THE SECOND STORY | January 14th, 2010

On the rocks, falling rocks, rockin’ sista….

Post/Title Story I took this photo my last full day in Maui in December. It was the only very cloudy and rainy (heavy mist) day of my stay. I decided to drive the paved perimeter road around the edge of the West Maui Mountains and saw amazing sights. The surf was roaring, the swells stacked up as far as I could see. The road is super narrow, and “Falling Rocks” signs on most curves spoke the truth about the slipping mountains and slippery road conditions. It’s a slow ride but well worth it. This is the best blow hole I’ve ever seen! The spray was straight up and the action non-stop with this angle of surf. If you look closely, you’ll see some of the dumbest people ever. Some people just don’t get the combination of monster surf, slick rocks, and an untamed Pacific Ocean.

I spent five days last week working on clearing my folk’s house out now that they are in assisted living. Well, I can’t say that I worked on it. Actually two dear friends volunteered their vacation time to come and help me. INCREDIBLE! Well, I can’t say they helped me. I can say they did it all! It was the most amazing gift to me. My dad and step-mom kept muttering that they couldn’t believe that people who didn’t even know them would come and do this for them. It literally was beyond my dad’s comprehension.

I had no idea what we’d be facing so I arrived the day before my friends flew in to assess the situation. I cleared out some cabinets of food and unidentifiable objects, determined that the obvious unsalvageable items were the first to get tossed, and that we’d go from there on day two. We took care of necessary financial business. The folks and I spent 7 hours together the first day – away from their apartment. We had deep and thoughtful discussions. We had about 3 hours together the second day. We had 2 hours together the third day. We interviewed two real estate agents, and the folks made the right decision about who to use and the house is now listed for sale. And we had 2 hours together with my rockin‘ step-sister the fifth day (she is so quick with the wit and solutions that she makes me look like a slug – we now call each other sista)!

The fourth day was the garage sale. Now here’s the deal on that – I don’t like garage sales. They bring out the worst in me. But Craig’s List makes it tons easier! 8pm Friday night I posted the sale for 9-2 the next day. 8:45am the first person showed up and it was determined that by far most of the people read about the sale via Craig’s List. The garage sale signs the agent put out were a nice addition.

We met marvelous neighbors and lovely strangers. Any money made was second to the fact that there was less to haul or have hauled away. At the end of the garage sale day and with just a couple of items remaining in the house, I gave in and wept profusely, overwhelmed by feeling that I had torn everything they’ve ever known out from under the folks. It was a way of grieving about role-switching, house and home, belongings and belonging, treasures and treasured. In the end, it was obvious that it was five days of mini miracles. And we were all blessed. Thank you Debbie and Donnie!

Now you know why I didn’t post last week. And unless something more interesting shows up for next week’s post, I’ll share some lessons I learned about garage sales, although you may already know them and have terrific lessons of your own to share!

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Alameda real estate this week…

We closed 2815 Otis (my Seller) last Friday. We got lender approval for the short sale at 221 Central ( my Buyers) on Tuesday. We got an accepted offer on Clinton (my Seller) a week ago last Tuesday. We closed 1209 Eagle (my Sellers) the day before Thanksgiving.

Active listings this week: 96, 130 last report (Nov. 20)
Pending listings this week: 70, 81 last report (Nov. 20)

Tuesday Tour 7 (this week, although I’ve was on the tour both last week and this week)

Highest price new listing (this week)
Lowest priced new listing (this week)

The following categories go back to Nov 20 for the the solds, pendings. expireds, and withdrawns. Please realize that some of these may now be appearing as active on the market, even new or pending. We’ll get back to the weekly update details starting next week.

New 8

Price change 7

BOM (back on market) 2

Pending 47

Sold 72

Expired 28

Withdrawn/cancelled 24

*****

Alameda real estate awards this week…

Bang for the Buck

Cute, Charming

Get Me to Rehab

*****

So back on schedule, as best I can control (freak) it. Enjoy your weekend. It sounds like big rains starting on Sunday? You can get free sand bags from the city yard off Grand Street near the estuary (take a left before the ramp). Use them to block/prevent debris from going into the already overworked drain system.

Carry on! Happy New Year – I can’t believe January is already half gone!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | December 19th, 2009

Making Merry in Maui

(I took this photo at Jaws, on Maui, 12-09-09, a unique setting where swells, winds, and underwater geologic formations rarely come together but when they do waves are created so big that the surfers have to be towed into them by JetSki type watercraft. They can’t paddle fast enough to catch them. Then the drivers rush to pick up the surfer and board after the ride and before they get crushed by the next wave. In this frame, the surfer is in and the JetSki is fighting to get out.)

I’ve been AWOL – well, not really absent without leave. I gave myself permission to leave. As many of my clients know, since I started the weekly email update nearly 10 years ago (blog format the last 18 months), I’ve taken the month of December off from the weekly musings and reporting. I have always made a post warning about it!

This year was a bit different for a couple of reasons.

1- I write the blog Thursday nights. And that was Thanksgiving which I usually pass on but catch up with. I participated in our Thanksgiving Day church service that morning and then had six over for a non-traditional pulled pork dinner. 2. Friday got crazy when my step-sister and I found out we had to get our folks into assisted living the next day and moved out of their house.

