THE SECOND STORY | April 29th, 2010

Did anybody look in the ironing board?

Blog photo: Bursting with color AND fragrance, I picked these roses on the 24th and couldn’t resist having them pose for the camera. Last night they were tossed having had a wonderful run of glory in my bedroom. Sweet dreams for sure.

Blog title: We all have our quirks for survival. Most of our quirks are rooted in how we grew up. Twice in the last day the subject of clearing out homes has come up. Here are three stories.

1. I was reminded of a story a friend told me probably 20 years ago about one of her elderly family members who had passed on. They were going through the home doing what must be done. Towards the end of the job, a relative put out the question, “Did anybody look in the ironing board?” Whaaat was that about? It turns out there were thousands of dollars hidden in the wall-mounted, drop-down ironing board! Thank goodness she had let a few close folks know about it! Clearly she was a product of the depression. (side-bar – Linda I hope the story is accurate!)

2. A number of years ago when my sister-in-law and I were going through my mom’s stuff in the house and in the garage I discovered my mom just couldn’t get enough electrical extension cords! And she was also fond of plastic bags. There were bags of bags and bags of cords! Knowing that she grew up with a family in which the parents had them all hide in the attic from bill collectors, I bet that quirk was a function of having to run cords between neighbors’ homes if/when their power got cut off due to lack of payment. It also explained why she took charge of the family finances, why the bills were paid religiously, and why she took financial planning, and trust and estate planning extension classes at Orange Coast College.

3. Here’s a more recent personal story I think I may wrote about in January or February. Friends and I were in Newport Beach in January for several days (I have the most awesome friends who volunteered to take vacation time to help me clear the house my folks had left on short notice when they moved into assisted living in December). Debbie gave Donnie instructions to go through every book carefully. The first book Donnie touched, he found $800! In subtle yet quietly grand fashion, they proudly walked over to Susan and handed her the money which she had completely forgotten about! Everybody was blown away. Now that was worth interrupting the interview with the real estate broker we were having!

(And by the way, he was hired, had the house ready for showing including interior painting, carpeting, cleaning inside and out, in less than 10 days. There was a pending sale for absolutely top dollar in less than another 10 days, and closed in less than 30 days. And yes, prices in Irvine are way down from the highs, but the transaction turned out to be all cash for this non-upgraded 1980’s 2/2 home, looking down to a golf course – the view was the clue. And using somebody who super knows the neighborhood.area was critical. And people have some big bucks in the form of cash out there.

3. Today, during my weekly mental health hour (which is my form of therapy better known as a golf lesson) my teacher and I got talking about our parents. We realized that stashing was not unique to them. We all do it some way, some how. Many, many years ago he had stashed a goodly chunk of change in a picture frame in his folks’ house. When he and his new bride were moving that household he said to be careful with the pictures but didn’t say anything more. Then he heard a scream and his wife was rounding up hundred dollar bills that had fallen out! He said to her, “I told you to be careful!”

Moral? What you find before the garage sale maybe worth more than what you get after the sale. As far as I’m concerned any money made at a garage sale is money that didn’t have to be spent and time taken hauling unwanted stuff to the dump or to donation centers that most likely wouldn’t want the junk anyway, thus creating more trips to the dump.

Quick glimpses…
Credit scores and foreclosures, short sales, and deeds in lieu – what happens? This is excellent.
It’s baaack…Private Mortgage Insurers see a void.
Remodeling realities! Here are some trends…

Alameda real estate this week…

Here’s a story. I wrote an offer this week for clients. The property came on the market the week before. Three offers were received. My clients wrote an excellent offer and had all their duck lined up. The value was definitely there for the property and it had been priced aggressively by the seller and her agent. Keep in mind this one was easy to comp because it is in a planned unit development.

Folks, I’ve been saying OUR market has bottomed in general. We still have to be aware of obstacles involving financing and special considerations, especially with condos. But when one door slams sometimes a window opens (see above link regarding low-down payment loans and PMI).

I don’t have the crystal ball to say what will happen. But at this moment inventory is still pretty low, there is a pent-up demand, rates are upping a tad but still terrific, and prices are ooching up a bit.

In a recent post my blog title said ‘You are buying an interest rate that comes with a house!’ And if you find a property that you like, will stay in for 5-10 years, can afford, feel confident in your job/financial position, then maybe this is the perfect storm. BECAUSE, as I told my clients, if they don’t get this property they can be assured the mark as been set for all others similar to it, regardless of condition, so the next one will be higher in price and we can expect interest rates to inch up too. That’s a fact. Multiple offer situations, as frustrating as they are because you feel like you are bidding against yourself, are not the time to hold back IF the property can meet all your needs. Don’t go crazy….and if you are unsure if the property will appraise – keep all those critical contingencies in place.

Here’s another story….My clients received an offer on their property which was significantly lower than the list price. A kind-of-similar unit had closed the week before so we had a recent comp (better condition, not as good of a location). I know the agent and she is top-notch. Yet the parties were so far apart that after the first counter offer was given to the buyer in writing, we got a verbal ‘willing-to-pay-this price’ back. After some talk, my clients responded with a verbal figure. I think this went on for three go-rounds. And remember, if it’s not in writing and signed, you’ve got nothing. But this illustrates the other side of the environment out there. It takes thoughtful consideration. But the one thing I told my clients was that I was working on another property in the same area and when that came on the market (better in many respects), they definitely didn’t want it as competition against them. Result – pending sale. Moral – consider the future with the past, but be in the moment.

