stamping of cards in the front of the books. And they don’t slide new cards with the return date into the front cover inside pocket/slot. Instead I got a digitally generated Return Receipt saying I had to check it back in on June 30 or I could go online to renew the checkout date. The attendant said I could check 50 books out. Hhmmm. Don’t think I’ll do that. But I do think I’ll come back for a second time. And I hope it’s as nice as the first.

Quick glimpses:
Refi to a 20 year loan? My comment – consider sticking w/ the 30 year loan but pay it down quicker. That way you aren’t jammed with a high payment the month you need new tires for your Prius! There is serious money to be saved by making the equivalent of one extra payment per year, and easier and accelerated quicker if you divide it into 12 equal payments and make one per month. Just be sure it GOES TO THE PRINCIPLE PAYDOWN!

And this has nothing to do with real estate. My long time glider pilot buddy (over 38 years) sent me an update about his flying. He’s been soaring like crazy around the world since Apple decided his long-term career was over…Check out soaring in New Zealand – Sutter and I flew at this site a few years ago and while my flight was not over the mountainous terrain that day, it was close by. It really is a lot like the Sierra, and I have spent some time in the skies soaring there. I shared the link with S&S in NZ and E&E in SD, and Evan wrote back “Looks like a lot of fun (and somewhat terrifying). My momma did that!” Yep, I did. It’s been about 5 years since I was current in airplanes and gliders – last flew both kinds of planes in the Sierra then. And to think a young husband introduced his young wife to flying and gave her confidence, guts, and the world by doing that. hhhmm…maybe….

Alameda real estate this week…
My clients bought a house today. Their offer came together in less than 5 hours from when it was written. 319 Laguna Vista

My clients rented their condo at 933 Shoreline #306 so we took it off the market. A nice thing to do for the new residents, don’t you think?

Active listings 173, 166 last report
Pending listings 82, 84 last report

Highest and Lowest priced NEW listings

Tuesday Broker Tour 11 with 3 repeats

New 14

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes (quite a few!) 13

Pending 12

Sold 13

Expired 0


Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!
Get me a facelift

Get me to rehab – quick! This is the mystery house, aka ‘the reindeer house’. I saw it on Tuesday and it sucked the life out of me. It needs everything. This makes the Gold Coast classic at 1200 San Antonio look like a steal – and it very well may be for the right owner. It’s got everything our rehab award winner doesn’t – on every level.

Bang for the buck

Got me a makeover!

Concert at the Cove is Friday evening!
See ya there? Outta be good… a 14 piece Michael Jackson tribute band! 1-2-3! It should be a thriller and it will be bad. I’ll be there and so will Billie Jean. I never can say goodbye because we’ve got a good thing going here!

Have a great weekend! Carry on! Make it work! Share the smile on your face with a stranger. Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | June 3rd, 2010

I’m an Alameda urban gardener! Plus new rules for property painting…

Blog photo: Thanks to Iris Watson, owner of Thomsen’s Garden Center, I’ve become a grower of edibles! The back yard has had a prolific apple (good for eating AND cooking) tree for decades, and we put in our mega-producer dwarf lemon tree maybe 15+ years ago, but I’ve always thought I couldn’t grow any veggies due to too much shade. So when I went over to Thomsen’s to get some spot color for some containers, I told Iris I’d love to grow food. Immediately she said “You can! Put the veggies in pots next to the carriage house! You’ll get reflected light, warmth, and sun!” And she was right! She’s helped me before and as is typical of many of our local experts, she has a history with probably 1000’s of properties in town, going back well…let’s just say a long time! She planted the gorgeous camellias and some of our roses long before we took over the care and tending of this old house.

With the added encouragement and know-how of my clients/friends Jackie, and Darren and Suki, I had my FIRST EVER home grown salad tonight! Starting from the pot on the left is basil, next is a mix of 6 lettuce plants, then a cherry tomato, and then Celebrity – a wonderful tomato Iris assures me. The lettuces are divine – and I’m not sure what they are. Super flavors! And there is fruit on the tomato plants.

Normally producing hundreds of apples, last year our dear tree gave us one – not one hundred – ONE. I guess it was time for a rest. It’s happened a couple of times before. This year there is good fruit on the tree. Today I cut away some growth that was hosting aphids since I prefer not to use insecticide sprays in the yards. And I think the apple tree is now happier!