While we had known about issues, we didn’t know about this quick turn of events. With a million things to do for that move on Saturday and me leaving the next day for my (now) annual getaway, it was nuts. Nothing was prepared. Evan and Erin (my son and daughter-in-law) volunteered to cut their visit to Alameda short and flew back to S CA to spend the whole day assisting with the move duty, allowing me to act as ‘moving central’ in Alameda, contacting and coordinating all the people and places. At the same time I was able to get my work files in order and complete other personal business. What an effort by family!

To make a long story short, three moves were completed in 2 days. Yep, 3 moves. My dad(dealing with dementia) and step-mom (legally blind but very active) were moved into the 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment by noon on Saturday. By Saturday evening my dad was back at the house, not being able to stay at the apartment due to lack of a particular physician’s report. I had arranged for a 24 hour caregiver whom he promptly threatened with a call to the police to throw him out. Another sibling stepped in on that one, from out of state, and buh-bye went the care-giver until the next afternoon.

I departed for Maui early Sunday morning, and then remotely, with huge help from my step-sister (we now call each other Sista – and stay out of our way when we are working together…she is a get-it-done gal), dad was back into the apartment by midday on Monday.

This has been a monster learning process, with nothing prepared except for the Power of Attorney and a health care directive and release I was able to get dad’s attorney to update the week prior to the unknown move, when I was there for three days and I had the strong inclination to set that appointment the day before I flew south. And that visit got ugly because I took the car keys away for the second time. And this time it was bad. I thought my dad was going to hit me with his cane. I just kept walking, got in my rental car, and drove to the airport to head home.

And my trip? After three days away, I was super guilty about not being in CA to fix all the parent issues, and when I came to grips I just may need to cut the trip short and head back to CA , I relaxed. The next morning, I simply asked myself if being in Alameda would allow me to do anything more than being in Maui. And it was obvious that being a physical presence with the folks would NOT be an answer but a further aggravation to an already super-pissed off father. But I can’t much blame him – most of us get to plan a move. Three moves took place and no plan. Getting the car keys yanked ripped his identity to shreds. One move is bad. The rest is all bad for someone who has now seen manifest everything he has ever feared.

While I am still in the throes of figuring out accounts, bills, changing addresses, contact info, finding more bills to pay, the best way to get them paid, going paperless and online, doctors, prescriptions, phones, things to be done at the apartment, sending documents around supporting who I say I am, there is progress being made.

My daughter, Sutter, sent me a link to a master list that I am going to fill out for myself and then today I realized I needed to fill one out for my dad as well, with all the changed/changing info. Check this out “Organizing Your Life”. We ALL need to do this NOW (unless you want to punish your kids)! And get your folks to do it with/for you (unless they want to punish you)! And go through it together. My mom was good at putting this stuff together up until she passed on. And my dad was good about the basics, until he remarried and they figured out their own systems and kept it all to themselves.

With the internet, a wonderful set of businesses services where I say at the Westin Ocean Villas Resort, a very helpful staff, and a view of the ocean, I was set to do whatever it took to try to settle my dad, and work for my clients (sold one listing remotely, written two contracts on a short sale property for my buyers, submitted a short sale package for some listing clients, and initiated and returned calls and emails – with the help of my two backup partners at the office who provide a physical presence as necessary).

The time away has been a gift, wonderful in many ways, different in as many ways. I am most fortunate to be able to have the breathing space that a change of venue offers, for a fairly extended time. The weather has been perfect and big surf showed up (the last being five years ago when I got to see it then for the first time). I’ve played some golf , met some nice people (locals and visitors), and seen those in Maui with whom I do business and have become friends with over the years, read two books, and caught up on seriously needed sleep. The thinking and pondering time is priceless sans the usual distractions.

So now, true to form, I’ll do a catch up on the year-end real estate activity in Alameda the first Thursday of January.

I wish you all happy, restful, peaceful, calm (despite any chaos) days ahead and a Happy New Year – which can’t come soon enough for many.

Carry on! I’m around starting Monday morning and have property inspections and appointments this coming week. marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 20th, 2009

Processing the brain….


(It had been far too long since I’d fired up the engines on the Hubba Hubba, but the stars aligned a couple of weekends ago and late in the afternoon, with a bit (well, a lot) of help from a friend, we motored the 26′ Chris Craft out of the marina and onto the estuary for an easy but brief sunset cruise. We stuck to a three bridge and two shoreline tour. The tide was churning around the bridge structures as their ‘legs’ got in the way of nature’s ebb and flow. Without looking at a tide chart it was hard to know if the tide was coming or going, especially around the east corner of the island when water comes from San Leandro Bay as well as down the estuary. The setting sun cast a great light and color on the Conagra property on the Oakland side of the Park Street Bridge.)

Post/Title Story: Evan may have been about 14 or so and one of Carl’s good friends and supporters offered a summer job to Ev, working on his boat. It was probably 50′ and quite gorgeous, a fishing boat, docked close to the Park Street Bridge on the Oakland side. I think it was a good experience for him. Most of us can only dream of working a first paying job for such a generous guy, a good teacher, and a wonderfully kind man.

I imagine the operative word for that job was ‘education’. It comes in so many ways. One day that summer, as Evan and I were coming into Alameda over the Park Street Bridge, he revealed a new fact he had learned while working with Jim on his yacht. Evan said, “Mom, you know what they do over there?” as he pointed to the silos and machinery. “They process brains!” Hhmmm. Something didn’t seem quite right about that but it clearly had lingered in his head. Then I got it.