Active listings 158, 162 last report
Pending listings 107, 98 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday tour (rain, sun, rain, sun, warm, cold) 8 on tour, 2 repeats

New 13

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 8

Pending 18

Sold 6

Expired 3

Withdrawn/canceled 5 this includes the Webster House on Versailles – either it didn’t get a basic transaction together, the shorted lenders wouldn’t approve an offer, any buyers (if there was a transaction) wouldn’t wait it out, or the sellers have opted for another alternative.

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

Get Me a Facelift and Bang for the Buck I didn’t think any others were worthy.

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Enjoy the glorious weekend! Give a call if you have real estate questions. If I can’t answer them I’ll say so, and then see if I can get an answer or a source for one!

best, m

THE SECOND STORY | April 23rd, 2010

Alamedans take their trees very seriously…

Post title and photo: One of the joys of riding my bike regularly around town – on the Broker Tour, meeting clients at properties, delivering documents (if we aren’t signing electronically via Docusign or using email), running errands, or just taking a cruise – is seeing things that I’d miss if I were driving.

A week ago last Tuesday while previewing properties on the tour, I rode by a crew working on taking a tree down on Gibbons at Central. It was huge vertically and in girth.

This past Tuesday, without realizing I was going by the same spot, for some reason I glanced over and saw the tree was down. But it wasn’t just down….there was stuff on the huge trunk. As I turned around I realized somebody (or somebodies) had made the site a memorial. Flowers were placed on the base of the trunk and a candle had been lit and placed there also.

Gibbons Drive, one of Alameda’s finest tree-lined streets, has been a target for removal of damaged, diseased, or sidewalk-damaging trees for years. Those gorgeous specimens are not easily relinquished by local residents. That concern is part of what has lead to the city coming up with a tree policy for 94501 and 94502. Lots of experts and Alamedans have had lots to say. And that’s all good…

…and only fitting. If you look up the word Alameda in a dictionary you’ll find some variation on the theme of ‘tree-lined promenade, park, or parkway.’ And that is one of the most immediate features I remember as I drove into Alameda over the High Street Bridge and up Gibbons for my first time in 1973. And that marvelous first impression has never left me.

YAY for Gibbons and the coordinated effort that will preserve and increase our tree stock throughout town.

It’s even later than usual, having seen Sweet Honey in the Rock, an incredible acapella group of six black women at Zellerbach Hall, part of the Cal Performances events. That being said, I’m keeping the blog short and sweet, especially after last week’s rant!

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings this week 162, 162 last report
Pending listings this week 98, 91 last report

Highest and Lowest priced new listings

(I’m not including those that have been reinserted in the mls).

Multiple offers were received this week on Grove Street and 2040 Eagle, a triplex. Check those properties out on the pending link.

Tuesday Tour 8

New (a couple have been reinserted on the mls) 11

BOM (Back on Market)

Price changes 10

Pending 13

Sold 6

Expired 0


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

Winner – check out the upgrades and paint colors in this condo – which in itself is a highly unusual floor plan for this location. It’s a winner.

Get me a Facelift – tie!

That’s a wrap….sounds like the next few days should be terrific weather. Perfect for all things outside. I’ve got to find a few minutes to finish re-potting the orchids – they didn’t like me this year….no blooms…but I’ve been advised to ignored them and they’ll do fine once that potting is done. I think it will be barbeque time too! Sweet!

Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 15th, 2010

No tea at your party? May I offer you a soda pop? Government is broke and broken..

Post Photo: My friend Royce emailed the photo making a point of what we miss if we are not up before dawn at the the Alameda links. I need to share my golf course sunset photos with him. Early? Me? Not so much, and not very often.

Post title: On this annual tax day I received an email from another dear friend who seems to have similar frustrations with government ineffectiveness on all levels. Taking the liberties afforded by the Internet, I massaged that anonymous insert and herewith share my more tempered version, which appears after my initial remarks. If I knew who originated the insert I’d give him or her the credit and acknowledge much of it remains intact.

Hi all, You know I am not a fan of forwarding emails. But this touched me, especially on the day taxes are due. I believe in paying my share. In fact, in The Christian Science Monitor Magazine April 12, a story compared the US tax bite to other nations. Check it out. It showed the ‘average-wage worker’ in the US pays 24.75% towards state, federal, and social security, well behind Germany at 42.7% and not quite as low as Japan at 20.3%. But that will change dramatically to get us out of the mess we are in. That being said, the POP Party (Pissed Off People Party) seems kinder than the premise Carl and I espoused for decades….VTBO (Vote The Bastards Out). Oh – I actually did check the facts in this now highly modified email I’ve reworked. It was a bit much, even for me.

Not being willing to leave well-enough alone, I’ve added an acronym in front of POP: SODA POP Party. “Spend-Our-Dollars-Advisedly per the Pissed-Off-People Party.”

