THE SECOND STORY | February 19th, 2010

Morning rush….evening calm.

Post/Title – The Shredding Party was a rousing success – again! It is wonderful to see people drive or walk away a bit less burdened when they know they can strike one more nagging chore off their list. Our truck operator said we had over 70 cars in 3 hours. And I can attest that some were PACKED full of boxes. Plus we had numerous walk-ins. One neighbor made five trips of at least five beautifully stacked and organized boxes each trip, with her hand truck. The weather was the best we’ve had yet – no sign of rain, just some initial ground fog.

Then as I tidied up later that afternoon, I just knew I had to get on my bike and take a breather. I also had a sense I should take my camera. This is the sunset I watched unfold before my eyes. And I shot lots of other blasts of color in about a 30 minute period.

Alameda real estate this week….

Active listings 108 (I think I weeded out the duplicates)
Pending listings 87 (I think I weeded out the duplicates)

Tuesday Tour (another nice bike ride)

New 6

BOM (back on market) 0

Price changes 1

Pending 10

Sold 7

Expired 1

Withdrawn/cancelled 4

On Friday my client got an accepted offer on a very new listing...521 Taylor. We’ll see how it goes when we have the inspections soon.

Alameda real estate by graphs the past two years…

I decided to see if I could do some simple counting tonight. I wanted to get a flavor of how many bank-owned properties (REO – real estate owned) were active and pending, and how many properties were active and pending short sales. One of the things I discovered is that not all listings that are pending – subject to lender approval, are being marked that way – some just say pending. So I tried to take that into consideration. Here’s what I counted:

108 active listings of which 14 are short sales, and 14 are REOs.
87 pending sales of which 38 are potential short sales, and 14 are REOs. (that’s a pretty high percentage of the total pending sales).

What we need to remember is, of those pending sales subject to lender approval, some will never close. The lender(s) keep changing their terms on the buyers; the buyers get bored and/or pissed off at the lender(s); the owners decide to pull the property off the market and wait for the bank to take it and live no-cost, sometimes for a really long time; the owners pull the property off the market and instead of selling, declare bankruptcy.

And more than just a few of the REO sales end up being all cash because no lender will loan on them. I had two all cash transactions on lower priced fixers I had listed last year, and besides needing boat-loads of work, they were not distressed sales.

With that in mind, here are some stats going back 2 years. This is actually very interesting stuff and when you factor in the number of distressed sales you can see the additional pull on already lower pricing. Check out Harbor Bay Realty’s Facts and Trends report. Be sure to scroll down for all the reports and if you don’t care for graphs and charts, you make take a fancy to the tables. The data is for 94501 and 94502, single family homes. If you’d like info regarding townhomes or condos, let me know. Multi units….not so much in this format.

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

Bang for the Buck

Get me a Facelift

What am I? (a new award) and I had this listed and sold back in 1997. It’s a duplex next to the 6th hole on Alameda’s south golf course. Huge lot with a confused floor plan for these two units, joined by a ‘family room.’ It was an ugly transaction back then because the deceased older man left a life estate to his older girlfriend (which means she could live there until she died yet must maintain it). Well, she didn’t maintain it, and the two heirs-in-waiting, daughters of the owner, hated each other and just didn’t see eye to eye. Anyway it was on the market for 280K and sold for 290K.

So that’s a wrap! Carry on! Enjoy the Olympics! Hi E&E and their friends who are in Whistler for some of the games!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 11th, 2010


(I smile a lot when I’m in our business districts these days. They are bustling. Not that long ago I never would have believed it could happen. I went with a friend Saturday mid afternoon to see Avatar at the Alameda! We caught this great view of the theatre banner on our way out, complete with the reflection in the glass of the upper level interior lighting. But the shot is not too bad for an iPhone! Oh, my take on Avatar? It’s Star Wars (space travel and mechanical devices) meets Jurassic Park (dinosaur type animals) meets Dances With Wolves (cultures fighting and then individuals melding together) meets Die Hard (explosions and crash scenes).