“Ev, they don’t process brains there. They process grains. The name of the company is Conagra…as in something like consolidated agriculture….agra….get it? See the sign on the plant?” I had to laugh, but not a big in-your-face laugh. I loved that he had pondered the ‘fact’ for who knows how long, and then shared his knowledge. It was a simple mis-hearing…could have been trains, stains, drains, but what he thought he heard was brains.

As I thought about that story, motoring by the brain factory, I smiled once again. It has been another fun memory, close to home, close to heart.

I decided to find ConAgra’s website and it is awesome….what a history. Check it out.

With that, have a rich-in-blessings Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the best and purest holiday we have, in my opinion. It’s important for me to take time and process that in my brain.

*****
Jaw’in on the front porch…(items that might worth talkin’ about?)
Relief for unemployed homeowners?

Here’s a thought that I’ve been processing in my brain. I’ve wondered about all the money that has been thrown at the housing mess, with it’s roots propagated by the brainless Wall Street greed machines, along with those geniuses in Congress who tossed out the Glass Steagall Act. I fail to see how the government ‘investment’ in stimulating housing purchases has had a trickle-down or trickle-up effect on the economy. It’s not creating new jobs. It’s not creating new industries. The money handed, literally handed, to the banks has not been used to stimulate solid business loans. Those companies have hoarded it! What’s with that? Or, what am I not getting? Maybe I should stick to processing grain.

(I added this next link at 8:19am 11-20). As I was checking email I found this awesome article from Motley Fool. They say it so much better than I ever could. Please consider scanning through it. “It’s Time to End ‘Too Big to Fail.” Keep in mind that I rarely read a daily paper and I don’t subscribe to one in print (haven’t for decades) or online. I don’t watch or listen to talking/screaming heads on radio or TV. They turn my stomach. But I do spend a fair amount of time with familiar and new folks, as a result of my business, and find myself getting earfuls of disgust with every aspect of how every one of our institutions have failed over the last 30 years, some more than once: industrial (auto), financial (banks), investment, education (talk about a disaster), religious (yep, every one and every type), and of course the government. And when I say that I mean the people who run it based on special and extra special interests. It’s time we literally throw the folks out, regardless of how ‘effective’ they’ve been. Make a statement.) Take it back. Okay, that’s the rant for Friday am. Gosh and it’s only 8:30)

*****
Alameda real estate this week…

I put a new listing on the market this week. 2815 Otis is a Spanish style home (2-1), used for many years as a rental, and loaded with some nifty architectural details. Check it out!

Active listings this week 130, 126 last report
Pending listings this week 81, 85 last report

Tuesday Tour
11, 1 repeat

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 9

Back on Market (BOM) 3

Price changes
6

Pending 9

Sold 7

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled
2

*****
Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective. I didn’t get out on the Tues tour because I hosted 2815 Otis open. So I can only award based on those I did see this week!

Bang for the Buck, Winner, Cute Charming I gave it to my new listing but I think 2832 Encinal and 1709 Broadway look pretty nice!

Get me a facelift

That’s a wrap….carry on! Share some canned goods with the Alameda Food Bank!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 12th, 2009

Alameda magic…

(Two years ago to the day I took this shot on the beach between Sushi House and the post office. I’ve used it once or twice as a marketing postcard. I think I’d been cleaning up the back yard and the carriage house when I realized something was about to happen in the sky. I jumped in the car rather than on my bike in case time was of the essence or if I needed to move around a bit to catch whatever was going to reveal itself before my eyes. Once I parked and went onto the sand I barely moved for about 45 minutes. I had the time and I could wait it out. I already had taken several wonderful shots of the sunset and I knew they were good. Then, as if on cue and with a silent director yelling ‘action!’ the kayaker came easing out of the shadows and into the light. It really was magical.)

*****
Post/Title Story: Magic in a public record book? I had an opportunity this week to spend about 3 hours figuring out how to explain to a lender that the appraiser for a 110+ year old house may have been a bit off course when asking if a half bath had a permit. If I showed you the photo of the subject bath, even if you had no training in forensics, you’d be able to tell that they just don’t build sink fixtures like they used to 60-90 years ago, that they just don’t have the same trim boards like they used to 60-110 years ago, and that they just didn’t have permits for most things like interior bathrooms back then. Oh, that’s right….the city has no records detailing what the word ‘addition’ means on a permit history prior to 1940! It just means addition!

So here’s what I did. I tried to find out what the two additions were for, one in 1920 and one in 1930. No could do. Then I looked on the counter and saw one of my favorite, but not often-enough-used resources. The Sanborn “big book” of real estate lots and improvements in Alameda. The book I started with had a copyright date of 1988. I found the property I was looking for and clearly the back had an addition. I took several photos of the big book with my iPhone and emailed them to myself. See the photo with the yellow lots.

I was pretty sure there was another book that was older. Sure enough, there is but the public can’t get access to it and it’s now on microfiche. It goes back to the 1800’s. With help from friendly Community Development staff members the property was found and we made a photocopy of the page I wanted. Then I took a picture of that copy. See the black and white photo which shows the original footprint of the house and its neighbors. Compare that to the more ‘recent’ book and the first addition shows up. Then the 2nd addition must have been in 1930 and that’s when somebody filled in the gap in the back with another bedroom. No footprint for it but the permit history says ‘addition’ and that’s what we see today.