We need to send a message to all politicians, that we’re tired of their party-interests and self-interests. If the country votes out all the incumbents, the new incoming politicians will get the message. Term limits become unnecessary if we utilize our votes to say NO as well as YES and demand more of these people.

It’s pretty simple. You don’t need to change your party. A few good politicians will lose their jobs but they probably have better retirement and insurance than 95% of the American public. Any of the elected officials will not suffer if they are voted out of office. If politics is their full time work now, they may even return to or become productive members of society. Of course lobbying is another option for them and we need to get that gig under control, too.

Millions of citizens have had to struggle for the last 5 years. We need to own up that many of us have made bad decisions. It’s too easy to just blame government. We are a nation of responsibility. Nonetheless, millions have lost jobs, houses, life savings, retirement funds; many innocently as a result of unintended consequences of the insanity that has taken place.

To all 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate:

You have proven yourselves to be incapable of doing the best possible for America. Not the best for you, not the best for your district, not the best for corporations, but the best for the well-being of the country as a whole – ALL of America, including your district. Maybe you weren’t personally responsible for all the failures, but what have you done to reverse the course we are on, especially you lifers-and-jumpers either hanging on to the same office or jumping from one office to another ,under the guise of public ‘service.’ What have you done to support re-redistricting, being willing to take the risk of losing your job? Now that might be considered ‘service.’

Here are examples of federal programs that elected officials are to supervise….who has been running the show?

-The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775 (Benjamin Franklin). You have had 234 years to get it right and it is broke.

-Social Security was established in 1935 . You have had 74 years to get it right and it is broke.

-Fannie Mae was established in 1938 (Franklin Delano Roosevelt – part of New Deal). You have had 71 years to get it right and it is broke.

– The War on Poverty started in 1964 (Lyndon Johnson – Presidential Inaugural Address). You have had 45 years to get it right. Where are the results seen in better education and housing, that can lead to better skill sets and better jobs? It’s a broken war.

-Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 (Pres. Lyndon Johnson – part of the Social Security Act). You have had 44 years to get it right and they are broke.

-Freddie Mac was established in 1970. You have had 39 years to get it right and it is broke.

-The Department of Energy was created in 1977 (Pres. Jimmy Carter) to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You have had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure – broken.

Every GSE (Goverment Sponsored Enterprise), or service, or department supposedly existing for the good of the people has failed to fulfill its purpose! That’s because it’s all tied to politics, not to the people.

And now we get to add a government run health care system to the list. We DO need a good health care system….but is the government capable? Surely there is a wealth of knowledge and talent (not corporations, insurance companies, nor other special interest groups) in our country that can come up with ideas that can make some sense. But that wealth and talent is NOT in Congress.

Raise a can of SODA POP to change!

Topics of the moment:
-CA won’t be charging tax on forgiven debt who gets this benefit…
-Free credit reports….not so much watch the fine print – this happened to me last week
-The businesses behind loan servicing and loan modifications wonderful insight to the mess behind the mass of messes

Alameda real estate this week….
Lots of pending sales….look at the prices of the closed sales. Multiple offers have been received this week on several properties that I’m aware of. Could it be a combo of some nifty and unique single family homes out there, some good buys for multiple units, bank REOs, along with those still amazing interest rates?
Active listings 162, 154 last report Pending listings 91, 92 last report

Tuesday Tour 12, with 3 repeats

Highest and lowest priced new listings

New 17

Price changes 10

BOM (back on market) 1


Solds 12

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled 3

Alameda real estate awards this week….remember this is only my perspective!
I saw most of the properties via bike and then after my office meeting but only one is worthy!


So thanks for tolerating my rant….and have a good weekend! That’s a wrap! Carry on! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 8th, 2010

Economic indicators….

Post photo: Dogwood in full bloom on Saint Charles on Tuesday. Gorgeous!

Post title: Want to see somebody you know? Get to Trader Joe’s! I bet you only have to hang out there less than 10 minutes and you’ll see somebody you know! I’ve had the most delightful and unexpected meetings in the last couple of weeks, running into former clients, now friends, as we see each other in the parking lot or checkout lines at TJ’s.

The friend who called to me as I was riding by on my bike to shop this evening, works for Pauline Pearsall Staging. She decided maybe 2-3 years ago she might be good at staging and called me for any ideas. I gave her a list from my database, and Beth got a job with Pauline! And Beth did a wonderful job coordinating the full-home staging at 1727 Clinton for my clients, which closed early this year.

As we were talking about all things real estate I realized her business was a rather amazing economic indicator. What makes Pauline’s biz a bit unique is that she owns her own warehouse, as well has the furnishings, and her moving trucks. Beth was in Brentwood today staging a popular rock band drummer’s large house. The drive distance is a drag but that is where a lot of the business is.

Pauline’s currently has 98 properties staged. Their normal max is just over 70. I was astounded! And yes, prices are down. And yes, they have work in Piedmont. And yes, the heartbreak of the stories of the not-so-rich are real and wrenching. Pauline’s contracts have always been for a bit longer than the competitors, three months, rather than two months, even in the good old days of list ’em, decorate ’em, and then round it all up and move it out to the next place all in 35 days or less.

So I was intrigued that the demands on the staging business were so strong. I asked how many sellers needed to extend their contracts and she said virtually none. The transactions close without needing time beyond the three months.