Post Title: First things first….a reminder to those of you who have received postcards and/or emails about The 4th Annual Shredding Party on Saturday, rain or shine! You’ve got the details, I just want to remind you that this is my treat for you: my clients, my friends, and my neighbors and many of you are all three! Show up between 9 and noon (we shut down promptly at noon), say hi, dump your paper goods (including 3″ 3 ring binders that can be full!), grab some juice and donuts, and get on with your day! If you’d like to make a donation to a local cause (which I get to choose!), that will be welcomed. We gave $100 last year each to Alameda Little League, Alameda Boys and Girls Club, and Alameda Meals on Wheels.

It is so great to have good movies and terrific restaurants right here! And of course the theatre complex (and the parking structure) are winners through and through. This activity is helping pull Alameda through the worst of times since the disappearance and collapse of the big sales tax generators, the new car dealers.

Here’s the deal. The state is in a mess, and it is taking cities down with it. We all have a responsibility to stop the incessant stabbing and continuous bleeding created by the state government and its elected officials, who are literally stealing every dollar, dime, and penny from all California cities. They are taking our portion of tax revenues, development dollars, educational funding, and now are planning a run on our share of gas tax dollars, of which we get a chunk for projects beyond roads.

At the Shredding Party I will have petitions that support the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act which is scheduled for the Nov 2010 ballot. This is sponsored by Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services which is “comprised of a coalition of taxpayers, public safety, local government, transportation, business and labor, with major funding from the League of California Cities and the California Alliance for Jobs – Rebuild California Committee.” Go to the website and check out some of the dollars the state has taken from the city of Alameda coffers in order to attempt to fix their own problems. Check out this site that shows how much the state owes Alameda (type in Alameda, then move to the top tab to the right, scroll down to see the shocking amount!)

If you would like to sign the petition…give me a shout and I’ll make sure meet up with you. I will be carrying them with me or at the least have them close by….don’t be surprised if I ask if you want to sign.

Here are two websites that deal with an overhaul of the government of the state of California. Folks, we’ve got to do something about the way this marvelous land is run. These are tied to the state constitutional reform efforts. California Forward 2010 and Repair California – Californians for a State constitutional Convention (Bay Area Council) .

I am convinced that only complete disgust by the grass roots electorate will result in getting anything done and it really is time for a revolution featuring the weapons of new ideas and proactive discussions that will lead to implementation of results-oriented outcomes. It’s time to eliminate the boom or bust cycles of government. Miraculously, government keeps on taking, but the rest us in the real world keep taking it on the chin. Ouch!

Alameda real estate this week….

I put a new listing on the market – first time it’s EVER been on the market and it was built before 1910! Two houses on 1 lot for 659K. 2128-30 Buena Vista has lots of pluses. Add a new foundation and some roof work to the front house, take advantage of the huge high basement and it’s good to go! Loads of parking for both houses. The back cottage is a super sweet 2/1, currently occupied. I’ll have the front house only open on Sunday 2-4pm.

I’ve been using the term ‘learning curve’ a lot in the last couple of weeks. My learning curve is going straight up starting with an attempt to learn the basics of Excel 2007 (completely different from the 2003 version), and with my attempt to keep track of lending rules. I cannot believe how quickly loan underwriting rules are changing. Here’s an example.

Most of you know that PMI or MI (private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance) is used for loans that have the borrowers putting less than 20% down. That included, in the old bad days, 0% down. The purpose of MI is to insure the first lender for the difference between the amount being put down and what is short of 20% down, should the loan default. Consequently, if a loan went bad, the holder of the first would then make a claim with MI to make them whole for that part of the ‘missing’ down payment. Guess what….MI companies ran out of money to pay the claims.

In the old days, MI companies were happily accepting risk on ill-qualified borrowers and terrible loans, the same way the first lenders were. That meant they were insuring super high risk loans. And remember, the borrower pays the MI premium strictly for the benefit of the lender, and for the privilege of getting a higher leveraged loan (which is certainly fair enough).

I think there used to be three MI companies. Today there is one. It is the go-to company – the only one lenders can go to to get the insurance they want, unless a lender self-insures via their own loans like Wells Fargo. That usually happens by blending the MI into the loan interest rate OR tacking on the insurance dollars as part of the mortgage expense. And MI is NOT a one shot wonder. It goes on and on until the loan is paid off (via a sale or refi) OR when the borrower can prove he/she has a 20% equity position in the property. It depends on how the policy is written. And the borrower never gets to choose the MI company. The choice rests with the lender. Oh that’s right…now there are NO choices!