My logic was that there was a bathroom somewhere in that house way back when. And the fixtures and trim supported that it was probably some form of the half bath we see today.

I have no issue with an appraiser asking about permits for current upgrades. But I pointed out no appraiser would go into a 1950’s Alameda rancher and ask if the 1970’s kitchen upgrade was on permits. Get over it! Our half bath was the same type of situation but OLDER!

Well, after all that….the issue disappeared. YAY! And the appraisal and loan contingencies were removed today by the buyers. This is a great example of appraisers doing work in areas that they may not be too familiar with and why the current system is so whacked. We are getting appraisers who may not be familiar with our housing stock and who make weird associations based on their experiences elsewhere that have no bearing here.

As real estate agents and brokers, we need to pull out the stops to come up with supporting data that will allow appraisers to complete their reports and logically answer their questions and concerns. And that’s not magic…it’s smarts.

*****
Jawin‘ on the front porch (articles of interest that might be worth sharing?)
-I can vouch that this is the completely accurate low-down on how shorts sales are working
-Getting a clue about your house value….check it out.

*****
Alameda real estate this week…see the adventure above.

Active listings this week 126, 122 last report
Pending listings this week 85, 81 last report

Tuesday Tour 10 with 1 repeat

Highest priced NEW listing
the highest wasn’t new – check out what restaurant is for sale.
Lowest priced NEW listing there seems to be some serious settling going on here.

New 15

Back on Market (BOM) 0

Price changes 7

Pending 13 the outdoor chairs must be the highlight of this property. But it sold in less than a week!

Sold
7

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled 4

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

Winner, Out of Rehab A lovely re-do with terrific and tasteful upgrades including solar tubes and skylight, roof, bathrooms, kitchen. And it’s single level.

Bang for the Buck this is facing foreclosure on 12-6 according to the agent so it is priced to get lots of offers over the list price. Offers due Friday the 13th. I saw it today.

That’s a wrap! Carry on!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 5th, 2009

Gorgeous Glorious Gibbons

(It is so great to get lovely contributions of scenes around town! This came from a client, Terry. He’s seen plenty of autumn color over the years since he was raised here in Alameda, but now lives out of state. It was taken December, 2008. I couldn’t wait to use it! Beautiful and thanks!)

*****
Post/Title Story:
Year in and year out we seem to have the constant battle to preserve those incredible liquid-ambar trees that line Gibbons. Yep, the sidewalks are crunched into concrete molehills because of them, but they are rather like reliable friends….colorful at times, providing protection from direct hits (of summer sunshine), messy, but staunch and upright most times. They have provided the opportunity to test rubber-based sidewalk repairs the past few years. Those patches are found around Alameda. I notice them when I walk at night and there is a slight change in the feel and sound of the surface under my shoes. The Gold Coast has some of them.

But we’re not the only city I like that has concrete rising like the moon. I took these photos in Corona del Mar a couple of years ago. As of a few weeks ago the sign is still there! That’s one way to treat the hazard. Of course they could turn it into a skate ramp.

My understanding is that Gibbons Drive is named after W.P. Gibbons, founder of the California Academy of Sciences. He apparently had an interest in rainbow trout.

*****
A timely transition from trout to turkey to table manners: I love this contribution from a dear friend. And after the many (not all) pushy, grabby, little munchkins that came round last Saturday for tricks or treats, it’s time for parents to raise the bar and insist on some manners! The friend who sent this is a GUY who has two kids under 8 years old! My feeling is once kids can hold a fork, it’s time to introduce some civility at the table. This sounds and reads ancient because it’s what we were taught in more ‘proper’ times but I loved being reminded of the simple things.

Simple table manners your parents taught you to live by:

  1. Come to the table promptly when the host(ess) calls you. (Food tastes better when it is hot.)
  2. Sit at the table with the four legs of the chair flat on the floor. Sit straight, with your feet in front of you.
  3. Sit quietly with your hands in you lap until after the blessing or until the host(ess) starts passing the food.
  4. Wait for the food to be passed to you.
  5. As soon as the food is passed to you, take some and pass it on. Never leave a serving dish beside your plate. Wait until all of the food has been offered before you eat.
  6. Never butter your bread directly from the butter dish. Put butter on your butter plate, break the bread apart and spread.
  7. Do not talk with your mouth full.
  8. Do not make biological noises or blow your nose at the table.
  9. Keep you elbows off the table and one hand in your lap.
  10. Never wave silverware around while eating.
  11. Do not use your finger to push food onto your utensils. Use the knife as a guide.
  12. Do not lick your fingers or wipe your hands on the tablecloth.
  13. Do not pick crumbs up with your fingers and put them in your mouth.
  14. Do not stuff your mouth with food. Make use of your napkin so you do not offend others.
  15. Keep the conversation pleasant.
  16. Allow your host(ess) plenty of time to finish his/her meal before serving dessert.
  17. After the meal is over, help clear the table before dessert is served. Leave water glasses, cups, and saucers.
  18. Never pick up a dessert dish and hold it in your hand while you eat.
  19. Never eat and run. Remain at the table until the host(ess) suggests you go elsewhere. Children may ask to be excused.
  20. Offer to help with the dishes. Do not insist on helping if the host(ess) does not want help.
  21. Always thank the host(ess) for the invitation.