So what does Pauline’s business mean to you and me? I’m not sure, but I’ll take a stab.

First, I’ll say what doesn’t mean much to me. I really don’t understand why we need to know the national monthly real estate trends when those figures have nothing to do with the micro markets within which we live, wherever that may be! Those coast to coast numbers do nothing to help me as I try to help my clients understand where they fit into their immediate market. Likewise, I throw out sales trends for the state. Don’t these bean and parcel counters notice that the state varies kind of a lot end to end and all places in-between? Like a whole lot?

Second, I like that Pauline’s world is near where we live. That means it might mean something to us, right here, right now. The demand for her product says that the world is catching on that a coordinated nice look helps (note I said HELPS) sell the property. Staging does NOT sell the property. The price is what pulls the people in, and the staging just lets us delude ourselves about how we think we live. Duh, why have new home builders furnished model homes for decades? It’s to create illusions!

Her business says to me that sellers, with the guidance of their agents, are pricing properties to sell, and if they start high (always a mistake), they are willing to adjust quickly. So even in a ‘down’ market, in our areas that line the SF Bay, the pent up demand, the threat of rising interest rates (and they are up a bit to around 5% + 1 point for conforming loans), the tax credits heading out to the horizon and disappearing, plus an inventory that is not increasing dramatically, creates all the mini-markets around us.

Are these ‘real’ markets? Yes. Sustainable? I don’t have a clue. Will we, in our mini-markets, see a deluge of inventory coming toward us like a tsunami? I’m just not that good to know. I read my trade journals religiously but those don’t help me understand my market. As I tell my clients, I can’t make or create a market, I only work within it. And working it means knowing it. Often that means changing tunes and prices to meet the market where it is. And with the facts as we have them in our mini-markets, we can then determine if that market will meet the seller’s expectations. If it does, then we’ve got a sale. And we call the movers or Pauline’s to pack it up and move on.

Industry insights:

Doc-u-signs of the times: I’m talking about Docusign, the huge e-signature company I’ve been working with since last November, forced into the new technology by,of course, consumer demand! I LOVE IT! And it just keeps getting better. Today I received an email from the company that FHA has approved e-signatures for all of their real estate transactions including contracts. YAY! This is HUGE! It’s about security, convenience, efficiencies, and minimizing paper. YIPPEE!

What Women Want.…Chicks, you’ll get this quickly but the funniest part is the last paragraph of the article!

Alameda real estate this week….
2128-30 Buena Vista took less than 4 days to re-sell, once it came BOM (back on market) last Friday. This one, knock wood, should stick.

Active listings 154, 147 last report
Pending listings 92, 86 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday tour 13 with 2 repeats – all on the main island. Great day for a bike ride tour!

New 16

BOM (back on market) 1

Price changes 9

Pending 15



Withdrawn/canceled 3

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

The rest, oh well, no others deemed worthy this week, although I saw all but 1!

May you have a GREAT weekend! The outdoors is so terrific even with the chill of the evening – I looked like Nanuk from the North bundled up this evening riding my bike. But it is gorgeous!

Carry on! Make it work! That’s a wrap! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | April 1st, 2010

Realty reality… real estate development

Post title and story: It’s Lego time again in my life, and for the seniors at Alameda High who are in the two AP (advance placement) Government / Economics classes taught by Allison Goldberg. For about the past 8 years this intense 3 week course that covers urban planning, return on investment, learning to come to grips and coordinate the often-contradictory demands of a City Council, the Neighborhood Alliance (mostly the NIMBY group), the Jobs and Justice group (stick the Q-Mart -aka WalMart- in the plan to get jobs and tax revenues), Pro Arts (artists who have taken over a dilapidated building and who are squatters there), the preservationists, and the never-popular but ever-present “what do we do with the homeless shelter” issue, become very real problems to these students. Working in groups of 5-6 each assumes a role: Financial Analyst, Marketing Director, Site Planner, Neighborhood Liaison, City Liaison. And then they answer an RFP (Request For Proposal) to bring back to life the make-believe Elmwood District. At the end….they have to present their plan in approximately 12 minutes, each team member speaking in his/her role, to a City Council, comprised of professionals in related fields.

Here is the Lego color code: red is retail, blue is commercial, yellow is housing, green is park/plaza/courts, brown is rehabbed mixed-use, black is pavement(parking).

This has been my seventh year with the project and I’ve been fortunate to be one of two ‘champions’ who coordinate the trained volunteers needed in the Alameda classroom. That alone is a bit daunting but the volunteers rally and give it their all, including translating their expertise into questions, not answers, to and for the students. Tuesday and Wed at 8am our City Council of 4 met and heard the first class present. Always interesting, never dull, and I learn more than the students about how real life really works.

I’ve worked at Lowell High in SF, Berkeley High, Miramonte (Moraga), some high school in Marin, and also at St. Mary’s College and Cal in a freshman architecture class. Trust me, the high schoolers are lots more interesting than the ‘let’s impress them’ attitudes in the novice college classes.

If my high school classes had featured experiential learning concepts I bet I would have spent a lot more time in them, rather than cutting out and heading to the beach my junior and senior years.

Alameda real estate this week….