This week the remaining MI company changed its requirements regarding credit scores. It used to require scores of 680 for borrowers. Now it is 720. That is huge. That is so huge that loans have been lost, a lot of them, this week, for borrowers and first lenders who previously thought they had great credit scores. And oh, that’s right – it happened to my own clients this week.

Thank goodness for a Plan B generated by the mortgage broker. But we still have hoops to jump through to get this short-sale purchase completed.

I’m reminded of the news headline this week created when some health insurance company randomly upped its rates something like 39% on its policy holders. Here’s my take on this. To these idiotic companies – if you don’t want to be in the game….then just get out. Sell your assets, if they can be translated into dollars, and just get out. Every act similar to what I’ve described is an instant invitation for nationalization of these entities since in both good or bad times they clearly cannot regulate themselves. Yet, in the great American way, there will be others who will want to enter the game and at least for a while write insurance that makes sense to all parties involved, and maybe we’ll find some win-win situations.

Active listings this week 114, 112 last report
Pending listings this week 87, 78 last report

Highest priced new listing

Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour 7

New 10

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 7

Pending 15


Expired 0

Withdrawn/canceled 0

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

Get Me a Body Lift AND Cute/Charming (at the same time) my new listing.

Bang for the Buck and Get Me A Facelift

That’s a wrap! Shred On!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | February 4th, 2010

On the road again….

(I wanted something to brighten up the dark skies so this was my pick. Dale Chihuly is a glass artist extraordinaire. His vision, skill, and execution is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The link takes you to the installation at the DeYoung in 2008. I had the privilege of getting in literally at the last extended hour, on the last day of the exhibition. I smiled and caught my breath on each turn. And one of the art guards showed me how to take photos without the flash. And this was the result. Take some time and check out his website.)

Blog title: This refers to my dad. Yep, he’s on the road again, after me taking the keys away twice. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anybody. It’s demeaning to all involved but there is a point at which it is the socially responsible thing to do. His primary care physician and some of his children turned him into the DMV via the state website less than 4 months ago. We have all been under the impression his license was suspended until he had an interview with the DMV and took any required tests.

Based on that, his insurance is invalid without a valid CDL. His quick solution to that was a demanding order to me, “Then get me different insurance!” Gosh, golly, I don’t think so. In fact, it doesn’t exist.

Then a couple of weeks ago the DMV gave him a call to come on down! Meet with them. See what’s goin‘ on. So he and his wife were chauffeured to the DMV by her grandson. After some chat time, the DMV offered him the opportunity to take the written test.

This is a man who two months before told his wife to get online (he doesn’t do computers himself) and buy the DMV cheater tests. He practically memorized them. But he hadn’t studied them for several weeks since his wife had suffered a non-debilitating stoke, and we moved them out of their house in very short order (another situation I wouldn’t wish on anybody), and into assisted living where his daily mantra has been “I hate it here. I don’t belong here. I am sick of looking at old, crippled people.” My response to that is “Dude.”

He passed the written test and takes the driving test on either the 18th or 19th, depending on the moment. He called the DMV two days ago to find out how he should get to the office to take his test, saying he didn’t know if he should drive there on a suspended license. Somebody told him his license is not suspended.

With this news, he called his step-grandson to drive him on some errands. Upon Dan showing up he demanded that Dan give him the keys to the car and said he’d call the police on him if he didn’t. After Dan did everything he could, including calling his mom to get in touch with us, he surrendered the keys.

Dad’s got some work to do. The car needs the 2010 tags. Even though I registered it recently they have not appeared. He doesn’t remember that Dan got pulled over two weeks ago for expired tags, with his grandparents as passengers. Dan talked his way out of the fix-it ticket but got busted for his grandmother not wearing a seat belt.

We actually wish he could get in and take it sooner. Let’s put this to bed. We are praying for the safety of all.

Measure B went down in flames….now what? And that’s a good thing. The city is still obligated to continue to talk with SunCal until or through July, based on written agreements. But the citizens have spoken and will continue to demand from the Council some type of cohesive plan for The Point. It’s time that the money and toxic pit that it is, be transformed.