Tuesday I finished the second harvest this year on the Meyer lemon tree. Look at those two baskets full! Incredible!

Blog post: If you are having work done to the inside or outside of your pre-1978 or child-occupied facility PLEASE pay attention to this! There are some serious new FEDERAL rules regarding lead abatement effective April of this year! The goal is to minimize the risk of lead exposure to you, your family, your residents/occupants, and neighbors. If you plan on selling you might expect potential buyers will ask for documentation regarding the verification and certification of lead cleanup. And what’s even more important is if there is compensation (money, bartering, rent reductions, etc) involved, contractors/renovators must provide proof of certification to do that work PLUS documentation that the work has been completed properly. Do-it-your-self-ers are exempt. I’d suggest starting with the second link below – excellent, very short videos answering the most commonly asked questions. It’s succinct and to the point.

Oh BTW, if you think Alameda’s anonymous complainers for code compliance is an expensive hassle, you ain’t seen nothing yet with respect to anonymous calls to appropriate authorities regarding lead paint. PAY ATTENTION! And all quality Realtors will be talking to their clients and prospective clients about these issues.

Quick Glimpses:
Private Mortgage Insurers are back in the game.
Rates LOW! Considerations….(ignore the San Diego focus)

Alameda real estate this week….

We closed the delightful 2/1 Woodstock co-op unit last Friday for 260K on a 275K list. See the link in the right sidebar.

What do I see coming this summer?

More inventory. If what I am working on for selling clients is any indication, many of whom are in various states of delay, you’ll see properties priced to the market.

I don’t think you’ll be seeing prices heading downward unless it’s condos located in troubled complexes with too many renters and not enough owners to meet lender requirements and/or complexes with too many owners who are delinquent on their HOA fees.

Here in Alameda, we are seeing the low-price water-marks of last year, very slowly rising. It seems there are more buyers in the market with the interest rates staying low and money available for loans. Some may be willing to pay the price for high-leveraged loans, aka low money-down financing. The costs involved with high leveraged loans include private mortgage insurance rates and fees, and more points for specialized financing. The low rates might be considered off-sets by buyers willing to pay slightly higher prices and fees.

The talk of shadow foreclosures and more short sales may very well be true. However, because of increased buyer demand we will see lenders holding out for more money and not caving to low ball offers. Buyers will need to get the message that those days are gone.

Sellers may start to consider carrying paper.…behind the institutional loan buyers will obtain. It could be minimal amounts with minimal risk to the seller(s), with minimal carrying periods. Expect this especially if rates start to climb up the mountain.

Should rates climb, I expect there will be a slowing of price increases and some buyers will be ‘interest-rated’ out of the market.

Alameda is a lot more stable than surrounding communities and the fact that our market over the decades has not had the extreme highs and lows experienced by other towns/cities, continues to bode well for the town now.

Let’s talk about the rental market. I can speak from current experience. Rentals are spending lots more time on the market, and as a result rents are coming down. Quality, priced right, will always win over dirty units and unmaintained buildings. I think some issues owners will face is applicants with less than desirable credit scores due to the effects of the employment situation and perhaps involvement in short sales and foreclosures. If owners think they will be able to pass on the costs of the parcel tax for Alameda schools, Measure E, to their tenants, I think they will have another thing coming at least in the short term.

Speaking of Measure E, I am for it. But I don’t like the split assessment for 5+ residential units and commercial properties vs 1-4 unit properties that will have a prix fixe assessment. I will be facing a tax increase of over $500 from the current parcel tax, should E pass. Yet, I have already voted for it. Quality schools are the least we can give to our kids and our community. Just like all things, people gravitate to quality. And that will make Alameda a more vibrant community.

What I’d like to see is all of our public school parents figure a way for each of them, on any level, to contribute directly to our schools. And that includes parents whose kids come from outside of the district. In that situation, they are now in the community and need to contribute to its health. It can be volunteering regularly, donating cash in regular intervals to the Alameda Education Foundation, figuring out how to get ALL of the students, in all schools and grades to be stewards of their schools by getting involved in responsibilities around the facilities. Good schools don’t come cheap and we need to have the kids learn that they must give something back to the school community they are part of every week of the school year. This is not about haves and have-nots. It’s about teaching, learning, and executing ethical standards, without having everybody fit into the same box.