OK – the good news – I put a lovely Woodstock single level unit on the market this week. Remember, this is a co-op, thus you are buying a stock certificate, not the land. For loads of info about how a purchase like this works see 220 A Cypress . Feedback has been lovely, showings taking place and inquiries coming in. Hard to beat a 2/1 with wood floors in the living and dining area, kitchen with eating area, separate laundry room, and a wrap around the house yard for 275K.

OK – the sad news – what started out as a great offer on 2128 – 30 Buena Vista, went south for lots of reasons. And it’s BOM. When I noted the price reduction on the property in the mls at the same time as the BOM, the price change reigned. But people have been looking and I’ve received over a dozen calls from agents/buyers since yesterday midday. Price is now 599K down from 659K. Gotta be ‘as is.’ No games. One offer showed up about an hour ago. We’ll see…

Active listings this week 147, 145 last report
Pending listings this week 86, 91 last report

Highest and lowest new listings

Tuesday tour

New 14

BOM (back on market) 2 (well, 3 when you count 2128-30 Buena Vista)

Price changes 8

Pending 11

Sold 11

Expired 3


Alameda real estate awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!
I hosted an open house on tour so wasn’t out touring on my bike (in sunshine, cold, rain, wind, and hail, and more sunshine) but did catch up on Sunday and Monday before the tour. I’m not offering much this week.

Cute, charming is my Woodstock listing

Get me to rehab is one that was active and then was withdrawn after only 3 days…a bank repo….I didn’t see it but the 3 pictures did it for me

Bang for the buck
is also a repo.

If you celebrate the religious holiday, may you be enriched by it. If you celebrate the Hallmark version of the holiday, may you retain some of your riches and sanity.

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Call if you have real estate questions, comments…..

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 25th, 2010

The brain is like a drain….

Blog photo: Taken last June on an evening bike ride, looking through a chain link fence located at the western most public area at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, aka Alameda Point, aka AlPo.

Blog post title: The brain is like a drain. It either flows or it’s clogged.

As I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about, I’ve had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for so many simple yet profound things that have happened this week.

Gratitude forces my thought to flow. It automatically dilutes the clogs. It opens me up to pay more attention to what is going on around me, and how best to respond. The opportunities I’ve had in the past week to spend time one on one with friends old and new, former clients, potential new clients, new acquaintances, have been inspiring.

There is nothing inspirational about a clogged drain or clogged brain. Stuffing a bunch of crud into a small opening (my head) does nobody any good, especially me.

But when thought flows, I find I’m more patient with myself, take a bit more time to listen outwardly to others, then inwardly quietly wait for a sense of direction, regardless of what type of decision I am faced with and how loud the circumstances are that are attempting to insist I make a decision right at that moment.

Many years ago somebody told me that 80% of the things we worry about don’t even exist. 10% of the things we worry about we can’t do a thing about. So why not focus on the remaining 10% we can do something about? It makes sense to me!

That’s going with the flow.

Realty and reality news checks….
CA First-time home buyers get a state credit (don’t ask me how we are paying for it…ask Arnold)
Is it really tax-free? You’d better check with your attorney and financial experts

Alameda real estate this week…

Active listings 145, 137 last report
Pending listings 91, 86 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday Tour 12 with 3 repeats

New 18

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 4

Pending 14

Sold 17

Withdrawn/canceled 1

Alameda real estate awards this week…
note that some nice properties have come on but they have not yet been on the broker tour….I will try to check them out over the weekend.
Cute, charming

That’s a wrap! Carry on! We’re slowly working our way into warmer days!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 18th, 2010

Folks, you’re buying an interest rate that comes with a house!

Post photo: Much to my surprise and delight I saw the first rose bloom of the season in the front yard two days ago! Last year’s first was on April 9. That confirmed my feeling that the roses leafed out really early this year. They do like water and there’s been no shortage of that this winter. With this bit of a heat spell I think we’ll have a bloom blast for the books!

Post title: Last week when I was in Newport Beach I attended three meetings, two of which involved real estate observations. One I mentioned in last week’s post and it was sponsored by Wells Fargo. The other was with my folks’ financial adviser. One was a huge group in a theatre, the other was with a total of 5 attendees. But the bottom line was the same, from any and all directions.

If there is anything to be said about this market – and granted it is really ugly in more ways than we could have ever imagined – it is a ‘perfect’ storm for nearly as many folks as it is the worst tsunami for oh so many more. When prices come down and interest rates are at all time historical lows…well, that just doesn’t happen since, they say, for about 75 years (let’s see, the Great Depression then and the Great Recession now- cash was/is king).

Just today, I must have had the same conversation with potential sellers at least four times. Yes, I feel the ALAMEDA market has bottomed out. No, I don’t think we’ll see the highs we saw back in 2005 for many years to come. No, you can’t price over the market. Yes, you need to be perceived as the best value against your competition. Yes, all other properties similar to yours need to drive buyers to yours because your price (always price), location, and condition beats them. Yes, there is a pent-up demand. No, prices are not going way over the list. Yes, financing is tough. No, don’t just look at the offer price. Yes, you’d better pay attention to terms and down payment, the type of loan, and verify the ability of a buyer to close. And yes, get used to delays because the rules just keep on changing. No, it won’t stay this way forever. Yes, interest rates will go up and prices will go down.