*****
Jawin’ on the front porch (articles of interest that might be worth sharing?)
Build it now…but be smart
The buyer tax credit is sticking around…and it it’s not just for first-timers!
Equity lines of credit….not so much these days even when you have loads of equity!

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Alameda real estate this week….
Last Friday we closed the condo on Otis. I’m writing an offer tonight. I’ve been told an offer is coming in on another listing I have. Folks, it’s not dead out there….but it can be a challenge to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together just right. It takes loads of patience on both the buyers’ and sellers’ parts, and shear tenacity on the parts of the escrow officers and loan officers. When you’ve got a good team….it is very evident. Each member is at least two steps ahead of the transaction. They apply recent experiences daily to each transaction. YAY for excellent teams!

Active listings 122, 130 last report
Pending listings 81, 91 last report

Tuesday Tour 5

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 10

Back on Market (BOM)
2

Price changes 10

Pending 12

Sold 18

Expired 7

Withdrawn/canceled 6

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

Get me a facelift

Got me a makeover

*****
That’s it! Have a good weekend! Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 29th, 2009

Another type of scary…not doing due diligence.

(This shot was sent to me just before I started working on the post. Ken and Connie…you guys are over the top with your decorations (well, not as over the top as others in town) but the results of your pumpkin carving contest tonight….this is incredible! I am super impressed with the artists’ efforts! Ever since I came to Alameda as a very young bride in early October, 1973 I have not ceased to be amazed at how Alameda decorates for Halloween!

After the post item…. 10-30-09 11:30am, I’ve been informed that the photo is courtesy of, AnneKohler Professional Photographer, check out that website. It is gorgeous! Credit due where credit earned.)

*****
Post/Title Story: Over the past few weeks I’ve had the chance to visit some properties where some substantial changes were made, but they just didn’t work out the way the owners thought. Examples:

An owner built a most bizarre ‘addition’ to the house. It was obvious it did not have permits, and I was told, second hand, that it did not need permits because of its smallish size (I have not verified that). It went up two levels, sat on the property back corner of a very small lot, no set-backs were honored, and it was definitely unsafe. complete with weird windows, exposed wiring, a funked out laundry area, and wonky steps that made me a bit reluctant to use them. It was used as a living space. Also a garage was converted to a camping out space.

One spouse bought the other out of the property for $50,000 and refinanced the loan to get the previous owner off. This was done relatively recently. The appraisal came in quite high and without it the departing owner would not have gotten the amount agreed upon. Suffice it to say, I was nothing but bad news to these folks. Maybe I was on overkill. So the remaining owner not only overpaid, but inherited what I considered huge liabilities. Along with those two big issues, were the ones still remaining in the actual home – that’s another story.

Dear friends, if you think you are getting the steal or deal of the century, have some extra eyes check it out BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. Get some good real estate agents/brokers to give an opinion of value and look it over to assess how it might eventually fit into the marketplace. How about getting an appraisal from a disinterested third party (yep, $400 is cheaper than $50,000), BEFORE you sign up for financing so you can with some authority determine a real market price. How about hiring someone to actually represent you in the private transaction to be sure that city ordinances are complied with properly?

I know of instances where properties have changed title with a buy-out on private ‘deals’ and the buyer had no clue about the zoning. That can make a huge difference as to whether financing can actually be obtained or what the cost of specialty financing might be! A new listing this week came on the market and the agent did not have written documentation from the city verifying what the zoning was for the site.

There have been many examples when folks have not taken the time to figure out the tax consequences of completing a real estate transaction BEFORE closing the ‘deal’ because it was such a ‘steal’. That can be a rude awakening.

We are not all experts at everything. I call on my accountant to be sure of my decisions. I call my lending contacts to see if there is something I’m missing in loan papers. I call on my best escrow officer to see if she can catch something I’m not seeing. I call on my estate attorney to be sure my personal papers are in order. Recently I had a big go-round in August re-grouping on my property insurance which resulted in the same coverage but with the premium reduced 25% Oh yeah, that was the result of that great escrow officer who sees what insurers are offering.

Gosh, just yesterday I made a call to ATT, triggered by a text message I got from them about a change in my billing that I didn’t make! That turned out okay because a credit card date was extended, but since I had them on the line I asked about my phone programs. Now I’m getting lots more bang for very few extra bucks. You can be sure that they were plenty happy with my excessive long distance minutes at home and the extra charges. But they sure didn’t call me about that! But I wasn’t paying attention and had a wake up call, so to speak.

Save the scary for Halloween. Take a bit of time to mitigate drama and trauma! Do the due diligence.

*****

Jaw’in on the front porch (articles of interest – might be worth sharing?)
We know it’s a mortgage mess….digging out
Short sales….market them smartly!
Getting the gold in the Golden State! This is a terrific article.

*****

Alameda real estate this week….
1209 Eagle went pending, after 8 days on the market….price, condition, reports/inspections upfront go a long way.

It was fun to get a pat on the back last Sunday when several people at the open house commented on the website for 1209Eagle . One consumer even told her agent he needed to start doing that type of site for listings. It is so worth the time, effort, and a few dollars to buy the template, include a floor plan, virtual tour, video tour, reports and inspections. I even use websites for the not-so-pristine properties I list! C’mon everybody, give the consumers what they want!