Observations and sermonette over.

Active listings 166, 161 last report
Pending listings 84, 98 last report

Highest and lowest priced NEW listings (low is a tie)

Tuesday Broker Tour
(a nice bike ride!) 9, no repeats

New 18

BOM (Back on Market) 2

Price changes 6

Pending 11

Sold 17

Expired 6

Withdrawn/canceled 7

Alameda real estate awards this week….
remember this is only my perspective!

Winner of the Week

Bang for the Buck, Out of Rehab, Got a Makeover

That’s it! Carry on! Have a nice weekend!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | May 27th, 2010

Alameda is small: 6 blocks of separation…try it!

Post photo: With all that the country is facing on the home front, it seems appropriate for me to pause and remember why we’ve got a three day weekend coming up. Financial messes, oil spill disasters, unemployment…I’m not one for making lists of awful things BUT it seems that the wars we are fighting overseas have just fallen off the map. Literally. Maybe you’ll be flying our flag, daylight hours, over the weekend, remembering those who have sacrificed so much for so many they would never know. All in the name of freedom. (I took this photo on the return ferry trip from a Giant’s night game a couple of years ago – it was flying off the stern of the boat.)

Post title: Many of you know the play Six Degrees of Separation. The premise is that each of us is only 6 connections away from connecting with everybody. It’s the ultimate World Wide Web! Many years ago, my daughter Sutter and I came up with a slightly tighter notion for Alameda. We are all only “Six BLOCKS of Separation” away from everybody on this island. Now that defines a small town! Try it! Take a name of somebody in Alameda. Take another Alamedan’s name. Figure out who they each know within six blocks see how they are connected. You might be surprised! Maybe this is the ultimate MySpaceFacePlacebook rooted on the earth, not cyberspace!

FaceBook is getting a bit weird for me. First, I think I’m getting over it the whole thing. Who are some of these people who want to be friends? I don’t think so! I’ve elected to put a bunch of controls on my site and if anybody I don’t know wants to do some behind the scenes homework about me, they’ll be able to link to my website and my blog. That’s it. I mean really – just how much trivial stuff of people I haven’t known for 40 years do I need to know today? The answer – not much!

Don’t get me wrong. FB has had a very sweet place in my life the past year and it has been nice to reconnect with some special, long, lost friends. But life is now, and that was then.

My “Word-Verb o’ the Week” is ‘un-friend’ as in ‘I’m un-friend-ing some people on FB.’ I guess it’s cypberspace spring cleaning. If somebody I do know wants to friends, we can work it out.

Right vs Right – Ethics is not about right vs. wrong. That is obvious. Ethics is about how considerations are made when an ethical dilemma (two right options) or trilemma (three right options) or more, are involved! I’ve added a link in the sidebar section to one of my favorite organizations – The Institute for Global Ethics. The work they do in schools, on the corporate level, in government agencies including countries around the world, is not only impressive but imperative in this day and age. I’ve also included a link to their “Blog-poster’s Code of Ethics” that I’ve been saving in my email since I read it last December. And I will abide by it.

Years ago, I gave Sutter and Carl the gift of attending one of their seminars in S. CA. (not that they needed it). Then I had the privilege of going to their corporate offices in Maine and taking one of their three day trainings. What an incredible, dedicated group, and a rather intimidating small group of attendees: corporate heads, US Air Force officer in charge of ethics training, small town council person, retired self-made millionaire, teachers, and then there was….me.

Quick glimpse Google loans? This site is a lot more consumer friendly than others….

Alameda real estate this week…

I took the chance and rode my bike on the tour….despite the impending rain. It was wonderful and the sprinkles started one block from home at the end of the end to end main island tour that day. Nifty!

Active listings this week: 161, 154 last report
Pending listings this week: 98, 100 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday Broker Tour
11, 2 repeats

New 14

BOM (Back on Market) 3

Price changes 7


Sold 12

Expired 4

Withdrawn/cancelled 6

Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!


Bang for the Buck, Get me a Facelift

Bang for the Buck (yep, we’ve got two!)

Carry on! Wrap it up! Enjoy the long weekend! Take a moment to honor the holiday on Monday.

All the best! marilyn