For buyers, yes, this is a good time to buy. No, you are not the only one out there looking for a steal and upside potential. No, there are no more ‘steals’ in this market. Yes, there are ‘fair deals’ in this market. Yes, you need to expect to be part of multiple offer situations. No, you are not God’s only gift to the Seller whose property you want. Yes, get a pre-approval letter from your lender than has some teeth in it. Yes, actually fill out the loan application and know that all the employment and income verifications have been completed. No, don’t plan on a short term of ownership. Yes, rates will be going up, and then prices will stabilize again. But the rates at this time may not come around again for a really long time. And yes, write a short but sincere letter to the seller saying why you want to own that property. Because, yes, even in this market, emotions enter into both sides of the transaction.

From my online trade news-feeds: Check out some real estate apps for your smart phone. Most of the younger buyers are completely sold on Redfin as the go-to source for listing searches and info. It really is excellent.

Alameda real estate this week….

My client closed on 521 Taylor. After a long search and one other offer written over the course of about five months, my first-time buyer was johnny-on-the-spot and wrote a strong, clean offer on a single family home that needs some updating. I may have said something to the effect that if he didn’t buy the place I was going to fire him. The offer was accepted at the list price, as written. He had everything ready regarding his financing. And had an excellent loan officer (and her team). I must say that both agents (oh, that’s right, one of them was me), knew how to work, and appreciated the other’s professionalism. And we closed on the contract date. YAY for Dave and his team (Placer Title, Wells Fargo, inspectors, his contractor friends, and his support system!)

If you glance at the 21 pending sales this week, four are short sales and four are bank-owned (REOs – Real Estate Owned). If you glance at the 10 closed sales this week, only one was a short sale, and the average DOM (days on market) was just under 30 days. This is a far cry from some of the surrounding areas. Alameda is its own mini market, always has been and always will be.

Active listings 137, 135 last report
Pending listings 93, 86 last report

Highest and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday Tour 10 (what a fabulous day for a bike ride – doesn’t get much better, end to end of Alameda 94501 and 94502)

New 16

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 5

Pending 21

Sold 10

Expired 1

Withdrawn/canceled 2

Alameda real estate awards this week…I’ve caught up and rode to 10 open houses last Sunday, and saw another 8 this past Tuesday.

Bang for the Buck (tie)

Cute, charming

That’s a wrap….carry on! Enjoy this fabulous summer-spring-winter weather! Give a call if you need vendor referrals….always happy to share the wealth of experience! best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 11th, 2010

Back in the saddle again….

Post photo: This is Stuart, or maybe he spells it Stewart. I didn’t ask. But Stu makes his home at Ruby’s Diner at the end of Balboa Pier in Newport Beach. He’s taking a stretch here, but I’d hate to think what it would be like if he took a nip! He was so tolerant with squirrely kids whose parents let them harass the bird. My friend Sandy – well, not so tolerant with the kids. YAY for Sandy and Stuart!

Post title: No I don’t ride horses. But the song with that title has cracked me up with its multiple meanings since I heard it used in the movie Sleepless in Seattle (yes, the ultimate chick-flick and I love it just as much today as back then).

If you read this on Friday, I should be on my way back to Alameda. I was scheduled to saddle up on a Southwest Boeing 737 for an afternoon flight. But instead I’m going round myself up and push them little engine horses midst the freeway herds in my dad’s 2007 Prius. (It’s on the floor mat recall list, not the stuck accelerator list).

To my surprise late this afternoon my dad wondered if I should drive his car to my house. And then sell it. I thought he meant flying down again to pick it up and then drive it back…then I realized he was talking about me driving it home instead of flying! I was nearly in shock. And I’d known something had to be done about the driving/car situation before I left.

Willing to listen to opinions and noting that I may not act on any of them, I talked to my son and daughter-in-law, brothers in FL and OR, and my step-sister, got pep talks from them, and just waited and listened for clues about how to broach the subject. Patience paid off, and the answers appeared without any extra or uncomfortable effort from me.

The trip to Newport Beach has been full of business mixed with some pleasure. The weather has been COLD, wet, super windy, sunny and combinations of them all. I spent time with my folks, caught up with dear friends, spent the weekend with Evan (who put a new computer system in place for his Papa most of Saturday), worked on closing a transaction this coming week, worked on getting an accepted offer on a listing, tried to deal with another offer, and attended a cine-meeting in Irvine hosted by Wells Fargo, not to mention the client calls and emails, and agent calls for info on properties.

What’s a cine-meeting? Loan officers invited their clients (agents) to attend a 2.5 hour event at movies theatres around the US as honchos from WF explained their take on the market, short sale processes, foreclosed upon properties, loan modifications, and what we might expect in 2010 as far as the market is concerned. They say the bottom has been hit. They say they have no expectation of holding back REOs from the market. It was informative, well done, and hey….it included a free box lunch! The large theatre I was at was packed with agents from all around Orange County. I was clearly the odd (wo)man out.