Another totally fun and cool, but now totally necessary tool I’ve started to use in the last week is DocuSign. This is electronic signatures. It is fabulous. Not only does it save time that would have been spent on prepping documents for signatures, it eliminates printing and scanning and sending back again, as long as all we need is signatures. If forms need to be filled out you can’t do that since the items are sent as PDFs and you can’t fill those out online. From my client across the street to those in CO, UT, and TX this week…..this is AWESOME! Yeah, it costs me some money and so do the websites but YOU ARE WORTH IT (oh, that’s right, so am I).

Active listings 130, 130 last report
Pending listings 91, 96 last report

Tuesday tour (7 with 1 repeat)

Highest priced NEW listing

Lowest priced NEW listing

New 11

Back on Market (BOM) 1

Price changes 6

Pending 11

Sold 12

Expired – 5 some show up as NEW

Withdrawn/cancelled 6 (some show up as NEW)

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

Cute, charming and Get me a lift (not a facelift, an engineered lift that has been factored into the price to mitigate the sloping in the front of the house)

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Enjoy the weekend! Fall back with those clocks on Sat night otherwise you’ll be late for church, your brunch date, your sporting event, or whatever you do on Sundays!

Best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 23rd, 2009

Vehwy skehwy – City Hall redux

Post/Title Story: While I was at the Community Development (not Community Services as I called the new name for the former Planning and Building Dept.) this past Wed., I was informed that the Halloween decorating contest among the city departments had a winner! Welcome to the City Clerk Crypt! This upright coffin and it’s occupant is the friendly greeting visitors receive at our ever efficient and friendly City Clerk’s office! That is the door to the department. Well done. And I’m the one who doesn’t get into Halloween.

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Real estate briefs:Real estate briefs:

The low down on serious finance changes
Condos and their owners facing big challenges
Amazing data on CA housing market

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Alameda real estate this week: I put another property on the market this week – 1209 Eagle. Two listings closed this week. 219 Cypress B, the Woodstock co-op unit, and 1305 Regent.

Here’s The Second Story for 1305 Regent which closed for 565K as is, on a 619K list. This property is about 125 years old, is neat and tidy, good location, great back yard, and came with a brick foundation and neutered interior. Neutered means no original charm or detailing left, and I mean none! It had served the family well for over 6 decades. When I first met with the owner’s family there was no indication on city records that the duplex existed! Sure it was a house but not the two units. We discussed the options, and they decided to apply for the legalization of the lower unit (complete with very low ceilings) via the city Amnesty Program.

At about the same time, the owner’s line of credit was cancelled by the bank, with no rhyme nor reason. As the daughter launched her mission of getting that re-instated since it was providing the funds for her dad’s assisted living accommodation, other family members started in on the process of getting that unit on the records. There happened to be some solid forenzic details supporting the existence of that unit back to around the 1930’s. The mom had kept hand-written records of rents and tenants. The trim in the lower unit was identical to that in the upper unit. The family had initially lived in the lower unit while the upper unit was ‘modernized’ i.e. neutered. The two original all copper water heaters were still in service. Note two! And two gas meters were in place. Note two! With a thorough floor plan for both units as part of the completed application, the city inspector came out and determined some rather minor electrical needed to be corrected. Based on when the unit came into being, the low ceiling height was a non-issue. Soon we had a legal duplex!

After several offers were received over a few weeks, strong buyers came along using FHA financing which allowed them a minimal downpayment, and then the ability to put their other cash into the property for a big rehab. The financing was a bit risky in that there was no assurance that an FHA appraiser wouldn’t call the foundation.

Sellers are given a laundry list created by the appraiser of items that must be remedied prior to closing. There is just no predictable list from which to anticipate repairs, corrections. Smart agents will put a cap on the dollar amount of that work, or at least a contract clause that states the Seller is to approve the work in writing, thus still retaining some control over unanticipated expenses. Typical items include correcting interior and exterior chipped paint (lead concerns), venting of water heaters, electrical outlets working, appliances operational, roof in good shape. But as my Seller’s daughter found out, the large and rather generic 20 page guideline she discovered on the FHA website, is a bit intimidating.

FHA was designed to help first timers get into safe, relatively low-maintenance homes. Who would have thought that it would be used for Victorian era homes today? But it’s about the only leveraged financing game in the country left!

The east bay appraiser, who knew Alameda and the FHA system, found no lender required work. And actually it made sense because so many of the smaller items had been done prior to market. But the fear of the unknown hung heavy.

And then the the last surprise….the sewer lateral test passed! I guess they don’t make clay pipe today like they used to. About 20 years ago I had a 99 year old house pass that test. And now 1305 Regent. We couldn’t believe it.

All this time there was terrific pressure to close quite a bit earlier than the 45 days called for in the contract – hey, I didn’t write that up, the other agent did it. The buyers were facing the loss of a loan rate lock this past Wed. With the sewer lateral test completed, which saved about 4 days of work, the lender and escrow officer, seller and buyer, jumped through hoops to get the transaction closed. And close it did last Tuesday.