***COMMUNITY ADVISORY***(via the Chamber of Commerce)
Oakland International Airport (OAK) has received notification of a
military aircraft operation scheduled on Friday, February 5 and
Saturday, February 6, 2010.

A T-38A jet aircraft, operated by the United States Air Force, is scheduled to land at OAK mid-day on Friday, February 5, 2010, and remain overnight. The aircraft is scheduled to depart OAK on Saturday, February 6, 2010, in the mid-morning.

Upon departure, the pilot is required to utilize the engines’ afterburners as an operational necessity with this aircraft. Consequently, East Bay residents may perceive a significant noise event ( ya think? italics are mine) as a result of the T-38A jet aircraft departure. OAK Noise Office staff has requested that the pilot use the airport’s main runway (11/29) to
minimize noise effects on the surrounding communities.

Aircraft noise concerns may be directed to OAK’s Noise Hotline at (510) 563-6463.
Alameda real estate this week…

Active listings 112, 101 last report
Pending listings 78, 79 last report

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tueday Tour 7

It was a fun week….well, all my weeks are never boring!

Got to ride my bike completely end to end on the broker tour and make a few additional stops at vacant houses along the way. Too bad keys aren’t in some lockboxes, lockboxes are hidden or not on…..despite what the agent says in the mls. Nonetheless it was a great ride.

Got to meet with two potential sellers this week, each having unique situations, exploring their options in this market. I’ve averaged at least one such meeting a week since the beginning of the year as consumers try to make wise decisions.

Got to meet with a potential buyer and put out warnings about how document demanding the financing process is even with the best borrowers these days.

Picked up some excellent info at our sales meeting regarding the new processes for the Good Faith Estimates and how the lenders are required to work within specific time frames, specific fee tolerances, and be financially accountable for inaccuracies. This is a winner but will have some impact on timing and closing the transactions.

1727 Clinton closed Thursday. Original list was 998K. Three offers received and two of those were from the same party. And one of those took it. Sale price 927K with 12K back to the buyers for non-recurring closing costs. One of the conditions of the offer was that the kitchen remodel permits that were pulled in 1993 must be finaled. So off to work I go…..within 11 days of that contract agreement we had it all done. It helps to know a bit about the process, have a competent and reasonably priced contractor I could bring in for the project, have good communication, and a get-it-done attitude by everybody on the Seller’s side. YAY! Got the house de-staged on Monday and found out 3 beds did not belong to the stager, and one small party refrigerator had to have a home. The Buyers took 2 of the beds and the refrig and we got the last bed hauled out yesterday.

Trying to see some light at the end of a short sale tunnel with my Buyers who are hanging in there….it’s a financial meat grinder out there.

Getting vendors lined up for work at a property that will be listed shortly.

Note that 1238 Versailles is showing up as a new listing this week. This is the Webster House B&B that was to be auctioned last year and at the last moment with the auction reps there, the owner canceled the auction. Now it’s 690K and a short sale. Will be an interesting one to watch. This price is for the real estate only. Business….who knows.

Note that 1538 Lafayette is on the market. No open houses, no broker open, no open houses, just a complete contractor special. This is the house at the corner of Lafayette and Lincoln with the poster messages outside.

Got to check in with those on my handyperson list and now it’s all updated.

Been pumping up the Shredding Party a week from this Saturday. I sent out over 200 postcards and some of you may be getting those. Many others will be getting email reminders with details from me in the next few days.

Working on a new listing that will be on the Broker Tour this Tuesday.

Played 9 holes at Alameda, the south course with my finance advisor last Thursday – a bit muddy but playable with winter rules. Played 9 holes with my golfing gal buddy on Sunday afternoon at Oakland Metro (near the OAK apt). Still squishy and messy but dryer than Alameda. Oh, that’s not real estate this week. Sorry.

New 12

BOM (back on market) 2

Price changes 3

Pending 5

Sold 6 Even though I marked 1727 Clinton sold, it got lost in mls cyberspace. So the link is dedicated here.