From the California Association of Realtors Money Market Matters (weekly news feed 3-11)

• Homeowners wanting to pay off their mortgage earlier than planned can do so by making extra principal payments. One extra full principal and interest payment a year will reduce a 30-year loan to about 17 years, and adding the following month’s principal payment to the current one will cut the loan almost in half. It is important that borrowers tell their lender the extra money is to be credited to principal. Homeowners should keep records of their payments and review it once a year to be certain the lender has followed directions.

(I can personally vouch for the extra principle payment per year but thought it brought the loan period to about 20 years. You can also get that same result if you pay half your monthly mortgage every two weeks. Using auto-withdrawals makes that very easy, if it’s offered by your lender. Dont’ pay extra for it! ) ms

• Private mortgage insurance (PMI) generally is required for home buyers whose down payment is less than 20 percent. PMI is added to the mortgage payment each month to protect the lender should the borrower default. By law, PMI must be canceled automatically when the loan balance reaches 78 percent of the home’s original value. However, some lenders are allowing borrowers to cancel this coverage when the balance declines to 80 percent of the current value, as long as the loan is at least five years old. Borrowers who have made their payments on time each month for five years should contact their lender or loan servicer to obtain all the details on cancelling the coverage.

(In the old days, borrowers needed to prove the equity position and the holding period for the loan was never (if I recall) an issue. Of course back then, MI or MIP or PMI as it can be known, was never tax deductible either.) ms

Alameda real estate this week….

My client did get an accepted offer on the two-houses-on-one-lot at 2128-30 Buena Vista.

Active listings 135, 127 last report
Pending listings 86, 41 last report

Highest priced and lowest priced new listings

Tuesday Tour 12 (I need to catch up!)

New 16

Back on Market 2

Price change 2

Pending 14

Sold 3

Expired 2

Withdrawn/cancelled 6

That’s it for now! I should be back on the broker tour, on schedule, on track, and on point once I return! Thanks for your patience and tolerance.

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | March 4th, 2010

Bob and his sled slip sliding awaaay…

Post Title: I don’t know if anybody named Bob is in this sled but it just seemed right to say so. I’m running on fumes and almost anything right now seems either funny or absurd. I thought this was one of the best shots that Evan and Erin , who traveled with a group of friends, shared from their trip to the Winter Olympics in Whistler. They raved about everything. Evan has lots of photos posted on FaceBook, if you care to look, and I think Erin has them on her classroom website (link in the column to the right).

This shot gave me a much better perspective on the banked turn(s) that look to be 90 degrees, and Ev said that’s about right. They are pulling 5 g’s here. I’m a pilot and have played around with g loads. I can hardly stand anything over 2 g’s so just seeing this my stomach tightens up and my face droops with the pressure. ughhh! What a great opportunity for them! I wonder if they are thinking about heading to Russia for the winter games in 2014?

Alameda opportunities:

What’s faster than the bobsled? Check out this message from Melody Marr, Alameda Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director:

Perhaps you have heard or read that WireAlameda is working with the City to provide support for a community application to Google for ultra high speed internet access. Jennifer Ott and Leslie Little are heading up this effort on behalf of the City.

Ultra-high speed internet service would be a tremendous benefit to Alameda and the business community. Because we are in competition with other communities, we need to file supporting nominations to show Google how deeply Alameda supports this application.

Excerpt from wireAlameda:
WireAlameda, a community organization, has organized to help Alameda apply for the pilot program and is currently working with the City to assist them with its submission. Additional information can be found at WireAlameda. We are writing you let you know about this opportunity for Alameda and to tell you what you can do to help make it happen.

I went online Tuesday night while watching the short (really!) and short-of-city-council-members meeting where this was introduced, and did my bit to say how I thought this community would use this technology (libraries, efficiency for plan checking and permit processing, schools, businesses, attracting businesses, changing the dynamics of how we can meet the variety of ways kids learn, etc.)

Folks, help us get this opportunity in town! This is a real deal, a real attraction to future businesses, a real shot in the finance pocket for increased tax dollars based on business revenues here in Alameda.

The America’s Cup: Also a subject at the same council meeting was the urgency of getting Alameda to make its presence known to the Larry Ellison America’s Cup team that claimed victory of the auld mug a week or two ago. IF they decide to use SF as the venue they will need land, facilities, easy water access, and a myriad list of support businesses for the effort. Folks, this a really big deal too. We have a rather quiet but substantial marine industry here in Alameda. We need to exploit it and let these movers and shakers know what the former base might be able to offer them. The city is aggressively pursuing this also. This is also a huge tax generator with 100’s of millions of dollars going into the this type of event over the course of four years.

Maybe these opportunities will help frame and bring into focus what Alameda Point could really be in the near future, and beyond.

(I can speak with a bit of experience regarding the America’s Cup – Carl was on the design team for the yacht that had the novel fore and aft (bow and stern rudders)!

Alameda real estate this week….

First and foremost, my own biz
– (since most of this is all about me ;)) – Closed 221 Central last Friday – a trying short sale by clients bought. This property was on the market officially for over 550 DAYS! Find a buyer, lose a buyer, over and over. What challenges….my clients endured the every changing rules of financing their purchase, the on again off again demeanor of the Chase negotiator for the first loan, yet the Chase negotiator for the second loan negotiator was a dream to work with apparently. Do you get it? Two loans, both Chase, and there is no way the right hand was even connected to the same body as the left hand.