Questions came up about why didn’t we get the sewer issue addressed sooner? Well, when the money to pay bills is sitting in the house, not in the bank, and vendors want their payments in a timely manner, it becomes a choice of what and how to spend what is available. And vendors with whom I do business know the local systems, properties, procedures, and will take their payments through escrow if they don’t have to wait too long. And I’m not about to allow vendors I don’t know come in under the guise of getting a ‘good deal’ or ‘quick fix’ only to have the job mucked up. My goal is to have solid relationships with my vendors and in turn they know they will get paid and I know we can call them if there are subsequent questions and issues.

Alameda is getting some terrific new residents who will do good work to the property. The Seller’s family is resting a bit easier knowing the transaction has been settled. And what about that credit line that was cancelled? The daughter got it reinstated when she was able to find a real human being who took note of her letter to the lender and they worked quickly to get it back in place once some additional documentation of value was obtained. YAY for Jodi and YAYs for all the work that other family members did towards getting this challenging transaction closed.

Active listings 130, 130 last report
Pending listings 96, 117 last report (loads closed this week)

Tuesday Tour 10, 1 of my own so I didn’t see a couple of properties I wanted to check out.

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 12

Back On Market (BOM)
1

Price Changes 6

Pending
10

Sold 26 lots of those pending sales we saw in the past 30 days!

Expired 6

Withdrawn/cancelled 6

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A
lameda real estate awards this week…

Winner, Cute/Charming, Out of Rehab, Bang for the Buck – all my new listing

Get me to rehab TIE!

Got me a makeover

******

OK! That’s a wrap! Carry on! Have a great autumn weekend as the daylight fades away! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 15th, 2009

A little humor….YAY!

(A skinny contractor, we’ll call him Bones, complete with a cell phone rubber-banded to his ear and dressed in appropriate contractor attire, is finally first in line at the former Alameda City Planning and Building Department, now known as Community Services. In his hand is an evaluation survey with the title “How are we doing?” It’s got a date of 2005 on it…and his comment “Still waiting!”)

Post/Title Story: It seemed strange to see a BIG Halloween poster in the hallway outside the Community Services Dept. Then I walked into the offices! Holy Cow! I haven’t seen that many Halloween decorations including loads of skeletons since I was in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland! It seems another feather should be placed in the cap of our Interim City Manager, Ann Marie Gallant. She has brought levity where things have been somewhat grim due to extensive layoffs, and created a fierce competition between city departments as they vie for which has the best Halloween decor! The coveted prize is pizza for all in the winning section.

If you have a chance to wander through YOUR City Hall, check it out. First the building is wonderful. But the contest – well, it’s amazing, and refreshing. And that’s coming from someone, me, who is not a fan of Halloween! Well done! I might add, that except for the extended period it takes to get inspections, the staff/team have, in my opinion, done a marvelous job of not only adapting to dramatic staff reductions and changes but have been providing service with a smile, and bringing a vigor towards initiating efficiencies in processes that have not been questioned for years, maybe decades. BRAVO!

*****
Alameda real estate this week….
I put a new listing on the market on Tuesday.

1038 Mangrove is a 4/2.5 detached Patio Home on Bay Farm Island in the Garden Isle neighborhood. It is immaculate, shows well and is priced at $588,000. It last sold for 670K in 2005, and unfortunately this is a short sale. It’s over 2000 square feet, based on county record. Unlike many owners in this situation, the owners have obtained both pest (interior is certified) and property inspections so any buyer will have loads of confidence in the property. It will be open Sunday 2-4pm. Come check it out! Here is the virtual tour.

Active listings 130, 132 last report
Pending listings 117, 124 last report

Tuesday Tour 5

Highest priced NEW listing I think this came in after I posted last week…
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 6

Back on Market 1

Price Changes 4

Pending 6

Sold 10

Withdrawn/cancelled 5

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

Winner

Bang for the Buck

That’s a wrap! Hope you stayed dry during that downpour! Enjoy your weekend!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 8th, 2009

Cleaning up, clearing out, – it’s my autumn ritual.

(This blast of color is in the backyard. Severely pruned last November when a fence was installed, the pyracantha has gone crazy the last couple of weeks. I looked out to the yard on Tuesday and caught the last couple of minutes of low, strong sun on it, and ran for the camera.)

Post/Title Story: Every year I think spring might be my favorite season. And six months later I am once again completely swept off that notion when fall rolls around. And speaking of being swept, it’s my time for bringing in the big guns, the pros I count on for the annual carpet and area rug cleaning, the clean sweep of the exterior drains around the house (particularly those that run underground), the windows are washed inside and out (including the panes that make the front porch partially enclosed), I hose down the front porch, clean the re-usable furnace filters (those were a great idea many years ago and still are), change out the pillow covers on the living room love seats, hang a wreath of some type of vines, and take the orchids from the back porch to the front porch. A couple of those jobs still need to be done this weekend. I get the gutters cleaned AFTER the first big wind and storm of the season. That’s when the big shake out of dead tree debris ends up on the roof, in the gutters, on the driveway and sidewalks.

Autumn is a shedding of what is no longer required, a time of rest (even if only symbolic) in the form of shorter days, longer nights. I seek comfort in a comforter and coziness wrapped in a fleece blanket in front of the TV.

A year ago it became clear to me that it was time to give up the storage unit that had held most of Carl’s yacht design office models, collections, books, furniture, drawings, and equipment for nearly seven years. I was thinking about it the other day. And I still feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how that came together in a lovely, orderly, harmonious way, with a minimum of tears, and a maximum of relief.