Withdrawn/cancelled 3

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

I’m only putting one award out….Get me to rehab

That’s a wrap….carry on! Enjoy the weekend! Bag and box up your stuff for shredding a week from Saturday! marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 28th, 2010

No on B on Tuesday

(The winter garden is coming to life as evidenced by the camellia trees in our backyard. One is this light magenta color and the other is a bright pink. The phrases ‘good bones’ and ‘good bone structure’ are well applied to these bushes/trees. When they are too bushy the smooth gray branches are hidden yet they are as lovely to look at as the buds and blooms. I’ve found that making flower arrangements using the abundant lemons from the bush next to the camellias offers striking colors, a bright fresh look on dark days, and guests a rather surprised look at the combo! Simple works.)

Post title: If you haven’t heard we’ve got an election this Tuesday. One item to vote on. Do you want the SunCal plan for Alameda Point? I have the privilege of sitting on the Government Relations / Economic Development Committee of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. Until now, the Chamber has not been known for taking strong stands much less taking the lead on a strong stand. The committee did extensive homework in researching Measure B. And it met with the proponents of B, including the developer, and various opponents. And there was direct questioning of each side about their positions.

Ultimately, the committee recommended to the Chamber Board of Directors a “no” position on B. The reasons involved business impacts, revenues the city should have that Measure B does not ensure, and the questionable methodology of developing Alameda Point by initiative. Others object to traffic issues and density issues. The Chamber stayed away from those issues…sticking to the function and purpose of the organization.

You may love or hate our city leadership. But I am convinced the way to get it done right out at Alameda Point (and I don’t even know what ‘right’ means), is through local government channels, not a master plan developer. It happened with the Harbor Bay Isle plan, citizen involvement effectively reducing the proposed number of homes vastly, from what was originally proposed. People spoke up and were heard.

And I can’t help but think that if folks had had a clue in the 1950’s when Utah Construction came through and started working on South Shore, that would have turned out very different.

We learn from our successes and failures. Often we learn more from the failures. And we can do it ‘right’ with Alameda Point. There will be a lot of give and take and a lot of passion. But it can be done. And it will be done.

We are fortunate that our citizens know they have a say that is heard here in Alameda and we aren’t afraid to say what we feel. And that is a huge part of government working. And there will be lots of conversations with those who want to be your representatives at the city level during the course of this year as we already start to see candidates for mayor ramping up for the November election.

Regardless of which way you lean…get out and vote. It’s not just a duty. It’s a privilege.

Jawing over the fence (items that may be chat worthy)…
What’s with the low inventory across the state?
Kiss down payment assistance programs good-by? Maybe…this is really good.
The government may be getting out of the mortgage markets. This is REALLY good!

Alameda real estate this week…

Active listings this week 101, 94 last report
Pending listings this week 79, 75 last report

Highest priced new listing
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour 6

New 11

Price changes 0

BOM (back on market) 2

Pending 10

Sold 1

Expired 0

Withdrawn/cancelled 2

Alameda real estate awards this week…

Winner if you like bungalows (the classic wood has been mostly painted but the house is nifty)

Cute/charming cuter on the inside…historical collection street (Burbank)

All righty! That’s a wrap…carry on!

4th Annual Shredding Party for my clients and friends! Sat. Feb 12 9-noon. Details will be sent to you!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | January 21st, 2010

Fill ‘er up!

Post/Title story: I love my rain gauge. I emptied out 4″ of water on Monday night. As of this afternoon it had 6″ more! Emptied again, it’s now filling up again! I’m grateful to say we have not sprung any leaks, thus far, in and around the building.

But I have been tending to leaks springing forth with abundance in a short sale property my clients are attempting to purchase – two windows and one door have no sense of their intended purposes. Like bandages on a body, towels and plastic are being changed daily.

Then add to that a front porch nearly the width of the house with southern exposure (wind and weather direction). Due to a questionable design, the porch slopes to a corner and there is no exit for the water anywhere along the porch. Then it creeps up towards the front door. The good news is that the long porch is concrete and thus won’t rot. The bad news is that it doesn’t drain – at all. I feel like the entertainer whose act is to keep plates spinning on sticks before they drop to the floor. I’m attempting to shove the water uphill faster than it can stream back to the corner. Now it’s just a game to see if I can beat my personal best of how few strokes of the broom I need to get rid of the trapped water.