These short sales are a nightmare. Except for Wachovia. They actually send reps to meet with the clients, review the processes, get the offer together in very short order, and close the transactions! They are a sellers’, buyers’, escrow officers’, and real estate agents’ dream come true. It doesn’t change the ugliness of the situation but it does get the ‘deal’ done.

But the beauty came through with a post on FaceBook by my client:’Never been so happy to move a lawn in my life.’ And that’s her story….

Second, an apology...due to the pace this week and holding a broker open house at my new listing at 933 Shoreline (a lovely full bay view condo) on Tuesday, I only saw one property on the tour. I was almost tricked to getting on my bike to get around to view most of them on Wednesday, then looked to the south and turned around immediately to change clothes and prepare for some major rain and wind which arrived furiously a few minutes later. So I got in the car. As I was driving down Otis to combine previews with errands I saw my 80+++ year old neighbor walking back home with her cloth grocery bag slung over her shoulder just as big drops started plopping on the ground. So I stopped and picked her up and got her home, got the demanding errands done, and then ran out of time. So that’s my story.

Third, market indicators..A healthy group of new listings this week.
And 6 offers came in on the Peach Street property. I moderated the review of the offers for the seller because the listing agent wrote an offer on behalf of his buyer for the property. Our company policy is to offer a fair and level playing field for the other agents and their customers who write offers. So we move the listing agent away so he/she does not have an unfair advantage of seeing the other offers.

People are writing offers….we are seeing quick sales on many properties. I wrote an offer on a bank repo late today and 4 offers were already in on that. My listing on Buena Vista (2 houses, one lot) has received 3 offers in the past 2 weeks (two were lousy) and the third, today, may work out.

And the most telling market indicator...the volume of emails I’m getting from the most bizarre lenders offering creative and crazy financing, promising the world, but I bet they can hardly deliver a piece of dirt, much less a dollar towards a successful close. But folks….they’re back!

Check out these two articles –
GFE – maybe your new BFF – get the real costs of the goods (financing) in writing – early.
Working around foreclosure on your house

Active listings 127, 116 last report
Pending listings 41, 84 last report (reflects the large number of closings last week)

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour

New 19 (some are repeats from a while back)

BOM (Back on Market) 1

Price changes 2

Pending 14

Sold 8 (1815 Santa Clara closed back in Oct – oops! somebody forgot…)

Expired 7 (some are showing up as new again)

Withdrawn/cancelled 2

Oh! Did I mention that The Shredding Party attendees contributed $305 to the Alameda Fire Department’s CERTS program (Citizen Emergency Response Training) and then I matched that number and got the checks right into the hand of the person who runs the show. Now graduates can get the backpacks of necessities they need in order to help do their jobs for you and me when a disaster strikes our town and/or neighborhoods.

And that’s a wrap for a long day…..enjoy your weekend!

Carry on! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 25th, 2010

Finding Alameda

Post title – There’s ‘really old’ around here (80+ years), ‘old’ (60-80 years), ‘kinda old’ (40-60 years), and new (0-40 years). Well, those are my definitions of Alameda’s four real estate age groups.

Our featured photo is of some pages of a ‘new’ Alameda Times Star newspaper circa 1983. My client and I found this under a loose piece of linoleum in the enclosed front porch of the home he is in the process of buying.

The ad that jumped out at me was for the GOODBUY, ALAMEDA house ad. I am pretty sure it is close to Tarreyton Isle and Otis, the new (0-40 years) houses NOT on the lagoon side of Otis. I went on Google Earth to double check and my guess seems accurate. It is amazing how perfect the pages appear but we did not lift them up. You can see part of the real estate section, based on the ads of companies that don’t exist around here anymore. And how about that photo of a waving, campaigning Ronald Reagan. Some of you ‘old’-timers’ may even recognize names in the obits. That seems kind of morbid, doesn’t it.

Many of us with the ‘really old’ homes have found other interesting items. From bottom to top as we work on them and clear cubby holes out: glass medicinal bottles and dishes under our houses when we’ve done the big digs (foundations); and also, in our case, a stash of newspapers in our attic featuring Shirley Temple as a kid (a fetish? hmm).

The other ‘find’ I found recently in Alameda was the Wescafe located at 1536 Webster. I’d heard good things about it – how great the food is and how pleasant it is in the back patio! It was raining when I was there this week yet it was quite dry in the patio due to a lovely large awning that lets light through even with the cloudy day. I enjoyed a breakfast (small menu served all day) burrito that got finished for dinner! And two days later I bought sandwiches for friends. And the gorgeous desserts….most are baked on site! Yum!

Alameda real estate this week….

This is important if you are a buyer that expects a tax credit….

It looks like my clients will close on their short sale purchase today, Friday, (a challenging transaction to say the least) of 221 Central. YAY! The stories….

Active listings this week 116, 108 last report
Pending listings this week 84, 87 last report

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour
(9 with 2 repeats)

New 9

Back on Market 1

Price Changes 3

Pending 7

Sold 9

Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 3

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

Winner, Bang for the Buck, Out of Rehab

Cute & Charming, Got me a Makeover

That’s a wrap! Carry on! Enjoy the weekend, rain or shine! marilyn