In hindsight, I now see that several events had aligned themselves perfectly in the previous months. A dear friend had some salvaged cabinets delivered to the house. He figured they’d fit perfectly in the carriage house. And once hung they did fit perfectly. My best handy person and I were able to put to good use various items already in that carless garage for countertops and hangers. We found most everything we needed right at hand.

And that’s when I realized that all of the items in the storage unit just might find homes within the home. Each time I faced a challenge of where to put something or how to place it properly, the next move became clear. Attic, basement, carriage house all the space needed had been there all along…it just needed to be cleaned, cleared, refined, and redefined. I touched every item. And except for the super big things, moved it all myself, loads of trips in my loaded car. To me this was the ultimate in re-purposing and nesting. It was quiet, thoughtful. And the time was right and ripe. And it was an amazing autumn.

*****
Alameda Announcement: This Saturday! 9am – 2pm Do your own clearing of electronic garbage you’ve been stuffing away! This is a wonderful service offered by YOUR city! Click on the link to get instructions and directions!

*****
Real estate briefs:
Market shift predictions for 2010
FHA reverse mortgage problems

*****
Alameda real estate this week…

Active listings 131, 132 last report
Pending listings 122, 124 last report

Tuesday Tour 9 with 3 repeats

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced NEW listing

New 7

Back On Market 3

Price Changes 3

Pending 12

Sold 9

Expired 0

Withdrawn 1

*****
Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective. Only 1 this week!

Get me to rehab

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Carry your electronics to Alameda Point on Saturday!

Have a FUN weekend….or find something to clean…or someone to clean what you don’t want to clean! Autumn cleaning – YAY! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | October 1st, 2009

I’m feeling flushed…


(Sunsets do something to and for me. The header photo and it’s sister to the right, was taken a few minutes before the the one below last October 15. It’s from the cliffs above Crystal Cove beach, right off PCH : aka Pacific Coast Highway, immediately south of Corona del Mar. The light can be magnificent as the sun appears to move south from due west. It’s amazing what my small digital Canon camera captures. I left the beach, crossed the highway, hiked up the hill, took some shortcuts through bushes, and entered the condo I call home for a week each year. My breath was taken away! God had not yet finished with His paintbrush. This was from the balcony off the living room. Low on the horizon in both shots is the silhouette of Catalina Island.)

Post title/story: ‘In the toilet’ has a whole new meaning for me after yesterday. I’m not referring to the real estate market (because Alameda is not in that condition). And when I say I was feeling flushed I guess I had taken on the persona of my iPhone. I have no idea how it happened but somehow it went from my jacket pocket into a toilet at work! Most of you know I don’t do phone on the golf course and I sure as heck don’t do phone in a restroom! I wasn’t holding the phone. It was in an upright, square cut, rather deep, pocket! Maybe I did a jumping jack and it bounced out. Except for yesterday, the closest my hands get to bowl diving is via a scrubber.

Writing of phones and bathrooms, have you come across the morons who have no hesitation about using their cell phones in public restrooms? Can you even imagine the background noise as 20 commodes in an airport restroom blast sucking sounds into an echo chamber? And then to have to listen to the conversations! If any chick in the stall next to me is on the phone and asks for t.p. she’ll be S.O.L. (so outta luck.)

The folks at the iPhone Store said bowl-bombing was about the most common reason phones get turned in. There is no warranty for water damage and you can’t buy phone insurance anymore, at least not for these devices. Maybe it’s time to invent some type of phone wetsuit. You know some flex covering that allows buttons to be pushed but not exposed to the elements. There may be a market for it. I’d buy one.

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Real estate briefs (no, I’m not trying to get a theme of bathroom humor going here)
Changing the rules, again.
Are you a rich gal or guy? Check out the shifting high-end market.

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Alameda real estate this week…
Active listings 132, 135 last report
Pending listings 124, 126 last report

Tuesday Tour 13 with 5 repeats

Highest priced NEW listing
Lowest priced New listing this is a short sale. It sold for over 700K in 2005 and it was a fixer then. It’s worse now. The owner before the current one was in contact with me off and on for years. We’d come to know each other because I’d been involved twice with the sale of a property nearby. His house was a mess then and he listed it with another agent who was wheeling and dealing with Mr. Seller-Wheeler-Dealer. It was a good match.

New 13

BOM (back on market) 1

Price Changes 5

Pending 19 another big week!

Sold 19 also a big week (end of month)

Expired 7

Withdrawn/cancelled 1

Alameda real estate awards…
remember this is only my perspective!
Winner of the Week, Bang for the Buck, Got me a makeover This BFI townhome is about the best G3/G4 I’ve ever seen. The upgrades are quality, done so nicely, and fit the demeanor of the home.

Cute, Charming a tie (each word is a different link) 1143 Bay Street sold in 7-03 for 769K w/ a 19K credit. Now on the market for 769K. 1230 College last sold for 697K on a list of 659K in 10-07. Now on the market for 745K. Will be interesting to see what goes on. Bay is the best location but minimal yard, surrounded by big homes. College has all the nice parts and charm plus parking that is accessed via an alley/easement that runs behind it and serves other properties.

Get me to rehab gotta be the mess on Alameda Ave!

That’s a wrap! Have a terrific weekend.

Carry on! marilyn