We’ve had our share of leaks over the years at this 112 year old house. One of the more notable was during an El Nino year in 1989. That may have been the first time I’d ever heard of El Nino. We had finished replacing the foundation and added two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a utility/laundry room downstairs. It was a big project and took 9 months. It really was like giving birth, now that I think about it.

When they were digging out 6″ in the sub area so we could have legal ceiling heights in the hallway (7’6″) and in the rest of the rooms (8′), the workers hit water. One day it was dry, and that night it was squish squish.

We discovered we sit on an aquifer, something that would have been nice to know but who knew? As a result , we have an extensive drainage system around and under the house. We pump out fresh water to the street pretty much 24/7/365. In heavy water restriction times the water police come around hoping to fine us for excessive water usage since they see the curb moist with the solid evidence of H2O.

The first rainy season the build-out was completed, the downpours began. Our back neighbor’s yard became a lake and their lake drained into our yard. Our yard became the river to the street along the west side of the house, covering the width of the walkway. And as water will do, it found a void in the new foundation. Apparently the concrete along a portion of the side of the house didn’t get a big shaking/vibration required that compacts it into the forms. Something to do with snap ties if I recall. Thus some small gaps. But small doesn’t seem small in those situations.

One night, Sutter heard water dripping. Well, it wasn’t dripping. We pulled out stuff we were storing under the interior stairway. And there we had a lovely wall fountain shooting an arched stream of water onto the carpet, next to her bedroom. As we tried to figure out what to do, Evan became the Alameda version of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke stopping the leak!

Carl went out to the carriage house/shop, and midst the organized chaos that only he could comprehend, found some corks that he had saved from a boat we used to race together. He jammed them into the leak. Evan’s duty was complete. We immediately called (believe I screamed at) the contractor, mopped up, and tried to sleep. The next morning the contractor figured out what had happened and filled the concrete. He also beefed up and re-worked the drainage along that side of the house.

Moral of the story? Marilyn needs to choose her battles. Don’t complain about the ‘junk’ in the carriage house. It may provide just the right solution to a problem. And Carl had no problem reminding me that if he had cleared that ‘junk’ out at my insistence, that simple solution would have been far more challenging. And he was right.


Hey Evan, the Little Dutch Boy in 1989! Happy Special Day!
love, your mom.

Jawing over the fence (items that might be of interest)
FHA loan will cost you more but it’s the only leveraged game around…
8K tax credit for home buyers closing after 11-6-09 is a mess…
-Sellers….don’t you fudge!

Alameda real estate this week….

Yes, many of you are frustrated due to the lack of inventory. But I can assure you, based on the calls I am getting, people are going to be selling and they won’t be short sales or foreclosures. Remember, folks get job transfers, downsize out of the area to less expensive locations, upsize out of the area to less expensive locations, they divorce, they pass on and estates are sold….there are all kinds of reasons folks sell, regardless of market conditions. Be patient, be smart, be aware that there are and may be multiple offer situations (not crazy over the list like before – they won’t appraise if they aren’t all cash), but offer strong terms with clean financing.

Active listings this week 94, 96 last report
Pending listings this week 75, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing (was on the market last year for a while)
Lowest priced new listing

Tuesday Tour (3)

New 6

Price changes

BOM (back on market) 0

Pending 12

Sold 5

Expired 1


Alameda real estate awards this week…

Get me a facelift it’s tidy with lots of 1970-80’s wall paper.

I can confirm that the ‘Get me to rehab’ winner last week, was just that.

That’s a wrap! Carry on!

I’m going to get announcements out via snail mail but if you are a client, personal friend, neighbor and/or any combination of the three, the 4th Annual Shredding Party is set for Feb. 13, 9-noon. If you need info sooner than the mailing, give a call.

Hey, what’s being filmed over on Bay Street? I drove by about 5:30pm and the street south of Encinal is packed with trailers/trucks/equiment, the police are protecting the street, and no parking signs are all around Bay and San Antonio!

Bored? Check out Alameda’s newest lakes at the golf complex. I’ve never seen anything like it, nor has a friend who has been a golfer here a long time. It is totally amazing. I need to get some photos….

Best! marilyn

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!

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

Pending 9

Sold 7

Expired 1


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!


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!

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)

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